Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation Bill)
Thursday 9 November 2006; 3.30pm
Te Ururoa Flavell, Member for Waiariki
As we do when you are in Parliament, I try to get to grips with the Bills we consider. For this one, I started with the term “subordinate” It is an interesting word. It can mean:
To ‘belong to a lower or inferior class or rank’; to be ‘subject to the authority or control of another’.
The Maori Party, a party which prides itself on our commitment to upholding due access to justice, to defending and protecting human rights; is immediately interested in any legislation which unashamedly sets out to create hierarchies of power and control.
So here we turn to this Bill to confirm and validate the deliberate minimising of power and control as it relates to bio-security, to road user charges, to tariffs, to nashi Asian pears.
What do you do with the long lists of regulatory changes – literally apples and oranges, oysters and alcohol, all blended in with the odd lump sum payment here and there?
The suite of subordinate legislative proposals raises the fundamental question about the rapid path of regulation that this Government is following. Government by Regulation.
The major concern that we see with this Bill is the reality of so much regulation that escapes the scrutiny of Parliament. The detail and scope of the significant regulatory proposals identified in this Bill warn us as to the obvious likelihood that similar proposals may sit within the Regulation Committee and never make it here to the House.
As to the points of detail in this Bill, Madam Speaker, the Maori Party has considered four significant issues which prevent us from supporting the package in its entirety.
The Excise Duty Order on tobacco products clashes front on, with our intentions as a party, to introduce a private members bill to make the production, manufacture and sale of tobacco products, illegal.
The Maori Party was really heartened by the TV3 poll in April this year, which reported that 52% of New Zealanders are also in favour of getting tobacco out of Aotearoa. Our aim is to eliminate tobacco out of Aotearoa, by 10 December 2010 – six years after bars and restaurants went smoke free.
With this aim in mind, we therefore strongly oppose the amendment in the Bill relating to the indexation of tobacco products.
The second area is the Social Security (rates of Benefits and Allowances) Order. The Government should read its own reports. If it did, there would have been priority placed on immediate action to address the increase that has been identified in the proportion of the population experiencing severe hardship.
In the Government’s Social Well-being report in August, page after page revealed that the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer.
For the 2006 report described the proportion of the population with low incomes as substantially higher in 2004 than in 1988. 19% of that population is now living below the 60% poverty threshold, compared with 12% in 1988.
In light of this, the Maori Party recommends that the rates of benefits and allowances order needs amendment rather than validation and confirmation of what we consider to be basically invalid payments in the greater scheme of whanau well-being.
What’s the point of a fat budget surplus, Madam Speaker, of $11.5 billion if it is not being gainfully applied to support the most vulnerable members of our society?
The third area of concern is in relation to the contentious issues around tariff.
And when we think about tariff, we think it could be useful to apply some analysis against the Genuine Progress Index. If one measures any progress against a full range of social, economic, ecological and environmental indicators, we are likely to achieve a more comprehensive and accurate assessment than current measures based on the Gross Domestic Product.
Under such an analysis, the Maori Party will support fair trade agreements rather than agreements which position Aotearoa as a market for cheap goods made by companies which exploit workers, the environment, indigenous lands and people.
If the recent fascination by both Labour and National with climate change is anything to go by, one would think they would be open to the possibilities of doing things differently!!!
Madam Speaker, we cannot address climate change, if the rampant consumerism and consumption which is a part and parcel of tariff reduction, is not addressed.
The fourth significant area of concern is related to the War Pensions (Rates of Pensions, Lump Sum Payments and Allowances) Order.
The Maori Party has consistently been raising issues in the House about the legitimate and long-standing grievances of the Vietnam Veterans.
We have risen in this House to alert our colleagues to:
The need to support Vietnam veterans who were exposed to dangerous levels of dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange;
The need to respond to the call from these Veterans to receive the full medical treatment and monitoring they deserve;
The right for the families of all those affected by Agent Orange to access free and suitable healthcare for their children and grand-children for at least seven generations;
The differences in pension payments and compensation under the War Pensions Act and ACC clearly disadvantage former servicemen;
And indeed the call for justice for all.
Bruce Ibitser, in his work on the tortuous processes of Veterans Affairs New Zealand has summed it all up when he described the case of veterans in the following way:
“Their earning capacity has been taken from them by their service to country, consigned to an income akin to poverty line and exacerbated by blatant discrimination.
Many veteran pensioners have to sell family assets to stay afloat, causing huge disruption to themselves and their families”.
Madam Speaker, 60% of the Vietnam Veterans are Maori.
And yet to add insult to injury, in spite of the disadvantages and obstacles to their rehabilitation that I’ve just referred to, the simple wish that Maori veterans raised to hold hui on marae was rejected outright by the independent Joint Working Party.
There is no excuse for the rights of Vietnam veterans not to be heard.
We know now, tragically, that Agent Orange contains dioxin which has been found to have serious health side effects including cancers and birth defects.
And just two days ago, the Government admitted that, 'in-the-field support' for children of Vietnam veterans is inadequate.
The Veterans' Affairs Minister Mr Rick Barker declared in this House, that veterans and their families do not have the extent of field support they should, and the Government wants to address that.
Well, here was a perfect opportunity to do just that, and the Government is choosing not to do so.
The War Pensions (Rates of Pensions, Lump Sum Payments and Allowances) Order could have been amended to assess the discriminatory impact of the differences in pension payments and compensation available for injured soldiers under the War Pensions Act.
Madam Speaker, there are some positive passages in this Bill.
The Maori Party supports the recommendation to confirm the Road User Charges (Rates) Order as we support the concept behind road use charges, and would further recommend that they be spent on transport issues rather than the consolidated fund.
We are also very supportive of the changes made to confirm the Bio-security Orders, risk-screening levy and the shipping container levy.
But these positive initiatives are overshadowed by the substantial concerns we have with the four areas I described previously.
Unfortunately, it would appear the concept of sub-ordinate as meaning “a lower or inferior class or rank” has been applied in this Bill to the detriment of our Vietnam Veterans, or to our most impoverished children and families.
We envisage a pool of cheap overseas labour, subject to the authority or control of the Labour Government, let in through the new tariff laws. And we witness more moves to just let the health of New Zealanders go up in smoke.
As a result of such significant misgivings, the Maori Party will not support this Bill.