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Tariana Turia: Reply Debate 2005 for the 48th Parl

Address in Reply Debate 2005 for the 48th Parliament

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

I want to acknowledge the Governor -General, and to congratulate Honorable Margaret Wilson in being appointed Speaker, Clem Simich; Deputy Speaker, Clem Simich and Assistant Speakers Ann Hartley and Ross Robertson.

I also want to acknowledge all the political leaders and the parties around this Parliament.

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege to respond to the Speech from the Throne, in this entirely new Parliament.

A Parliament which for the first time, includes within its midst a party dedicated to the advancement of a strong and independent Maori voice.

The Maori Party is committed to make a positive contribution to the parliament - to advance our kaupapa in the best interests of the nation.

A nation in which ‘one law for all’ can truly be said to represent all within its brief.

We have tested the concept of ‘one law for all’ from our first utterances in this House, in swearing our oaths and affirmations.

It was right and appropriate to swear allegiance to the Queen.

It was also right and appropriate to swear allegiance to the Treaty.

Some of you will recall a speech from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2nd, at her 50th Jubilee. Speaking about the resolution of Treaty issues, she said:

"There still remains some way to go. But I would like to express my respect for the courage of all those parties who have been working in good faith towards resolution. I am sure that a stronger nation will emerge from your efforts to address the past and move forward toward a shared future".

Elizabeth, a direct descendant of Queen Victoria, understands the significance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi as providing the constitutional framework for this nation. She recognises the Treaty as providing the context for all to live, harmoniously in this land.

It is the context which we sought to swear allegiance to but were prevented from doing so, by the laws of this House.

We would suggest that the ‘rational and informed dialogue on the role of the Treaty of Waitangi’ described in the Speech from the Throne would extend within this debating chamber, in our first symbolic actions.

It must also extend throughout domestic law. Eighteen months ago, many tangata whenua and other New Zealanders came to this Parliament, asking how can a Government legislate to confiscate the lands of tangata whenua, and remove the rights of hapu and iwi to due process before the Court?

In two days time, the world’s gaze will extend to these shores, with the arrival of Rodolfo Stavenhagen, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples.

His visit here, follows the findings of the United Nations that the Foreshore and Seabed Bill contained

“discriminatory aspects against the Maori, in particular in its extinguishment of the possibility of establishing Maori customary title over the foreshore and seabed”.

The Maori Party, as a priority, will be working on a Private Members Bill for the repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Members of this House may recall that the United Nations committee recommended Government “resume dialogue with Maori regarding the legislation”, and “take steps to minimise any negative effects”.

The Government responded with “The committee didn’t understand the complexity of the issue”. They suggested that ‘discriminatory’ couldn’t really be seen to be ‘breaching’ the Convention. They criticized the United Nations forum as “a committee that sits on the outer edge”.

This is the same Government that last month, went to New York and criticized the Draft Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights as being “unworkable and unacceptable”. This is after ten years of government delegates working through the 45 provisions, gaining acceptance for the Declaration.

Throughout the globe, indigenous communities have signalled their disappointment at the actions taken by New Zealand, in arguing against indigenous peoples.

A treaty between two peoples at home is suddenly interpreted overseas as ‘discriminating against other citizens’; as suggesting two standards of citizenship, or two classes of citizen.

It is like being on a sea-saw - except since the signing in 1840, one side has progressively swung upwards, and the other hit the ground with a thump.

And now with the latest actions overseas, it appears the Crown is willing to jump off, and let the relationship agreement be dumped with it.

While there may be one law for all, the question which needs to be asked is whether it is applied equally or are people treated differently?

In order to make the difference, to see the changes we all desire in the best interests of the nation, we may need alternative strategies.

It may mean we see a world of abundance, not limits. Sometimes it's simply a matter of asking the right questions and looking at things differently.

Strategies such as projects for youth, academies in focus areas of sports, drama, culture and the arts. Academies which seek to develop a student's special interest so that their learning is relevant and challenging.

It is a national disgrace that the Education Review Office Annual report describes “a group at the bottom, perhaps as large as 20%, who are currently not succeeding in our education system”.

The Speech from the Throne said it is time to ‘not dwell on past failure”.

Exactly right - we do need to celebrate success rather than fear success.

We have had too many successful Maori providers coming to us in recent weeks concerned about what appears to be this minority Labour government, through its institutions, undermining the successful delivery by Maori of both health and education programmes.

The Government is content to entangle Maori into the welfare net which they call a safety net.

While we are all for celebrating success, we also won’t turn a blind eye to the present failure of the system to respond to the distinctive needs of this nation.

We must start bringing balance back to the seasaw. We must enable the distinctive strengths of all the peoples who call this land home, to be truly understood and respected.

That is why we have called for an inquiry into the application of tikanga, including the use of powhiri throughout the state sector. Last week we witnessed the ceremony of the carrying of the Mace, or the ‘knock three times’ procedure of the Black Rod. Just as the House observed these conventions, the Maori Party wants to ensure that when other cultural protocols are being adopted, respect for their significance must be upheld.

Bringing balance to the seasaw will also mean restoring a decent income to all New Zealanders. It was curious that the Speech from the Throne talked of a ‘significant decline in poverty levels’, when we lack a clear poverty line from which to measure progress in the first place.

We must set tangible goals, if we are to achieve one law for all - the right to a decent standard of life. Central to this is agreement on a specific target-date to reduce child poverty.

The Speech confirmed that the Working for Families package will be extended from next year. However, grossly misleading, to claim that the change will mean “tax relief for every low and middle income family”. In fact, the second phase of the package offers nothing to the 250,000 poorest children in New Zealand.

These children won’t get any direct benefit from the Government’s In Work Payment; nor will they benefit from raising the threshold for family support and reducing the rate at which it abates.

If this package is meant to be about supporting children, why exclude our most vulnerable?

If it is meant to be out eliminating poverty, why exclude the poorest?

The Government’s own figures show at least one in five children in this country were living in poverty in 2004.

The April launch of this latest policy marks ten years of this kind of discrimination. The In Work payment is only a beefed up version of the Child Tax credit introduced by National in 1996.

Steadying the seesaw, will also mean caring for the nation, to achieve genuine progress.

Economic independence in Aotearoa relies on achieving financial autonomy, retaining our cultural uniqueness and distinctiveness, and maintaining the integrity of the natural environment. It means reinforcing and enhancing the obligations we have to care for the natural environment and people of Aotearoa.

We must address the issues around oil shortages and reduce this country’s reliance on non-renewable energy sources. We look forward to working with the Government on a National Energy Strategy.

Madam Speaker, in two days time, when the Special Rapporteur observes the state of the nation, will he see a seesaw tipped in favour of one side? Who will explain away the inequities, the disparities, the variability in understandings of Te Tiriti o Waitangi?

The Maori Party will be introducing, this term, a Private Members Bill to entrench the Maori seats. We understand the need for protection of those seats as critical to rebuilding and restoring equilibrium. We think back to the words of Chief Judge Durie:

“Like the Treaty of Waitangi, the Maori Parliamentary seats stand as an enduring symbol of their constitutional status, and historic statements of principle, like symbols, are essential tools in rebuilding our national identity”.

A national identity which includes a strong and independent Maori voice, which values difference - not crushes it - ; which respects the essence of every person who calls Aotearoa home.

That, Madam Speaker, will be a land where one law for all actually means something.

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