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Richard Prebble Speech "Race Relations"

“RACE RELATIONS" Speech to Terrace End Rotary Club, Palmerston North

Wednesday 27th Sep 2000 Richard Prebble Media Release -- Justice

Tonight I want to deal with what is the most difficult issue to debate nationally, race relations.

Those who dare to question the direction the coalition is taking us in are ruthlessly labelled racists. As Winston Peters observes, there is nothing that a sickly white liberal hates more than being called a racist. As a white liberal I can testify that it is most unpleasant.

I persist in raising the issues because as a parent of children who are not white I am passionately committed to creating a successful multi-racial society. I personally believe that the current pessimism over race relations has contributed to a mood of depression deeper than any I have experienced in my adult life.

But tonight I come bringing good news. It is just not true. The gaps are not widening. The gaps are closing. The government’s own research reveals a very optimistic picture.

Let me quote from a government research paper by the Labour Department’s senior research analyst, Simon Chapple published this month. These are direct quotes: “The post 1970s Maori population is in absolute terms larger, per capita materially wealthier and has a higher life expectancy than at any time in New Zealand’s history” or “Take three indicators of socio-economic outcomes that most of us would consider to be key: employment rates, median incomes and education levels. By all these indicators, gaps closed over the 1990s”.

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How has the government reacted to this great news that the gaps are rapidly closing?

Helen Clark ignored Chapple’s research when giving a speech last week, while your local MP, Steve Maharey, attacked ACT’s Muriel Newman, “Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey, tonight accused ACT Party list MP Muriel Newman of wilful distortion in her comments on a research report. The ACT Party are claiming the Chapple report, … support the ACT Party’s position on the `closing the gaps’ and Treaty issues”.

He goes on to say – “The ACT Party would dearly love to find some respectable research justification for the unsavoury politics they are pursuing.” As I commented, when you try to debate race relations you are immediately subject to vicious personal attacks.

The whole factual, intellectual and moral basis of the coalition’s cornerstone policy “Closing the Gaps” has turned out to be false. A courageous government will face the facts and do a U-turn. I for one will not criticise them if they do so,” said Hon Richard Prebble.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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