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Appropriation (2011/12 Estimates) Bill, 3R

Appropriation (2011/12 Estimates) Bill, 3R
Imprest Supply (Second for 2011/12) Bill, 2R
Rahui Katene, Finance spokesperson for the Maori Party
Wednesday 10 August 2011, 5pm

There are two simple rules that I have been brought up on:

You do not spend more than you have.
You do not borrow more than you can pay off.

Often the simplest words, have the most profound meaning!

In May of this year, in the first flush of post-budget analysis, Kerry McDonald, the chair of the Savings Working Group bemoaned the continued lack of robust strategic economic thinking in New Zealand.

In his view, the real extent of the problems facing the New Zealand economy are fundamental structural issues that have to be dealt with.

There is no clear statement of where government wants to take the country; there is little attention to the structure of our economic system - instead we seem to always be responding to symptoms; and there is little appetite for long-term thinking in the national interest.

Add these to the persistent concerns around our high debt level; a comprehensive lack of savings and the fact that the household income for most households has not been growing, and I think we start to get some sense of the dimensions of the problem.

Its a no-brainer that we are operating within fiscal constraints and so there is even more incentive for bringing a heightened level of transparency and accountability to government expenditure.

Within the Maori Party our demand for excellence pushes us even further to demand whole of government effectiveness for Maori.

The rights and responsibilities of tangata whenua embodied in the concept of turangwaewae bring with it the highest standards of citizenship. Yet in the current economy, citizenship is consistently exchanged for economic access. In effect, this reduces the mana of citizenship and increases the mana of economic roles.

The idea that each person is equal in value is increasingly replaced by the idea that each dollar is equal, and people with more dollars are therefore deemed more important and meaningful.

The Maori Party has great concerns around the nature of such thinking, and we seek to lead the conversation for all New Zealand that economic policies must be built around social and cultural structures.

Economic success involves more than monetary profit, consumption and solely economic factors.

We believe firmly in the proposition that ‘what is good for Maori, is good for New Zealand’.

And so our interest, therefore, is in establishing initiatives which replace the current policy emphasis on matching external economic indices, with matching or exceeding external quality of life indices.

Such bold thinking by the Maori Party is in line with the United Nations General Assembly which just three weeks ago called on Member States to undertake steps that give more importance to happiness and well-being in determining how to achieve and measure social and economic development.

The Assembly invited countries, and I quote "to pursue the elaboration of additional measures that better capture the importance of the pursuit of happiness and well-being in development with a view to guiding their public policies”; noting that "the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal".

The General Assembly resolution says that happiness is critical in advancing economic growth and social progress. The resolution called on a “balanced approach” to economic growth that can lead to sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and well-being of the planet.

The Maori Party is really pleased with the progress being promoted internationally and see them as being very much of the same line of thinking that we have been progressing through the Genuine Progress Indicator.

Our interest in GPI came about in recognising that the GDP indicator was never designed to and can not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people in a country. In short, it brings about an approach in which unsustainable patterns of production and consumption actually work against sustainable development.

So I want to demonstrate how we have tried to promote new ways of thinking in some of the portfolios in which Maori Party Ministers have provided leadership.

In the focus around Maori economic development we have expressed our support for economic systems to be aligned with, and driven by, social and cultural systems.

The Minister of Maori Affairs has pioneered key initiatives in Maori tourism, Maori productivity and export growth, Maori innovation and Maori skills acquisition including cadetships and the relationship with Infratrain.

His strategy has promoted the use of whanaungatanga as a Maori led approach to international trade, commercial relationships with Maori living overseas and Maori enterprise initiatives in the domestic economy. We have seen evidence of this strategy in both the Maori Economic Taskforce and Summit, and the delegation to China.

What we are doing is both building on the cultural strength and entrepreneurial acumen of Maori to also lead to social and economic outcomes.

Another aspect of a kaupapa driven approach to economic development comes through the development of a language strategy.

In the Maori Affairs select committee report there was coverage of the revitalisation of te reo Maori.

I noted, with disappointment, the comments around the inability of institutions to deliver the desired increase in the number of speakers and the depth of te reo comprehension.

When we look at balancing the accounts while we know te reo rangatira can contribute to wealth generation both nationally and internationally, the value of the language asset is not being realised if we have poor institutional commitment

Into that space, the Minister of Maori Affairs has established a new approach to the revitalisation of te reo Maori – following on his innovative review of the Maori Language Strategy and sector – Te Reo Mauriora.

And so in this years Budget, we saw 2.6 million dollars of funding being allocated for Maori language and broadcasting – and I commend the Minister for his careful and well considered planning to achieve the revolution we need.

Mr Speaker, I know that a debate like this one, can tend towards the sublime as members talk to a pick and mix of the various components of the 2011/12 estimates.

Our focus as a party, has been to really emphasize key issues of structural and policy reform.

There are two further initiatives that must be seen as part of the grand scale of change we seek.

The first is the two million dollars appropriated to support Maori engagement with the constitutional review.

This is a complex and fascinating process which will bring New Zealanders into close association with our very foundations as a nation, and as proud uri of Ngai Tahu, I have to say how delighted I am that we have a distinguished stateman in Sir Tipene O’Regan leading the way, along with the very impressive membership including Emeritus Professor Ranginui Walker, Professor Linda Smith, Dr Leonie Pihama and Hinurewa Poutu.

The second major platform of our policy transformation is of course Whanau Ora. The 2011/12 Budget invested another thirty million dollars in Whanau Ora which was a key source of interest at select committee – and rightly so. Whanau Ora is an incredible initiative which I think has received universal support around the House – and indeed around the country.

And it absolutely reflects the efforts we have made to model a new approach for a kaupapa-driven economy.

Whanau Ora seeks to reflect the aspirations of whanau, and support them in self-managing and taking responsibility for their own social, cultural and economic development. It expresses a far broader perspective – encouraging the whanau to find solutions within.

And I want to just read from the Maori Affairs Select Committee report which sums it up: “This more holistic approach and broader more inclusive perspective leads to better outcomes”.

And at the end of the day – isn’t that what it is all about?

Mr Speaker, this is a perfect opportunity to acknowledge the huge leaps and bounds that the Maori Party has achieved – not just in terms of tangible policy achievements and dollars – but also more philosophically, in helping to reform and rethink even the most fundamental platform on which our economy is built.

ENDS

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