Paptuanuaku te whaea, tena koe. Te whenua o nga iwi, tena koe.
Ngati Raukawa, Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai, Ngati Toa Rangatira, Te Atiawa ki Te Upoko o Te Ika, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Ruanui tena koutou katoa,
E hoa ma, tënā koutou.
Tënā koutou katoa.
I also want to acknowledge the ongoing pain and suffering of those in Haiti. Mihi nui ki a koutou katoa ki tënei wa pouri. Daily we hear of the struggles. And daily we hear of the miracles. Our thoughts are with the people of Haiti today.
I also want to acknowledge the Ratana Celebrations this weekend. My own whanau are Ratana and we spent a great deal of time there over the years. I want to pay my respects to the tupuna, the kuia and kaumatua of Ratana Pa today and wish them the best for the celebrations.
I am here to fight for the people who need our support. I am here to fight for the people to whom I belong. And today I want to tell you about them.
I grew up in Palmerston North, in a typical Maori working class family. My parents worked very hard to put a roof over our heads, feed and clothe us - and it was a struggle. My dad was a labourer all his short life, working on farms and orchards, shooting deer, whatever was going. We, especially my Dad, lived subject to overt and nasty racism that pervaded work, school and housing. It was a typical working class Maori life repeated thousands of times in Aotearoa.
I didn't do too good at school, I don't have School C or 6th form. After leaving school, I did a bit of work, at a coffee shop, even collecting worm poo for the DSIR - that was fun - and other bits and pieces.
And then I moved to Wellington, on the dole and I got to know the Wellington Unemployed Rights Centre. It was a hotbed of political activism and community advocacy. I worked in the Palmerston North unemployed rights centre and then went to Auckland and worked with Sue Bradford.
This was a time when beneficiary bashing was at its height.
I remember the 'dob in a bludger' advertisements on TV in the late 1990s. They cost $1.5 million and directly attacked solo parents.
I remember the abuse. I remember that the people being treated with such vitriol were my own people. People just like my family, people just like my friends, people with young families that they struggled to care for, people desperate for work and persecuted because there was none, ordinary New Zealanders treated with casual and callous disregard for their dignity.
I worked with the very young, the very old, families, Maori, Pakeha, Pacifica, all who were fighting everyday for just the very basics to live.
After a time I moved on, now the solo parent of a very young child and on the DPB. That was when I had my eureka moment. I had a chance to really make a difference for her and I. So when she was a baby, I started law school in Auckland.
I was still on the DPB, I used the training incentive allowance to help with study costs, I shared childcare with friends and family, I worked hard so that we might in years to come have a better life.
Let me say this very clearly.
I am proud to have been a beneficiary. It was the right thing for me to do for our future. It was right to be supported to study at university. It was right for my girl to have a childcare subsidy. It was right to be able to use the special needs grant to pay my power bill and buy food when things got really tough.
In all the time I worked with beneficiaries, in all the time I was one and all the many others I knew who were just like me, it was absolutely right that the benefits were there for us.
The only thing that was wrong was that we were all being punished for it.
And here we are again.
I have not forgotten my community. I am here for a safe and fair society that cares for all its people. So I make this commitment to you, this bad government will not last. Hold on, because the Greens are coming.
Courage and compassion are not features of John Key's government. He has not created real jobs for New Zealanders. His people have instead sunk to attacking those with no power to reply. He is telling a story that the most vulnerable families are the bad guys. But he is wrong.
The Government attacks our most vulnerable citizens without even the evidence to attempt to justify it. In 2008 Auditor-General's office gave a tick to the Ministry of Social Development's fraud prevention and detection systems. They are working fine.
In fact allegations of benefit abuse and substantiated overpayments of benefits have fallen significantly over recent years.
There is more to the story than John Key tells you.
Many of those reportedly getting $1000 a week are doing so because they are caring for someone else's kids. They, who have great generosity and care for children, are being bullied by this government.
And the man accused of being on the unemployment benefit for 22 years, has been working as a bus driver part-time, getting as little as $4 a week in benefits and he is being bullied by this government.
This government will bully a person, just to keep them silent and just to get votes.
Well we have not forgotten you. So hold on, we're coming.
This whole exercise is just an ugly beat-up by Paula Bennett and John Key to massage public opinion into attacking the vulnerable.
Better to restore benefits to a liveable standard, better to bring back a universal child allowance and better to build more social housing, helping our economy out of recession along the way.
Just this week we saw 1000 people queued up for supermarket jobs in Manurewa. Our problem is about a lack of jobs, not a lack of will. Yet Paula Bennett still threatens to cut benefits.
This government will persecute mothers and fathers for making the time to raise their babies.
Paula may have forgotten her past, but I have not. So hold on, we're coming
But having a job in New Zealand doesn't mean you're making enough money to survive. Our minimum wage is so pitiful that many who work fulltime still need top ups from the Government just to cover the basics - food and shelter.
The take home pay for a 40 hour a week job on the minimum wage is just $409. Your average rent in Auckland is $384. You simply cannot support a family on 400 bucks a week.
The minimum wage must go up.
The Green Party is very proud to work alongside Unite on a campaign to get our minimum wage up to $15 dollars an hour. You can help by signing your name to our petition, it's making the rounds. Please don't leave without signing it
Hold on, I say, - to your pen, because the petition is coming round.
Lifting the minimum wage is good for the economy as a whole. There is an increased demand for goods and services, because people on low incomes spend, not save, most of their money.
It could save more than $1 billion from the Government's social assistance budget. A billion dollars we could put into schools, or hospitals, or cleaning up the rivers.
And because John Key has ruled out the increase to $15, he is locking in subsidies to employers who refuse to pay their workers enough to live on. Despite the bleating from the Business Roundtable, the businesses who employ most low wage staff are big corporates -supermarket chains, fast food outlets, and service stations, those who make huge profits.
There's also a flow on effect - lifting the minimum wage lifts the wages of low income people generally. Higher wages encourage more people into work. It also reduces labour market churn, improves training opportunities and on the job experience for lower paid workers. This is good for productivity. This is good for all New Zealanders.
This government will sacrifice low paid workers to keep the profits of the few flowing freely.
But hold on. We're coming.
Tax Reform and Affordable Housing
John Key has been quick to talk about welfare fraud but slow to talk about tax fraud. Tough on crime, but not tough on tax.
His government has demonised the poor and the sick and the New Zealanders who need a helping hand. But it has failed to lift a finger about the very wealthy exploiting the tax system.
There is nothing wrong with investing for your retirement, but the system is set up so the more money you have, the less tax you pay. We have a problem when there is $220 billion invested in housing assets but the tax take is minus $500m.
We urgently need changes to the tax system that will make it more balanced.
The Labour Government turned a blind eye to the housing crisis and housing bubbles. It meant our productive sector was starved of investment. It meant house prices so high many New Zealanders could not afford to own a home.
All New Zealanders deserve affordable housing and changing the tax system could make a real difference.
It requires courage from John Key's government, because many of his voters and donors profit from the system as it is now.
To help John Key's government take steps towards a fair and balanced tax system I can today pledge the Green Party's support for appropriate tax reform that gives New Zealanders better access to affordable housing.
The Greens offer our support for a comprehensive capital gains tax provided the family home is exempt. We offer this support because a capital gains tax is a progressive tax that leads to a better investment balance and broadens the tax base by nearly $4 billion.
A Land tax is not Green Party policy, but we support an open debate on how a comprehensive package, including a land tax could help us to access the affordable housing we urgently need. No land tax can proceed without addressing the issue of Maori land and ensuring that the tax change does not drive the development of ecologically sensitive land
And we need to close those loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid paying tax through their investment properties.
The Greens will not support any package that includes cuts to the top levels of income tax or any increase in GST because these changes would exacerbate the differences between the rich and poor in our society.
Let me make that clear. The Greens are opposed to cuts in the top levels of income tax. We are opposed to any increase in GST.
This government may lack courage and decide to use the poor to fund the rich.
But we will fight back, so hold on, cos we're coming.
Our support is there if John Key's Government wants to make a bold move towards a tax system that promotes affordable housing and a more equal society.
There is a way through this mess but it requires leadership and it requires courage and it requires political parties working together.
I am real supporter of the Maori Party - I value this independent political Maori voice - we need it more now than ever. So I keep looking for areas of substance where we can work together. But it has to be real substance - not symbols. We share the same concerns about tax reform, we share a belief in whanau first and we know Maori Party supporters daily are at the flax roots working for real change with communities and the environment. We support that work 100%.
But John Key's do-nothing government now has the Maori Party with it and so the Maori Party does little for the majority. Instead it works for the wealthy. It supported John Key's government as it gutted our emissions trading scheme, giving billions of taxpayer dollars to big polluters. It has done nothing to maintain environmental laws. Instead it watched John Key's government water down the RMA. This is not leadership; this is not even follow the leader. This is not about values or moral courage. It's called working for the man.
But we will be here when the Maori Party needs its friends, we will be here when they are ready to stand up against this National government which does not take the high road, but instead takes the path of least resistance, the lazy path.
We wrestled with the global recession in 2009 and 150,000 Kiwis are out of work. National just stood by and watched. Sometimes they bashed some beneficiaries because it is easier to persecute the poor than to raise the minimum wage.
John Key's government took just one significant step to help stimulate the economy and it is an idea they borrowed from us: the home insulation scheme that makes our houses warm and dry while it reduces our energy use and our power bills. It has been wildly successful. We're on track to improve 180,000 homes. The idea was the Green Party's and we have more where that one came from.
So to those needing a warm dry home, hold on cos you know we're coming.
The Green Party stands by its values. The Green Party has the courage of its convictions. Over our 10 years in parliament we haven't change policies to suit the latest craze. We don't change our policies, we change the political agenda.
We stood up against GE. It wasn't easy but it was the right thing to do.
We gave children legal protection from assault. It wasn't easy, but it was right.
We've fought for healthy food in schools and education for sustainability.
We've pushed for better trains and buses and the electrification of Auckland rail in particular.
In the last year alone, we've shown how New Zealand can face economic and environmental challenges at the same time with plans like the home insulation fund and the Green New Deal.
We've fought for tax and banking reform that works for all New Zealanders.
We've shown how we can reduce our emissions and show global leadership in the climate change crisis.
In 2010 we will fight against John Key's plans for mining our conservation land.
We will fight to keep our clean green image, protect water quality and keep cows out of factory farms.
We will fight against the attacks on solo parents and struggling families, those without secure homes, those without work.
We take on these fights because we love this country. We will look after all its people and we will look after its water, land and wildlife. And we always will.