Te Mana Party

Man I seem to be constantly apologising for the lack of posts… so why stop now?  I’m sorry for not posting more often.  To say the least, life has been busy… but on the other hand, I have been really reluctant to keep updating my blog.

Anyway.  This is another political post today.  In Niu Sila / New Zealand, we are counting down to our national general elections later this year in Novema / November.  Many pundits were forecasting the current centre-right National Government winning again.  But the last couple of weeks have made people change their tune.  And the forces that are making the change come from the opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Firstly, Hone Harawira, a former Maori Party MP for Te Tai Tokerau Maori roll seat, launched his own political party, Te Mana Party.  After being disillusioned by his previous colleagues of the Maori Party, Hone split to get away from what he believed was a too cosy relationship with the centre-right National Government.  But it wasn’t just another Maori Party Hone was forming.  The new Te Mana Party has a strong pro-worker platform.  In fact all of the policies released to date have everything to do with class and nothing specifically targeting the tradition Maori causes such as calls for Tino Rangatiratanga, or a stronger Maori say in political decision making.

The other event came from the ACT Party, which as I said earlier, sits on the other side of the political spectrum.  ACT traditionally was a libertarian party, but in more recent years have been accused of pandering to sloganeering and populism.  Political murmurings hinted at a rival right wing party being formed, but in the end we got a take over of ACT.  A political coup of a parliamentary leader by a previous parliamentary leader of another right wing party.  Sound confusing?  Well it is.

Don Brash, right wing economist and free-marketeer champion, once was the leader of the centre right party, National.  He almost became Prime Minister after running an anti-Maori campaign in 2005, but narrowly lost out to the then Labour Government.  National dumped Don Brash for a more ‘centrist’ leader in the current Palemia / Prime Minister, John Key, who beat Labour in the last election in 2008.  This same Don Brash, who is now 70 years old, has come back into the political scene not to be leader of National, but forcing himself on the right wing ACT party.  In a public announcement, Don Brash said to ACT, “make me leader of your party, or else I’ll set up my rival party and waste you in the election in November”.  And after a little bit of resistance, ACT dumped their then leader, Rodney Hyde, and installed Don Brash, who is leader of ACT from outside parliament!

For those who have been reading my blog, it’s no secret that I have left wing political leanings.  And so I’ve been excited at the news of Hone launching Te Mana Party, while at the same time bemused at the ACT party happenings.  Sure ACT with Don Brash poses a threat by possibly extending the possibility of the centre right seats at the next election, but his presence will scare a lot of people away from voting for the current National party if they think it will jump in bed with ACT.  Because Don Brash is the cold face of right wing ideology.  As the former Reserve Bank governor in the 1990’s he advocated monetary policy over a period which saw a lot of wealth within Niu Sila tranfer to an elite few.  The privatisation and selling off of state assets has made Niu Sila a lot poorer.  Cutting of social services and benefits have caused generational poverty.  And this guy wants to have another try at getting back into parliament to finish off the job started back in the 80s and 90s under Rogernomics.

 

But the greater of the two events definitely has to be Hone’s new party.  This has changed the game, and instead of pundits thinking the election is a done deal, there is recognition that there is a possibility of a centre left Government by the end of this year.  I’m gonna put my neck out there and declare that I will be voting for Te Mana Party this November.  At the least, Te Mana will keep any centre left wing Government honest.  But best of all, here is an opportunity for the workers on Niu Sila to have a real voice in Parliament.

Hone Had-a-weird-one

Last week Palemia/Prime Minister John Key announced the date of Niu Sila’s/New Zealand’s general elections.  Since then, we’ve had leader of the opposition, Phil Goff come out swinging for the Labour Party, and John Key hitting back.  It seems as though John Key’s gloves are off and is willing to spend some of the political capital he has built up over his last term as Palemia.

But there’s another ongoing political story which has often overshadowed the political battle between the two major parties.  And that’s the interesting tussle between members of the Maori Party.  Namely, Hone Harawira, up against the other parliamentary members of the party.

Without going into the details of this tussle, it appears as though Hone’s critical voice against the party’s relationship with the National Government has riled the other members.  It’s an interesting dilemma for any minor party.  How many concessions does a minor party make to a major coalition party in order to be at the decision making table?

For Hone, it’s one too many concessions.  Actually it’s more than one.  First off, it’s the increase of GST from 12.5% to 15%.  This has adversely affected Maori who are often in the lower socio-economic groupings and spend most of their income on consumerables.  Meanwhile wages have stalled, inflation has increased and the richest have been getting the biggest tax cut.  Hone, on behalf of his Maori constituents asks, how can a Maori Party support the National Government’s agenda?  The changes the National Government has made has not benefited Maori, but has rewarded the rich.

Secondly, and most importantly, it’s the Foreshore and Seabed legislation.  This was the reason the party was formed.  It was the original law passed by the previous Labour Government which saw Tariana Turia break away from her party and form the Maori Party in protest against a law which was not only discriminatory against Maori, but created tests which would leave many Maori not a leg to stand on if they tried to claim title over the foreshore and seabed.  This Government promised the Maori Party it would repeal the Labour law.  But what it replaced the law with falls far too short for Hone at least.  It doesn’t provide for anything the thousands of Maori thought they would get, thought they were protesting for.

And this is where I think Hone is on the right side, well for this issue anyway.  Hone holds the moral high ground because Maori did not want to make any more concessions under the Labour law, so why would they want to make the same concessions under the new National law?

Perhaps the rest of the Maori Party are playing the long political game.  There are many concessions made, but many benefits, albeit with long term results, that the Maori Party have ‘won’ from their relationship with National.  Whanau Ora, the constitutional review etc, are things that won’t produce positive outcomes for Maori now, nor after the next couple of elections.  But the rest of the Maori Party are banking on those benefits coming about in generations to come, and to hopefully save their bacon today.

Tino Rangatiratanga

What’s weird about this case is the MMP environment and all the different possibilities.  If Hone breaks away, does he stand alone (he will most definitely win his seat again as he has strong backing in Te Tai Tokerau)?  Or does he join other leftists?  Why would he join other leftists if his rhetoric to date has been to serve the Maori of Northland?  Is the Maori Party being pushed by the National Government to get rid of Hone, so as to not scare the conservative palagi vote?  Especially if Hide and the Act party fail to win Epsom?  What of the Iwi Leadership Group, accused by some in Maoridom of being an unelected group serving the interests of corporatist Maori?  Is this really about urban Maori (Hone & Co) vs traditional Maori (Turia and Sharples)?  Or is this about traditional grass root Maori (Hone & Co) vs corporate Maori (Tuku Morgan etc)?

It’s a hard one, and most definitely a weird one.

Looking out for who?

The recession is over!  Yeah right…

One of the responsibilities of a Niu Sila/New Zealand Government being voted in by the public, is for that Government to look at the bigger picture – to make policies, plan for the future, implement changes – things the average Sione and Sina have little power to do themselves.  Yet this Government, with a Palemia/Prime Minister who was a former market speculator, has had a hands off approach to the economy.  That right wing mantra: the market will correct itself.

Little comfort for the nearly 3000 people who lined up last week, to apply for only 150 jobs at a new supermarket opening in Manukau, Aukilani Saute/South Auckland.  It’s an amazing illustration of how people are desperate, and not just a few, but heaps of people!  The majority were Maori and Pacific Islanders.  But there were also Indians, Asians, Palagi/Pakeha/European, people from across Aukilani/Auckland.

What’s the Government’s response?  Do nothing.  Well that’s not totally true.  They appointed a Tax Working Group made up of rich Palagi males to recommend how to make the tax system more efficient.  Their recommendations?  Tax cuts for the rich, increase the goods and services tax (GST) which will affect the poor the most. 

Again I’m being unfair on my representations on the Government.  The Tax Working Group also suggested a capital gains tax which would be like most western nations, where land and property owners would be taxed for the appreciation in value of their land/property.  Of course that would be too bold a step for the Government to make in Niu Sila/New Zealand, a country obsessed with owning houses as their nest egg.  There’s no incentive to put savings into industries that create innovation, further capital, and more jobs.

So when the public see the Government reject the extreme recommendations of the Tax Working Group (such as the capital gains tax), it would make a GST rise and tax cuts for the rich look more palatable for the public to digest.

Meanwhile, 3000 people await to hear the outcome of their job interviews/applications.  For these people it’s about putting bread on the table, paying the bills to keep a roof over their heads, and getting from week to week.  While those entrusted to look at the bigger picture seem to also be looking out for the rich only.

UPDATE:  The Government announced it will raise the minimum wage by… wait for it… it’s a whopper… it will be raised by “25 CENTS!”  That’s right folks.  Meanwhile the struggling Minister of Education, Anne Tolley, will be spending $26 million on propaganda to charm the education sector of her unpopular National Standards policy! Hmmm….

Robbing the poor to pay the rich

There are three recent Government policies and proposals that have been released in the last couple of days that illustrates what this new Government is all about.

1. Kiwisport programme. 

“Kiwisport delivers on the Government’s promise to put money directly into the frontline to help more New Zealand children participate in organised sport,” Palemia / Prime Minister John Key said.

But Niu Sila / New Zealand’s poorest high schools will lose thousands of dollars each year because of this Government policy billed as helping more children to play sport.  Principal Peter Gall said Papatoetoe High School’s funding for sports staff would fall from $41,000 to $33,000 because the new money was not linked to a school’s decile rating.  “It seems that we’re robbing the poor to pay the rich,” said Mr Gall, who is also president of the Secondary Principals Association.

It’s amazing that not only are the poorest in our society (including many Pacific peoples) are losing out, but this drive to get kids active seems a bit contradictory of the Government scrapping earlier this year the new law which stopped schools selling junk food!  On top of this the Government announced earlier this year they were pumping $60 million odd into private schools while gutting out funding for poorer schools, special needs facilities, adult education and night schools.  This doesn’t look like getting kids active, but more about moving more money towards the rich schools.

Robbing poor

2. ACC changes

ACC (Government accident compensation scheme) changes by the Government mean from November 16 visiting the physio will cost patients at least $10-20 each time, now that the ACC has decided to cut costs.  Dr Smith said since the service became free, the number of clients in higher socio-economic areas using the service had “occurred disproportionately”.

But Jonathan Warren, president of the New Zealand Society of Physiotherapists, says the move is “short sighted” and will end up costing the Government more money.  “These changes mean that some people who need treatment will not be able to afford it. If a patient doesn’t get early treatment for an injury, recovery can take much longer and their health may suffer in the long run,” Mr Warren said. “In some cases a simple problem, untreated, can lead to permanent disability … Untreated injuries will end up costing the Government much more in health and social dollars.”  A provision for those with lower incomes was argued by the society, Mr Warren said, but was unsuccessful.

Once again the changes in ACC will affect the poorest people in society.  Usually those that need the free service the most are those that can’t afford it, and are proned to injury due to their occupation (manual labour, construction).  While $10-$20 a visit may sound cheap, if you need to visit every week over 6 months, that’s a lot of money especially when you’re already trying to make ends meet.  As said above, more pacific people who can’t afford the visits will not go at all, leaving injuries untreated and causing more cost in the long run to our health system.

3. GST increases

Currently here in Niu Sila we pay 12.5% of goods and services in GST (goods and Services Tax).  A working group panel reviewing the tax system said lifting GST to 15 per cent would raise an extra $2.1 billion a year. That would rise to $6.2 billion if the tax was set at 20 per cent.  Raising the rate of GST could increase the economy’s efficiency if it was used to shift the mix of taxes away from income tax the group says.  “Increasing the rate could impact on lower-income or vulnerable households, especially in the short run,” the panel said.

Progressive tax systems mean those that earn more, pay more taxes.  This is based on one of the notions that a regressive system such as a flat tax rate would harm those on lower income than those on higher incomes.  Increasing GST is the same in that although everyone will be paying 15% on goods and services, those on a lower income have less discretionary funds to absorb that increase.

Once again, this proposed change will affect the poor and benefit the rich.  Robbing the poor to pay the rich.

Bennett the Beneficiary Bully

Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennett recently announced the cutting of a Government financial assistance allowance to help beneficiaries into tertiary study (amongst other things also cut).  Two solo mothers on the benefit protested in the media about how without the allowance, they will no longer be able to afford to take on their studies.  In response, Paula Bennett release details from the Ministry of Social Development of each woman’s entitlements they were currently receiving.

Paula Bennett 

There are three issues that I want to explore a bit, arising from the fiasco.

Firstly, privacy.  I find it extremely uncomfortable when a Minister of the Crown believes she can infer consent from a critic of the Government, from being just that, a critic of the Government.  The information the Government holds should not be used for political points, and should definitely not be disclosed to the public by an inference of consent.  People should expressly consent to have their personal details splashed across the media. 

Secondly, Paula Bennett believed she was giving balance to the debate by releasing the details of the two women, but it is an unequal debate when she has the resources of the State behind her, and she is privy to the private information of the citizens of New Zealand.  Whereas the women?  Facebook.  The internet can be a powerful tool, but a Minister shouldn’t be playing tit for tat just because people want to criticise the Government.

Thirdly, and the most disturbing issue, is the disgusting abuse that New Zealanders have shown towards beneficiaries.  Read the mainstream opinion pieces, and people on the benefit are castgated as unworthy citizens of New Zealand.  They are look down upon and seen as worthless bludgers on the State.  Perhaps it’s a sign of these struggling economic times, but where is the empathy in this country?  At times like these, it saddens me to see my fellow countrymen and women express such vile and cruel words to those who are struggling the most.

Sure, we all know of those who are milking the system, who have babies to stay on the benefit, who would rather be a bum on the dole than work an honest days work.  But for the vast majority of people who have unfortunately found themselves on a State benefit, it is because they are a victim of their circumstances.  Most beneficiary recepients are honest law abiding New Zealand citizen who are struggling day by day, and are immensly grateful for Government assistance.

As a Samoan Christian, I often think about when Jesus said “what you do to the least of you, you do to me”.

Maori foreshore, for sure!

In Samoa, if you want to swim at a beach you have to ask the village for permission, and sometimes a small fee.  If you want to take a photo of a historic landmark (lava ruins etc), you also have to ask permission and/or pay a small fee.  If you want to climb the banyan trees of Falealupo, you have to pay a fee.  If you want to see the Taga blow holes and have coconuts blown up 25 metres into the air, you have to pay a fee.  If you want to go to Aganoa surf beach in Sa’aga, you have to pay a fee.  If you want to relax on in the beach fales on Saleapaga, you have to pay a fee.

The village is the ultimate authority (although after the creation of the modern State of Samoa the boundaries are unclear).  This is because after you’ve had your little swim, after you’ve snapped your photo’s to take home to show your friends, after you’ve had your little snooze on the beach, it is the village that looks after and maintains the area.  It is the village that lives there day in and day out.  It is the village that reaps the benefit, and pays for the costs.

The village has total authority, and total responsibility.

Here in Niu Sila however, the imposition of the British constitutional make-up, legal structure and civil governance has whittled away Maori customary authority over their lands and beaches.  For centuries non-Maori individuals and the State alienated much of the land, to the point where only less than 5% of land is still Maori land.

However, it wasn’t until a Court of Appeal decision earlier this decade that Pakeha New Zealanders assumed the foreshore and seabed was vested in the Crown / State of New Zealand.  The Court said Maori customary title may still exist for some tribes as it had never been extinguished by the Crown.

In a knee jerk reaction Pakeha were up in arms at the prospect of losing access to the beaches.  The then Labour Government immediately passed a law extinguishing any Maori customary title in the foreshore and seabed and vesting it in the Crown.  Leading up to the passing of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, there were protests by Maori against another confiscation of their rights, and protests by Pakeha about the possibility of not being able access to the beaches of Niu Sila.

Nevermind extremely wealthy people already owned coastline restricting public access and were not affected by the new law.  Nevermind that companies such as ports have already been given exclusive title to seabed, but no-one kicked up a fuss then.  Nevermind that the Court believed it was unlikely many Maori would be successful in claiming an unbroken exercising of customary title over the foreshore and seabed.  Nevermind that there were clear examples of Maori co-managing foreshore and seabeds with local authorities.  Nevermind that farmers owned great tracts of land which hindered public access to beaches than any potential Maori ownership of foreshores would have.

From that debacle grew the Maori Political Party.  Six years on, the Maori Party is in coalition with the governing National Party.  As part of the coalition agreement, National promised an independent review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004.  The independent panel released their report yesterday recommending the Government repeal the legislation and find a better solution, including co-managing of foreshore and seabeds; and a mixture of Court process and Crown negotiations for Maori claimants (things many Maori had argued for to begin with).

Polynesian concepts of ownership do not equate to that of the European concepts.  The Polynesian concept included guardianship which encapsulates ideas of responsibility as well as authority.  European concepts are of commodities that can be bought and sold, changed amongst different people – no ancestral links, no need have responsibility to it and therefore no need to exert authority.  Currently, there are popular inner-city artificial beaches in Auckland (in the affluent areas of St Heliers and Mission Bay) that needs to have truckloads of sand dumped on it every 5 years or so.  The sand comes from a beach north of Auckland where the local iwi say their ancestors were buried.  The council didn’t care and allowed the sand to be taken for the rich yuppies in Auckland.

Samoans and many other Polynesians are lucky to still have that authority and responsibility over their lands.  But for Maori (and Hawaiians) European laws and customs have taken precedent over Polynesian laws and customs.

If National is brave enough to take on the recommendations of the independent panel, this could be another victory won for Maori in trying to defend their rights in a European setting.

Congratulations Maori Party!

 

Mortgagee sales in Mangere

As the recession bites harder, again it’s the most vulnerable at the bottom who bear the brunt of the negative effects.

A New Zealand Herald article reports a Magele / Mangere budgeting agency has seen 27 families lose their homes to mortgagee sales in the past two months as the recession appears to be biting most heavily in South Auckland / Aukilani Saute.

People of Magele have been forced to sell their homes because one or two people in the household have lost their jobs.  Mangere Budgeting Service manager Darryl Evans said the biggest job losses seemed to be in warehouses and hotels, but many occupations were being affected.

These aren’t the criminals that Ms Lee talks of, or the dole-bludgers the right say infest Aukilani Saute; these are real people with real families, with real struggles.  They were tax-paying citizens, who worked hard to make ends meet and to try keep a roof over their family’s heads.

And where is the Government support?  The Palemia / Prime Minister, John Key announced $50 million towards his pet project, building a cycle way, against the budget suggested by his deputy, Bill English, and Treasury. 

Ohh that’s right, there’s also the Government support in tax cuts… for the rich.

New Zealand Herald article:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10573363