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Goff: Grey Power Palmerston North

Phil Goff
Leader of the Labour Party

Thursday, 26 November 2009.

Embargoed until delivery

New Zealand is at a cross-roads.

We can celebrate the rich tapestry of our heritage and use it to move forwards as a nation; or re-open wounds and divisions where there can be healing.

I want to talk about some of these issues today, and the choices that the Government is making this week, and in weeks ahead.

It will make choices in the global community of nations about climate change. It will make choices about Treaty settlements relating to forestry and about the foreshore and seabed.

I believe that the Treaty settlement process is vitally necessary to address the real grievances of the past and to remedy them so we can move forward as a country. But should that process be manipulated in shabby political deals between National and the Maori Party, what we have achieved and still need to achieve can be fundamentally damaged.

We can choose our future based on principle and with the interests of all New Zealanders at heart.

Or we can have a country where one New Zealander is turned against another, Maori against Pakeha, in a way that Labour strongly rejects.

We can make a promise to young New Zealanders that their lives will be as rewarding as they can achieve; or we can burden them with the costs of today’s decisions, and hold them back when we should ask for so much more.

We can have a New Zealand that respects our heritage, and finds solutions in the fair way Kiwis always try to.

We can recognise that we have all worked to build our country.

Over generations, Maori and Pakeha have lived together, worked together, and played sport together. We have married one another and raised our children together.

Since the first New Zealanders died on the battlefields of World War One, we have fought alongside each other for the future of our nation and the values which we together uphold.

I’m a former defence minister, and I take considerable pride that our soldiers, in their own words, ‘share a bond no bullet can shatter, no bayonet can pierce.’

When you contemplate this history, it is no wonder that so many, both Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders, were deeply offended by the comments made by Hone Harawira.

The true offence was that by abusing one racial group in New Zealand he thought he could justify his side trip off to Paris, when his expenses were being paid by the taxpayer to fulfil his duties at the European Parliament.

Nearly everyone who spoke to me about this episode mentioned their unease that this controversy takes race relations backwards.

In times when our community is challenged, we look to our leaders to articulate our hurts and our hearts.

So the Prime Minister had a choice.

He could have condemned the comments and showed leadership.

We cannot reconcile New Zealanders and make progress together in an environment where hatefulness can flourish, wherever it comes from.

But he made a different choice. A cynical choice.

The prime minister decided shabby, short-term political deals suit him more.

So we saw the payback this week when National, with the help of the Maori Party, legislated a $110 billion subsidy for big polluters in the emissions trading scheme they have adopted.

New Zealand must be part of the global solution to climate change. There is no dispute between parties over that.

The issue is who pays.

Labour says: Big polluters should pay.

The government says Kiwi families will pay.

It is loading every hardworking family with a bill of $92,000 in today’s dollars.

This is a decision that loads enormous costs on to future generations of taxpayers. It will cost our children and grandchildren dearly.

Polluters should pay the cost of their pollution because we want them to change their behaviour.

When the government subsidises them, they will keep on polluting.

When the people who cause pollution have to pay for it, they will change their ways and choose better and cleaner solutions because they will be cheaper.

To hit the taxpayer with a bill like this, the National Government had to do a cynical deal with the Maori Party.
They re-opened Treaty settlements that were made full and final in the nineties.

They did this because some iwi who got forests in the nineties say their forests won’t be worth as much now.

But every other forest owner is in the same position.

The iwi negotiators say they didn’t know about the chance of an emissions trading scheme when they signed their deal, and they asked if the Crown breached its obligations by not warning that a future government might adopt an emissions trading scheme.

Last year the Labour-led government took their question seriously.

No one wants settlements soured by bad faith.

Crown Law retained a QC to consider the issue. Her report came back and said: In the nineties, no one knew an emissions trading scheme would be adopted, or what it would look like.

So she concluded: ‘there is no evidence of a breach of the Crown’s obligations’.

The Government has ignored that advice.

Instead, it’s just done a deal to advantage some large Maori corporates, which other forestry companies do not get from the government, which will give the Maori corporates an estimated $1.75 billion.

Let’s be clear. This deal will not benefit Maori as a whole. The rebellion within the Maori Party membership who have criticised their parliamentarians recognizes this – that the average taxpayer, Maori and Pakeha, will be paying this bill and it will be huge.

They and the rest of us know this will cost our children dearly. And the pay-off, to polluting businesses, isn't compensation for that.

This shabby deal, agreed to in secret and not subject to examination by the Select Committee, was about buying Maori Party support for National’s shambles of an ETS.

My colleague Shane Jones says it is not so much pork barrel politics as ‘pork bone’ politics.

Some corporates saw the chance for a handout and naturally they've taken it.
Some of these are very large incorporations, and they are very sophisticated businesspeople.

And they’re hiding behind some of the poorest in the country who won’t benefit from this at all.

If they see the chance of getting hundreds of millions of dollars from the taxpayer, they will take it.

Any other business would do the same. I don't blame them. I blame the National Party that was prepared to use the taxpayer's money to buy off the Maori Party with a deal which doesn't stack up in terms of principle.

I reject strongly the allegation the Prime Minister made that anyone who has concerns about this deal is playing the race card.

Race is a red herring in this deal. It’s about subsidies for big corporations, and I am not going to shy away from saying so.

I opposed a special deal for Rio Tinto, just as I oppose the special deal for a Ngai Tahu corporation.

Just as we as taxpayers had to pay for Rob Muldoon’s supplementary minimum prices to farmers that many of you here will remember - so someone has to pay for the subsidies of today.

The subsidies aren't free – ordinary New Zealanders have to pay for them – and in this case for generations to come.

The burden of paying will fall disproportionately on people less able to pay - hard working Maori and Pakeha taxpayers alike.

This is not a time to put at risk the concept of full and final settlements.

You see, when we considered this issue last year, Cabinet decided not to go down this route.

We looked at it and decided we would have created a permanent class of ‘post-Treaty asset’ - Assets that were once part of a Treaty settlement would forever be eligible for compensation if they were ever affected by adverse decisions by government.

If the government ever changed the rules relating to forestry, or tax law, or the exchange rate, here is now a precedent for having to compensate the owners of an asset that had once been part of a Treaty settlement.

That’s a bad principle.

Full and final settlement would become impossible.

And as Shane Jones pointed out this week, by allowing some select corporations to top up their settlements, the government is keeping the grievance going.

If you can never settle Treaty grievances, there can never be healing, and you keep alive a grievance from one age into another.

We must address grievance, but we must not sustain it.

The promise I want to make to young Maori New Zealanders is that we will work as hard as we can to help ensure that the next generation of leaders will be a breakthrough generation.

They understand tradition. They understand that the future can be changed - by education and by opportunity.

And therefore we should make sure everyone gets a fair go.

Everyone should be supported to ensure they have the opportunity to fulfil their potential, so that the breakthrough generation can open any door, achieve any ambition, triumph in any test.

Imagine if the government decided not to spend billions of dollars in coming years on subsidies for polluters.

Imagine if we spent that money invested in this subsidy instead on the achievement and success of all young New Zealanders, and in particular lifting the level of educational success of those who are underachieving.

Imagine what their parents could do if, instead of paying taxes to subsidise climate changing gases, they could take the pressure off their own family budgets.

I dream of families, Maori and Pakeha, whose taxes are not spent on subsidies for big polluters, but instead invested in science and education. And a young scientist in this family gets a better start, and gets the backing to find a job in a laboratory where she or he develops the breakthrough technology that reduces emissions from our agriculture.

I dream of young entrepreneurs, Maori and Pakeha, who develop the exports of clean technology to the world, and create hundreds of jobs here in New Zealand.

I can think of many better uses for our money than giving it to big polluters.

This is about what kind of country we want to be.

Proud, forward-looking and hopeful; or grieving, backward-looking, short-term and ashamed.

I want us to be the kind of country where we take these issues seriously, instead of looking for quick fixes.

Where we take the principled option, not the cynical, short-term one.

That’s my approach to the foreshore and seabed, too.

That’s another issue that is being cynically re-opened for politics, and not for principle.

The National Government has indicated it will repeal the foreshore and seabed law.

It won’t say when we’ll start hearing the details of what it plans to replace the law.

It won’t disclose the deal that has been reached or is being considered.

It won’t say how it is going to reconcile its arrangement with the Maori Party and its own National Party MPs, who in 2003 criticised Labour for giving too much away.

The foreshore and seabed became an incredibly divisive issue, with big concerns expressed from both sides.

New Zealanders’ fears were whipped up in an unprincipled way, with National running a “Save Our Beaches” website. It suggested New Zealanders were about to lose access to beaches around New Zealand.

The National Party is trying to erase that part of its history.

Back in 2004, Labour's process on dealing with the issue, in a different environment, could have been better.

But for all the criticism I have heard, most people accept that the current foreshore and seabed rules aren’t broken and they’re a good foundation for moving forward. They believe its good legislation for all New Zealanders.

Re-opening the foreshore and seabed issues by repealing the legislation might be just a cynical move by National and the Maori Party to create the perception of change.

In reality it may be no more than simply renaming the existing Act, with pretty much the existing arrangements.

It’s hard to see why the country should be put through all the grief just to put a new brand on law that’s working.

Or it might be more than that, in which case the Government should tell us.

Access to the beaches is a birthright for New Zealanders, Maori and Pakeha alike, and must be preserved.

Equally, we accept that where traditional Maori usage and rights exist they should be respected.

New Zealanders also respect the guardianship role Maori have in many parts of the country, and accept protection of sacred sites and customary activity.

Local iwi should be consulted before development occurs on the foreshore, and their traditional rights respected.

That is provided for under current legislation, as the Ngati Porou agreement under Labour has demonstrated.

Ngati Porou wants that agreement honoured by the current government. If that can occur through negotiation between iwi and the Crown, what are they fixing? The right to achieve a similar outcome in the courts?

Ngati Porou successfully negotiated an agreement with the Crown under the foreshore and seabed law.

It recognises there is a special relationship, and the Crown commits to consultation with Ngati Porou at all levels of Government.

The agreement recognises sacred sites and rights to undertake customary activities.
The settlement maintains Crown Ownership but provides full respect for Maori customary rights.

It would be totally irresponsible for National, on the basis of a political deal, to repeal the legislation and leave uncertainty and the opportunity for disputes to fester unresolved.

If the foreshore and seabed issue is left for the courts to resolve, we could be tied up in knots for years.

The government has a choice between sticking with the status quo, which guarantees access but allows for agreements around customary rights, and the alternative of never ending court battles.

Labour believes in access for all New Zealanders, with respect for custom and heritage.

National wants to reopen the Foreshore and Seabed Act. Labour asks: What isn’t working? Will reopening court action help or would it see wounds fester?

This is about the kind of nation we want to be.

A respectful, forward-looking country or one stuck in shabby, short-term deals that divide New Zealanders, and set one against another.

We can be better than that.

We can be a country of opportunity and fairness for everyone.

There is so much New Zealanders have to be proud of, so much we have to achieve together.

We can be proud of the bi-cultural foundation of our nation and the multicultural nature of our community today.

It is part of our nationhood and we should celebrate the overall tolerance and mutual respect on which good relations between our communities are based.

New Zealanders can draw on our heritage to enrich our community - or to find cause for division and to impose that on generations to come.

What we are seeing are decisions that take the wrong choice.

What is missing is leadership that brings New Zealanders together.

And we have a right to expect more.


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