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Turia: Response to PM’s Statement to Parliament

Response to Prime Minister’s Statement to Parliament

Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Wednesday 13 February 2008; 3.15pm

Tena koe.

Twenty years ago on 13 February 1988, a thousand people gathered at Raglan for a day of thanksgiving. It was a celebration of a day, ten years prior, in which seventeen Maori protesters were arrested for trespass at the Raglan Golf Course.

That was the day in which Eva Rickard stood strong, arguing for the return of their whenua as the people of Tainui Awhiro.

Eva had a vision – not just a picture of what could be – but a call to us all, to become something much more than we were.

It was a challenge to better ourselves, daring us to have faith, to believe in ourselves.

It is that call which I have returned to as we herald the start of a very significant year in the lives of tangata whenua.

The call for justice, for resolution and for prosperity has been a call that we, as tangata whenua, have known mai ra ano.

We in the Maori Party, know that first and foremost that our presence here in Parliament is just another part of the huge journey that tangata whenua have been on.

A journey which will ensure our survival as a people here in Aotearoa, for there is nowhere else on this planet that we as tangata whenua can ever call home.

It is a home we have cared for, for over a millennium; a home we have shared, for nearly two hundred years, with others.

Our journey is about our survival.

The survival of our language, the survival of our customs, the survival of our world view which we will happily share with others.

A view of the world which we will invite others to share with us, as we always have, despite history showing that from time to time it has been to our cost.

In that journey, we celebrate the growing confidence that we as tangata whenua have now in ourselves.

The greatest goal for our party is to promote the survival of our people.

The Maori Party is a movement that will not settle for second best. We believe that if transformation is required, then we must pick up the wero, the challenge, and deliver.

And we do, indeed, believe that transformation is required to ensure we invest in exactly those families who are ‘feeling stretched’, who are over-burdened with the challenge of each day.

While we applaud the commitment of funding to community organisations to support families and children, we would also like to see clear policy investment in uplifting the incomes for those who are the most vulnerable in our community, te pani me te rawa kore.

The Maori Party believes that true leadership recognises the necessity of change, and looks for a common vision that makes changes possible.

The greatest challenge facing our future must be to pick up on the priorities and the preferences of the people rather than simply pandering to the pet projects of politicians.

And I want to say to us all, that the greatest opportunity we have is now – to truly act as a Treaty partner in politics.

We must not talk partnership, then treat tangata whenua as the advisers, a mere ‘stakeholder group’ on the margins.

Let us look to the innovation of the indigenous mind for solutions.

Last week, an Otago University study described the rich and enthusiastic way in which Maori mothers appeared to talk to their children as being a significant cultural difference in establishing a strong foundation for child development.

And it made me think about other cultural strengths that are too frequently overlooked.

The commitment to the revival and renaissance of tangata whenuatanga which has given life to kohanga reo, kura kaupapa, kura-a-iwi, whare kura, whare wananga, kapa haka, Maori entertainers in all fields, Maori artists and writers and crafts people - all keeping alive our cultural heritage.

The sense of collective care and responsibility as demonstrated daily by Maori health services and Maori social service providers.

The entrepreneurial spirit embedded in tangata whenua broadcasting, businesses; farmers, fisheries, organic growers, who all contribute hugely to the economy.

Our right to be, to survive and thrive as tangata whenua, means that we necessarily have the mandate to support all our people, our young, our rangatahi, the dis-possessed and alienated – and those whose views find disfavour with some.

We are the voice of the voiceless and we are always firmly focused on the pounding heartbeat of our nation – the young and the old.

And so too, we as part of the journey for self-determination, take on the battle against hunger, disease, homelessness and illiteracy, for the collective good of all.

We seek to push past the pragmatic or the probable and search also for a vision of what is possible.

And in doing so, I want to share just someone or two ideas people have shared with me that may just make the difference.

What is possible is the creation of a simpler indirect tax system which addresses double taxation, such as existing excised taxed items.

If tax was removed from food, the GST, it would have both immediate nutritional and economic impact for low income families.

It might also be an idea to look at the removal of tax from savings, meagre though those savings might be for our people. Why should those earnings and savings have the interest earned, taxed again?

Other possibilities to enhance healthy living might include trialling bariatric surgery – also known as lap-band surgery – to reduce weight while at the same time addressing the challenges of diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnoea and other conditions. The long term health benefits are huge plus the long term savings to the taxpayer.

This House does not have the premium on good ideas.

The ideas I have talked of are but a few of a huge pool of opportunities available to us, if only we would listen and care.

It is time to call on a vision for change, the power of the people. Eva Rickard lived by a vision for change which was about the restoration of their land being directly related to the restoration of their people.

We know from our own experience in the Treaty Settlement business an apology with inadequate compensation is merely an exercise in pragmatism rather than nation building or justice.

And nation building must be our theme for our future.

As a nation we have never heard any Government nation say sorry to all the tangata whenua for past atrocities and past injustices.

It is a lot easier to say sorry to the Chinese and sorry to the Samoan communities.

We realize that past administrations, the legacy of Executive Councils since 1840, have failed to achieve the unity anticipated in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

The impact of decades of disconnection and dislocation has scarred the soul of our nation.

But we in the Maori Party remain confident that at some point the unity we are seeking will be achieved and we will never allow those rifts and dissentions between peoples to occur again. Because most of it is caused from political actions and behaviour.

What we know from looking at the way in which our people are leading the many organizations I referred to earlier, is that many of these organizations are inclusive of all others who call this country home.

Common unity can happen, and it will happen, and it is time it happened.


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