Hone Harawira: Statutes Amendment Bill
Statutes Amendment Bill (no 2) : First Reading
Thursday 20 September 2007
Hone Harawira, Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau
In considering this Statutes Amendment Bill, I am reminded of the fact that Westminster style parliament is an exercise in precedents and rituals established over hundreds of years, nowhere more obviously expressed than in the movie Amazing Grace, about a British politician, William Wilberforce, who over a period of twenty years led a fierce political battle to abolish slavery and its trade throughout the British Empire.
His campaign culminated in an impassioned speech by Lord Grenville in the House of Lordsduring which he criticized fellow members for"not having abolished the trade long ago," and argued that the trade was"contrary to the principles of justice, humanity and sound policy."
That was followed by a second reading in the House, the passing of the bill by 283 votes to 16, and the Slave Trade Actgaining royal assenton 25 March1807.
The surprising thing for me though was how in two hundred years, parliament had hardly changed!
The same layout of the debating chamber with tiered rows, the gallery up above, the Speaker of the House, the heckling, the back-door deals, the speechmaking, the practices, the processes, and the rituals … indeed, apart from the wigs and the dress, it seems that little has changed at all.
And I raise that history of ritual and procedure Mr Speaker, because it seems that the process of getting to the first reading of a Statutes Amendment Bill is something of a ritual in itself, one of those rare occasions when the full co-operation of the House is apparent; eulogies and events of national and international significance are the other occasions.
Now that process gives me cause to raise another matter of international significance that had wide national support from within Maoridom, but no support whatsoever from government, or indeed from the Labour Maori Caucus.
I am of course, talking about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, a declaration emphasisingthe rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, supported by 143 countries of the world, and opposed by four, including this Labour Government.
And in line with the efforts of those slaves, freedmen and women, parliamentary speakers and community leaders who fought for the rights of all men, women, and children of colour to be free from the bonds of slavery, I am mindful also of the efforts of our own indigenous leaders who spoke up for the Declaration over the past twenty-five years.
And as we give thought to the historical processes behind the acceptance for bills such as thisStatute Amendment Bill, I’d like us also to consider the fact that although Nanaia Mahuta spoke against the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, history will tell us that Sir Robert Mahuta, and indeedTe Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu herself, were both strong supporters of the Declaration.
And again, as we debate the historical development of change in legislation which gives rise to the amendments suggested in thisStatute Amendment Bill, I’d like us also to consider the fact that although Shane Jones spoke against the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, history will also tell us that Shane’s own whanaunga, Sir James Henare and Dame Mira Szazy, were noted supporters of the Declaration.
And in a final reference to the history behind the technical changes to legislation necessitating thisStatute Amendment Bill, I’d like us also to consider the fact that although Mita Ririnui is recorded as a member of the government which opposed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, history will also tell us that the late Whakahuihui Vercoe, was a member of an indigenous delegation that also traveled to the United Nations to support the Declaration.
Indeed, historical references which give us the background to thisStatutes Amendment Bill, also enable us to reference the support given by other individuals such as Sir Paul Reeves and the late Syd Jackson, as well as the organisational support from groups such as the Maori Women's Welfare League, the New Zealand Maori Council and the Maori Congress for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in the face of opposition to the Declaration from the Labour government and the Labour Maori Caucus, including Parekura Horomia, Nanaia Mahuta, Mahara Okeroa, Mita Ririnui, Dover Samuels and Shane Jones.
Indeed, on the eve of the 2007 Maori Women's Welfare League Conference I am happy to note that their support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, is the same as that given to the Declaration by the Maori Party.
Mr Speaker, there are also a couple of very important amendments to theStatute Amendments Bill that I would like to speak to.
I note with horror but no surprise, being a Maori, thatSection 35 of the Crimes Act, still includes reference to the death penalty, which was supposed to have been abolished nearly 50 years ago for heaven’s sake.
A history during which New Zealand carried out legalistic and ritual murder from 1842 to 1957, a history during which New Zealand legally executed 83 people, and a history in which Maori people have featured disproportionately, again to no Maori’s surprise.
A history of death by formal execution, that began with the killing of Maketu Wharetotara, son of the Nga Puhi chief, Ruhe of Waimate, but did not end there.
How ironic that at a time when England was fretting over its new colony peopled by lawless, pox-ridden, land-grabbing, white whalers, sailors, traders, double dealers, thieves, mongrels, and scum of the white nations of the world, the first person they execute happens to be Maori. And why Mr Speaker, are we not surprised?
A history that included the execution of Whakatohea chief, Mokomoko, and four others, Herekita Kahupaea, Hakaraia Te Rahui, Horomona Poropiti, and Mikaere Kirimangu, for the murder of the missionary Carl Volkner.
And yet for Mokomoko, as for many other Maori, execution was only the middle punishment. Prior to that, colonial militia had been allowed to rampage through Whakatohea territory, looting, pillaging, and burning villages and crops to smoke out Mokomoko and his comrades, and after the execution, the land-grabbing white settler government proceeded to steal thousands of hectares of Whakatohea land as further reprisal.
Others in the list include:
Maroro in 1849; Taherei in 1863; Ruarangi in 1864; Nikotema Okoroa in 1864; Whakamau in 1869; Hamiora Peri in 1869; Kereopa in 1872; Nutana in 1875; Te Mohi in 1877; Tuhiata in 1880; Wiremu Hiroki in 1882; Taurangaka Winiata in 1882; Haira Te Piri in 1889; Makoare Wata in 1889; Enoka in 1898; Tahi Kaka in 1911; Hakaraia Te Kahu in 1921; John Tuhi in 1923; Eruera Te Rongopatahi in 1953; and Edward Te Whiu in 1955.
Mr Speaker – I have called out that roll of 26 names deliberately, to remind us of our shameful history of racism, and to remind us that in taking steps to remove the words, ‘punishable by death’ we do not forget the history of legitimised murder and land theft that is part of our colonial history.
And a personal note … In 1981, a number of us were picked up and jailed in Mt Eden during the Springbok Tour, including Haami Piripi, Mangu Awarau, my brother Arthur, and myself. Following a revolt against prison regulations, we were split up. Haami in Remand, me in Seps, “the Separation Wing”, Mangu in the Pound, and my brother Arthur was put in the cell where they used to hold guys just before they hanged them. A freaky experience he tells me, and a good note to end this part of my korero.
Mr Speaker, the Maori Party commends the initiative taken in respect of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000 which will allow tangata whenua representatives on the Hauraki Gulf Forum to continue in office until their successors are appointed, even though their terms of appointment may have expired.
We know only too well, how Maori people with specialist cultural knowledge, local expertise, and the mandate of their people are frequently and consistently in high demand, and the need for their appointment to various authorities to be managed in a way that allows for that to be handled properly, and we commend the initiative taken by the Minister, to enable that to happen.
Mr Speaker, there are also two particular amendments; one about radio spectrum management rights under theRadiocommunications Act, and another about the removal of the moratorium on the quota management system under the Fisheries Act, which we will also want to see active input on from Maori, at Select Committee.
Mr Speaker, the Maori Party will be voting for this Bill to enable the necessary changes to tidy up legislation.
But we remind the House that in doing so, we must never forget the history behind many of the cruel, bigoted, intolerant, and unfair laws that have blighted our history, and that we never forget the role that this government and the Labour Maori Caucus have played in making a cruel, bigoted, intolerant, and unfair decision that will blight our future, by voting against the rest of the world’s support for the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.