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Speech: Harawira - Immigration Bill, Third Reading

Immigration Bill : Third Reading
Hone Harawira, MP for Te Tai Tokerau
Thursday 29 October 2009

Yesterday I got back home after being away for three weeks as part of a delegation to the Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva.

While there we also visited the European Parliament in Brussels, where we met with MPs and officials to see how they got 27 different countries to work together, on issues as diverse as the global financial crisis, trade, immigration and multiculturalism.

We also visited the World War One battlefields at Flanders, laid wreaths to fallen New Zealand soldiers, and took part in the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate on the outskirts of Ypres.

Visiting memorials dedicated to hundreds of thousands of soldiers who gave their lives for a war many of them didn’t understand, brought home to me the importance of our own country’s commitment to human rights overseas, which brings me of course to the Bill before us today, and the importance of our having a strong, positive and fair immigration system in Aotearoa.

Mr Speaker, Apirana Ngata said that Māori participation in the First World War was our ‘price of citizenship' – the price we pay to be part of shaping our nation – a price which went through the roof with the commitment of the Maori Battalion in World War II, where the Maori casualty rate was 50% higher than that of every other New Zealand infantry battalion, and where more Maori died per head of population than every other people in the Allied Forces.

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Mr Speaker, I raise these matters because I want this house to be reminded of the price we have paid for our citizenship, and the right we have as tangata whenua to sit at the decision-making table as Treaty partners, not as tenants, nor as a minority.

Our own Declaration of Independence, which we celebrated yesterday, and the Treaty of Waitangi, serve as this nation’s very first immigration charters; indeed, Dr Ranginui Walker described the Treaty as the source for all migration to Aotearoa from Europe, Australia, and the United Kingdom; the guarantee of a developing social contract; a partnership of the two cultures; with at its very core the expectation that Māori, as a Treaty partner, be consulted on every aspect concerning people who want to come here.

And yet this Bill is more about managing immigration and balancing the rights of the individual, than it is about serving the national interest by having all new citizens complete a course in the history of Aotearoa and the Pacific as part of their price of citizenship, which is exactly what Maori told the last government during a consultation hui in 2001 on immigration policy.

The last government ignored that call, and so it would seem is the current government, but the Maori Party takes the view that contracts are to be honoured in the deed rather than in the breach, and suggests that an understanding of the Treaty is a critical component of immigration policy.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party’s confidence and supply agreement with National says that “both the National Party and the Maori Party will act in accordance with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi”, and yet government has decided unilaterally that the Treaty is not relevant to immigration policy.

So I introduced a Supplementary Order Paper, to give Māori a right to participate in immigration management, consistent with the rights guaranteed to Māori under the Treaty of Waitangi.

No big deal really; in fact it was very similar to other SOPs we have put up on other legislation. Unfortunately however, it suffered a very similar fate as those other SOPs as well; voted down by every other party in the House except ourselves and the Greens (and again – my thanks to the Greens for their continued support of Treaty issues).

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party also has grave concerns about significant human rights issues in the Bill, such as:

* the abuse of private information;
* the prolonged detention of asylum seekers;
* the protection of the rights of children born in Aotearoa without citizenship; and
* the refusal to allow the Human Rights Commission to have jurisdiction over immigration matters.

And for those, and for many other reasons Mr Speaker, the Maori Party will be opposing this Bill.

ENDS

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