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Speech: Flavell - Polytechnics Amendment Bill

Education (Polytechnics) Amendment Bill
In Committee, Tuesday 15th December 2009

Ka nui te mihi ki a tātou hōmai tēnei pō. I am pleased to take a call on the Education (Polytechnics) Amendment Bill on behalf of the Māori Party. I simply say that members may be aware of the president of the Māori Party, Professor Whatarangi Winiata.

Hon Shane Jones Yes, great man—a very good Anglican.

TE URUROA FLAVELL: He is the sort of person who tries to look at everything in a positive light, he seldom gets angry, and he tends to look for the good in everything that is going. We in the Māori Party are very, very much like that. In the second reading of this bill, although we had some concerns in particular about some of the matters raised by Labour members about Māori representation, we spoke to those. We had the view that down the line, there might be the possibility of addressing the issues that I raised in our second reading speech.

I signalled at the time that we were looking to put forward an amendment, which is on the Table, for the Committee to consider that might move towards addressing those issues. I apologise to the Hon Trevor Mallard and I acknowledge that with regard to the offer made, we attempted to move in that direction, but, unfortunately, in trying to deal with the parliamentary wording, the wording that we wanted did not quite match up.

So the amendment does not quite fulfil everything that we wanted, but it is as close as we will probably ever get to within, I suppose, the realms of the constraints of the parliamentary process. I acknowledge the point that was made and I apologise for that.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Can you get Tau Henare to vote for it?

TE URUROA FLAVELL: We will leave Mr Henare to decide for himself whether to vote for that one, but I acknowledge the point that has been made. In the second reading, I think I tried to make that point that historically, with like representation in many parts of our democracy, when it comes to Māori representation and the ability of tangata whenua to have an input at the top table of decision making, the chances are very thin.

We had that whole debate throughout the Auckland super-city discussion, and even with regard to health boards and local body elections, it is very, very difficult for Māori to find a space on decision-making bodies. Usually, what happens is we fall back on those people whom we might call culturally aware or culturally safe to provide the view for Māoridom that at least puts our hand in there to try to find that space.

Some institutions go as far as having advisory boards, but, as Dr Sharples alluded earlier with regard to the Auckland City debate, this is at the second tier of decision making and we say that we are past that. The Māori representation that we want to talk about comes from a Treaty perspective—from a Treaty right. Often people ask how we should implement the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Well, we have the answer. It is to have a bicultural model that recognises Māori representation on polytechnic councils, and our amendment goes in that direction. We look forward to gaining the support of the Committee, hopefully, for that move. However, the Māori experience is that we cannot rely on clauses like “it is desirable” or “acknowledge special status”. We cannot do that. We cannot rely on those sorts of clauses for the special status of Māori, because they do not address the constitutional significance of the Treaty in any debate on Māori representation.

Our amendment tries to set up a process by, firstly, making the space from the council. Members will see that the amendment is divided into two areas, and one names the constitution of polytechnic councils, which is trying to find that space. The second part is about how appointments are made. I hope that members will take the time to look at that amendment. I think the key wording that we put into the amendment suggests that it must include at least three members, which is, at least, our pitch at trying to work very hard to find Māori space on those councils.

I can say that we have heard about the desire of some to have student representation on councils, and again our amendment has moved towards the direction of addressing that issue. There are some questions that we would like to put forward. They follow on from some of the debate that we had with Tairāwhiti Polytechnic, which I believe provided some discussion to the Education and Science Committee. Tairāwhiti says that it is OK with regard to its model right now. Why? Because it has a heap of Māori living on the East Coast, that is why.

They find their space at the polytechnic council table. Waiariki Institute of Technology says that it has supported this model. Indeed, it provided a paper that I provided to the Minister, which was supposed to be the basis of the model from the select committee, but it also moved to a new paradigm that was about our recognition and representation against a Treaty model.

We have put that amendment forward, and I suppose it will all be tested this afternoon when we vote on the amendment. At the end of the day, our view is that if we cannot get to that model, then the rest is history. So that might give some sort of answer to the Hon Trevor Mallard.

But the good thing is that some might say that putting those models up is too hard. We have to be brave to make the huge decisions about having equal representation for Māori. It is a huge ask in this day and age, but, strangely enough, John Key was brave enough, because he said: “Pita Sharples, go and ask your people about the issue of the Māori flag.

Even though the country might get a little bit upset about it, at least let us be brave enough to put it out there and ask the question.” [Interruption]

While members opposite are going on about it, I will make the point that at least people were brave enough to put the question out there, unlike some. In wrapping up, the question asks where we go from here. It is quite simple. We have an amendment, and if it is not passed, then obviously in good conscience we cannot support the remaining stages of the bill. That is pretty straight forward.

Aside from that, the Māori Party will be working alongside the Minister of Education in terms of our arrangement with National to find a way forward. It might not necessarily reach the height that we want, but, nevertheless, that is what happens when one is in a small party and one is in a relationship. It is better than sitting on the opposite side of the fence where one cannot say anything nor do anything.

That is where we are at the moment. I do not want to go against my colleagues opposite, so I will say that in respect of the amendments proposed by Maryan Street, we are prepared to look at her amendment as the voting goes, because it certainly addresses some of the issues that we want. It does not go all the way, but it certainly comes into line with some things we want to put on the table in respect of our model. As I say, the Māori Party will continue to forcibly push for the Treaty right for representation at tables across the board over our period of Government. Of that, members can be sure.


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