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Maiden Speech of Metiria Turei

Metiria Turei MP
Metiria Turei MP
metiria [dot] turei [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)
Ko Tararua me Ruapehu oku maunga
Ko Ruamahanga me Whanganui oku awa
Ko Takitimu me Aotea oku waka
No Rangitane, Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa me Ati- Hau-nui-a-Paparangi
Ko Ngati Moe me Wainuiarua oku hapu
Ko Papawai me Upokotauaki oku marae
Ko Teoti Rangitekaiwaho Turei me Piupiu Taputoro oku matua tipuna
Ko Richard Ropata Eruera Turei toku matua engari kua hinga ia i roto i nga ringaringa o nga Atua inaianei.
Ko Janice Turei toku whaea
Ko Metiria Turei ahau
Kia ora koutou katoa

Mr Speaker

First up, I say the biggest thanks and love to my dad, Richard Turei, my mum Janice, to Tania, Worik, Angie and Bruno and my daughter Piupiu. We are walking a very strange path now and I can't express how grateful and relieved I am that we are walking it together.

I also say a big love to my TeWhaiti whanau, Uncle Jack, Nancy and the girls and Aunty Cowlen too.

And of course a humungous thanks and appreciation to the Green Party Aotearoa, the Auckland Campaign team and Lynn, Phil, Richard and all those who gave the Party their support. We have committed to a Green parliamentary presence so that the Green vision can be articulated both on the streets and in the big house. That is awesome. Ehara taku toa I te takitahi engari he toa takitini, My strength is not my own but that of a multitude.

I especially want to thank the team who campaigned in the Tamaki Makaurau electorate, Sandi, Mike, Shane, Vanessa, Gabriel and Regina. We did a awesome job and gave John a bit of a run for his money. Working with you was heaps of fun.

And speaking of fun, I want to pay a special tribute to my political roots:

(He Waiata)
Kaore he pouri i Aotearoa
Kaore nga hipi i runga i ou pamu
Kaore he pouri i Aotearoa
Me noho mahaki tonu tatou

Korero nga tangata i World War Three
Korero nga tangata i World War Three
Kei te pai noa iho tatou noho
Kaore he raruraru i tenei whenua

Mr Speaker,

I grew up in a working class Maori family and we were poor. But I was most deeply affected in my childhood by my parents who shared without question their meagre resources with many of our friends and family.

This sharing was the exercise of our Maori familial values, best expressed as whanaungatanga, where the whole whanau cared for and took responsibility for all its members. Like many Maori I grew up with this sharing as a fundamental expression of my Maori self.

But I also grew up in a racist society, where the expression of Maori values is considered a failure to cope in a modern society. The notion that the western-styled two parent family unit is the only cornerstone of a decent society is an example. That notion is a racist one. The expression by Maori of our values like whanaungatanga is undermined by the perpetuation of such notions. To be a Maori in this society is to be revolutionary by existence.

My politicisation, my subversiveness was grounded in my living my life as a Maori.

Mr Speaker,

My personal political journey has lead me to the reasonable conclusion that the present state has no legitimacy and that it must ultimately be transformed into a system which implements Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It is a commonly held view.

Noam Chomsky once described a conversation about the nature of the State that he had with a group of Brazilian activists and anarchists who hold a similar view and they have a saying that we should "widen the floor of the cage".

Prof. Chomsky went on to describe the Brazilians analysis, he said and I quote:
"We know we're in a cage. We know we're trapped. We're going to expand the floor, meaning we will extend to the limits what the cage will allow. And we intend to destroy the cage. But not by attacking the cage when we're vulnerable, so they'll murder us. You have to protect the cage when it's under attack from even worse predators from outside, like private power. And you have to expand the floor of the cage. These are all preliminaries to dismantling it. Unless people are willing to tolerate that level of complexity, they're going to be of no use to people who are suffering and who need help."

We too, in Aotearoa, live in a cage. We are caged by the State, a political and economic system that relegates basic human needs and ecological integrity to the fringes of our existence.

And we can look to a variety of examples in this country:
  • where the ideas of equal opportunity and equality of value deny the reality that Maori have been treated differently and valued differently by our society and in our legislation since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
  • Where wages are not based on what a family needs to live but are kept to the minimum a person will work for.
  • Where benefit levels are kept below a liveable level expressly for the purposes of keeping wages low.
  • where housing provision is directed to providing a return on investment for landlords rather than to the needs of families and children, who require shelter and security;
  • Where the cannabis prohibition laws are used to oppress and imprison Maori and young people.
  • And where we are continually told that our material wellbeing requires the sacrifice of the environment, on which our lives depend.

But let's give the devil its due, the floor of our cage is wider than in many other countries and while the cage controls and oppresses us it also provides limitations on the worst excesses of private power. We have a minimum wage and a benefit system which helps to alleviate the worst poverty. We have state housing which provides for some a degree of stability.

And of course the cage can, if it chooses, protect us from external predators like corporate globalisation. Corporate globalisation is the new wave of colonisation, which impacts on indigenous and non-indigenous alike. Corporate globalisation and the acceptance of free trade agreements threatens our economy, our environment, our people and our sovereignty, yours and mine.

I am honoured to stand with my Green colleagues, Sue Bradford and Nandor Tanczos who put their well being at risk in Melbourne two years ago in order to demonstrate that threat to the world and Aotearoa in particular.

Maori, who of course have a long history of analysing and critiquing colonialist power structures, have a sophisticated analysis of globalisation and its many manifestations like genetic engineering, biopiracy and the patenting of life forms.

And Maori also hold another layer of protection that could be of enormous benefit to the whole of our society, if only the State would choose to exercise it.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Maori text as signed and understood by those who signed it, provides a powerful protection against corporate globalisation because it establishes an entirely different paradigm for our society, one which does not reduce our people to consumers and our taonga to baubles.

Te Tiriti was a visionary document that established a very sophisticated constitutional structure, placing Maori beyond the vagaries of the cage created by kawanatanga and affirming the exercise of Maori social, economic and political rights and responsibilities. But of course we know that rather than adhere to that agreement and help in constructing that society, the state claimed for itself a monopoly on the use of violence and through violent and legislative means set out to destroy the tangata whenua.

As time has marched on and Maori have continued to fight for recognition as a Treaty partner, the post colonial State has co-opted the Treaty and reduced the tikanga in that document to mere property rights. The States approach and subsequent failure to acknowledge Maori political rights is evidenced in the unilaterally defined Treaty settlement process, where our taonga are property and our authority to make decisions is undermined.

This co-option of the Treaty is merely the State attempting to give the cage a Maori motif.

The Greens recognise that changing this paradigm is an evolutionary process. It will require a long process of dialogue among our whole community. Our Green policy on Te Tiriti focuses not on what the state can do for Mäori but on working with Mäori to develop Maori-defined forums and institutions by which we can begin to implement Te Tiriti.

I know that while I work to achieve the ultimate goal of the transformation of the state, my friends, my family and many, many people are finding daily life extremely difficult.

So I now accept my place in the cage and I accept the responsibility to do everything I can to widen the floor of the cage to the maximum it can be forced. As a legislator I will attempt to make changes to legislation that will in some part relieve the very real distress suffered by workers, beneficiaries, students, children, families, whanau and hapu.

For example:
  • Increase benefit levels;
  • Reform the cannabis laws;
  • Eliminate the "our poo your problem" approach to sewage management;
  • Lift the minimum wage for all workers;
  • Resource hapu and iwi to engage with DOC in a meaningful, Maori defined process;
  • Resource hapu and iwi to engage with local government in a meaningful, Maori defined process;
  • Ensure that businesses are responsible for the cleaning up of toxic sites they have polluted; and
  • Protect our kiatiakitanga.

Mr Speaker,

Everyone who rejects the dominant paradigm dislikes being in this cage. And we do a range of things to express this rejection:
  • we protest and demonstrate;
  • we take non-violent direct action;
  • we engage in decolonialisation processes for Pakeha and Maori;
  • we grow our food on public property ;
  • we step out of the system altogether and model alternative lives;
  • we survive on the dole enjoying ourselves;
  • we put out lives at risk to protect our environment;
  • we teach our children to respect themselves and our environment;
  • we vote;
  • we refuse to vote;
  • we create and are artistic;
  • we have fun without buying things;
  • we work tirelessly for our whanau and hapu without being paid;

but always we are working, in our personal, social, economic and political lives, towards the dismantling of the cage. I don't doubt for one moment that it will happen. The State will be transformed, as only te Tiriti o Waitangi has moral authority in this country.

I accept that some may argue that what I have outlined is not transformation but reformation, mere tinkering, but this is not a compromise, it is not complacency.

It is a strategy.

We empower individuals;
We strengthen and support families;
We build communities;
We politicise the populace; and as in my case perhaps
We infiltrate the power structures.

Finally Mr Speaker, in my own journey of empowerment, politicisation and subversiveness I have found myself a member of the establishment, but not now nor ever its advocate.

Tena koutou tena koutou katoa.

(He Waiata)


Maiden Speech in Parliament
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