MANA is still young and yet for all of that we are matching
Building The Mana
Leader of MANA
Saturday 24th March
MANA AGM ADDRESS
MANA is still young and yet for all of that we are matching it with the big boys.
We’ve squared-off in a by-election and crushed
the best efforts of Labour, the Maori Party and
We’ve contested a general election and stood candidates in all of the Maori seats and some of the general seats and won more party votes than ACT with all of its money and its corporate pulling power.
We’ve laid down some good strong polices that anyone can understand.
We’ve found some frighteningly talented people.
And we’ve built some excellent momentum.
MANA IS HERE AND WE ARE HERE TO STAY.
But we can’t wait for 2014 to make a difference.
We need to build on our progress by mounting a campaign now to support peoples basic human rights that are under threat from this National, ACT, Maori Party government that has launched a programme of legislation to steal from the poor and give to the rich.
One month ago, the Minister of Finance announced that New Zealand’s economy was in danger of going the same way as Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain. Two weeks ago Treasury said Bill English got his figures wrong and announced that our deficit would be four billion worse than expected.
Government’s strategy to address this problem is a simple one - sell the family silver, sign up to trade agreements to allow foreign investors get at the rest, sack their own employees, support the gutting of the New Zealand workforce and cut wages and benefits.
Never mind the fact that for the last three years, even the most conservative of media commentators have confirmed that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
This government is committed to a plan of cutting into what is left of the poor, and giving their rich mates tax incentives, tax breaks and government bail outs - an approach that is old, stale, negative, doomed to fail and destructive of those most disadvantaged in our society.
SALE OF STATE ASSETS
One of the areas under attack are those assets owned by the government on behalf of, and for the benefit of, all NZers. The Government has lined up the first group of those assets for partial sale, against overwhelming opposition from:
who wanted the sales to be set aside while Treaty interests
were settled, and have taken their case to the Waitangi
Tribunal in defence of those interests, and are looking to a
claim to the United Nations under the Declaration of Rights
of Indigenous Peoples, and;
the wider New Zealand public who are supporting a national referendum to block the sales because they know that selling the family silver is a short-term solution that will only guarantee long term dependency on overseas corporates and profits for overseas investors.
Government said its sale of state assets would allow “mom and pop” investors to buy shares, but there are no provisions to allow that to happen.
Government said that overseas investors would not be allowed to buy more than 10% and then included clauses to let them buy as much as they like
Government said that it would retain a majority interest for all New Zealanders then announced that its shareholding would not be in the public interest but simply a majority shareholding in a commercial entity.
Basically government lied, prices will rise, and the people who suffer most will be those already living on the margins of our society.
ASSAULT ON WORKERS RIGHTS
Another area under attack is the all-out assault on workers’ rights that this government is leading.
The sacking of workers by the Ports of Auckland is the most visible dispute, with the company refusing to compromise on any of its demands and even refusing to honour court rulings to let the workers return to their jobs. That was followed by the lockout by AFFCO of thousands of workers right across the country.
At the heart of both disputes are money-hungry companies wanting to break down proper conditions of work, reduce safety standards, limit workers rights, and casualise workers hours which basically means that workers will have no job security - one week they might get 65 hours work; next week they might get none; and all they’ll get is 48 hours notice.
This government chose the grounds for this battle when they gave ACT leader Rodney Hide, the right to appoint the Board of Directors for the Ports of Auckland, and he did exactly what they wanted him to do, by choosing a group of people, who immediately set unrealistic profit margins and impossible work conditions, which lead to the sacking of the workforce and the drop in profits which will lead directly to what they wanted in the first place – the privatisation of the Ports of Auckland
GUTTING AND PRIVATISING OF GOVERNMENT SERVICES
Another area is the gutting of government departments and the privatisation of public services that this government is focussing on with a vengeance. Government departments are facing massive staff cuts right across the board, with more than 5,000 facing unemployment right now.
Of great concern for most people are those departments providing social services – education, health, social welfare and housing, and for Maori, Te Puni Kokiri who are expected, as part of their cuts, to lose control over services such as Maori language, Maori culture, Maori economic development and even the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
People living on the margins of society will be the worst hit as they are forced to take their cases to a 0800 number instead of a case manager, which will simply alienate even more people from society.
And the second part of this strategy is the privatisation of public services, already a reality in education and welfare, and about to become an ugly reality in corrections where regional prisons will be shut down and nearly 1,000 prisoners shunted north into the country’s biggest prison which will be based in South Auckland and run by a private contractor.
Private contractors don’t bid for public services to enhance the public good. They do it to make a profit. In prisons profit comes from two sources – cutting costs and increasing product – in other words cutting staff and cutting services on one hand which private contractors are already good at, and increasing prison numbers for which they can thank this government’s raft of lock-em-up-at-all-costs legislation that have been rammed through over the past few years.
Welfare reforms are one of the more contentious areas, but not one that surprises anyone. National has always been well known for beneficiary bashing. This government is no different and gains a large part of its mandate for this attack from its ever popular coalition partner, the mighty Maori Party.
The last three years has seen a range of policies introduced specifically to limit the entitlements available to youth and the unemployed. This year, government is going after young mothers and widows, and using Paula Bennett as their primary weapon in the assault on young mums.
Paula Bennett of course was once a young mum. She was on the DPB. She had a couple of jobs but found them too stressful so she went back on the DPB. And she lived in a state house, and then she got a loan from the Housing Corporation to buy her own house. And that’s great. That’s what the state is for.
Unfortunately however, Paula Bennett is going to make sure that no other young mum will ever get the benefits she once hard. She is part of the government that cut housing entitlements for beneficiaries and recently announced a range of initiatives to force young mums back into the workforce.
Attacks on beneficiaries are expected to continue, along with the reduction in welfare support staff, and the privatisation of welfare services, which will generate even greater despondency and anger amongst those most vulnerable in our society
All of these are of course, a direct attack on the rights of the tangata whenua in Aotearoa and MANA takes a strong line in defending Maori rights under attack from local bodies, mining companies, corporate polluters, and central government all wanting ever increasing domination over Maori lands and resources and being assisted in their assault by their Maori Party friends and those iwi leaders who have chosen corporate success over the needs of their own people.
The current claims before the Waitangi Tribunal mark out some very clear issues – water and language – and I commend both the New Zealand Maori Council and the National Kohanga Reo Trust for their efforts in trying to set down some very clear guidelines about the control and management of Maori resources and Maori taonga.
The Maori Party has of course, been specifically absent from both claims as they cling tenaciously to their National Party friends … mind you, they were noticeably absent from the consultation hui over the sale of state assets too, so it’s no surprise to not see them defending Maori rights in other areas either. But MANA will because MANA must.
A CALL TO ACTION
Our choice as to what we do about all this is clear.
Surrender is not an option. Action must be our choice.
I have been hugely impressed with the activist nature of MANA over the past few months, with support at the sale of state assets hui, support for the Port workers, high visibility at Waitangi and at the trial for the Urewera 4, some excellent work in the Feed the Kids programme, a constant presence on the internet on a whole range of issues led by our own president Annette Sykes, a very strong presence in the media on workers rights and the rights of beneficiaries from both John Minto and Sue Bradford, and of course our own international ambassador, Busby of Antarctica.
We are a new movement but we are the only political force on the streets and that must be our point of difference.
We walk our talk. When our leaders lay down the challenge we back it up.
And that’s where we will win. Not in Parliament, not in the boardrooms of the iwi corporates, but on the streets of the nation and in the hearts of the people.
We need to commit to a programme of action for change. Action through protest against the decisions of government that will hurt our people; action through challenges to the state for a better deal for all; action through the way in which we will lead by example and encourage others to follow; and action to change the lives in our own communities.
Next month is the Aotearoa is Not for Sale Hikoi. It is not being run by MANA but I want MANA branches around the country to lend their support because it is a national initiative to defend our people against a blitzkrieg of legislation that aims to strip us of our resources and destroy our capacity to resist.
I want us to confirm a more
enduring plan of action around our Feed the Kids
I want us to support workers under threat from unscrupulous employers;
I want us to support families in need;
And I want us to sign people up to a future that is theirs by right, not theirs because that’s all they’re allowed to have;
I want us to build the MANA wherever we go.
THANKS FOR THE TAUTOKO
To all of you
who have put up with me over the last few years and still
bemoan the fact that Annette didn’t get in and instantly
take over the reins of leadership, I say your day is
To those who have already shown by your actions that you have got the MANA, I say thank you for your commitment;
To our kaumatua and kuia who cross their fingers whenever I say something on TV, I say thank you for your tautoko and
To our rangatahi who yearn for a better world, I say don’t wait for others to move aside, step up and take control
This is our world, this is our time.
Kia kaha, kia mäia, kia mana …
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou