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Adjournment Debate Speech 2007 - Pita Sharples

Adjournment Debate; Tuesday 18 December 2007; 6pm
Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party
[check against delivery]

As our memory casts back over this last year, we think of those who have passed beyond the veil.

Leaders of our land such as

• Most Rev. Whakahuihui Vercoe;

• legendary activist Syd Jackson;

• cherished kuia of Te Arawa Waka, Witarina Te Miriarangi Parewhaika Harris;

• veteran Maori actor and film-maker, Don Selwyn;

• kapa haka expert Atareta Maxwell, and so many more loved leaders and whanau members.

And we think too, of our Pasifika whanaunga, who still grieve the loss of Sir Thomas Davis, Pa Tuterangi Ariki, and the King of Samoa, His Highness Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili.

There are many more who fill our thoughts, who have left their mark on Members of this House and the people of Aotearoa.

But this year, 2007, was also a year of horrific deaths of children and young people. The loss of lives cut short by violence, by street fighting, by savage and senseless assaults on humanity.

This year, was also the year of the Section 59 legislation and we commend the courage of Sue Bradford for inspiring such an important national debate.

We remember all those who have suffered such brutal violence, and we must all make an ongoing commitment, that their lives were not in vain.

We made the stand, that we must restore to whanau, their rights and responsibilities to care for their own, to locate the child as the greatest treasure of the whanau,ko te tamaiti te putake o te whanau.

It was not an easy time. But we must continue to promote the message that violence is unacceptable – whether it be physical force, emotional putdowns; psychological torture; the violence of racism.

This year was a year in which the assassination of hope appeared in many forms. There was the shameful intervention imposed on Aboriginal communities by the Howard regime – an intervention which my colleague Hone Harawira had the initiative to bring to international observation.

There was the repeated call from the police to be armed with the lethal taser weapon, despite Amnesty International’s call in recent days for the Minister and Commissioner of Police to seriously rethink such a flawed proposal.

But where 2007 made its most traumatic imprint was in the lives of a small Tuhoe community on Black Monday, 15 October. A day in which Ruatoki was turned inside out by a police campaign of terror. A day in which the nation was brought to fear that bush survival camps, or tribal wananga, were described as terrorist activities.

There were other events, other crises of confidence that have shaped this year in our reflections as the Maori Party.

We think about the litany of errors which were brought out by the Waitangi Tribunal, in describing the Government’s response to the claims of Te Arawa, and of Tamaki Makaurau,– the adverse impacts of overlapping claims; the way the government has ‘played favourites’, made decisions in isolation, based on inadequate information, and generally acted in ways which breach the principles and duties imposed by the Treaty relationship

There are other claims pressing on the policy agenda – the future benefits from Crown forestry land; the WAI 262 Flora and Fauna claim – issues which will no doubt come to light next year; as will the enduring question – what will happen with the Te Roroa Bill?

2007 was also the year in which the Government has made two dramatic back downs in response to the actions of the Maori Party in bringing to the House, the poor performance of Landcorp; and the lack of consultation with Maori fishing groups in relation to shared fisheries proposals.

But there have been moments of joy, events of enormous significance to this Parliament this year, as we have seen MMP in action. We witnessed the strength of the MMP parties with Act, Greens, United and the Maori Party working together to establish a Code of Conduct for all Members of Parliament.

We saw the archaic laws on sedition disappear from the statutes as a direct outcome of the four MMP parties raising the heat. And we appreciated also the impact we could make in other legislation, such as the Births, Deaths and Relationships policy.

These are all initiatives that we celebrate as the Maori Party.

We acknowledge too, the varying degrees of interest that both National and Labour Parties have expressed in working with us this year, and we have every confidence that this interest will no doubt increase in the next twelve months.

Madam Speaker, the Maori Party congratulates you for your management and your wisdom in your leadership of the House. We acknowledge too, the expert assistance of your able team – Deputy Speaker, Clem Simich; and the Assistant Speakers, Ann Hartley and Ross Robertson.

We have a whakatauaki in te Ao Maori, which is key to this adjournment debate. E hara taku toa i te tao takitahi, engari, he toa takitini.

These words, attributed to Tūtohuariki, remind us that our strength is not as individuals, it is a collective effort.

And as our rangatahi would say, True That.

We come every day to this House, knowing of the invisible swarm of bees that make such sweet honey. We recognise the talents and consistent dedication of our Parliamentary library staff, who make our speeches sound so wise, our korero so intelligent.

We think of the Office of the Clerk who keep us on track and are always there to remind us of what we can and cannot do. And we particularly congratulate Mary Harris who has taken on the enormous legacy left by David McGee. We were delighted with this appointment which recognises the many talents and institutional expertise that Mary brings to the role of Clerk of the House.

We acknowledge the legal eagles who help us to draft the raft of SOPs and private members Bills put forward by the Maori Party.

Their proficiency and professionalism has been demonstrated with the quality of the two private member bills we have on the order paper – Tariana Turia’s bill to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and Te Ururoa Flavell’s bill to ensure that former owners of Māori or general land taken or acquired by the Crown for the purposes of a public work are given the first right of refusal to purchase that land.

We thank the interpreters for their support and expertise; the ever enthusiastic messengers and reception staff who keep us in such good communication with the constant stream of supporters that come through the rubber doors.

We understand the pressure of the role our Security staff face every day, the demands placed upon the cleaners, the building staff, the IT helpdesk – so many people who keep this place humming.

And I’d like to thank the VIP drivers – oh no, that’s right - we don’t have their services – but hey, we’d like to thank them anyway!

And of course we know our team is the envy of this chamber – our one researcher, our one media advisor, our one Chief of Staff, and each one of our Executive Assistants. We know our electorates are in fine shape because of the incredible commitment of our teams out there. And we are only ever as good as our amazing membership; our dedicated President, our awesome party structure.

We are so humbled to be a part of the mighty Maori Party, and we know, every day, the absolute privilege we have in bringing the independent Maori voice to this chamber.

Finally, we mihi to each and every one of the honourable Members of this House – and through you all – to the New Zealanders who place their trust in the people of Parliament.

We have an amazing opportunity to make a difference to the lives of the people who call Aotearoa home. It is our calling; it is our responsibility; it must be our greatest commitment together, to bring about the changes necessary to truly do our best to leave a legacy our mokopuna will be proud of.

We extend to you all our respect and our best wishes for a very restful break with your whanau and loved ones.

And then roll on 2008 – let the fun begin!


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