Opening speech of Maori Smokefree Hui
Thursday, 11 October 2001
Opening speech of the National Auahi Kore (Maori Smokefree) Hui, Te Papa, Wellington
Tena tatau e hui nei i tenei ra. Tena koe Amster a tena hoki koutou te hunga e kawe nei i nga mahi auahi kore. Huri noa i to tatau whare tena koutou katoa.
Thank you for the invitation to open your hui.
On the door of one of my staff's offices is a photograph of two little fellows both about 3 or 4 years old. The photo was probably taken near the beginning of the last century. These two little fellows are really cute little fellows - both are smoking pipes, both are our people.
It got me wondering how tobacco got to this country and how it was, that our people became seduced by it.
I know now, of the power of the determined salesperson. I know how 'inducements' occur. They are usually based around pleasure, relief of stress, or fear.
For tobacco consumption, it is both pleasure and relief of stress.
What has angered me, of course, is the type of mindset which would profit from selling a product which they knew to be detrimental to the users health.
For example, I believe that just recently, a tobacco company overseas has said, that tobacco is good because people die faster if they smoke and therefore save the cost to the health system of caring for them as they get older!
I therefore want to commend you, for the work that you have done in promoting a lifestyle free of the ravages of the drug 'tobacco', an auahi kore lifestyle.
The tobacco lobby has invested millions and millions of dollars so that they can make billions and billions of dollars.
In the United States tobacco companies are now paying a heavy price by way of lawsuits, as tobacco users have sought compensation for the suffering they have had to endure, as a result of tobacco smoking.
The battle against these multinationals has been long, arduous and has involved much sacrifice. We know the power of the multinational dollar and its ability to advertise it's products as being good for human consumption. Tobacco companies belong in that category.
All of you here are to be congratulated for the dedication and the commitment you have displayed in seeking an auahi kore life for our people.
It is really lovely to be attending a conference where there will not be a smoko break. I have brought an orange for the intermission!
You have lobbied people such as I and indeed you should, because what you are lobbying me for, is to ensure that the chemicals associated with tobacco smoking do not enter our bodies.
As a politician, I recognise that I will be subjected to lobbying from a variety of sources. I could be lobbied by an individual, by a whanau, a hapu, an iwi or a multinational pharmaceutical company.
What I need to say to you is, that there has been a ground swell against the use of chemicals, whether it is in our food sources, or as an untested 'cure', amongst many of our people.
We need to be very careful, that we do not replace dependency on one drug, with dependency on another drug, in the name of 'the cure'. We also do not want to be the population who are experimented with. Let us ensure, that we are not the guinea pigs.
Why do we need one drug, to get off another drug. Perhaps we should consider the power of the mind and we should revert back to some of the techniques used by our ancestors.
It is said that it was the power of the mind, that projected Tane to the twelth heaven to receive the baskets of knowledge. What exactly is that power?
Perhaps the challenge for all of us here is to look back at our whanau, and hapu and iwi histories, to seek the answers there.
There must be something about the mind, because there are other people who refer to it and even sing about it, like indeed, we do.
A verse in the oriori to Tuteremoana makes reference to the power of the mind, but perhaps Amster could talk to you more about that. Bob Marley sang about it and Steve Biko also talked about as did the Black Panther Aldridge Cleaver, in the book 'Soul on Ice'.
So, I would like to recommend the mind, as a mechanism for us as whanau, hapu and iwi to rid ourselves of any dependency on any drug.
I want to thank you for giving me the honour of opening your conference.
Na reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.