The theme of your Pacific Vision conference this morning is 'Where to from here.
'Before I speak about where to from here, it is worth looking at where we are today, and where we have come from.I acknowledge the rich contribution of the Pacific to this city, its culture, its flavour, its business.
And, of course, in the superstars who are helping lead New Zealand back to its rightful place on the rugby field. It is appropriate to acknowledge that over the years New Zealand has used the Pacific Islands when it suited us.
When we were short of labour we used the Islands as a source of cheap labour and then we didn't need cheap labour any more Pacific Islanders were treated as unwelcome.
As a palagi New Zealander I acknowledge that New Zealand has not always been straight in its dealings with the Pacific.I recall as a young Auckland City Councillor in 19! 76 I called a meeting in the Town Hall building just across Aotea Square from here.
It was called to discuss harassment of Pacific Islanders on the streets of Auckland.We have certainly moved on a long way from then.
I would like to pay tribute to the organisers of this conference in the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs.
And I would like to acknowledge some of the measures in which significant progress has been achieved.
The portability of Pacific Island pensions is a good initiative and strongly suppor ted by the Alliance.
We are entitled to ask why it took so long to introduce, when it was an issue that both Labour and National Governments have had in front of them for many years.So there has been some progress.
But we have further to go and I would like to take the opportunity to spell out the partnership the Alliance is committed to in achieving a Pacific vision.
The unemployment rate for Pacific Islanders in March this year was 14.5%.
The unemployment rate for Europeans was 5.6%.
The total unemployment rate was 7.5%.
Here in Auckland, the total unemployment rate is 6.6%, which is close to the national average.
But among Pacific Islanders, it is 15.4%.
That is 8,300 people out of a total Pacfic Island labour force of 53,800.
Yet in my home town of Christchurch, where the Pacific Island community is much smaller (a labour force of 2800), the Pacific island unemployment rate is 10.6%.
This shows that ethnic background is not a cause of unemployment, but a factor that determines the distribution of unemployment.The bur den of New Zealand's economic policies and the brunt of the Government's unemployment policy is being unequally borne by the Pacific Island community.
The unemployment picture in New Zealand is a human, social and economic catastrophe and jobs have to be the number one priority for any incoming Government.I believe New Zealand will have a new government before the end of this year and the Alliance will be the heart of it.
If I'm in that government it, I'm going to make it my mission to get that unemployment rate down.
I am happy to give you a commitment that you can call me back to a conference like this one to hold me accountable for this.We will do it through partnership between Government and the private sector, with the Pacific Islands community, with business leaders, with local government to invest in jobs.
We'll provide venture capital for innovative job-rich new industries, training for young people, and whatever support is needed.Housing+ The 1996 Census s howed that 67% of New Zealanders own their own home or have a mortgage, but only 43% of Pacific Island New Zealanders.The Alliance is committed to quality housing for all New Zealanders.
The best way we can help people to buy their own homes is to ensure people have quality jobs generating the income they need to save up for a deposit and pay off a mortgage.
Give the young unemployed in Northland jobs processing trees to provide the wood and young unemployed in Auckland jobs using that wood to build them and people in Auckland who need houses will have a place to live.
The health system is failing Pacific Islanders in New Zealand.
Why are only about half of PI children under 2 immunised, compared to nearly three quarters of the rest of the population? Why are twice as many new Pacific Island school entrants failing hearing tests?
Why is rheumatic fever among Pacific Islanders six times higher than the national average?It's because that is what happens when more Pacific Islanders are jobless.
It's what happens when you charge people on low incomes to visit the doctor and to pick up prescriptions.If we're going to make the health of Pacific Island New Zealanders better, we have to invest in jobs.We're going to remove the obstacles to seeing the doctor and collecting medicine too.
The Alliance stands firmly for making visits to the doctor free and for removing the charge for prescription medicine.Pacific Island partnershipThere is one more initiative I want to comment on in setting out a Pacific vision.I want to see our Government working more closely and in partnership with Pacific Governments to achieve our common goals.
We are all small island nations but together we have a very significant voice in the international forums of the world, working for peaceful solutions to international conflict, for disarmament, for keeping the pressure on large nations over climate change.
The leadership of the Pacific on the nuclear issue is a pointer to the immense moral leadership that th e community of South Pacific nations can provide. The Pacific has much to offer in the new millennium.
There are many opportunities and there is a great deal for us to achieve.
I congratulate you on this conference and I hope it is the beginning of an era of achievement in the new millennium.