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Tax cuts for poorest families, says Maori Party

Tax cuts for poorest families, says Maori Party

Press Statement: Hon Tariana Turia and Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leaders 28 April 2008

Tax cuts should be directed to eliminating poverty, especially among our most vulnerable citizens, our children, says the Maori Party.

"There has been quite a bit of discussion about how big a personal tax cut the government can afford, given rising costs and fear of inflation in an unstable global economy," said Pita Sharples.

"The Maori Party thinks that discussion misses one critical point - 20% of New Zealand children live in poverty, and they and their families need help first and foremost," he said.

"The government has multiple schemes, tax credits and targeted benefits. But the evidence is, they are not working to eliminate poverty, and there is a lifelong cost to those children, and to the country," he said.

Tariana Turia said: "In our recent meeting with the UK head of the Child Poverty Action Group, we heard they have the same issues as we do here - te pani me te rawakore, those most in need, fall through the cracks every time."

"One reason is complex benefit systems, and confusing criteria for eligibility. People whose lives are in turmoil are the least likely of anyone to want to submit to detailed interviews by government departments to see if they qualify.

"They are also really afraid of getting into debt by mistake, if their circumstances change slightly, and their benefit gets overpaid.

"CPAG's approach in the UK is similar to what the Maori Party advocates [] - universal tax cuts for very low income families, and a universal benefit for parents raising children, whether they are working or not, to ensure it's taken up by te pani me te rawakore," said Mrs Turia.

"We are really talking about a new attitude, where we commit as a nation to eliminating child poverty before a certain date," said Dr Sharples. "After achieving that, we can look at how to design the tax and welfare system to promote our people's development as our most valuable asset, and to strengthen the economy.

"Instead the major parties each blame the other's governments for making poverty worse. Labour skites about sustained economic growth - while 20 percent of children go hungry!

"In reality," said Mrs Turia, "successive governments have put national economic considerations ahead of the needs of people. They distinguish between the deserving poor, who get 'Working for Families' because the parents are employed, and the undeserving poor, whose families suffer because they cannot work for whatever reason.

"The Maori Party says it reflects badly on all of us that we tolerate poverty in the midst of plenty," she said.


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