Budget Debate 2009 : The Road to Recovery – is it?
Hone Harawira: Maori Party Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau
Thursday 4 June 2009
This budget talks about the road to recovery, a road that Maori have travelled down on many occasions, often diverted, sometimes stonewalled, and many times turned back, but a road we travel constantly, in the search for justice and the promise of the Tiriti o Waitangi in our everyday lives.
And I am reminded of the Great Maori Land March of 1975 which led to the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal and the Treaty Settlement process; the Foreshore and Seabed Hikoi of 2004 which gave birth to the mighty Maori Party and the review, and hopefully the repeal of the filthy, racist piece of legislation that is the Foreshore and Seabed Act; and the March for Maori Representation in Auckland just over a week ago – all of which were challenges to the nation that the commitment our tupuna made to the promises of the Tiriti o Waitangi, are challenges we take seriously today, tomorrow, and until such time as those promises have been honoured.
And we turn to this piece of legislation, with the same outlook, the same commitment, and the same desire to see the Treaty promise honoured – and I don’t mind admitting here today that the road ahead don’t look like getting any shorter or any easier to travel.
And while we’re on the subject of roads, I note that there has been an increase of $1 billion in highway construction projects each year for the next three years, with a long term plan of $10 billion over the next ten years.
And for those who think that a billion dollars is a lot of money to spend on roads each year, let me put that into perspective.
$1 billion is a little bit more than government gets every year to turn a blind eye to the deaths of 4,700 people killed every year by the murderers masquerading as tobacco companies; it’s the total amount offered for the theft of 60 million acres of Maori land over the last 170 years; and it’s about what it will cost to build the Waterview Criminal Bypass that my good friend Melissa Lee sees as being an important investment in the security of Mt Albert.
But given how keen New Zealanders have been to take up a more carbon-conscious future, and their growing understanding of the perils of peak oil, you gotta wonder how come so much is being spent on roads, and how little is being spent on public transport?
Spending $50 million on a national cycle-way is a great idea, but it hardly signals a genuine investment in alternative transport.
And then we see a budget allocation of $172 million for 600 new Police officers and $10 million for tasers, even though the recorded crime rate has actually gone down by 8%, and as if either of them are going to turn around the levels of crime which are determined not by police numbers or by police brutality, but by the level of poverty that this country is willing to inflict on its own population.
And for the same strange reason, it’s difficult to understand why we’re going to be spending an extra $385 million to increase prison capacity when every intelligent criminologist will tell you that building more prisons leads to neither a decrease in crime, nor an increase in rehabilitation.
And then we find that of the $385 million, $24 million is being set aside for the planning and design of more prisons, as if, after 200 years of the criminal insanity that masquerades as correction policy in this country, government doesn’t know how to build the mind-numbing, soul-destroying, blocks of concrete that we call jails.
And then on top of that we also find that $145 million is going to be spent on double bunks in cells, and I am sad to have to report in advance, that double bunking may ease the prison population crush, but they will also substantially increase the numbers of rapes, fights, stabbings, maiming, murders, suicides, and the attacks on prison officers that will be a natural outcome of this policy of simplistic sadism and senseless stupidity.
I know this because it is already the experience of EVERY western nation in the world, and in fact, the Dominion Post last week reported the alarming comments of the President of New Zealand’s own Corrections Association, Beven Hanlon, who said that overseas evidence confirmed the fact that double-bunking would lead to over-crowding; and that overcrowding would most likely result in a dramatic increase in assaults, suicides, rapes, escapes and increased psychopathic behaviour amongst inmates.
On the upside, we’re glad that even though there’s a squeeze on, that we were able to get agreement on substantial new money for Maori initiatives.
We’re glad that the Budget of 2009 more than doubles the allocation for Maori that we saw just a year ago.
In fact, in 2008, although $53 million was allocated for Maori, most of that was re-routed, refashioned and rebadged money already allocated to TPK.
In 2009 however, thanks to a new National government, and a fresh breath of air from the Maori Party, we now have more than $120 million set aside specifically for Maori, in housing, education, social development, Maori Affairs, and Treaty negotiations.
We’re glad of the $70 million being spent to straighten out the last government’s policy, which actually prevented kohanga reo and playcentre from accessing the early childhood education entitlement, and we look forward to seeing more Maori children in Kohanga, Puna Reo, and pre-school education.
And while I’m on Kohanga, I want to pay tribute to the newly honoured Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, who was a pioneer of the Kohanga Reo movement, and who will no doubt take greater delight in seeing our mokopuna benefit from the 20 free hour early childhood education scheme, than she will from the Queens Birthday honour for which she will be teased mercilessly for months to come.
We’re glad of the extra $22 million of new money to help streamline the process of treaty negotiations between iwi, hapu and the Crown, and reduce the time required to settle claims;
We’re glad of the extra $20 million of new money to help reduce under-achievement by Maori students in mainstream schools;
We’re glad of the extra $16 million of new money to settle several Maori aquaculture claims;
We’re glad of the extra $12 million of new money to help Maori build homes in rural communities which are the backbone of Maori culture;
We’re glad of the extra $3 million of new money for a programme to help whanau learn and use te reo in the home;
We are particularly glad, and thankful to the Green Party for getting government commitment to home insulation, which will benefit many, many Maori families;
And of course I am personally, very, very glad of the extra $1.2 million of new money to help iwi radio with operational costs.
We know that the most important issue facing us is how we prepare ourselves as catalysts for recovery, we know that we must put the effort in to help our people face a new future, and we know that that future depends on our being able to respond intelligently and effectively to the changing political and economic climate, and those challenges lay before us all.
Could Maori have done better? Yes, we probably could’ve. But we’re not crying about what we got at all - in fact, given the current economic climate, and the fact that we’ve only been in the job for a few months, what we got is a bloody good start, and heaps more than those miserable buggers in the last government gave to Maori, even with all their massive surpluses.
We look forward to getting on with doing whatever it takes, to ensure that the money we have been able to secure, thanks to the National government, is used to help Maori to become more and more independent and more and more positive in the years ahead.