Speech: Tariff (Malaysia Free Trade Agreement) Amendment Bill

Thursday 22 April 2010, 8:07AM
By Hone Harawira


Tariff (Malaysia Free Trade Agreement) Amendment Bill
Hone Harawira, Maori Party Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau
Tuesday 20 April 2010.

A few years ago a group of Malaysian organisations came to Aotearoa to “learn how the Maori people of New Zealand have brought their culture back from the brink of extinction”.

The delegation included tribal leaders from the Bajau people, one of the more well known indigenous populations in Malaysia, who were keen to visit köhanga reo, kura kaupapa, whare kura and wananga to witness the resurgence and revitalisation of te reo Maori in every day use in schools and in the community, and to learn how we have been able to defend and protect our customary heritage and culture, including our language.

Mr Speaker, I raise this experience here because I would have thought that positive exchanges like that might be what we’d want to foster in an international relationship with Malaysia, and yet in this deal – nothing, nada, no mention whatsoever about first nation peoples’ involvement in decision-making on international trade agreements …

Which is a bit of an irony considering that on this day, Tuesday 20 April 2010, the Maori Party’s Minister of Maori Affairs announced New Zealand’s support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, at the opening session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in new York, where he acknowledged the special status held by Maori as tangata whenua with an interest in all policy and legislative matters; and affirmed this country’s commitment to the common objectives of the declaration and the Treaty of Waitangi.

And in doing so, set right New Zealand’s grave injustice when in 2007, 143 countries voted in favour of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but the New Zealand Labour Government refused to support it, sending a clear and unequivocal message to the rest of the world that as long as Labour was in power, New Zealand would oppose the fundamental rights and aspirations of Maori people.

Thankfully for the indigenous people of the world, and for the Maori people of Aotearoa in particular, Labour would not have much more than another 12 months in office before they got booted to the opposition benches, clearing the way for the Maori Party to open negotiations with the National Government which lead to today’s historic announcement to support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a document which had the support of such luminaries within the Maori world as Sir James Henare, Dame Whina Cooper, Dame Mira Szazy, Te Ataairangi Kaahu, Sir Robert Mahuta, Whakahuihui Vercoe, Sir Paul Reeves, Sir Hepi Te Heuheu, the Maori Women’s Welfare League and the New Zealand Maori Council, but which has been opposed vociferously by the New Zealand Labour Party, Parekura Horomia, Nanaia Mahuta, Mahara Okeroa, Mita Ririnui, Dover Samuels and Shane Jones.

Today we right that wrong, and announce proudly that Māori do hold a distinct and special status as the indigenous people of Aotearoa, that indigenous rights and indigenous culture are of profound importance to this country and fundamental to our identity as a nation, and that we express our respect and our commitment as a party to Te Whakaputanga o Niu Tireni, and Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as the unique constitutional foundations of this country.

And on this day of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples the Maori Party challenges this House once again to recognise the Treaty as the foundation of partnership, respect, co-operation and good faith between Māori and the Crown, as we renew also our commitment as a party to continue to work across the international stage to promote the rights of all indigenous peoples.

Today is a day that Maori people will remember forever …

And so it is ironic that on such an important day, we are presented with a free trade agreement that ignores the importance of indigenous peoples and is silent on the importance of the Declaration, because the Maori Party holds to the view that the economic benefits of international trade agreements need to be balanced with consideration of the rights of indigenous participants, that we should be supporting Fair Trade Agreements which recognise and implement international standards such as the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ILO Convention 169, and The Mataatua Declaration, and that we should also be supporting trade relationships between first nations peoples as part of any wider trade agreements.

This Bill fails to achieve any of these goals, so we will not be supporting it here tonight.