Mahuta admits defeat on child poverty

Published: Fri 7 Nov 2008 09:29 AM
Mahuta admits defeat on child poverty – Maori Party
Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader 7 November 2008
Youth Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s lame excuses for her Labour government’s failure to tackle child poverty show how far out of touch the government is with the plight of the poor, according to Maori Party Co-leader Tariana Turia.
“Stop telling poor people what you can't do, and tell us what you will do, for the 230,000 children identified by the Child Poverty Action Group as living in severe or significant hardship,” Mrs Turia advised.
"Raising the profile of the poor, or taking action for children, has never been much of a vote-catcher," said Mrs Turia. "But the Maori Party believes that every politician has a moral responsibility, a duty of care, to speak up for those who may not have a voice - and that is why eliminating poverty has been such a major theme throughout our campaign".
“The Minister says her government’s tax regime is ‘more realistic’ because it puts money in the hands of working people. The point made by family advocates, and proven by the government’s own research, is that a significant group falls through the government’s welfare net, mainly where adults are not working for whatever reason,” she said.
“The children of these families are punished by this government’s policies. That injustice is what the Maori Party’s economic packages are designed to address,” said Mrs Turia.
“The Minister says benefits go to those most in need. But only yesterday, Derek Fox arrived in Wellington, shocked at the poverty he had encountered while travelling by bus from the far end of his Ikaroa Rawhiti electorate.
“Derek met old people living in sub-standard houses in rural isolation; families with four generations unemployed and dependent on a benefit; he saw charities distributing bread to the poor, and suburbs where over 80% of kids truant from school.
“What is the Minister of Youth Affairs doing for the one in five of young Maori who are unemployed? What can she do, when almost half of Maori boys leave school without passing NCEA Level 1? How can the ‘lucky’ ones with a job survive on casual, part-time work that pays only $12 an hour?” Mrs Turia asked.
“You can keep telling our people how great the government has been, but the truth is out, on the streets and in the homes of the people this government has neglected,” she said.
“After nine years of surpluses, the government’s accounts can afford to provide enough support to keep alive the hopes of the poorest families. Children must be able to expect food on the table – that is the minimum obligation of manaakitanga. Meaningful work for real wages promotes their parents’ rangatiratanga, and helps to prevent the breakdown of family strength that leads on to intractable social and economic problems for the future.
“Huge and complex social problems are already brewing in Maori communities. The Minister has so many words and statements of what her government has done, but nothing is reaching the most vulnerable. The Maori Party is doing something about it.
“I don't mind having aspirations for our people, particularly the poor. That’s much better than warming the Treasury benches, long after you have run out of passion and inspiration to improve the lot of so many of our people,” said Mrs Turia.

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