There are times when one of our political leaders has the courage to stand for the weakest members of our society and articulate their dreams and hopes and pain. Hone Harawira does this more often than most and his budget speech last night was another example of his civil rights leadership…
BUDGET DEBATE SPEECH 2014
Hone Harawira, MANA Leader and Tai Tokerau MP
Thursday 15 May 2014
On behalf of the MANA Movement, I rise to speak to this MORE or LESS budget presented by the National-Maori Party-ACT-United Future government, and when I say MORE, I mean things like …
MORE UNEMPLOYMENT than we had when this government took office in 2008, with official figures showing that the unemployment rate is now higher across all ages for nearly all NZers – Maori, PI and Pakeha included. The Maori unemployment rate alone is up by 8,500 to more than 40,000.
MORE YOUNG PEOPLE OUT OF WORK and not in school, training or in higher education – with Maori youth unemployment unacceptably high at 22%, nearly four times higher than the latest population wide unemployment rate – despite all the puru tutae about opportunities and all the rukahu about trade-training and cadetships;
MORE PEOPLE EARNING UNSUSTAINABLE WAGES, with statistics confirming that nearly three quarters of our entire workforce are now earning less than the average wage;
MORE OF A WAGE GAP between here and Australia – in fact the wage gap between the two countries has increased by a full 36% over that time;
MORE INCOME INEQUALITY between the rich and the poor, with National’s policies creating an environment where the richest 1% of NZers own 16% of the country’s wealth while 50% of NZers own less than 5%, and where the income of the top 1% has risen nearly 10 times faster than that of the bottom 10%.
MORE CHILDREN LIVING IN POVERTY up from 270,000 to 285,000 in 2014
MORE KIDS GOING TO SCHOOL WITHOUT BREAKFAST, and although KidsCan and Kickstart are helping, more than 80,000 NZ children are still going to school hungry every day;
MORE EVICTIONS OF STATE HOUSING TENANTS to help private developers buy up crown land to build high end housing for wealthy families and foreign investors, driving prices up and driving low income families out;
MORE FAMILIES BEING MADE HOMELESS through government imposing unrealistic criteria on poor people needing a home, and using reviewable tenancies to push state tenants out of their homes and into the private rental market and increasingly, into homelessness.
MORE CHILDREN HOSPITALISED with rheumatic fever and other diseases that the Child Health Monitor Report says are caused through poverty – living in cold, damp houses, and not going to the doctor because they can’t afford it.
MORE OF A GAP BETWEEN THE ACHIEVEMENT LEVELS of kids in low and high decile schools with Ministry figures showing that the gap has risen between the NCEA achievement rates of kids in decile 1 schools and kids in decile 10 schools.
And MORE PEOPLE IN PRISON and on home detention, especially Maori, with prison rates up for both Maori men and Maori women.
And that’s where the LESS comes into it, because all these problems arise as a direct result of less funding being spent where it’s needed most: on creating jobs with decent wages, building good quality homes for low income whanau, and making the health and education of our young people an absolute priority.
Government makes a big deal about having to cut spending to get the books back in the black, but all we have seen are massive cuts to core public services like housing, health, and education, and increasing inequities between rich and poor as a direct result of those cuts.
What we are seeing is financial racism imposed upon the poor to feed the wealthy; MORE to the rich and LESS to the poor.
LESS FUNDING FOR HOUSING with HNZ shutting up shop, offering people an 0800 number that nobody answers, and offloading tenancies onto WINZ. Government stripping $400m out of the purchase and upgrade of state houses and providing limited funds for Social Housing Providers who are expected to develop their own capacity, provide new homes, repair old homes, maintain homes on an on-going basis, and then cop the flak when the money runs out.
LESS FUNDING FOR EDUCATION leading to cuts in quality, poor results in international tests, the dropping of tertiary courses, the axing of Maori research funding, and an increase in course costs and student loan debt.
LESS FUNDING FOR HEALTH, leading to higher doctor’s fees and prescription charges, worse health outcomes for those in low income families, especially Maori & PI kids, and greater costs for society down the track.
AND LESS FUNDING FOR THOSE HEALTH PROVIDERS who work in the poorest communities addressing the most acute health needs, EVERY year for the past five years.
So WHAT DO WE GET FROM THIS BUDGET?
WHAT WE GET ARE MASSIVE CUTS TO PRIMARY & PREVENTATIVE HEALTH CARE, and the ridiculous sight of National and Maori Party MPs crowing about spending money on rheumatic fever, and while that’s great, because rheumatic fever is a killer in poor Maori and Pacific families all over Aotearoa, it’s also important to note that rheumatic fever is a third world disease and we’re supposed to be living in one of the most developed countries in the world. Spending money on rheumatic fever is not something to crow about; it’s an embarrassment that we should be cringing about.
WHAT WE GET IS A SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT ALLOCATION whose signature policy initiative for 2014 is – wait for it folks – a $1m kutu chair!!! How’s that for innovative, targeted spending? A kutu chair for god’s sake. Oh yeah, and some money for budgeting services to cope with a growing queue of beneficiaries struggling to get by.
ALL WE’RE GETTING is the same old National-Maori Party-ACT-United Future Budgets we got in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013; budgets with neither strategy nor funding for the eradication of child poverty; no plan for low cost housing; no community jobs programme; and no plan to raise the minimum wage or to introduce a living wage.
And even though the Maori Party talks about being “at the table”, the cold-hearted reality is that in all the key social areas of HEALTH, EDUCATION, HOUSING, JUSTICE, WELFARE and EMPLOYMENT, on Budget Day 2014, Maori are worse off than they were when the Maori Party first signed up to National in 2008.
On Budget Day 2014, the only places where Maori continue to soar are in unemployment, low wages, homelessness, hospitalisations, educational under-achievement, inequality, child poverty, and prison numbers.
Mr Speaker – if a budget is about how we set out our priorities and outline the financial strategies to achieve those priorities, then we must be strong enough to identify the important ones, courageous enough to allocate the money needed to achieve them, and then unwavering in our determination to realise them. Those priorities define what kind of society it is we want, and the resources we dedicate to them in a budget are an expression of our commitment to achieving them.
For MANA, those priorities are simple, because they speak of the society we would want to leave for the next generation – a commitment to feeding the kids, building homes for every family, providing jobs for everyone, and paying for it all by taxing those who can afford to pay for it. We have the means. We have the capability. All we need is the political will.
And that political will can only come when enough people in this country, Maori, Pakeha, Pacifica, Tauiwi, all those in genuine need in Aotearoa, are determined enough to want to CHANGE THE GOVERNMENT strong enough to demand that we CHANGE THE PRIORITIES and committed enough to the view that we must always PUT PEOPLE BEFORE PROFITS.