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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Monday, July 19, 2010

Attacks on unions attacks on Maori

The president of the Council of Trade Unions, Helen Kelly, says attacks on unions will have a devastating impact on many Maori workers.

Hundreds of unionists protested outside the National Party Conference in Auckland yesterday against proposed changes to industrial law which would make it easier for employers to sack workers.

Ms Kelly says Prime Minister John Key’s speech to the conference amounted to a long list of attacks on worker rights, starting with their right to see their union at their workplace.

“Many more Maori in terms of percentage density are in unions and they support unions and they will know what workplaces are like where unions are oppressed and what we know about unionized workplaces, they get getter pay increases, they have collective agreements and all of those things will be stifled by a reduction in union rights of access,” Ms Kelly says.

She says the government’s plans are a breach of international law.

HARAWIRA TARGETS FOREIGN MINERS

Taitokerau MP Hone Harawira says the Maori Party is considering a policy that foreign buyers should only be able to lease and not buy land.

Mr Harawira says he was asked to draft a bill on foreign ownership for submission to the ballot for member’s bills.

He says it’s an issue which will strike a chord in his electorate.

“I was just asked to put forward this particular issue because we’re talking about Crafar Farms and all that stuff down the line but those sorts of things are likely to impact up our way as well particularly with a lot of the mining interests showing a lot of interests in some of the blocks as well as offshore here in the Taitokerau,” Mr Harawira says.

He says laws limiting foreign ownership of key assets are not unusual internationally.

VISUAL ARTS GET RANGATAHI ON LEARNING PATH

A new alternative education initiative will bring together at risk youth with artists.

Sarah Longbottom, who works with alternative education providers in south Auckland, says the Nga Rangatahi Toa Creative Arts workshops will expose the students to arts including panting and graffiti, weaving, photography, fashion design and filmmaking.

She says the visual arts can be the most effective way to start developing her Maori students’ literacy and numeracy skills.

“What they have universally is the fact they universally is they are not read-write learners so their time in mainstream school socialy might have been hard, behaviorally might have been hard but academically was super-hard not because they’re not gifted kids, it’s just because they’re not taught in the way that they learn. They’re all visual and kinaesthetic learners, so that is the way to communicate with kids,” Ms Longbottom says.

SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR TO ASSESS TREATY COMPLIANCE

New Zealand's record on human and indigenous rights will come under scrutiny over the next week as United Nations Special Rapporteur, James Anaya, talks to Crown and Maori representatives.

Moana Jackson, who worked with Professor Anaya on drafting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, says it's good the Apache lawyer is able to get to Aotearoa so early in his term.

He says issues like the reform of the Foreshore and Seabed Act are likely to be top of the agenda.

IN: He already has a working knowledge of the existing foreshore and seabed legislation, and will want to monitor how the new proposal stacks up against that. He will also be very interested in the fall out from the so called terrorist raids in Tuhoe. As well as specific issues he would want to get a sense of how Maori people feel things are going, things that still need to be improved as well as things that are working well,” Mr Jackson says.

After meetings with government officials early in the week, Professor Anaya will attend a hui at Te Tii Marae in Waitangi on Wednesday.

HEALTH, NOT CORRECTIONS NEEDS TO OVERSEE PRISON HEALTH

A former head of Corrections has endorsed a call for prisoner health to be the responsibility of the health rather than the prison service.

Kim Workman, who is now with prison reform group Rethinking Crime and Punishment, says the National Health Committee’s report on the issue highlights the poor health of many inmates.

He says overseas examples suggest the change would bring benefits.

“The primary concern for the department is to manage risk, keeping the place ticking over, not necessarily promoting good health, and the experience of places like New South Wales where they have transferred the services to the health sector has been a considerable improvement in the health of prisoners,” Mr Workman says.

He says 80 percent of prisoners are in jail for less than 3 months, and most arrive with health issues, especially drug and alcohol problems.

TERRORIST RAIDS SHARPEN FOCUS OF PLAY

Actor turned director Nancy Brunning says a new play about Maori civil unrest hits a raw nerve.

Te Kaupoi, which has a short season in Papakura this week to end the Taonga Whakaari: Maori Playwright Festival, is set in a near future when the rocked by internal terrorism after parliament abolishes the Maori seats.

Ms Brunning says it’s even more relevant than when writer Whiti Hereaka first came up with the idea a decade ago.

“It kind of was brewing in her brain and then the terrorist raids in Tuhoe occurred and I think she realised what she was actually writing was becoming relevant with the politics of the day,” Ms Brunning says.

Te Kaupoi starts on Wednesday and stars Jason Te Kare, Tina Cook and Kay Smith.

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