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“Closing the Gaps Is In Disarray” - Prebble

“Closing the Gaps Is In Disarray”- Richard Prebble General Debate Speech

Wednesday 22nd Nov 2000 Richard Prebble Speech -- Other

I have just received answers from the Prime Minister on closing the gaps. It is a cornerstone policy. The question I put down stated: “Has the closing of the gaps committee set any targets for closing the gaps; if so, what are they?''. The answer came back as: ”Work is continuing on the identification of targets to measure the improvement in the outcome for Maori and Pacific Island peoples."

In the Speech from the Throne the Prime Minister said and I would like to remind members opposite that her Government was committed to closing the gaps. In fact, she said: “As long as the economic gaps between Maori and other New Zealanders remain large, the Government of New Zealand cannot claim to have addressed the needs of all New Zealanders." That is what we were told in the Speech from the Throne.

One year later we discover that this Government has not even fixed a single target. That is actually not quite right, because I put down a series of questions to Ministers, half of whom have not replied, but instead, hide behind the Prime Minister's skirts, and have allowed the Prime Minister to say that for the Ministry of Health, for the Ministry of Housing, and for the Ministry of Corrections that there are no targets.

However, I did get one answer from the Minister of Social Services and Employment, who has told us that one target has been decided on. It is that it will increase the share of stable employment outcomes gained by short-term that is, 0 to 26 weeks, and long-term, 26 or more Maori job seekers by 3 percentage points, and the same for Pacific Island people by 1 percentage point. I am not quite sure why Pacific Islanders get only 1 point and Maori get 3 points.

The interesting thing about this is that that is the only specific target the Government has. The latest household labour force survey shows that on the one target the Government has, it has spectacularly failed because unemployment amongst Maori and Pacific Islanders has increased. That might be the reason that the Government is now reluctant to put up targets.

Of course there could be another reason, and that is because in the Minister of Maori Affairs time in office he has done absolutely nothing. He cannot even answer any questions. Te Puni Kokiri is supposed to be setting targets, and his answer is to hide behind the Prime Minister's, who has said that the Government has not yet even determined targets.

Part of the reason might be that we now know from Simon Chapple's research that the gaps under a National Government closed in employment, in jobs, and in education. We also discovered that the Ministers have had another report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research that also shows a similar improvement. In fact, Maori did very well under the Employment Contracts Act and under the school choice.

Is the average Maori household earning more money now that it was 12 months ago? Labour members are very silent, because even they know that under a Labour-Alliance Government that the average New Zealand Maori household is worse off.

I estimate that the average Maori household is worse off by more than $10 a day in real purchasing power, and that the gap between Maori and non-Maori has actually grown under a Labour-Alliance Government. Members opposite cannot even deny that! They know that it is true, and so do Maori.

I invite the next member who gets up to tell us what targets this Government has for a policy that we were told 12 months ago was a cornerstone policy. Now we are told that it is in disarray.


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