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Q+A’s Guyon Espiner interviews Tariana Turia

Sunday 18th October, 2009

Q+A’s Guyon Espiner interviews Maori Party Co-Leader, Tariana Turia.

Points of interest:
- Turia hints that Foreshore and Seabed Act will be repealed: “I’m really satisfied with the progress we have made”
- “Faults on both sides” in handling of Maori TV rugby bid
- Maori Party expects Maori TV to screen the RWC Opening Ceremony as lead bidder
- Whanau Ora will say to government agencies, “the days are over when you control the lives of families”
- The government now “wastes” a billion on social services
- Turia “very concerned” about ACC reforms; privatising Work Account would drive up levies ‘exorbitantly”
- Disabilities minister “opposed” to ACC’s proposed 20 percent cut to home and vehicle alterations; “already [disabled New Zealanders] don’t receive their entitlements”
- Maori business and iwi leaders are urging Maori Party to back government’s ETS
- Maori Party has “not yet” won compensation for low income New Zealanders in ETS negotiations, “but they [the government] require our vote”

The interview has been transcribed below. The full length video interviews and panel discussions from this morning’s Q+A can be seen on tvnz.co.nz at,
http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news

TARIANA TURIA interviewed by GUYON ESPINER

GUYON Kia ora Minister, thanks very much for coming in and joining us we really appreciate that. Let's start with the Rugby World Cup, I mean the Prime Minister's announced something of a compromise which the Maori Party have said that they are quite optimistic about, but Maori Television looking like they only really lead this bid in name only, given that they won't be able to have exclusive rights to screen the opening ceremony and the opening game, and it looks like all the channels will be involved, is this really a win for Maori Television and for the Maori Party?

TARIANA TURIA – Maori Party Co-Leader
Well in the end we don’t really know, we're all speculating about who is going to have the opening ceremony.

GUYON Has that not been decided yet because I've spoken to ministers who say the Television New Zealand and TV3 will also screen that, has the Prime Minister told you and the Maori Party about that opening ceremony and opening game?

TARIANA That’s not my understanding, my understanding is that the decision is still yet to be made. If there's been a decision made I certainly don’t know about it, much of this discussion has been taking place with Minister Sharples of course, and I haven't been privy to those discussions.

GUYON Would you expect to know though about whether a decision had been made on that fairly key element which is the opening ceremony.

TARIANA Oh definitely I would have expected that we would know by today if that’s what's happened.

GUYON It's in the paper this morning, I was told by a minister last night that that’s what's happening.

TARIANA Well I don’t always necessarily believe the media, I would say that you know I would have seen that more as speculation, I did read it, but no we haven't been informed as far as I know.

GUYON Would it be you're expectation that the Maori Television service hold on to that last remaining vestige of their lead bit role and screen the opening ceremony and the opening game, would that be you're expectation?

TARIANA Well I think that that is a negotiation that needs to be had, and I'm not sure whether that actually has taken place. I think that Minister Sharples – the most important thing for him was, that they certainly did get through and that they would be the lead on the Rugby World Cup. I would have thought that the opening ceremony would certainly be part of that lead.

GUYON So that’s still our expectation?

TARIANA I would have thought so.

GUYON I understand and appreciate that you haven't got the detail on this because you haven't been the lead minister but more in terms of the actual handling of it, do you agree with Te Ururoa Flavell and Hone Harawira that there has been a racist element to the way that some National Party Cabinet Ministers have not wanted Maori Television to exclusively screen these games.

TARIANA Well I don’t like using the word racism, I've used it in the past, and people haven't liked the use of the word, but what I do think is that it's been handled very badly. I am really pleased that the Prime Minister has stepped in and resolved this matter, I know that there may well have been faults on both sides initially with the bid, and the Prime Minister not knowing about that, but in the end it has been resolved and that’s the important thing.

GUYON I'm not trying to put words in your mouth but your colleagues say it's racist, and I guess that’s the undertone that some people think that oh the public just don’t want it on Maori Television because it's Maori Television, I mean is that a real perception do you think?

TARIANA Well I don’t know whether the public don’t want it on Maori Television.

GUYON I think that’s the perception that the government believes though, is that why they're scared of this?

TARIANA Well I think that may well be their perception, and perception's very important to politicians, but my understanding of this, and we've had a lot of phone calls on it, is that generally the public were very supportive, they have seen Maori Television produce some excellent television since its inception, and we expect that they will do an excellent job. I certainly don’t believe that TV One or TV3 will do a better job, and in fact at the Commonwealth Games Television One you know there was a lot of criticism about them.

GUYON Is there a practical element here too though. According to Neilson Media Research, just 76% of all homes say they can receive a satisfactory MTS signal, I know there's talk of a figure of 90%, but in terms of a satisfactory signal that would leave a quarter of the people potentially not being able to watch the national game.

TARIANA Well frankly I could say that to you about TV One and TV3, if you live in Stokes Valley you can't get either. So you know we can go to man y parts of the country and find that you can't get Television One or Three, I think that was a spurious argument.

GUYON Is this just the same old story that when the National led government is faced with a potential backlash from Pakeha and they get to choose between that and the Maori Party they're going to ensure that you lose every time?

TARIANA Oh look I think that any mainstream political party will behave like this. There's always tension between a cultural political party and a mainstream political party, there's a natural tension between us because of the votes, there's no doubt about that, but I think you would find that it wouldn’t matter who we were in coalition with.

GUYON Do you expect them to go the same way with the H in Wanganui?

TARIANA I expect them to support the H in Wanganui.

GUYON Have you had an assurance that that’s going to happen?

TARIANA I haven't, I haven't actually canvassed that actually with them, I think this is about doing what's right, I expect them to do what's right.

GUYON Let's move to one of the other big political issues this week, ACC. Do you support the National led government in its proposals to cut entitlements and to raise levies, do you support what they're doing with ACC?

TARIANA I'm very concerned and one of the reasons why I'm really concerned is that there's been a lot of talk about privatising the work of the account. Now the face of it is that’s the only account that actually earns money, brings money in – into ACC, if you cut that and you give that out to private enterprise, the fact is the costs in ACC will go up exorbitantly to be able to break even. I'm very concerned about that.

GUYON Okay well that’s one of the concessions they may give to ACT to try go get their support, but let's talk about what's on the table actually now. Are you saying that you won't and your party won't support the bill which gives effect to these changes?

TARIANA I think it's fair enough to say that we're still in discussions, we're meeting on Tuesday again to talk about that particular matter, I don’t want to pre-empt those discussions.

GUYON Okay, well there is direct responsibility here for you though isn't there, because you are also Minister of Disabilities, Minister for Disabled People, you gave a speech this week where you pointed out that one in five Maori are disabled, and you express concern about their ability to participate in their culture, to even go to marae because they can't get through the door of the wharenui to actually participate in hui, because they can't hear what is going on, yet these changes mean that unless you're hearing impairment is greater than 6% you'll be denied any assistance from ACC, that would affect about three thousand people, is that a good idea?

TARIANA Well to be frank with you and I'm not an expert on hearing loss, 6% isn't a high hearing loss, I probably myself have at least 10%, so I don’t think that that’s necessarily a bad thing. We are seeing rationing going on throughout the whole health system and at some point you do have to make decisions about this. There's been exorbitant amounts spent on hearing aids, I understand that a judge was able to apply to get a hearing aid at considerable cost, so we do have to look at it and we have to look at it seriously.

GUYON A judge was given ...?

TARIANA That’s my understanding, I was told that a judge was able to apply and get a hearing aid at some cost, so you know I think that it is ...

GUYON Rationing does need to happen.

TARIANA Rationing does need to happen.

GUYON What about another area, and that is the 40 million dollars which is spent on modifying homes and vehicles, so that disabled people can get into their own homes and perhaps drive around if they have a disability. We're looking at taking 20% or eight million from that budget, I mean have you sought assurances that disabled people are going to get the help they require in that regard?

TARIANA Look certainly we'll be talking about those matters with Nick Smith on Tuesday again, and getting some assurances around that. The fact is that the disability sector are hugely marginalised, they don’t get what they need to be able to participate fully in society, that’s a reality...

GUYON Yet you're part of the government which is going to strip their support away.

TARIANA Well I'm opposed to that, as the Minister for Disability, I would be very opposed to that because already they don’t receive their entitlements.

GUYON Let's look at another area where you have a pivotal role, and that is the passing of the Emissions Trading Scheme which give effect to the scheme to combat climate change. It's my understanding you’ve given support through to Select Committee stage, but what decisions have you made about supporting the bill through all its stages?

TARIANA Look, the Maori Party is in quite a difficult position. The Maori economy is made up of fishing, farming, and forestry, we've had huge lobbying from that sector because they are major employers of Maori people.

GUYON Do they want the scheme or not, because not all of them do do they?

TARIANA Well I have to say that in every representation that we have had they are saying that they need the scheme, they need to have some assurances around the scheme of course.

GUYON I saw the Federation of Maori Authorities this week though give a submission to the Select Committee saying that it would reduce Maori land by the value of seven billion dollars, have they made that representation to you?

TARIANA No they haven't.

GUYON Well do you think most Maori business interests - want you to sign up to this scheme?

TARIANA They have asked us to and in fact they’ve been making their own representations to the government with us sitting alongside of them. On the other hand they’ve also given us assurances that they're prepared to look at the way they farm sustainably into the future and that’s really important for us, we were not a party that supported ETS.

GUYON So will you support it through all stages?

TARIANA Well, let's wait and see, we are certainly working very strongly with the Maori representation group.

GUYON Well hang on Mrs Turia, what do you want before you will give that support?

TARIANA Well I think in the end it's not so much particularly what the Maori Party want, it is what the iwi leadership want, and they are the ones who have been leading the dialogue, they have been asking us to definitely sign up to it.

GUYON You talked about concessions or some sort of assistance for lower income people, that’s a good part of your constituency, have you had any success in that?

TARIANA Well what we've had is an increase in the number of homes that will be insulated and that’s really critical for our families. We haven't had a lot of concession I have to be really honest with you.

GUYON You haven't had much luck in securing that?

TARIANA Not yet, but of course to get it right through parliament they require our vote

GUYON Can we look now at another area where you have very significant interests in the Seabed and Foreshore legislation being repealed? What luck are you having with that, we had your President Whata Winiata say yesterday, he talked about and I quote in the imminent repeal of the Act, has it been confirmed that it's definitely going to be repealed?

TARIANA Well we'll see within the next fortnight, but certainly it has progressed really really well.

GUYON Well he talked about the repeal of the Act, has that been confirmed?

TARIANA What I'm saying to you is that the public will know in two weeks whether that has happened.

GUYON Was he wrong?

TARIANA I'm not saying whether he's right or wrong, I am telling you that the public will know in two weeks time, in fact where that’s at. It's got to go to Cabinet and I'm not going to be disclosing here to the media that issue.

GUYON Are you satisfied with the progress you’ve made?

TARIANA I am really satisfied with the progress that we have made, and of course then we get down to the level of detail of what will be in any new piece of legislation, and the important, thing about that is that the rights of all New Zealanders are protected including Maori.

GUYON Are we going to have the ability for Maori to go back to court?

TARIANA That hasn’t been determined yet, those kind of details haven't been determined, but again we've had very strong representation from the Iwi Leadership Group on this matter as well, and they have been meeting with the government.

GUYON Let's say the Seabed and Foreshore Act is repealed, let's say you get to fly the Maori flag, let's say you get the H put back into Wanganui, none of that is going to lift one Maori child out of poverty, I mean are you chasing symbols rather than substance?

TARIANA Oh look, Whanauora is going to do the very thing that you are talking about, this is our major policy plank, what that will do is transform families' lives, it will move from doing to, to doing with, and what we are doing we are saying to agencies, the days are over when you control the lives of families, it's really important that families take that responsibility for themselves, we have to empower families, focus on their potential to do well.

GUYON What does that mean Minister, when you say that the days are over for state agencies where you are controlling our people's lives? What does that mean?

TARIANA Well we see that now. I mean we have a lot of services provided to, and what happens is, Maori agencies, not for profit agencies come in, they contract with the government to provide services into these communities.

GUYON Are you going to cut out say Child Youth and Family?

TARIANA No no, no, no don’t pre-empt what I'm saying. What I'm saying is already we have a whole range of services that are contracted out, they're extremely prescribed, and over the years we've seen a huge waste of public money on these services, because none of those things have in fact empowered families to take that responsibility for themselves, to not remain in that mode of thinking that people need to do things for them. We want to change that and that came out strongly in our conference yesterday that our people want that.

GUYON What is the magnitude of this, because I looked at a consultation document which has been released on the Ministry of Social Development website, about the Whanauora policy and it talks about a Whanauora fund being set up. Now in the past you'd talked about possibly a billion dollars going into that. Are we looking at that sort of magnitude?

TARIANA Well to be frank with you there's probably a billion dollars already being wasted now, so a billion dollars that’s put into Whanauora that going to transform families' lives so that they're not so dependent on the state to do for them, but more importantly that their families become sites of safety. That’s a critical part of Whanauora.

GUYON And you have agreement from the Cabinet or from the Prime Minister to carve off that billion dollars for that?

TARIANA We're still working on that, that’s work in progress, we're waiting for the task force to come back with recommendations for the Cabinet, and what we'll be doing is looking at the existing money, it may not need new money, there's a lot of money as I've pointed out to you that’s being spent. What we want to do is to see that money being spent efficiently and effectively, and that we're getting outcomes for families, that we can then look to the future so that they're no longer dependent on the state, that’s important.

GUYON Can you just ask you finally, you said that you will stay on and stand again in 2011. I mean looking at your other MPs, you are the one with vastly more political experience than them, are you staying out of choice or out of necessity?

TARIANA I'm staying out of choice, part of the reason why of course I didn’t want to stay at that point was because my husband and my family lived back in Wanganui, they’ve made a decision they’ve come to Wellington this year to see how it goes. George isn't very happy I have to admit but the kids are loving it, and there's lots more opportunities for them, and so that’s helped me to make the decision that I could say. There's some other things that I have to attend to of course and I will do that.

GUYON Okay good place to leave it, thank you very much for coming in and joining us Tariana Turia.

ENDS

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