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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Racism to fore in TV debate

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples says the furore over Maori Television's bid for Rugby World Cup broadcast rights shows racism is alive in Aotearoa.

His ministry is backstopping the MTS bid with a $3 million package buy of programming arouind the broadcasts.

He says the channel has the technical ability to do the job, and it's a great chance to expose a large number of people to a relatively modest amount of Maori language and culture.

“The reality there are people who are taking offence that there might be the odd Maori word used or Maori phrase and it just smacks of racism, ethnocentrism, monoculturalism and all those isms we have fought against for so long and we’re not going to stand for that,” Dr Sharples says.

He says the only reasonable ground for criticising the bid is MTS's coverage footprint, and by cup time that footprint should extend throughout the country.

PRISON LITERACY PROGRAMME HAS REHAB AIM

The government believes teaching Maori prisoners to read and write will cut reoffending.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins launched the Prisoner Skills and Employment Strategy yesterday at the Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility in Manukau.

She says 98 percent of Maori prisoners, who make up more than half the prison population, have literacy problems.

“I am quite happy to accept that Maori are totally overrepresented in the prison population and I am happy to accept that they are totally overrepresented in the illiteracy area as well so I think we have just got to fix it and the only thing to do is accept it and deal with it,” Ms Collins says.

She says former prisoners with improved literacy should find it easier to get work and stay out of prison.

BUYERS ON HUNT FOR BEST AT MAORI MARKET

International buyers at tonight's gala opening of the Maori art market in Porirua will be looking for the very best of contemporary Maori art and fashion.

Organiser Garry Nicholas from Toi Maori says the event at Te Rauparaha Arena includes a fashion show and a tribute to Inia te Wiata, with Sun Aria winner Aivale Cole and Frankie Steven's singing some of the great baritone's favourite waiata.

He also expects to see key dealers from the United States who will be making a beeline for the galleries, which feature the work of 200 artists.

“They are very clear. They only buy the best so on the opening night their focus is n getting the latest work coming out of our top artists,” Mr Nicholas says.

Because Maori Art Market is only held every two years, it gives artists time to develop new directions in their work before putting it up for sale.

TOP SILK SAYS BROWN CAN EXPECT TOUGHER SENTENCES

Top defence lawyer Peter Williams QC says Maori and Pacific islanders cop tougher sentences than Pakeha.

He says Taito Phillip Field would not have been jailed for six years if he had white skin.

On Tuesday Justice Rodney Hansen sentenced the former Mangere MP to four years in prison on bribery and corruption charges in relation to getting Thai tradespeople to work on his properties in exchange of immigration help, and another two years for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

“There's no doubt when it comes to sentencing and other factors as well there’s a bias towards the person with the coloured skin and there’s no use people trying to deny it because it does exist. I’ve been round for a long time and I’ve had opportunity to see the whole system. Six years was just absolutely excessive in this case,” Mr Williams says.

He says New Zealand is going prison-mad and no purpose is served by locking up a family man who is not a risk to anyone.

MINISTER DENIES BIAS EVIDENT IN SENTENCING

But Police and Corrections Minister Judith Collins refuses to accept race is a factor in sentencing.

Ms Collins says as a minister she can't comment of sentencing decisions.

But she says there are other explanations for the problems identified by criminal lawyer Peter Williams.

“I think that it’s pretty clear that there are massive recidivism rates, particularly amongst Maori, and it won’t simply be that people are being sentenced more heavily because of their race but in addition to that it could be there are certain offences that are more likely to occur that in fact when you’ve got families that have been in difficulty for some generations, the fact is this is what happens. I think really we should be saying there’s a problem, let’s try and fix it, and at least accept that rather than attacking the judges,” Ms Collins says.

Yesterday the minister announced a scheme to address reoffending rates by teaching prisoners to read and write.

PUMPING UP BUSINESS AIM OF RUGBY SUBSIDY

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples says Maori Television's rugby world cup coverage will be a great opportunity to promote Maori business as well as Maori language.

Te Puni Kokiri has committed to buy $3 million in programming if the MTS bid for free to air rights is successful.

Dr Sharples says that will be of huge benefit to Maori development.

“Instead of all your silly ads about this and that, they will showcase in the build up and in the side programmes, Maori businesses Maori opportunities, Maori infrastructure and all the things we are doing in industry right now and we are pumping,” Dr Sharples says.

He's also talking to Maori boradcast funding agency Te Mangai Paho about broadcasting commentaries of World Cup games through iwi radio.

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