Are you a progressive voter wanting the next Government to take social justice and the economic reform to generate that social justice seriously? Enter stage left - MANA.
FEED THE KIDS
I want to begin by expressing my gratitude for the broad support for MANA’s Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill or the Feed the Kids Bill as it has become known, including the Child Poverty Action Group, Every Child Counts, Unicef NZ, Save the Children, IHC, Poverty Action Waikato, the Methodist and Anglican Churches (Methodist Public Issues and Anglican Action), Te Rōpū Wāhine Māori Toko i te Ora (Māori Women’s Welfare League), PPTA, NZ Principals’ Federation, CTU Rūnanga, the NZ Nurses’ Organisation, and the Māori Medical Practitioners’ Association.
During election 2011, one of MANA’s main pledges was to fight for government funded meals in poor schools, and in 2012 we drafted the bill to honour that pledge. That was immediately followed by the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty recommending the introduction of a government-funded food programme in low decile schools, and a major policy speech late last year from the leader of the opposition calling on government to provide free meals to children in low decile schools.
At this time I want to thank those political parties who have already indicated their support for the bill, including Labour, the Greens, the Maori Party, and the newly independent Brendan Horan who has given me his assurance that if the bill passes he will refrain from singing to the house.
I’m not sure exactly when the bill comes before the house but I am hopeful that there will be enough support for it to get to Select Committee.
During election 2011, MANA also made a commitment to a programme of 20,000 houses in 2 years.
That kaupapa was picked up in 2012 by Labour with their commitment to 100,000 houses in 10 years, and enhanced by the Greens’ own housing proposals announced last week.
In 2013, I expect MANA to continue to provide leadership in the fight for better housing for all New Zealanders, especially those in dire need right now.
We want to see an end to policies which make it harder for poor families to access affordable housing, we want to see a rebuilding of the state housing stock, and we call on the new Minister of Housing, to take a fresh approach to this problem, to talk to and to listen to those people being hurt badly by current policies – people who are being forced out of state houses in communities like Glen Innes, Maraenui and Porirua; people in rural areas like the far north being forced to live in unacceptable conditions with no hope of any help, homeless people in Christchurch, Auckland and elsewhere; as well as those church and community groups working with the homeless and families on low incomes.
On another housing related matter, I wish to invite all my parliamentary colleagues to the court case arising from my arrest at a housing action in Glen Innes last year. The case has been set down for hearing on March 19 but may have to be moved to another date to accommodate the growing list of witnesses who have offered to speak in my defence. I fully intend defending the case myself with the assistance of a number of lawyers who have offered their help at no cost.
FINANCIAL TRANSACTION TAX
The third plank in MANA’s election 2011 campaign has yet to be picked up by anyone else here, though I expect it to be adopted a lot sooner than people might have thought some 15 months ago, and that is of course the Hone Heke Tax or the Financial Transaction Tax as it is known elsewhere in the world – a proposal that had most political parties and political commentators sniggering during the campaign 2011, but which is quickly becoming recognised in other OECD countries as the only sane way to increase government revenue without stealing it from the poor, by making the banks pay for the financial crisis they created.
A few days ago the European Commission approved a proposal to implement exactly such a tax on all transactions between financial institutions within those 11 member states that have approved it, without it affecting citizens or businesses – a tax that would raise a minimum of 57 billion dollars a year.
The Hone Heke Tax is clearly an idea whose time has come. I look forward to opposition parties coming out more openly in support of it over the next 12 months.
On behalf of MANA and the people of New Zealand I would like to thank the New Zealand Maori Council for their efforts to stop National’s plans to sell off our state assets, by instigating a court action over the Maori interests in water. In particular I would like to thank MANA president Annette Sykes who was a critical player in the Tribunal hearings last year and remains a key player in the high court hearings due to start later this week.
The efforts of the Council and those hapu and iwi who have supported their case, have forced the government to delay its asset sales programme, giving the rest of the country time to push the petition for a referendum on asset sales. The challenge now is to complete the petition, and for all parties and organisations opposed to the sale of state assets, to pressure the government to hold a referendum on asset sales to test their argument that that’s what New Zealanders want. It isn’t of course, and MANA stands ready to do its bit to help put an end to the madness, of selling our kitchen to somebody else, and then having to rent it back for the rest of our lives.
And as we move towards an end to the Treaty Settlement cycle, I wish to remind the house that the Treaty lives forever, and that anyone thinking the Treaty will become null and void after treaty settlements have ended, is sadly mistaken. The Treaty is a taonga to Maori, and the foundation of all constitutional arrangements in this country, and all attempts to write it out of legislation will be resisted mightily.
THE MAORI PARTY
Much has been made of the Maori Party capturing the headlines with a messy leadership challenge these last few weeks, and calls from Maori Party members for me to come back and take over the leadership of the party. So let me make this clear. I have no aspirations to lead the Maori Party - those calls have come from Maori Party members themselves.
I am comfortable and proud to lead MANA – a vibrant and active political force with a clearly identified constituency, te pani me te rawakore, the poor and the dispossessed, and policies aimed specifically at addressing their needs first, because people matter more than profit.
But as I did right after election 2011, I want to again extend the hand of friendship and whanaungatanga to my colleagues in the Maori Party, and to remind them that there has to be a link between the fact that their membership has gone from 24,000 when I was there to just 600 last year, and their continued commitment to a government and its policies that have destroyed Maori families, and Maori hopes and aspirations.
I call on the Maori Party to walk away from that relationship and return to their roots, and I stand willing to take up the offer by the Ratana Movement to host any discussions which might lead to unity and a MANA MAORI alliance.
MANA clearly has the vibrant and energetic membership and the strong and positive leadership … the only question is whether the Maori Party is open to unity.