Tuesday 1 January 2008

Tax cuts and the Budget - Hone Harawira

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira speaks his mind in parliament on the Budget and tax cuts. Thursday 22 May. Kia ora tatou e te Whare. I do not often support the Employers and Manufacturers Association in this House, but when it comes up with the comment "Was that it?" about these tax cuts, I absolutely support that comment. The difference is that I am talking on behalf of the poorer people in this country. I am talking on behalf of organisations like the Child Poverty Action Group. I am talking on behalf of the Salvation Army. I am talking on behalf of all of those social service agencies that have been calling for some real, basic relief for people in need. The fact that both ends of the scale can be screaming out for assistance and getting nothing suggests that this Budget is going nowhere for anyone. I am talking about food, for example, and the call for GST to be taken off food. The response of the Prime Minister is that it would be an administrative nightmare. Hello - an administrative nightmare? We would be happier to have people starve than to bother to do the paperwork to take GST off food. That is insulting to the population of this country. I am surprised that the so-called Labour Party - the so-called party of the working class, the party that is supposed to represent the interests of those in need - could talk about an issue as important as reducing the price of food, and say that the Government is not going to take GST off food simply because it will be an administrative nightmare. Then on top of that we find out that Australia has done it - it is not too hard for Australia. Canada has done it - it is not too hard for Canada. Why can we not do it? At a time when this Government admits that there is not a lot else that it can do for the poor, a simple step would have been to take GST off food. Sure, there are all kinds of arguments that we should be looking at non-processed food etc., etc., but let us get there eventually. But the simple call to take GST off food would have lifted a weight off the families in greatest need in this country. This Government had the opportunity to do it in this Budget, and it chose not to because it would have meant more paperwork. For anybody to assume we cannot do it because of too much paperwork is an insult to the people who have voted Labour for so long, an insult to the people most in need in this country, and an insult to the intelligence of New Zealanders. I am not a great fan of Labour, but I saw something from John Tamihere, a former Minister, apparently. He made a comment in the paper that if the Government wanted to connect with the voter, it could start with something as simple as saying that people's first $5,000 would be tax-free. The Maori Party thinks it should actually be $10,000, but $5,000 is a start - the first $10,000 tax-free would be great. That does not mean anything to people in Parliament. I am probably the lowest-paid guy in Parliament and I am getting $125,000. That is bucket loads of money where I come from. That is more money than I could ever contemplate making; it is more than twice as much money as I ever made before. Taking the tax off the first $10,000 is kind of meaningless to me. But to a family whose total income is $15,000 it is a hell of a change. It is a huge change. It is an opportunity for them to actually do things for their kids at school, to buy their children a pair of pants instead of having their children come to the school - I have seen this - wearing pants that they must have had handed down to them from their granddad. It is really saddening when that child stops coming to school. When we track down that child's parents we find out that the reason the child cannot come is that he or she loves doing kapa haka but cannot afford to go away on the kapa haka trip, and the parents are embarrassed about it so they do not let their child go to school. It is simple stuff; it is not rocket science. If we take tax off the first $10,000 earned by every New Zealander we will create the opportunity for everybody to benefit, and most of all those in most need - those at the bottom of the ladder. At the moment those at the bottom of the ladder are in desperate need, not because I am saying so or because the Maori Party is saying so but because everybody is saying so. Every economic commentator in the country is talking about how dear the basics of life are, and, for example, how costly milk is. I do the shopping in my family, and I have watched it rocket up. When I came into Parliament, milk cost $2.05 at our local Pak 'N Save; now it is $4.15. It has gone up by more than 100 percent. Those are the basics of life that we should have been trying to address in this Budget, but they have been completely ignored. What happens to the people at the bottom? They will get $12 in their hands. Well, that is two litres of milk, a little tub of butter, and one loaf of bread. That will make a difference at the end of the week - not! This Government had the opportunity to signal that even in times of genuine stress for the whole country it would make a genuine commitment to those at the bottom, but it has chosen not to do so. I congratulate the Green Party on winning that fifty million dollar retrofit for all of the State houses. I know that heaps and heaps of my whanau will benefit from that, and I congratulate the Greens on pushing that and on the fact that it has come up in the Budget. I also thank Labour for going ahead with that. That is a really cool one. I would also like to thank Labour for putting up that twelve million dollars for the Maori nurses. I think that is amazing. That is awesome. That is fantastic. I was also going to congratulate Labour on putting seventeen million dollars into Maori wardens, until I did a bit of a check and found out that it stole seven million dollars from Te Puni Kokiri to pay for it. The other ten million ain't coming next year; it is spread out over the next four years. Folks, Budgets should be based only on one year. We can have a projection, but let us be honest: will this Government be around to spend the rest of it? No, it will not. It is $2.5 million, and that is all it will be - that is all that the Maori wardens will get. When I talk about kohanga, I am talking about Maori-specific money here. How much will kohanga get? Nothing. How much will kura kaupapa get? Nothing. How much will wharekura get? Nothing. How much will wananga get? Nothing. I am a member of the Maori Party. It is our role to defend Maori rights and advance Maori interests for the benefit of the whole nation. This Budget destroys all of the things that we have wanted to achieve over a period of I do not know how many years. There is not a heck of a lot going on. We support absolutely a bottom-line philosophy of ending child poverty. We had the opportunity here to do it. This Labour Government had the opportunity here to do it. It chose not to do so, and at a time when it has been running surpluses of more than $6 billion for the last five or so years. The total tax cut is $1.5 billion. We could have done a lot better than that. This Labour Government has chosen not to do so, and I think this will rebound on it in the polls, when Maori people start looking at those issues. Maori wardens received only 2.5 million, nurses received three million, kura kaupapa received nothing, kohanga received nothing, wharekura received nothing, wananga received nothing - Maori have received nothing. We are disgusted with what is being presented here, and we will be taking this back to our people, because we do not accept that this Government, at any time - neither this Government nor the next one - should ever again be allowed to treat Maori so badly. Tena koe.

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