MANA in Parliament, 16-18 October 2012

Posted on October 22, 2012 by admin in Mana in Parliament

Government Bills up this week

  • First up this week was the third and final reading of the Customs and Excise (Tobacco Products – Budget Measures) Amendment Bill to increase the price of tobacco by 10% each year for the next four years, pushing the price of cigarettes to over $20 per pack by 2016.  Research shows price increases are one of the most effective mechanisms to get people to quit smoking and to prevent people from lighting up in the first place.  MANA supported the law change.  However, this was the only government bill up this week that will have a positive impact on our wellbeing.
  • However, this was the only government bill up this week that will have a positive impact on our wellbeing.  Also up was the first reading of the Education Amendment Bill to establish charter schools in Aotearoa.  While the new ‘partnership schools’ are purportedly being introduced to address the underachievement of Māori and PI kids, they’re actually based on a model that fails 40% of Black male students in the US.  Pushed by ACT and supported by National, United Future and the Māori Party, they’re more about private business profit than improving achievement and will greatly reduce the funding available to go into existing schools and kura.  $15 million is already being spent this year alone just to develop the policy framework.  Some Iwi are interested in charter schools to no doubt have less state interference in educating their tamariki, but the important thing to remember is this isn’t a decolonisation scheme but a privatising one set in a business context with business rules.  MANA opposed the bill.  See the MANA website, www.mana.net.nz, for Hone’s media statement.
  • Another troubling bill up this week – which MANA also opposed – was the Minimum Wage (Starting-out Wage) Amendment Bill to reintroduce youth rates, and not only for 16-17 year olds but for 18-19 year olds as well.  It’s being sold as a measure to create jobs and encourage employers to take a punt on unemployed youth, but there’s no evidence that this kind of policy actually has these effects.  Instead, what happens is that some employers use the policy to lay off older staff and replace them with cheaper youth labour – so it’s more about cost savings for employers and shafting workers, and further entrenching poverty in Aotearoa.  See the website for Hone’s statement on the bill, “More Youth to Australia”.

Member’s Bills

Every second Wednesday in Parliament is a Member’s Day where MP’s bills’ get heard, as opposed to government bills.  Up this week were a number of interesting bills which MANA supported, including:

  • The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill to broaden the scope of the Reserve Bank from interest rates to also include things like the value of the NZ dollar (exchange rate), export growth, and employment.  Big changes are needed in the way the economy is run to stop businesses from moving off-shore or going under and taking New Zealand jobs with them.
  • The Income Tax (Universalisation of In-work Tax Credit) Amendment Bill to ensure the $60 in-work tax credit, that is part of Working For Families, is paid to every parent in the country and not just those in paid work.  In 2008, the Child Poverty Action Group took the Labour government to court over the discriminatory nature of this payment (which replaced the child tax credit), as it isn’t paid to parents who’re existing solely on a benefit.  Extending the payment to beneficiary parents would be one simple way to help address the high rate of child poverty in New Zealand.  Hone attended the ‘Stop Child Poverty Rally’ on Parliament steps organised by the bill’s sponsor, Metiria Tūrei, to publicise the bill and its purpose.

MANA and the week’s big issues

  • Manufacturing Inquiry:  Following a communication error last week that saw MANA excluded from the Labour, Greens, NZ First-led parliamentary inquiry into the manufacturing and employment crisis, MANA is now on board.  As part of the inquiry MANA has asked for a financial transaction tax to be considered to help strengthen the NZ economy, increase wages and lift employment.  A financial transaction tax, or Hone Heke tax as MANA has renamed it, would tax the activities of the super rich, like currency trading.  In so doing it would help regulate the value of our dollar, supporting export businesses and industries, and raise billions of tax income – enough to ‘cut down’ GST and invest in job creation schemes like the building of 20,000 new state houses.  See the MANA website for Hone’s media statement.
  • Glen Innes housing:  Instead of building state houses, however, the government’s plan continues to be to tear them down or relocate in order to clear land for their property developer mates to make yet another fortune off.  As many of you will already be aware, Hone (and others) was arrested last week when helping defend the removal of these homes, and appeared in court Wednesday morning to defend himself on the charge of ‘failing to remove a vehicle from a road’.  You the man Hone!  See the MANA website for John Minto’s media statement entitled, “The real criminals:  National”.  And also see John’s follow-up statement on how the removal companies and police have backed off since the arrests and publicity of last week, giving the Housing Minister an opportunity to intervene, stop the removals, and talk directly to the people of Glen Innes.  Watch this space.
  • Te Kōhanga Reo:  Wednesday also saw the release of the Waitangi Tribunal’s report on the case brought before them by Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust.  The Tribunal issued another strong ruling in favour of Māori, this time finding that the government breached the Treaty by failing to support the development of kōhanga and te reo Māori, and made a host of recommendations to increase participation, quality, and funding.  Hone issued a statement from MANA acknowledging the Tribunal, the Trust, and the commitment from kōhanga whānau to te reo Māori “even when times are hard”.  He also said the government is unlikely to change its ways – despite having a Māori Education Minister (Hekia Parata) and Associate Minister (Pita Sharples) on board.  See the MANA website for further details.
  • Asset sales and the water case:  Earlier in the week the government announced it will go ahead with the sale of Mighty River Power early next year – in direct opposition to the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal that asset sales be halted until Māori interests in water are settled, and completely against Māori opinion expressed at the Kingitanga hui, the government’s recent ‘consultation’ round, and the hui with Mataatua Iwi last week.  In his media statement of Tuesday, Hone said the decision was “arrogant and irresponsible, but not surprising” and will lead to an expensive and unnecessary court battle.  After two days of public outcry over the announcement, the government then said they would offer shares to those Iwi yet to settle their claims – which they would have to pay for, of course.  In response to this announcement, Hone released a further statement calling the move “insulting and divisive”.  Insulting because it’s a government afterthought to keep the plug in their leaking asset sales agenda, and divisive because it’s being offered to some Iwi and not others and because cash-strapped Iwi might be tempted to get involved in something they’d ordinarily reject.  He called for Iwi to stay strong and unite with the Council over the fight for recognition of Māori water rights, and not buy into the asset sales agenda.  The Māori Council filed papers in the High Court on Friday afternoon to fight the partial sale and privatisation of Mighty River Power.