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A MANA Analysis of the 2013 Budget

PRESS RELEASE AND SPEECH

MANA Leader and MP for Te Tai Tokerau Hone Harawira

Thursday 16th May 2013

A MANA Analysis of the 2013 Budget: Increasing Poverty, Not Reducing Poverty

“This budget was billed as the budget to solve child poverty but it does nothing for our most vulnerable” says MANA Leader and MP for Te Tai Tokerau Hone Harawira. “And if was John Key or Bill English I would hang my head in shame because under this budget 270,000 kids will still be in poverty today, tomorrow and next year”.

“Just in case I’m wrong with my take on the budget, I checked the 78 recommendations made by the Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty against the budget. And guess what? The only semblance of a measly three recommendations exist in English’s prescription for a better future. Even then I’m struggling to give him credit for that; the Heat Smart Programme was supposed to go into every NZ home, not the 46,000 the Government are happy to pay for, and the peanuts being paid for more budgeting services won’t result in less people making a visit to Instant Finance”.

“But what gobsmacked me the most was the absence of any reference to any food in schools programme. Like most people I was under the impression that the Government was going to roll out a scheme that was just as good, if not better, than the private members bill I have going to the house in July to provide every decile one and two school kid in the country free breakfasts and lunches. So another day passes with more of our future leaders go to school hungry and won’t learn as well as a result of this Government’s inaction. I can only but assume that the Government are all going to vote for the bill because they have no idea what to do when it comes to feeding our most vulnerable kids”.

“Ask any expert on the state housing shortage in the country and they will agree that the Government’s stocks are short by about 30,000, with 20,000 being needed for our biggest city. So when you consider that the Government under their accord with the Auckland City Council are going to build an additional 500 houses, they are still well short of the mark. Now they are going to make the situation worse by booting out 3000 families out in the cold. This Government’s plan for state housing is deplorable and it won’t take long before anybody walking through the streets of Auckland will think they are walking the slums of New Delhi with so much homelessness”.

“As for jobs, there is a keen desire on the part of Government to put more beneficiaries into work, but no plan to create jobs when they are kicked off the dole. Maori youth unemployment is sky high, let alone the Maori unemployment rate being double the rate of non-Maori. For the 40,000 Maori looking for a job they are being asked to fight for one of the 3000 places available for Maori and Pacific Island trade training scheme positions. That still leaves 37,000 without better employment opportunities and of those 3000 Maori or Pacific Islanders lucky enough to secure a spot in trade training, there is still no guarantee of work at the end of their training”.

“When it comes to Maori education, this Government gets a big F for fail. And why on earth the Maori Party are prepared to back ACT leader John Banks’, who is currently facing criminal charges, attempt to privatise the education sector, is beyond me and most Maori who believe in Kura Kaupapa. They are placing a private model of Maori education, called Kura a Iwi, in direct competition with Kura Kaupapa. The only difference is that it is not a level playing field; Kura a Iwi are going to receive more money while Kura Kaupapa are starved of the money they so desperately need to continue growing the minds of our tamariki and rangatahi. Under charter schools, Kura a Iwi are not faced with the same accountability measures as Kura Kaupapa under the Official Information Act or the Ombudsman and Kura a Iwi are not required to employ registered teachers”.

“No matter how you look at this budget, it is an epic fail. It does nothing to help the 270,000 kids who live in poverty, it does nothing for the 30,000 families who need a home, it does nothing for the 40,000 Maori looking for a job, and it does nothing for Maori education”.

“So much for the budget that was supposed put a serious dent in poverty. It’s a case of this Government doing their best to increase poverty, rather than reducing poverty”.

The following is a speech delivered by Hone Harawira in the House of Representatives in response to the Government’s budget.

2013 BUDGET SPEECH

MANA Leader and Member of Parliament for Tai Tokerau Hone Harawira

Thursday 16th May 2013

Kia ora Mr Speaker, tēna tatou katoa e te whare,

FEEDING THE KIDS

Mr Speaker in 2011 I made FEED THE KIDS MANA’s first ever major campaign, but whenever I raised it around the house I noticed that while we all know child poverty exists, politicians were retreating behind glib phrases, or saying nasty things about bad parenting, or blaming the global financial crisis, or going quiet to fit with the party line and refusing to deal honestly and openly with what has become a major disgrace in 21st century Aotearoa.

And unfortunately, whenever they’re in Government, both major parties struggle to admit that child poverty is a real problem but happily attack those in power about it, as soon as they go into opposition …

So wouldn’t it be nice if for once … just this once … if both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition called a joint press conference (and yes, Russell Norman and Metiria Turei and Winston Peters and Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples and even Peter Dunne can be there too if they wish) to say …

“On behalf of the Parliament of New Zealand, we want to acknowledge a major problem in our society called child poverty. It’s something we’ve been shuffling to the side lines for far too long, but today we freely admit that child poverty exists here in Aotearoa … we’re not proud of it - in fact we’re bloody ashamed to admit it - but we are going to do something about it”.

And as the leaders of the two major parties in Parliament we want everyone to know that as we move to take up our place as a leading nation in the world, we begin that journey by recognising the reality of child poverty and taking steps to eliminate it as a bipartisan priority of the highest order.

Now wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t that be something worth cheering for? Wouldn’t that be something to be proud of? And just imagine what a difference that would make to those families living on the edge?

I mean … what value the trade deal with the USA, or the military parade in China, if when we get home we’ve still got 270,000 kids living below the poverty line?

I’d love it if we had a FEED THE KIDS programme at every school in the country so no child missed out with co-ordinators helping organise local businesses to work with their schools, to help families come in to cook, to get people in to teach kids how to make a garden, grow kai, prepare kai, cook kai, and even how to clean up afterwards.

And to those who say that feeding the kids is a parent’s responsibility, I agree with you … but let’s also agree that providing the environment where stable families can function well in our society is a government’s responsibility.

And the fact is that in 2013, we have whole communities locked into long-term intergenerational unemployment, facing crippling welfare cuts, having to deal with rising electricity prices, medical charges, school fees, food bills, house rentals and fuel costs, and worrying themselves sick lest one of their kids gets ill, or the car breaks down, or there’s a cold snap, or they miss a WINZ appointment …

And on top of that we also have the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty telling us that poverty is costing the country $6b-$8b a year and that we have 270,000 children living in poverty and some 100,000 kids going to school hungry every day.

Now these are not problems caused by bad parenting; these are problems caused by decades of bad economic choices and flawed decision-making at government level.

Remember – it wasn’t the poor who caused the global financial crisis, or caused the banks to go belly up, or bailed out the banks and failed finance companies with taxpayer money.

No. Those were all macro-decisions, big picture choices made not by bad parents but by bad governments … and that’s why governments must honour their responsibility to provide for our most vulnerable citizens, the kids, until families are able to once again take care of themselves and their children.

I would have been happy to support any efforts to eliminate child poverty, however small, because feeding even one child is a good idea and that’s why

… given all the positive comments from the Prime Minister over the past few days and the Maori Party bragging about how hard they’re “fighting” for the poor, I am bitterly disappointed to see that this budget has set aside not one cent to deal with child poverty.

If I could, I would organise FEED THE KIDS gigs like we did in Otara last month, right across the north, from Moerewa to Mitimiti, Te Hapua to Te Atatu, and from Whangarei to Whangaparaoa, and then I’d take it on the road right across the country just to see happy kids, because nothing beats seeing 2,000 kids happy to get a feed, see some celebrities, jump around, sing and play, and then go back to school with a lunch.

I’m glad we have more time to take this kaupapa on the road and to take another shot at convincing politicians that the FEED THE KIDS bill is worth supporting, even if it’s just to Select Committee.

EDUCATION

And while I’m talking about kids at school let me talk about what’s happening in the field of education, and specifically Maori education, because yesterday I blasted the Maori Party for voting for ACT’s Charter Schools when charter schools will have no accountability to whanau, to the reo, or to te aho matua, no obligation to put registered teachers in front of our kids, no transparency under the Official Information Act or the Ombudsman Act … and they’re going to get heaps more money than Kura Kaupapa ever got!

And yes of course I can hear Maori calling for different options to mainstream schools but why do you suppose they’re doing that? Because the racist education system we’ve got right now sucks that’s why! And because, for the last five years, the Maori Party have done bugger all to change it – that’s why!

The Maori Party doesn’t have any options and because they don’t have the power either to get money for Kura Kaupapa Maori or to keep Kotahitanga going or to get Manaaki Tauira reinstated, they’re left pasting a Maori name on an ACT policy and trying to sell it to Maori!

And I mean really? No accountability to whanau, no commitment to Te Reo, no responsibility to Te Aho Matua, they don’t have to accept any Maori kids, there is no appeal if they throw Maori kids out, and there is no obligation to put registered teachers in front of our kids after telling all our nannies they can’t teach in Kura Kaupapa Maori until they get a degree, and you call that a good idea?

And instead of attacking me, why doesn’t the Maori Party, with their millions of dollars in departmental money and hundreds of staff, actually come up with some basic bottom lines, like what MANA does –

MANA wants a formal commitment from the government on:

· A date to implement the Tribunal’s recommendations on Kohanga

· Equal funding for Kura Kaupapa Maori

· Elimination of racist rules applied only to Kura Kaupapa Maori

· Compulsory Maori language in schools

· Specific increases in achievement for Maori students at school

· Specific reductions in suspension & expulsion of Maori students from school

· Reinstatement and expansion of the Kotahitanga programme to help teachers understand how to get the best out of Maori students

· Reinstatement of the Manaaki Tauira funding to help ALL Maori students get into university

MANA will work with anyone to help grow Maori medium education and develop viable policies for mainstream education, but know this – anyone wanting to call themselves a Maori Party and talk so much about Kaupapa Maori, should be ready to be congratulated on their ability and challenged on their inability, to deliver on Kura Kaupapa Maori.

The Maori Party got nothing in last year’s budget for Kura Kaupapa Maori, and to nobody’s great surprise, they got nothing in this year’s budget either.

HOUSING

And in terms of housing, let’s be clear – Aotearoa has a housing crisis, fuelled by property speculators paying over the top to capture the market and set high rental prices and supported by this Government’s refusal to impose a meaningful capital gains tax which would force the speculators to offload properties, put houses back on the market, lower house prices, enable first home buyers to buy in the “affordable” housing market that the government is talking about, and enable the Government to build proper homes for those on low incomes because that is where the real need is - as a commitment to ensuring that every family in Aotearoa has a warm and comfortable home to live in and then developing a home purchase programme based on the same universal family benefit that gave every Kiwi an opportunity to own their own homes and made Aotearoa such a great place to live, because the need exists at the bottom end and that’s where change has to take place.

And that change is not to kick people out of state homes to sell the land to property developers; nor is it to lie to families about how their houses need to be taken off the market because they’re not up to spec and then shipping them to Kaitaia with some money so somebody else can bring them up to spec; and not by tacking sheds onto the side of a house, or by building “infill” ghettos, or lowering the threshold so they can kick out poor tenants either.

No, what is required is a simpler more committed strategy:

· Impose capital gains tax on those with two or more properties to bring more houses onto the market at a price which will enable first home buyers to buy;

· Build 10,000 state houses a year for the next 10 years for families on low incomes, with a policy which encourages tenants to plan for home purchases, and enables them to do so through a universal family benefit.

CONCLUSION

Apart from a commitment to more money for fight rheumatic fever, this budget has nothing but crumbs to deal with the massive problems facing Maori, Pasifika and Pakeha people struggling to make ends meet or to deal with the ever-growing plight of our hungry children.

As far as this budget is concerned

All we wanted was to FEED THE KIDS

We didn’t even get CRUMBS FOR KIDS

ENDS

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