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Phil Goff:Speech To Ratana

Phil Goff

Speech To Ratana

24 January 2010

Ka tangi te titi
Ka tangi te kaka
Ka tangi hoki a ahau
Tihei mauri ora

Te whare tipuna e tu nei tena koe
Te papa a takato nei tena koe
Nga mate aitua o koutou
Ka tangihia e tatou i tenei wa
Haere haere haere

Nga hau e wha
Nga iwi e tau nei
Tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou katoa.

To you who have come from the four corners of New Zealand to celebrate the birthday of Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, thank you for the welcome on to your marae today.

Can I particularly acknowledge Tumuaki Haare Meihana and your family for your work on behalf of the Ratana Church and movement.

The Ratana celebrations bring together all of Maoridom, as was T.W. Ratana’s wish.

And they are celebrations in which the Labour Party has long participated.

I stand on this sacred ground which Labour’s first leader, Harry Holland came to in 1932 and future leader Peter Fraser the following year and every Labour leader since.

In 1936 a meeting at Parliament between T.W. Ratana and Labour’s first Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage established a strong and enduring foundation for the relationship between us.

Ratana presented Savage with a potato symbolising the relationship of Maori with their land; a broken watch representing broken promises; a greenstone tiki representing the mana and tradition of Maori people; a huia feather symbolising ariki, leadership; and the star and crescent emblem of the Ratana movement.

So began a relationship which has continued and remains relevant because of a common commitment to represent the needs of ordinary people, the mörehu, for social justice. It was also Mr Ratana’s wish that the Treaty of Waitangi be recognised and honoured, beginning a long campaign before this began to happen.

It was the Third Labour Government and Matiu Rata who passed the Treaty of Waitangi Act in 1975. It was the Fourth Labour Government and Koro Wetere who in 1985 extended the Treaty Settlement process back to 1840.

And the Fifth Labour Government that carried that forward and continued the process of resolving the grievances of the past.

We are committed to concluding that process so that justice can be done and we can move on as a nation.

For more than 70 years, Labour and Ratana have worked together to build a more socially just and fairer society. For both of us it is an ongoing passion.

As a member of Labour’s Maori Caucus wrote this month, the most important challenge is a simple one, that is for “every Maori child to be loved, fed and educated so that he or she may go on to become a successful leader”.

The year 2040 will be the 200th anniversary of the Treaty. For this country to succeed, Maori children being born now need to be a breakthrough generation. We have the responsibility to make sure those children have the skills and capabilities to become leaders in our country.

But in the last year, we have lost ground rather than moving forward towards that objective. The government has slashed funding for Adult and Community Education, closing down night classes and making it harder for people to get back into the workforce through second chance education. Instead tens of millions of dollars has been put into subsidising private education for the wealthy.

Instead of improving the quality of education the government’s standards policy has focussed on just measuring it with the predictable outcome that it will show that kids from advantaged communities do better than disadvantaged ones. Neither of these things will do anything to improve the under achievement in Maori education.

The near doubling of Maori unemployment since the Ratana celebrations last year shows that too little has been done to protect the vulnerable from the harsh effects of the downturn.

Growing unemployment, efforts to freeze pay for low income workers and tax cuts which gave most to the wealthy and excluded low income families show the government is taking from those who have the least, and giving to those who have the most.

Flying the tino rangatiratanga flag over the Harbour Bridge once a year is no substitute for real actions to address key issues of social and economic disadvantage.

Better that the government made a commitment next week to increase the minimum wage to close to $15 a week so that low paid workers including many Maori had a wage they could live and support their families on.

Last year in Palmerston North I expressed my and Labour’s anger that the government made a shabby deal over emissions trading, that rewarded polluters and sophisticated incorporations and put the bill for a hundred billion dollars on ordinary Maori and Pakeha tax payers in the future. It was a cynical act to buy votes in Parliament to pass the legislation which put at risk the integrity of the Treaty Settlement process. I stand by my criticism of that.

Labour is opposed to actions that benefit the elite at the expense of the majority. Our priority is those who are working hard to help their families get ahead. Too often ordinary working families have to carry the burden for others who do not pay their taxes and meet their responsibilities.

Since last year Ratana and Labour have met on an ongoing basis, here and in Parliament, to strengthen our relationship and to work on behalf of the people we both represent. Ours is a relationship much more than a once yearly visit.

It is a relationship that we want to reinvigorate and to strengthen.

I stand here today with Labour members and more than 20 Labour MPs committed to working with you for all of our people.

Thank you for the support you have given us and for the commitment your leaders have made to strengthen the relationship so that together we can fulfil the vision Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana had for Labour and Ratana to work together for a fairer and better country.

No reira tena koutou katoa.

ENDS

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