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Maori Party: Last Speech in the 50th Parliament

Adjournment Debate; Last Speech in the 50th Parliament

Te Ururoa Flavell; Co-leader of the Māori Party

Thursday 31 July 2014

Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Kia ora tātou e te Whare tēnei rā. Earlier this week we celebrated ten years since Tariana Turia was elected as the first Māori Party MP, and her ability to speak in the House—not so much her ability but certainly what she said in the House at that time certainly shaped where we have come from.

In her first address on 27 July 2004, she said this: “We are here today to say loud and clear that being Māori is everything to do with how well we do in life. We will restore to ourselves our rightful place as tangata whenua and we will need no one else’s permission than ourselves. We can do this and we can do it now.”

It is appropriate in this last speech of the 50th Parliament for the Māori Party to acknowledge the legendary impact and influence of two of the finest Māori leaders that I have had the privilege to know. It has been a huge honour for me to work with them and be with them on our journey, and I will miss them both.

Tariana and Pita have transformed the priorities of policy agencies, the agenda of Government, and the attitude of New Zealanders by their unstinting belief in the potential of whānau to do for themselves. Their legacy is written into the hearts and minds of our people through their historic signing of the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the substantial investment allocated to Māori economic and social development across subsequent Budgets, and, of course, the unique and life-changing approach that most of us know as Whānau Ora. We have seen the influence of Whānau Ora spreading into the housing sector with Te Pou Matakana Commission the agency now responsible for management and distribution of Māori housing funding. We have seen its impact on the disabilities sector with Enabling Good Lives representing the aspirations of disabled persons and their families to determine their own destiny.

We have experienced the power of Whānau Ora recognised in Waka Hourua, the national suicide prevention approach for Māori and Pasifika communities, and E Tū Whānau, and in Ngā Vaka o Kāiga Tapu Pasifika, family violence solutions grown by, delivered to, and from local communities themselves, who are best able to create their own answers.

When we signed up to the Relationship Accord with the Government in December 2011, our first priority was to support the evolving focus and ongoing implementation of Whānau Ora. I pledge my absolute commitment to you, Tariana Turia, that I will continue to hold subsequent Governments to account to protect that kaupapa that our people know and love. We have been fascinated by the interest of some of the parties in this House who suddenly want to review it, amend it, and shut it down. Well, I will be doing absolutely everything in my power and I will be trying to encourage as best I can those parties to get over themselves and to put faith in our families.

TE URUROA FLAVELL245 They know what is right for them. The second and third milestones of our relationship accord were focused on eliminating poverty, through a Ministerial Committee on Poverty. We are really proud that this Government agreed to bring together a coordinated ministerial focus to poverty. During the 2005 Parliament, when of course Labour was at the helm, there was a massive 335 pages of Hansard recorded questions, debates, and speeches in which the Māori Party MPs asked the Government to prioritise families experiencing severe or significant poverty and hardship. The 335 pages got us nowhere, with Labour failing to even agree to a benchmark definition of poverty, from which to measure progress.

In contrast, we have been really pleased at the scope of influence that that committee had. Through our negotiations with the Government, over $65 million has been invested in addressing rheumatic fever, over $100 million in home insulation, targeting low-income families, a warrant of fitness for rental housing has been initiated, and $90 million was invested in primary school-age children now being able to go to the doctor for free, any time of the day or night, and get a prescription as well—all for free.

There is still work to do. But the important thing is that because we do have a relationship with the Government, we are able to raise those issues directly rather than being from behind the megaphone or, in question time, from the cross benches.

I did want to acknowledge the willingness of the Prime Minister and his deputy, the Hon Bill English, for always making space available for us to raise issues, to review policies and priorities, and to face up whenever we had brought challenges to the table—ka nui te mihi ki a kourua. It has been a relationship based on mutual respect, which the Hon Bill English mentioned earlier, and it is something that I can tell the House we definitely value highly. It has meant that we can oppose the Government’s key policies without flinching, such as asset sales or the Resource Management Act. Our vote on the latter has been crucial in stopping the legislation in its tracks. He mentioned 90 bills. We might go for 100 next time.

But be that as it may, I want to just point out the obvious irony recently, in the last 24 hours in fact. ACT, New Zealand First, and Mana even, all issued statements speaking out against race-based policies, or the missed opportunity of the local government legislation, which passed into law on Tuesday, despite the contribution of two Māori MPs from Labour and the Greens.

We voted against the local government legislation because of the way in which it undermines the statutory significance of Māori representation. We met with the Minister, and subsequently wrote to him, making two recommendations—one, a first-principles review on Māori representation, including the impact of the Māori Statutory Board in Auckland, which is a key initiative established as a result of Pita’s negotiation in Cabinet. The other was to initiate a joint work programme with the Ministry of Māori Affairs and the Department of Internal Affairs to increase and improve Māori participation in local government processes.

My point is that although mainstream parties inevitably complain loudly or do nothing, we have always been about getting around the table and making a difference. Māori MPs in mainstream parties will always be under the influence of their respective leaders and party policies, and we all know how Māori feature under that. We just have to remember the foreshore and seabed legislation.

I remember a phrase that the late Eva Rickard used when she decided to leave Mana Motuhake, when they chose to come under the umbrella of the Alliance Party. Her summing up of the situation for Māori-based parties in alliance with another brings a sound message for us today. She said: “Dead fish flow with the current.” Well, we have seen the fate of dead fish before in this Parliament, and we the Māori Party obviously are determined to maintain our uniqueness, our precious earned reputation as the strong, independent Māori voice in Parliament, with influence. This is about survival, as Professor Whatarangi Winiata used to tell us. It is about tino rangatiratanga. It is about maintaining the integrity of the Māori seats.

I do want to make a brief mention of our other parties with dollars in their eyes or parties that like to party. There is nothing wrong with a bit of stunt politics to generate interest in the electoral process, but my only hope is that the Electoral Commission can put to use the resources of such a benefactor to the vital job ahead, and that is lifting the Māori vote. In a democracy every vote counts, and we have been bitterly disappointed in the failure of the electoral system to get the vote out amongst Māori communities in particular.

The Māori Party will continue to speak truths about the issues that confront us. We have had bills passed to prevent gambling, and multiple interventions in tobacco reform. We have called, and will continue to call, for a review of the justice sector to eliminate institutional racism that stymies the lives of our people. Although others may talk on and on about pipeline dreams, the Māori Party has got on with the job. We have extended KickStart Breakfast, to bring food into the schools—into every school in the country. We have introduced the Māori history in schools. We have advocated for the recognition of cultural significance, and on and on. I think that we have done the nation proud by the efforts that we have been able to introduce into this country, and we look forward to a further term.

In the time that I have I just want to say, in terms of the Māori Party, that our energy has never been higher to support the challenges our people entrust us with. I do want to say in closing that I pay a huge tribute to the cast of hundreds who provide us with amazing support in this Parliament—the messengers, the cleaners, the caterers, the translators in particular, who have not been mentioned today, ka nui te mihi ki a koutou e hoa, the Office of the Clerk, security, IT, the librarians, Hansard, the reception team, the building staff, all of our own staff in our offices, our electorate teams, and our membership, and just in particular the parliamentary teams, because they always show us huge respect. We appreciate that. We do not always perhaps give that, but we do appreciate it and thank them so much. We wish everybody well in the next election.


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