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Hone Harawira: Adjournment Speech

Hone Harawira: Adjournment Speech

MANA Leader and MP for Te Tai Tokerau

Hone Harawira

12 December 2012

Tena koe Mr Speaker. Tena tatou katoa e te whare.

Mr Speaker - I know that this is a time when MPs traditionally say nice things about one another and wish peace upon the world, but 2012 has been a nightmare for a growing population of desperately poor people in this country who have little to celebrate, and so I want to dedicate my last words this year to highlighting the plight that they face, to challenging a government that doles out favours to the rich while destroying the futures of those with little future and fewer prospects, and to posing alternatives that we can all live with.

This government’s commitment to the “free market” has not just allowed, but actively encouraged businesses like Ports of Auckland and AFFCO to attack unions, reduce safety standards and cut wages in their ruthless drive for even greater profit margins.

Unemployment has continued to rise, Maori and Pasifika rates continue to be 3 times higher than those for Pakeha, more and more people are being forced onto benefits as they struggle to cope, and government’s response has been to cut youth benefits, cut assistance to young mums, cut unemployment benefits, cut off ACC to those with genuine injuries, cut back on assistance to those needing a house, cut back on state housing in communities like Glen Innes, arrest people for daring to hold those communities together, evict families from state houses in communities like Otangarei, force people already living on the margins into ever greater levels of poverty and desperation, bully beneficiaries into jumping through hoops designed to shame and humiliate them, and then make smart-arse remarks in this house and snigger about their wittiness, as if poverty and hunger and homelessness and desperation and despair and suicide were things to celebrate rather than alleviate.

Yes things may be tough, but clearly not for everyone; the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and working people and those who can’t find work have responded by simply upping stakes and leaving NZ for a new life in Australia.

And the real scary thing about that is that this government is showing by its policies that it simply does not care enough about the future of its own citizens to take steps to reduce that poverty, to create employment, to build homes for its people or to provide a positive educational environment for our children.

In the face of massive public opposition as shown by the 300,000 signature national petition and a legal challenge to stop the sale of state assets until Maori interests in water have been settled, this government remains committed to the sale of NZ-owned power companies.

In the face of Petrobras’ forced withdrawal from an unsafe and untested deep sea oil drilling programme off the coast of Te Whanau a Apanui, this government not only remains committed to its strategy of exploiting fossil fuels, they have also opened up the Reinga Basin off Northland’s coast for more oil and gas exploration programmes, regardless of the disastrous safety records of potential bidders.

And in the face of overwhelming evidence from the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty, the 2012 Children’s Social Health Monitor, the Child Poverty Action Group, unions, teachers associations and health providers about the disastrous impact of government policies on the children of the poor, government refuses to accept that a comprehensive food in schools programme will reduce the impact of poverty and improve educational outcomes for children in low-decile schools, and instead offers up a pointless tax-credit regime that is destined to fail because poor people have no awareness of how such arrangements work, and won’t apply for them if it means having to go through the humiliation they are subjected to every time they have to go into a government agency.

And that’s why I am hugely proud of the efforts of members of the MANA Movement all around the country, and grateful to them for their commitment to change, their willingness to lay their bodies on the line, and their steadfastness in the face of a cold-hearted government.

I am proud that MANA members have been on the front line in the battle to stop asset sales, to support the New Zealand Maori Council bid to protect Maori interests in water, to help keep our seas free of dangerous deep sea oil drilling programmes, to stand against the take-over of New Zealand sovereignty by multinational corporates, to stand alongside those fighting to keep their homes, to support worker’s demands for safe working conditions and a decent living wage, and of course to promote the notion that feeding kids in schools is not an issue of cost, but one of justice.

Mr Speaker - MANA is rightly seen as living on the hard edge of parliamentary politics, but people would be wrong to think that the protest vote is the only constituency that MANA speaks to, and I am proud to point to MANA’s election manifesto to show how much MANA is in tune with where the country wants to go.

When MANA proposed “20,000 new state houses over two years” to address the massive problem of homelessness in this country, kick-start apprenticeships and employment in the housing industry, and provide a boost to the country’s flagging economy by investing in people who spend their money here rather than on nebulous overseas stocks, our proposal met with bemused smiles from people who know better … so it was comforting to see Labour expand our “20,000 houses in 2 years” philosophy into their own “100,000 houses in 10 years”.

And many are those who scoffed at MANA’s Feed the Kids proposal last year, but a government funded food in schools programme for low decile schools is now not only widely supported within parliament (indeed, a week after I put my bill into the ballot, the leader of the Opposition put in a similar bill), it has also become one of the lead campaigns in the campaign to reduce poverty.

And as we come to the end of the year, let me just say thank you to everyone who helps around parliament, and to all of my parliamentary colleagues a simple message - enjoy your break, enjoy your whanau, share your good fortune, a MANA KIRIHIMETE to you all, and a simple request for 2013 - that we all commit to ensuring that every child in Aotearoa gets at least one decent meal every day.

ENDS


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