Shane Jones & Pita Sharples Interviewed by Paul Holmes
Sunday 13th November, 2011
Q+A interview with Labour’s, Shane Jones & Maori Party Co-Leader, Pita Sharples.
The interview has been transcribed below. The full length video interviews and panel discussions from this morning’s Q+A can be watched on tvnz.co.nz at, http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news
Q+A, 9-10am Sundays on TV ONE. Repeats at 9.10pm Sundays, 9:05am and 1:05pm Mondays on TVNZ 7
Shane Jones & Pita Sharples Interviewed by Paul Holmes
Labour’s best known Maori MP Shane Jones is up against Maori Party Co-Leader Pita Sharples for the Auckland Maori seat of Tamaki-Makaurau. Dr Sharples won it easily last time, but in 2011, it’s harder to call. There’s a lot riding on it for both men. If Shane Jones were to win it, it will give him a better chance of leading Labour one day. But he may not stick around if he doesn’t win it. And Dr Sharples has already said that this election will be his last. So what do these men offer this particular seat? Why don’t each of you tell us how you are going to improve the quality of life of Maori in Tamaki Makaurau if elected?
SHANE JONES - Labour Assoc
Spokesman Maori Affairs
Mm, why don’t we hear from the Minister first?
PITA SHARPLES - Maori
Well, I’ve been the MP here for six years, and I’ve been able to put a lot of advancements forward in education, in Maori development, in the maraes and the regional groups living in here, on the council, activities there. So I would look to pursuing those. A better quality of life. Bringing Maori into leading Auckland forward.
PAUL But specifically what have you done?
PITA Education programmes. We’ve trialled reading programmes for families in three schools. Now I’ve got it through to every decile 1,2,3 school in New Zealand. I’ve got Tataiako, a way of teaching Maori and so on. We’ve built up the possibility of activities on marae and so on. Consolidated people there.
PAUL So lots of different things. Shane Jones, what could you do? You’re likely to going to be in opposition. What could you do? I mean, he’s at least likely to be part of a government.
SHANE Well, the bottom line is the weekly earnings for Maori in Tamaki Makaurau have gone down since 2008.
PAUL That is true.
SHANE In addition to that-
PAUL For Maori, by 16%.
SHANE Mm. So whatever Pita says, the facts tell a different story. Weekly earnings have gone down. That’s partly a consequence of government policy, ie government policy not supporting firms to continue to train Maori at a time when skills development was probably a good economic thing to do. Now, I don’t know why the Maori Party didn’t insist on that. In addition to that, now, we’ve gotta bear in mind about 200,000 of the 500,000-odd Maori under the age of 15, and we’ve gotta ask ourselves over the last three years, what has the Maori Party done - I can’t think of anything significant -
PITA I think you can.
PAUL No, hang on, Pita.
SHANE -to improve the prospects of that huge bulk of 200,000 kids. Because whilst there is a lot of focus in our culture on kaumatua, only 3% of the population is over the age of 65. Nigh on 35% of the Maori population are under the age of 15. So when you have a government that’s making cuts in that vulnerable part of the population, the cultural rhetoric cannot hide or obscure the economic reality.
PAUL These numbers don’t lie. The unemployment situation’s terrible. Maori unemployed rose from 7% to 14% in the last three years. 13% of Maori.
PITA That’s right, and that’s where a lot of our effort has been. For example, we kick-started the trade training programme. Everyone’s talking about ‘no one did it’. We did it. We’ve got 200 Maori now into trade training, and that was what we did. But more than that, we’ve got 70 kaimahi, workers, from the community empowered to work amongst the group to alleviate them. I’ve funded 470 gardens for people who are finding it hard on food. You know, GST off food - that’s not Labour’s, that’s ours. It’s been ours for six years. And also the wage at $15, that’s been ours for 16 years, Paul.
SHANE There are some elements that we can agree with, but the bottom line is 270,000 New Zealanders of Maori descent say that they’re under the age of 19. You cannot turn that bad stat around unless you have macro major public policy change And in fairness to those people, Pita, 200 new employees is not going to cut the mustard, bro.
PITA You can do it in two ways. One is to actually put in immediate stuff that you can do now, and as a minor party in confidence in supply, not in coalition, I think we’ve done very very well indeed to alleviate the pani me te rawa kore - those in need. But the real change is going to take place in education, Paul, and that’s why we’re concentrated on early education - another $100 million into the Auckland area - an area where there’s a lot of Maori and Pacific people. We’ve got this reading and literacy programme coming through, and a whole lot of other things which I can just reel off in education, which is so important.
PAUL The Maori income fall in the last three years is dramatically higher – three times as high as the average income fall.
SHANE It’s an inordinate problem. And the other thing you need to bear in mind when you’ve got so many young Maori in the area of early childhood education, Pita, you’ve been a part of a government that’s cut in that area. If you’re going to turn around those education stats, you’ve gotta start either when they’re in the puku, in the kopu, or between the age of one and five. Now, I don’t doubt the sincerity of the policy ambitions that you’re outlining. But the facts are telling a different story. Cuts by the government in areas where our people are particularly vulnerable. Now, you can’t run away from that.
PITA But you say, ‘You’ve been part of the government’. Let’s be clear about this. Maori Party has voted against the government more times than Labour has, your government, and that is a fact. So, you know, we’re in confidence and supply. We’re not in coalition. Let’s be clear about that. So we’re doing everything that a minor party can do, and that’s why you go into a relationship like that, is to have wins, cos the major party have the numbers anyway to push through whatever they want. So you can take a choice – sit outside and do nothing, or get inside and wero away and you get things like the Declaration of the Rights, you get Whanau Ora. All these things came out of being attached through confidence and supply and taking it to the cabinet.
PAUL Let us move on to superannuation. Labour is interested in talking about raising the age of superannuation to 67. Maori men live, on average, to 70. So you pay tax all your life and get three years of super. What do you think of that?
PITA Well, the Maori Party policy is that we begin the pension at 60 and increment it up into where you catch up with everybody later on.
PAUL But, Shane Jones, you can see for Maori it’s not fair, is it?
SHANE Well, how do you dedicate your efforts? You’ve got 3% of the population at the moment 65 and over, and you’ve got this inordinately large youthful Maori population. I’d rather focus more effort on ensuring that they do live a hell of a lot longer beyond 65. The proposed pension reform will enable people whose bodies are worn out to get a transitional measure into the future. This doesn’t kick in till 20-odd years. But the big question that a parliamentarian, whether they’re Maori or Pakeha, needs to ask themselves, if we have a public policy fiscal issue that is unsustainable, not viable, how long can we pretend that it’s not a potential crisis? We’ve decided that it is a big problem, and, yeah, it is a bitter pill for some Maori to swallow, but I’d rather focus on the 200,000 under the age of 15-
PAUL You can’t have both, can you?
SHANE You cannot maintain the pension scheme in its current form. Now, Treasury and a host of others- When Pita says he’s actually gonna shrink the age of eligibility down to 60, I just think that that’s an invitation to bankrupt the country.
PITA Yeah, but you can do both. It’s not olds versus young at all. It’s a whole lot of things. I mean, $1.7 billion to bale out a failed South Canterbury finance company? So many million for the Hobbits? I mean, people find money, so it’s not- Don’t look at it as olds versus young.
PAUL I was watching you both in the green room before the programme, and you were chatting away just like you could be on the same party, and indeed you have so much in common. You agree on more than you disagree. Both of you oppose state assets. You both want to raise the minimum wage. GST off fruit and veggies. All this kind of stuff. You want more income tax-free. Why are you not looking at coalition with each other?
SHANE Well, you’ll have to ask Tariana that question.
PITA Tariana? Really? I thought we were co-leaders. The Maori Party will go with any party where it is advantageous to Maori people. It’s very simple.
SHANE Look, lots of our caucus know Pita and he’s warmly regarded. And indeed Tariana. She fell out with some of our members, etc. But it’s their call. I think that there is a lot of similarity for us as a social democrat party where we’re going, but we also know that this is Pita’s last throw of the dice. Tariana said she’s going. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they do cuddle up to John Key again.
PAUL Yes. Is a vote for you a vote for the Nats?
PITA A vote for us is a vote for authentic Maori policy, kaupapa Maori coming forward.
PAUL Are you more inclined to stay with the National Party having built the relationship over the past three years, is what I’m asking.
PITA I can’t have that sort of judgement here. We work as a party, as a team, and they make all of those sort of decisions.
PAUL What would a loss mean for you? You’ve said, I think, if you don’t win, you’ll rethink your career.
SHANE No, we run a two-tick campaign, etc, and I’ve always said that standing against Pita is a formidable task. He’s been in the Auckland Maori network. He is Mr Urban- And I don’t mean this in a deprecating way. I remember when I left St Stephens school - we were just talking about a big hui him and I were at in 1978 or 1979 - so I’ve never ever deprecated the status that Pita has as an urban Maori leader, etc.
PITA Just my waka Maori.
SHANE Oh, the Tupperwaka. Yeah, well-
PITA 350,000 people, Shane. Come on.
SHANE I’m an opposition politician, Pita. You never gave one to my tribe. You only gave it to your favoured supporters. But that aside, we’re running a two-tick campaign. I’m out there harvesting as many votes as possible for Te Raupo Raepa and for myself.
PAUL If Labour were to lose, it would be likely, if we were realistic about it, that there would be a leadership change. Calvin Davis and Mita Ririnui think you should be leader. If offered it, would you accept it?
SHANE Ah, no. I’m absolutely not interested in talking about any of that leadership. In fact, I get annoyed when my own people raise it continually, cos all they do is diminish what dim prospects I have amongst my colleagues. So, no, I’ve got no immediate ambitions to do anything like that.
PITA We need a bone carver at the marae.
SHANE He’s got a lot of manual work in his gardens, he tells me.
PAUL Can Labour win the election, Pita Sharples?
PITA I can’t predict that. The polls are showing things, but you can’t always believe the polls. The polls said I was miles behind in the polling for this, and suddenly, bang, they say, ‘Oh, he’s up there.’
PAUL But why should people vote for either of you? You say if you lose you might walk away. You won’t be contesting the next election.
PITA Ae, but I’ll be bringing some people with me, and you’ll see the youth of the Maori Party come forward and take hold of the country.
SHANE No, I think you’re being a bit unfair there, Paul. We’re running a two-tick campaign. What happened to Calvin Davis when he stood against Hone Harawira is that Hone Harawira continually said, ‘If you vote for me, you get Calvin’. And the curse of being in a Maori seat is that people know how to tactically vote. And they probably want insurance policy, etc, but we’re out there pushing the line. If you want a formidable parliamentarian, if you want a parliamentarian that’s going to be at the centre of a future government, a Labour government, then give me your support. If you want someone who’s gonna go in a few years and then who knows, and then continue to vote for policies such as ‘sack at will’, then Pita’s your man.
PAUL Well, I thank you both very much for coming on, Shane Jones and Pita Sharples.