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Harawira: Speech in Reply 2006

HONE HARAWIRA, Member of Parliament for Tai Tokerau Speech in Reply to Prime Minister's Statement to Parliament Wednesday 15 February 2006

Mr Speaker - the other day my wife said to me "when you go back to Wellington, ask Parekura how come he can spend $150 million dollars to build a prison in Ngawha, while our kura has to sell cakes to pay for their books ?"

And Parekura knows, as does Shane Jones, as does the Prime Minister herself, that my wife is right.

You know Madam Speaker - we spend $80,000 a year to keep a guy in prison, but we only spend $6,700 to send a child to school.

I'll say that again. We spend $80,000 a year to keep someone in prison, but only $6,700 to keep them in school.

Folks - isn't there something wrong with this picture - hullo ....

Surely we can do better than this.

I recall that during the campaign, I heard Phil Goff bragging about how many people Labour had thrown into jail. Well hoo-bloody-ray!

Now all the jails are full, and his government hasn't got a clue about how to switch off the tap.

How sad is it when our government spends more on keeping people locked up, than on educating those who are our future.

And, given that most of those who are expelled from schools are Maori, and half of those in jail are Maori, why is it that the Maori members of the Labour government can sit silently by while this travesty is carried out by their own colleagues?

How can they sit silently in this House, while their own government treats their own people so poorly ?

Well guys, I apologise for stating the obvious, but it seems to me that there can only be one of two reasons for why they stay silent:

Either they agree with Labour's decision to prioritise prisons over education for Maori, or they disagree, but they are too scared or too well paid to say anything about it.

The other day I heard a whisper that this Labour Government is considering dumping Judge Joe Williams from the Maori Land Court because he dares to be a little bit Maori, and that they're going to appoint six new Pakeha judges to the Court to start reversing some of the decisions of the past few years.

And I'm thinking to myself - nah - surely not.

Surely the Maori Caucus would have said something if this was true ... but nothing.

And then just last week someone told me that the government is putting together the steps to take all references to the Treaty out of legislation.

That's the Labour government I'm talking about. Not National. Labour.

You know the one - friend of the Maori people, ally of the Ratana church, companion to the Kingitanga, and bodyguard to the treaty.

Taking all references to the Treaty out of legislation - can you believe it ?

And again, I'm kidding myself - nah - no way.

The brown brigade ain't gonna sit back and let that happen.

They'll give us a bell at least. They'll warn us so that we, the Maori Party, can mount a campaign against it even if they can't.

But again, nothing ... not a peep out of them.

So -Mita Ririnui now's your chance to save yourselves and your colleagues.

Make a statement telling everyone I'm wrong - that Labour ain't going to dump Joe - that you aren't going to overdose the Maori Land Court with six Pakeha judges.

And that your government isn't going to take references to the Treaty out of the legislation.

Maori people are waiting, and waiting, and waiting ...

Mr Speaker - I have chosen this time to challenge my Maori colleagues in Labour to step forward and join with the Maori Party in the defense of Maori rights, and the advancement of Maori interests for the benefit of the whole nation, because no-one else will do it.

No-one else will stand up for the Treaty if we don't first stand up for it ourselves. No-one else will stand up for kaupapa Maori if we don't do it for ourselves. No-one will stand up for our whanau if we don't do it ourselves first.

Yes - we are small - and yes, we may not be in government - but with the support of other Maori MPs, there's heaps that we can achieve.

Not for the Maori Party - for the Maori people - and for the benefit of the nation.

Mr Speaker - I know I am only a new MP, and I defer in many things to those who have been here for many years more than I have.

But in the first three months of this parliamentary session, I have noticed that no Maori MPs in the House, none, except those from the Maori Party, have spoken of any initiatives aimed at raising Maori achievement. I've heard other MPs talk about general policies but nobody has raised specific initiatives for Maori.

Why - Mr Speaker ? Because those others ain't allowed to.

And yet, there's every reason for them to stand alongside us, to stand up for themselves and to stand up for their own people.

The national school drop-out rate is only 10%, but the Maori drop-out rate is 25%. So I ask the government, and in particular, the Maori members of Labour - what are they doing about it ?

The national unemployment rate is only 2.5%, but the Maori unemployment rate is 7.5% - and again I ask the Maori members - what are you doing about it ?

The Maori population is only 15%, but our prison population is 50% - and again I have to sheet it home to the Maori members, what is the government, and indeed what are Labour's Maori members doing about it ?

Maori health statistics are appalling, and yet I see no initiatives from the Maori members to reverse that trend.

And no guys - don't try to sweet talk us about your government's programmes, because when someone wants to know how committed your government is to Maori, they need look no further than last year's budget, when Michael Cullen mentioned the word Maori as often as his government is committed to honouring the Treaty - not at all !!!

The fact of the matter is that the Labour government has NO initiatives whatsoever to lift Maori out of the spiral of poverty and dependence, because they now hold to the view that there are no Maori problems - only problems for the needy.

Why ?

So they can pretend there is no Maori poverty - that's why;

So they can make Maori just another "ethnic minority" in this country - that's why;

So they can tell the United Nations that Maori people have no problems any more - that's why.

So - Mr Horomia, Mr Ririnui, Mr Okeroa, Ms Mahuta, Mr Samuels, Mr Hereora, Ms Mackey, Ms Beyer, Mr Jones, Mrs Pettis - I have to ask - did you actually know that your government had abandoned its commitment to Maori ?

Did they tell you about it ? Or did they just ignore you like they ignored you when they announced they were going to steal our foreshore and seabed ?

Honestly guys - what exactly is the Labour Maori Caucus' response to these crippling statistics, and these on-going attacks on Maori ?

Or are you saying that the Labour Maori Caucus has no plans to oppose this government's continued trampling of Maori rights ?

It's enough that you tell yourselves you're right when your people are telling you otherwise - but how do you tell them that Labour is doing anything for them when you know that they ain't ?

Guys - this isn't a personal attack on you. This is not an attack on your mana. Nor am I trying to belittle you in this house.

But in this House we are accountable for the positions we take.

Our Leader, Tariana Turia, took the ultimate step when she publicly disagreed with Labour over the Foreshore and Seabed, and resigned.

Other members of parliament have disagreed with their party's position, and done so publicly.

And you have the choice, and I would say, an obligation even, to disagree with a position that you know to be against the interests of your own people.

My challenge to you is to recognise that you were Maori before you were a parliamentarian, and that you will be Maori after parliament has no further use for you.

That is what should determine your position. Not the politics of your Party.

Mr Speaker - someone told me "start the way you mean to carry on", and I challenge Labour's Maori MP's here in this House today, to step up to the line.

We don't say that we have all the answers - we don't.

Yesterday - Tariana's message was of a strong and positive vision for our future, and we share that future with everyone.

But mine is a warning that we will no longer stand aside and let other people cripple our future.

Tama Tu, Tama Ora - Tama Noho, Tama Mate - Tamatoa.

Kia ora koutou katoa


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