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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Maori Party urged to spurn 90 day bill

Eyes will be on the Maori party to see how they respond to government moves to rush through parliament under urgency law changes which will allow employers to get rid of workers during their first 90 days of employment without warning or reason.

The government announced it wanted to have the measure made law before Christmas when outline its legislative programme when parliament opened.

A prominent Maori trade union organiser Helen Te Hira says the bill will be the first test for the Maori Party and its relationship with the new government.

“The last time this bill was raised they made a strong decision to stand on the side of workers and workers rights and defeated it, so if they were silent on this I’d want to know why and I’d want to know what changed form then to now that meant they no longer had that view. I don’t think they would be in support of the 90-day bill,” Ms Te Hira says.

Maori party representatives were not available for comment.


Labour leader Phil Goff is hoping the political flavour of Waitangi Day will not be lost if the idea of Waitangi marae chairman Kingi Taurua to make the event less political is adopted.

Mr Tauroa says he would like to see less politics at next year's event on February 6 with things such as a talent quest to make it more of a festive occasion.

Phil Goff says politics should not be taken out of Waitangi Day but he is also keen to see the event as an occasion for celebration.

“Let’s celebrate the day, let’s have the discussion. Let’s have the discussion though where both sides to the discussion can treat the other side with respect. Because I don’t think it does anything for our national day to have the degenerate into personal abuse. Let’s debate the issues, debate them hard but let’s not forget what the day is to celebrate and let’s not forget our need, even when we have disagreements with people, to treat people with mutual respect,” Mr Goff says.


Taonga puoro musician and tutor Rewi Spraggon says he is constantly amazed at the interest in traditional Maori instruments.

He says 50 people turned up at a hui in Otipoti, over the weekend, and serves as a reminder of how many people, both Maori and non Maori, are keen to make and play their own instruments.

He says the workshop, co-hosted by long time musical friend Riki Bennet, is modeled on the successful formula used by the late Hirini Melbourne and Richard Nunns, who are credited with having sparked the revival in taonga puoro.

“Really explaining not only the sounds but the genealogy of these instruments and I think that makes it more personal and for them to actually go away and make a taonga and then play a taonga, they enjoy it, so it’s a real buzz,” Mr Spraggon says.

Many at the taonga puoro workshop over the weekend were pakeke or adult students,


The power of police to take DNA from offenders at the time of their arrest... before they've been convicted of, anything... is being questioned by Metiria Turei.

The National government has signaled the move in the speech from the throne.

The Greens spokesperson on law and order says her party vehemently objects to any plans to take DNA from people just because they've been arrested.

Ms Turei says such a move is a breach of human rights.

“For Maori this is especially critical, one because of the tikanga issues around taking bodily samples, but also because Maori are more likely to be stopped by the police, more likely to be searched and sometimes harassed by the police and more likely to be arrested by the police, so a policy like this will affect Maori more than it will affect other populations in the community and had a disproportionate and discriminatory effect on them,” Ms Turei says.


A survey on adolescent health has found over-crowding is a major factor behind young Maori being far more likely to commit suicide and have binge drinking problems than their pakeha counterparts.

Health researcher Ruth Herd who was part of a comprehensive survey on the health of young people says over-crowding was a reason Maori were twice as likely to commit suicide and three times more likely to binge drink.

“And we define overcrowding as more than two people per bedroom so if you have got you standard state house with three bedrooms in it and you’ve got two or three people in each room and then flowing over to the garage, well we know Maori and Pacific families have bigger families and that they often live with expended families so they have grandparents in the home, cousins, uncles, long term visitors, so the standard state house doesn’t cut it for Maori or Pacific,” Ms Herd says.


Labour leader Phil Goff says despite considerable efforts the causes of why Maori are over represented in the prison population have not been adequately addressed.

He says he has an open mind to proposals by Maori for an alternative justice system to address this provided they maintain the fundamental principles of fairness and justice.

“There’s a huge cause for concern that Maori people are making up 16 percent of the population making up 50 percent of the jail population and I don’t think we’ve got anywhere near yet addressing the causes of why that should be the case in a way that can see us move forward to reduce our prison population and our indigenous component in the prison pop by actually addressing the causes of offending and I think that’s what we have got to do,” Mr Goff says.

Following a recent hui on justice Maori groups around the country will be presented with proposals for an alternative justice system along traditional Maori lines.


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