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Harawira: Tobacco Inquiry Debate

Tobacco Inquiry Debate

Hone Harawira, Maori Party Member of Parliament for Tai Tokerau Wednesday 8 December 2010

Mr Speaker - I'd like to dedicate this short speech to some very special people.

To Huhana Mihinui, who filed the Waitangi Tribunal claim to eliminate smoking among Maori;

To Maori Marsden, Ngaitakoto elder, rangatira, tohunga, mentor, and orator - whose death from smoking made me so angry that I gave up the day he died ..

And to my father, John Puriri Harawira, a good man and a very good father, who was also killed by the tobacco industry and who, even when he was hooked up to an oxygen tank, was unable to shake free from the addiction that has tortured Maoridom for generations.

They have all passed on of course, but their lives, their energy, and their loss to us, has all been a constant spur to me in this crusade against the death and destruction inflicted upon this wonderful country of ours, by those murdering pokokohua we call the tobacco industry.

But today I also take this opportunity to thank many people for their help during the Inquiry into the impacts of Tobacco on Maori:

To all of those good people in the tobacco control sector for their commitment to a smokefree nation, for all their support during the hearings, and for their ongoing work to reduce the impact of tobacco in our communities across Aotearoa - and in particular to the small group - Ben Youdan, Prudence Stone, and most especially Mere Wilson and Shane Bradbrook - who were always on hand with the statistics, the arguments, the energy, and the passion during the nights when I felt like giving up;

To my colleagues on the Maori Affairs Select Committee, Simon Bridges, Paul Quinn, Kelvin Davis, Parekura Horomia, Mita Ririnui, the occasional Iain Lees-Galloway and the more occasional but always controversial and positive Metiria Turei, and of course our esteemed chairman, the Honourable Tau Henare - to you all, my thanks for a memorable journey and a report that is already being cited in Health Ministries around the world;

To my own caucus colleagues, Rahui Katene and Te Ururoa Flavell, for covering for me during the months our committee was out on the road, and for always being positive and supportive of the work that we were doing;

To my co-leaders, Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, who thought I was a bit whacky for turning a health issue into a Maori initiative so we could get traction on something that Health Select Committees had refused to deal with for decades, and for bothering to take the proposal up with the National government;

And of course to the Prime Minister, John Key, and his Deputy, Bill English, for actually agreeing to this Inquiry going to the Maori Affairs Select Committee, when many seasoned politicians thought that it didn't stand a Maori's chance in parliament of going anywhere;

My thanks to you all ... BUT ... the job ain't done yet, not by a long shot.

Tariana Turia, Minister for Tobacco Control, caught everyone on the hop with her bill to raise taxes on cigarettes, but the debate in the house showed that 95% of MPs, from all parties, supported the elimination of smoking in Aotearoa; and the response from smokers shows that every effort we take in this House to reduce this carnage, will be met with a positive reaction from the wider public.

Tariana's courage in driving this bill through the house is a measure of her strength and her commitment to this task.

And now, following on from the Report of the Maori Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into the impacts of Tobacco on Maori, Tari has stepped up again, with her next bill to ban the display of tobacco in shops across the country, which I understand is coming before this house tomorrow.

And I call on us all, MPs and the general public, to keep the enthusiasm up, to keep the letters coming in, to keep the pressure on, and to keep the support pumping for what will be an even harder road ahead, because there are other battles that we must fight in this war - and war it is.

Indeed, if any country killed 5,000 Kiwis in any one year, we would be at war with them before I could finish this speech.

But that's how many people are killed by this industry every, single year, and given the billions of dollars that they take out of this country annually, I guarantee you that they are girding for war themselves.

And to the Maori Party, for having the vision to take up this challenge, I am most especially grateful. This inquiry, the tax bill, the bill to ban displays, and other measures which I know are being worked on (but that I am not at liberty to disclose), are all specifically down to the passion, and the desire, and the commitment, and the determination of the Maori Party to take the first steps along the road to making this country truly smokefree, and to a Minister with the courage to walk the talk, by putting up the legislation to make that a reality.

happy are those who dream dreams, and are prepared to pay the price to make those dreams come true ...


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