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Harawira: Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism Bill

Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Amendment Bill

Mr Speaker, let me first extend a formal apology to Claudette Hauiti of Front of the Box Productions, and my sincere wish that we can work together on projects for the future.

Mr Speaker, let me begin my speech today with the words I used when I spoke on this bill the last time it came up.

Mr Speaker, I don't mind saying right up front that I ain't a fan of tagging. Not today, not yesterday, and not tomorrow.

Tagging is ugly, it's offensive, it makes your town look like shit, and people don't want to stop there because they see the existence of tagging as a clear mark of the existence of crime. I don't mind some of that cool looking stuff, like they did for Sir Edmund Hillary, but I don't like tagging.

But just because I recognise that reality, does not mean I have to agree with some of the garbage spoken on this issue, by others in this House. Yesterday a certain female member of the National Party made a complete ass of herself, by trying to link the murders in South Auckland, with tagging and gang membership, and suggesting that stopping tagging, will stop people joining gangs, which will in turn stop people getting murdered.

Well ma'am, I don't mean to sound rude, but that's bullshit, and I'll tell you why.

A lot of the kids who tag were the same kids you found scribbling in class, and they scribble in class because they've been shunted to the back of the class by an education system geared to suspending and expelling black kids from school faster than anyone else, they scribble in class because they're höhä with schools that don't give a stuff for their future, and because they're angry that their teachers don't care about them either.

Tagging ain't a step to murder, and anyone who says so, is a blind and lazy fool.

Tagging is the result of a growing frustration amongst youth to a society concerned more about profit than about people; tagging is what you get from kids who don't think anyone cares; tagging is what you get when your rangatahi want to get attention and the world ain't interested.

Tagging is the reaction of the poor to alienation, anger, boredom, frustration, and low self-esteem; and you reduce tagging by reducing the factors that lead to it - poverty, poverty, and poverty.

Now last time we discussed this, someone said that poverty wasn't the problem. Well folks, all I got to say to that is open your eyes and take a look around you.

Look in all the rich suburbs. Do those kids tag out their towns? Nah - not even.

And then take a swing through the poor part of town and what do you see? Tagging, tagging, and tagging.

This ain't rocket science folks. This is as obvious as the blinkers some politicians seem to have over one eye.

Ramping up the penalties will hurt the ones who get caught. But if you want to stop tagging, you put an end to poverty.

Mr Speaker ... I don't disagree with the decision to fine people $1500 for selling spray-cans to teenagers, but in the same way that you can't stop 13 year-olds smoking cigarettes, by passing a law to make it illegal to sell cigarettes to kids under 18, neither will you stop tagging by increasing the penalty for people selling spray-cans to teenagers.

And if I might also point out a couple of other facts: (1) tagging is already illegal, and (2) we've already got laws in place to deal with property crime.

Increasing the penalties might make us feel like we're doing something, but in fact we ain't. Poor places will still get tagged, and rich places won't, and that will continue until we start addressing the root causes of poverty, and not just stinging the poor dumb clucks selling spray-cans, and tagging fences.

And if I might digress ever so slightly Mr Speaker, I'd like to congratulate all of those schools, wharekura, kura Maori, Maori boarding schools, and secondary schools for making this week so very, very special for all of the Maori Members of Parliament, by sending all those dynamite groups down for the 2008 National Secondary Schools Kapa Haka Competitions, over the road at the TSB Arena.

Over 1500 dynamic, talented, explosive performers from all round the country, have taken the stage, to strut their stuff, and show off how good they all are, at poi, haka, waiata, mau taiaha and whaikorero.

36 of the best teams from throughout Aotearoa, giving their all for their kura, their whanau, their hapü, their iwi, and their communities.

They have lit up the hall with their confidence, their passion and their panache, and they have been simply electrifying in their exuberance and their energy.

It's been three days of power, intensity and vigour, and I thank all of those rangatahi for the energy they have given all of us Maori MPs, I thank all of those seriously stressed out teachers and parents trying to keep tabs on 1500 sets of rampaging hormones, I thank the judges for their patience, and I even thank the parliamentary service for politely pointing all these hundreds of stray Maoris in the right direction to catch up with their MPs, or somebody else's MP if they couldn't find their own.

And if I might be so rude as to ask, where on earth has the rest of parliament been, while all this has been going on?

I mean, its one thing to slag off our kids when something goes wrong, but its even better when you applaud them, when things are going good. It says you care about making a positive statement about our kid's future. It says you recognise the strides that the great majority of them are making to excel in a darkening world. It says you care enough to honour them for their efforts. And it says you care about them.

But this I know ... 90% of the Pakeha MPs in this House didn't even bother to walk across the road to take a look.

So to all my fellow Pakeha MPs, let me just say this - don't be surprised that nobody cares about what you think is important, when you show by your own absence that you don't care about what they think is important either.

So yes Mr Speaker, tagging is a crime against property, and yes, tagging sucks.

But as Derek Fox, Maori Party Member of the House of Ikaroa Rawhiti said to me recently, poverty sucks too, and poverty is an even greater crime because poverty is a crime against humanity, poverty is a crime against society, and when you see the Child Poverty Action Group suing government for denying 150,000 children an entitlement granted to others, you and I know which one should have priority.

And if this bill at least recognised the widening gulf between the haves and have-nots that exacerbates problems like tagging, and offered solutions based on that, we would support this bill.

But it doesn't. It's punitive, and simply affirms the desperation of the poor, and the refusal of this House to recognise their plight.

Mr Speaker, discussion of crime is often grim and tinged with blame and finger-pointing, but every now and then you get a message that puts a whole new perspective on things.

Here's an email we got which we'd like to share with you, from a guy called Rob Beckett ...

"Hell. I'm going to rely on the younger generation to care for me when I'm frail and old. Maybe I need to take more notice of them now and listen to their issues and be prepared to make changes before its too late.

What can I do? Hey, join the real world and ask the kids what they want and look to long term solutions. Together, we can achieve".

Mr Speaker, in the same way that we grieve for those who have been killed recently in South Auckland, so too do we grieve for the young man killed a few months back for simply tagging.

None of those deaths was necessary, but what is necessary, is that we in this House, step forward with realistic options to deal with the causes of crime, rather than hope to simply garner votes, by just attacking crime.

And in closing, I just want to refer to the comments from Pita Paraone about my mother.

Whenever she tells me to jump, I'm more than happy to say, how high Mum?

Tena tatou katoa.


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