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Harawira: Reserve BNZ Amendment Bill

Reserve Bank of New Zealand Amendment Bill

Hone Harawira, Member for Te Tai Tokerau

19 October 2006

Every time an Omnibus Bill like this one comes up before the House, the Maori Party always asks about the value of jamming an apple and a pear into the mixer to produce a smoothie, when all we want is a decent apple and a proper pear.

The completely separate issues of trans-Tasman financial sector regulation; and the bizarre notion of recalling the five cent coin for the racing sector, are issues which you would think would be better addressed in two separate Bills.

But obviously the Finance and Expenditure did not consider it a high priority issue, so the Bill remains intact, with two separate agendas.

The first, is the alignment of the Reserve Bank of NZ Act 1989, with Australian legislation.
My judgment about trans-Tasman co-operation is a little coloured at the moment by the Australian victory in the netball the other night; and their win in the league on Saturday night, but I freely admit to feeling chuffed about “Wee Willie Wonker” getting squared away after insulting our nation’s haka.

And as one who has been known to use a few choice words myself at times, Willie Mason’s dickhead comments didn’t do much to warm me to the notion of closer economic ties between Aotearoa and Australia.

But getting over that, it’s obvious that the amendments to the Reserve Bank Act – following hot on the heels of the Trans-Tasman Council on Banking Supervision in 2005 – are all being aimed at moving us closer to a single economic market.

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The proposals discussed at the Trans-Tasman Council indicate very close links between the two countries banking systems, and throughout our select committee process, we were told that the success of this Bill depends on the same changes being made in Australia.

And so the critical issue for us today, is whether we can trust the Aussies to do the right thing?
This issue relies a lot on both parties having a relationship based on co-operation and mutual respect, and given the lack of respect from governments in this country to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, I’d have to suggest that New Zealand should not be too put out, if their intentions were not treated honourably.

And while I’m on the Treaty, and relations between governments and indigenous people, I can’t help but also ask whether or not tangata whenua in Australia are likely to benefit from the financial capacity that will result from reduced bank operating costs.

In fact, how exactly will the goal of a single economic market enhance the opportunities for the indigenous peoples of both lands?

Mr Speaker, this Bill suggests that co-operation between banks from both sides of the ditch will help financial stability, but a reference in the Bill about OUTSOURCING will have a big impact on us, because the Bill says outsourcing will be bad for Australia, but our own Reserve Bank’s 2004/05 report says outsourcing is its main priority, and their 2005/06 report says outsourcing is a key priority for financial stability.

We’re keen to see how this pans out, because the Maori Party wants to be able to assure bank workers that no New Zealand jobs will be outsourced.

Last month, the finance workers union, FINSEC, called on New Zealand's three big Australian owned banks to say they will not be outsourcing New Zealand jobs to cheaper labour markets.

Their call was in response to an announcement in Australia that three major Australian Banks are planning to outsource jobs to India, and an estimate by the Australian Finance Sector Union that up to 50,000 of Australia's 280,000 finance jobs, could disappear if outsourcing continues.

In light of recent decisions by Air New Zealand to outsource a lot of its finance and clerical work to Fijian low-cost labour, the Maori Party is supportive of proposals to restrict outsourcing.

The irony of course is that last month, Air NZ announced a net profit of $96 million – hardly an argument for outsourcing work and denying jobs to Kiwis.

It also bears reminding this House that on this day, just after International Anti-Poverty Day, our very own government has an 80% shareholding in Air New Zealand – a clear statement that the concerns expressed by this government about lowly paid workers are just hot air.

Mr Speaker, while we’re talking about poverty, its also appropriate that we look at the other aspect of this Bill, which aims to allow the NZ Racing Board to continue to promote gambling after the recall of the five cent coin.

A mere technicality to tidy up payouts you might think, but an opportunity also for those like the Maori Party who see the pain and suffering of gambling, to support any opportunity to restrict this disease within our society.

A paper prepared by Dr Lorna Dyall, for a conference in Darwin last month, showed that despite having half the average income, Maori spend more on gambling than everyone else, and that one in three seeking help with gambling problems, are Maori.

Her paper also noted that one in three prisoners have gambling problems, with Maori making up at least 50% of the prison population.

The situation is even more extreme for Maori women; in fact, even the Minister of Corrections recognises the link between the increasing numbers of Maori women in jail, and their increased gambling problems.

Given all this, why would the Maori Party support a Bill which just makes it easier to “offer attractive betting prices that satisfy its customers”

And this of course is where the trap of an Omnibus Bill, is most apparent.
If this Bill was just about Reserve Bank co-operation with Australian financial authorities, the Maori Party might support aspects of it, but the Maori Party will not support a Bill to make things easier for the TAB.

Gambling outlets like the TAB, just like junk-food outlets like KFC, are generally concentrated in low-income, high-polynesian areas, and the Maori Party has a duty to do what we can to eliminate gambling problems from our communities.

And we would suggest, that other parties might also take this opportunity to think about other strategies for minimising gambling.

Mr Speaker, we know of the potential for companies to benefit from overseas business abroad through this Bill, and we know that lower banking costs and greater financial stability will also benefit Maori land incorporations.

But in recognition of International Anti Poverty Day, we stand alongside the cleaners, the low-paid workers and their supporters, rallying in Auckland and Wellington this week, against poverty right here in Aotearoa.

The Maori Party stands alongside their challenge that government face up to their responsibility to tackle poverty in their own backyard.

And I can do no better than to repeat the question asked by Pacific Island Presbyterian Church Minister, Reverend Mua Strickson Pua; "Why should low paid workers continue to bear the burden of a low wage society?"

Whether the issue is the Racing Board and it’s damnable 5 cent coin, or the outsourcing of key New Zealand jobs to overseas low-wage economies, we as a nation face critical issues where far too many families feel trapped in the cycle of poverty, and quite simply unable to make ends meet.

The Maori Party can do no more at this point than speak up for those rallying for an end to poverty, and the right to a decent standard of living.


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