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Tariana Turia Speech to Journalism Students

National Diploma of Journalism students and tutors

Hongoeka Marae, Plimmerton

Hon Tariana Turia; Co-leader of the Maori Party

Wednesday 24 September 2008; 4pm

It is a real pleasure to come here to Hongoeka Marae, and to congratulate all of you who have taken on the ultimate challenge of journalism.

The challenge of journalism – to help lift our world to a higher level.  To show the richness of life.  To represent people at home or at work.  To celebrate the laughter, to reveal the pain.  To faithfully record the call of duty.  To bring to life the consequences of economic decisions made on the people’s behalf.

The location of this hui today is a perfect metaphor for the challenge of journalism.

According to Mäori land court minutes dating back to 1824, the lands of Taupo, Motuhara, Hongoeka and the Pukerua lands have been occupied by Ngati Toa Rangatira since the battle of Waiorua or Whakapaetai. 

If we were to sit and share time with Ngati Toa Rangatira there would be stories, and people, and memories gathered over the last two centuries that would tell us everything we could possibly want to know and more about Hongoeka.

We might hear from the uri mokopuna of Te Rauparaha; we might listen to the waiata, ‘Tera i nga tai o Honipaka’; and if we’re really lucky we might get an invite to the annual Hongoeka Marae Golf Tournament.

We would hear about the native reserve lands; we would learn how the land here was considered desirable for cultivation as well as for the variety and abundance of kai moana found on these shores.  The voice of Ngati Toa Rangatira would be heard, proud, strong and in its own unique setting. 

I wanted to share with you today, some of the experiences and research evidence around how journalism currently responds to the challenge of revealing the Maori voice.

As the strong and independent Maori voice of Parliament our commitment has always been to ensure the authenticity of tangata whenua is recognised in every sphere of legislative debate.

Our catchcry is – every issue is a Maori Party issue.

And so we have brought to the table, a proud history of creativity and entrepreneurship, the spirit of enterprise associated with tangata whenua.

We have grounded our korero with whakatauki, pepeha, and korero tawhito that explore universal truths through Maori eyes.

We have encouraged our people to participate – to email, to send in submissions, to download bills from the parliament website, to get the word out about hot topics on the political agenda.

And we have kept the faith with our constituents, through regular road-shows across the country, which allow us to listen and to learn.

Our intention has always been to ensure we help to provide the connection to our people to the issues that will define our time.

And this is where we get to the challenge.

The challenge is in journalists faithfully and accurately reporting on these issues and priorities as we have taken them into debate.

Political journalism is all about accountability – but the question is, do journalists hold politicians accountable to the public, or is it that these journalists held accountable to editors and media owners? Are they idealists or 'realists'? Whose interests do they represent?

In a presentation on behalf of Te Ropu Rangahau Hauora a Eru Pomare; Donna Cormack identified ten so-called commonplace ideas about Maori identified in mainstream media. 

These ideas included:

Maori culture is inferior to Pakeha;
Maori fall into two groups – those who fit in to society, and those who don’t;
Maori seek violence;
There are very few ‘real’ Maori left;
Maori have special privileges;
We are all one people;
Race relations would be the best in the world if only Maori people would stop stirring up trouble;
Equal rights for all doesn’t mean privilege;
Maori have become over-sensitive;
When Pakeha offend Maori they do so out of ignorance.
The representation of Maori in the media described by Donna Cormack is troubling on many counts.

And yet, to my distress, the United Nations Special Rapporteur appeared to reinforce the findings in describing a“systematic negative description of Maori in media coverage”.

His parting shot was to recommend that:

“Public media should be encouraged to provide a balanced, unbiased and non-racist picture of Maori in New Zealand society, and an independent commission should be established to monitor their performance and suggest remedial action”.

One has to wonder what the Government had to fear, in the fact that they have failed to respond to this recommendation in any shape or form.

And so this is where you come in.

You are charged with learning all you can know to refine the art of journalism for the purposes of the National Diploma.

The next seven weeks will give you a brilliant opportunity to see whether the conclusions of the Rapporteur and the researcher are valid.

At the time of the 2005 elections, Dr Ann Sullivan conducted an analysis of 2005 pre-election print media coverage of the Maori Party and our candidates.

Her study revealed that while reporters and journalists generally represented the Maori Party in a fair and unbiased manner, at times their work was undermined by unbalanced or biased editing.

To illustrate this claim, she described the way in which the Dominion Post newspaper not only used images that misrepresented stories or were unflattering candidate pictures, but also that on the last day of the election period, there were front page, value-laden, political images that gave negative perceptions of the Maori Party.

And so our antennae must be truly up, to ensure that all sectors of the media are upholding their obligations to be fair and unbiased.

It’s not just about how the news is reported; it is also about what makes the news in the first cut.

Political commentator Therese Arseneau draws attention to an Otago University study by Chris Rudd and Scott Connew which revealed that newspaper coverage of the smaller parties during the 2005 election was overwhelmingly focused on the political game, rather than on substantive policy issues. 

Out of a study of 212 stories dealing with the smaller parties, 19% were about policy; the other 81% were about the game or strategy  - who is winning, who will cross the 5% threshold, who is the preferred coalition partner.

It makes for fascinating reading when I think about the way in which we are currently being described as King or Queen maker; while our major policy platform to eliminate poverty clearly doesn’t sell papers.

We have spoken out, repeatedly, about our concern that in 2007, 16% of children were living in low-income households in New Zealand; and some 27% of all Maori children were living in poverty.

What is the cost to the nation of such a policy crisis?  The cost in community cohesion, the costs in terms of greater risks of social marginalisation; the cost of injustice?

The cost in educational under-achievement?

The costs in healthcare, for example; that hospital admissions for pneumonia, skin infections, asthma are three to four times higher for children living in the most socio-economically deprived areas?

The economic costs?

Based on some basic assumptions of the cost of childhood poverty equating to about 1.5% of GDP; and knowing that GDP for the year ended March 2008 is estimated at $177.6 billion; we estimate the cost of childhood poverty to be about $2.8 billion.

These are vital policy issues that we would be expecting any journalist worth their salt, following up on, in the lead up to Election 2008.

And so my word to you all, is watch this space.

Watch the space in our press and our broadcasting which is allocated to Maori; allocated to the Maori Party; allocated to Maori policy issues.

Watch this space for fairness, lack of bias, accurate and revealing representation of the Maori voice.

Let us see what the TVNZ charter describes as the participation of Maori and the presence of a significant Maori voice across all programmes and programme planning.

And there is one clear route, in less than seven weeks, to see a significant Maori voice in Parliament.  That may well be an ultimate challenge for Aotearoa.


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