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Flavell: Taxation Bill

Taxation
(Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill 2008
Thursday 11 December 2008; 9am

Te Ururoa Flavell; MP for Waiariki

Tena koe Mr Speaker, tena koutou e te whare i tenei ra.

It has been great to hear the Opposition begin to grapple with what it would mean to participate in a mana-enhancing relationship.

And it will be even better if we saw those same members start to reflect on how their behaviour in the House could demonstrate mana-enhancing principles.

You see Mr Speaker it’s about listening and appreciating that other parties will have different points of view to their own and there is nothing wrong with that. It is just respecting that the views of others may be different to your own.

In this final reading Mr Speaker, it is of interest to us that yesterday, on International Human Rights Day, Labour suddenly has a new approach, to begin again to consider the interests of vulnerable New Zealanders.

The impact of their actions over successive terms is never more apparent than in the urgent call from the Human Rights Commission that New Zealand must adopt a national plan to combat child poverty.

Poverty Mr Speaker did not just occur today, day three of a new Government as Labour suggests. It’s been here for some time.

The other irony is that yesterday I on behalf of the Maori Party, with Keith Locke of the Greens, received a petition to the House of Representatives, articulating the concerns of many New Zealanders about the former Government’s record in opposing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The petition states the deep disappointment of the petitioners at an action which they describe as unreasonable and unjust.

Mr Speaker, we cannot ignore the fact that 27% of Maori children live in poverty. Further, the New Zealand Income Survey reminds us that although average incomes have risen, relative to others, Maori are $151 per week worse off.

$151 worse off despite a period of economic prosperity so they say.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party will continue to speak out for those who are not so fortunate today, just as much as we did yesterday and will do tomorrow.

Mr Speaker, the Labour members speak loudly of the ‘vulnerable’. Well Dr Cullen, Mr Mallard, Nanaia Mahuta, these speakers should know that ‘vulnerable’ did not just happen today.

They highlight vulnerability as talking about our ‘vulnerable Maori’.

Well, our people have not just been vulnerable today. They have lived in it through successive Governments, Labour being one of them and the most recent. So if there are vulnerable Maori as we discuss this Bill, they are likely to have been vulnerable six weeks ago before the election when Labour was in power, one year ago, nine years ago so if there is something to say, Labour should look in the mirror.

In fact Mr Speaker, there were a few hundred ‘vulnerable’ people of the Tuhoe nation who live in the Ruatoki Valley who were invaded by the Police on October 15th 2007. I did not hear, and have not heard anyone speaking up for them so please don’t preach to me about looking after the vulnerable.

Mr Cunliffe, Mr Speaker stated that he thought that the Maori Party and Labour could have done some deals and worked together. Truth be known Mr Speaker, they never talked to us at all while we were on the cross benches so any offers are simply too late. But three years from now? Who knows.

We need to remember, we could well have been sitting on that side but we have secured some gains for our people, more than we were ever offered from Labour; or could have expected from this National Government. We will be judged there is no doubt and that is as it should be. But, it will not be on one Bill, it will be over time and we will be working hard to ensure that our people can be proud of our contribution.

Mr Speaker, this debate provides an opportunity to consider how well this taxation (urgent measures and annual rates) Bill will assist us in advancing the human rights of New Zealanders, and in particular Maori.

The Taxation Bill in summary includes personal income tax cuts and threshold changes, and a new independent earner tax credit for low and middle income earners – an initiative we have particular interest in.

Mr Speaker, It is difficult to accept that those earning under $40,000 will receive no tax cut in the first year. No Member of Parliament should be comfortable that low income families continue to struggle.

Families struggling to buy food, to pay for power; forced to abandon their homes which are becoming increasingly more vulnerable to mortgagee sales. We must consider these people.

Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, this Bill does little to address these issues; I have to say it will not reduce taxation at this point in time for the majority of the voters in my electorate, and I am disappointed by that.

But Mr Speaker, it’s day three in this 49th Parliament is not the time that the Maori Party will wave the white flag of defeat, to run away from the opportunity to make a difference, for we are here to make a difference. It is after all only day three and there are 900 or so more days to come. The Maori Party is here to make a difference as best we can in the political climate and the constraints we sometimes we find ourselves in this house.

So, we want to state for the record –this was not a Bill that we were consulted on prior to the negotiation of our relationship agreement with the National Party. This is very much an initiative of the National Party as explained by the Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and they will own it as such.

We are concerned that the rebate doesn’t do enough for those at the bottom end. We are also concerned about the targeting of particular groups in this Bill, without taking sufficient care for those groups whom we have always advocated for, te pani me te rawakore. But this is the nature of politics as Labour knows well.

You see Mr Speaker, we remember the disillusionment that our colleagues in the Green Party felt when their honourable intention to introduce legislation to abolish the discriminatory provisions which allowed young workers to receive less than the minimum wage, was overturned overnight by the Labour caucus. Yes, they know about the political landscape.

The Maori Party argued that rangatahi should not be vulnerable to arbitrary dismissal or unilateral changes to their terms and conditions of employment. We supported the original intention of the Greens Bill that young people had the right to freedom from discrimination – as in the Human Rights Act 1993.

And yet, Mr Speaker, as the Hansard will show, in order to win the support of Labour, the Greens had to amend their legislation to the effect that they would end up supporting a ‘new entrant’ sub-minimum wage for their first 200 hours of work. Yes Mr Speaker, they know about political trading because, they have done it themselves.

So despite the concerns, we will continue to work with the National Party to consider legislation to deal with those who stand to miss out from this Bill.

I want to just refer to the ‘trickle-down’ economic theory, which says that boosting the incomes of mid to high income earners through tax cuts will create economic benefits which will trickle down to lower income earners from the enhanced spending which will create jobs and the subsequent demand for services.

Instead, what we have witnessed over recent years in Aotearoa, is more akin to a trickle up effect, which is worsening income inequality, an effect which the Labour Government failed to give serious consideration to, in over nine years of office.

Mr Speaker, our greatest concern, which we have shared with the Government, is our concern about the inequality in disposable income – the gap between the low and high income earners.

And the opposition is quite right, that our policy is to reduce tax, so that no tax would be paid on the first $25,000 earned.

We have many questions about this Bill, and how it fits alongside our aspirations to address low income taxpayers. Of particular importance in regard to the tax issues being placed here, are manaakitanga to the less endowed and rangatiratanga for them.

We think of those unable to generate a living income or to create wealth. If the nation is not willing or able to provide adequate manaakitanga to the less endowed then the shortfall must be addressed by providing opportunities for those people to

* raise their productive skills;

* assist them to be better managers of what skills and means they possess;

* protect them against loan sharks, pokie machine parlours; and so on.

There is significant value in taking this route. It would be an expression of rangatiratanga.

We need education and counselling services, coupled with community banking services, including whanau, hapu and iwi designed schools, promoted through community facilities including schools.

The absence of any tax relief in this legislation, means that this alternative is urgent.

This Bill focuses tax relief on higher income earners and it intensifies the earnings gap between low and high income earners.

We do not intend to ignore these realities. We must not punish the impoverished. It was of great concern that the Minister of Social Development, Hon Paula Bennett, has released papers which revealed that a substantial group of New Zealanders have continued to be deprived throughout a decade of relative prosperity. That is the legacy of the Labour Government we must address.

We will support this Bill Mr Speaker, in honouring our confidence and supply arrangement with the National Party.


ENDS

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