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Metiria Turei’s speech during Parliamentary debate on Pacific issues


Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Tēnā koutou katoa ngā rangatira o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. Aotearoa New Zealand is still in the early stages of its identity as a 21st century Pacific nation. For Māori, of course—ngā iwi Māori—we are ngā uri o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa; we always have been, and we always will be. We are not Europe; we are the Pacific. But in more recent times since colonisation that identity, that sense of place and belonging, has been a bit of a struggle, and that identity struggle has meant that New Zealand’s actions in the Pacific have been at times honourable and at times deeply wrong.

Our honourable moments have included the joining in of the fight to stop French testing of nuclear bombs in Pacific waters, and a rapid and compassionate response to the natural disasters that afflict Pacific nations. Our questionable actions have included, for example, New Zealand’s neglect on climate change, and to that end that Greens believe that New Zealand should increase our commitment to climate financing for the Pacific, and my colleague Kennedy Graham—responsible for global affairs—will address that issue later in the debate. Other questionable actions by New Zealand over the years include the dawn raids; the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act, which took away from Samoan citizens here their right that citizenship; and, of course, the continuing poverty that is suffered by Pasifika children here in Aotearoa.

So as we welcome representatives from our tuākana Sovereign Pacific nations, we should reflect on how we as a nation treat their citizens in our own country. My priority, of course, is the well-being of New Zealand’s children, from all cultures. It is with some shame that we reflect on the situation of Pasifika children living here. As a Pacific country, we have a blood obligation to our Pacific whānau, and yet we have failed in that duty—40 percent of Pasifika children live in poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand. A similar percentage of young Pasifika are without work in Aotearoa New Zealand. We continue to harass and deport the parents of Pasifika children, who are themselves New Zealand citizens but their parents are not. We fail to ensure that the economy works to provide decent jobs at decent pay so that, for example, Jaine Ikurere, a Pasifika woman who cleans John Key’s office here at Parliament, earns not just above the minimum wage, but has a living wage, which she can use to provide properly for her children and her grandchildren. This is what a decent country does, what a decent community does, for its whānau. We are whanaunga to the Pacific iwi who we welcome today, and we must express that whanaungatanga in all policy and decisions that we make as a Parliament.

The Greens have long advocated for human rights issues in the Pacific, and good governance as well, starting, of course, with Fiji. We are also particularly concerned with human rights abuses that result from the colonisation that has occurred in the Pacific and continues to occur in the Pacific. My colleague Catherine Delahunty has been very involved in the human rights issues concerning West Papua, and recently, along with others, supported the New Zealand tour of Benny Wenda, a West Papuan freedom fighter. Unfortunately, Benny Wenda was refused the courtesy of holding a meeting here in Parliament to talk to members of this Parliament about the human rights issues facing his people. These are the experiences that we as parliamentarians in Aotearoa need to understand. The first step to that understanding is being prepared to listen to Pacific peoples tell their stories to us face to face, kanohi ki te kanohi.

The Green Party urges our Government and all other Pacific Governments to provide leadership on the issue of West Papuan independence and human rights. This can be done by offering to mediate peace between Indonesia and West Papua leaders, supporting West Papua becoming a member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and of the Pacific Islands Forum. The State-sanctioned violence and human rights abuses against West Papuans requires all the Pacific neighbours to support an end to the ban against independent journalists reporting on West Papua and, of course, to have the courage of our convictions on the sad and sorry secret of the Pacific region. We are our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers, after all.

This is why the Greens have also been such strong advocates of gender balance and women’s representation in Pacific Parliaments, including our own. There is no better advocate for women than women themselves who have lived the same lives as their constituents and understand both the needs and the strengths of women. To this end, we have worked with others to support Pacific women standing for election in many different Pacific countries. The gender balance in Pacific Island Parliaments is certainly improving, but there is still a long way to go. Here, MMP has significantly increased the representation of Māori women as well as Pasifika women and other women of ethnicity. Structural changes to electoral systems are necessary to combat entrenched gender inequity.

Overall, the numbers of Pacific women MPs across the region are growing, and there are some strong strategies for continuing this trend. One option is to implement electoral quotas, so that members are elected by proportional representation. France, apparently, implemented a statutory requirement for parties to alternate candidates based on gender, and these zipper lists have contributed to a high number of women in the French Polynesian and New Caledonian Parliaments. Another option could be reserve seats, and I understand Bougainville currently has those. Reserve seats can help change attitudes, increase acceptance of women in public leadership roles, and ensure that their voices are heard. There is currently a bill before the Samoan Parliament, I understand, that would guarantee that at least 10 percent of seats would be held by women. I will be very keen to see how this progresses, and whether we can offer any assistance to women in Samoa around this issue. Each nation will, of course, develop different systems to assist with gender balance in its Parliament, according to the way that it operates. We certainly look forward to working more closely with Pasifika women’s organisations to help progress gender equity in Parliaments.

Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, the oceans, sustain the Pacific. The Pacific’s fisheries have been described as being as important to the region as oil is to the Middle East. New Zealand has a supporting role in the issues surrounding Pacific fisheries. There is significant worth in strengthening the management of Pacific fisheries in order to safeguard their value and maximise the economic and social benefits of fisheries to Pacific Island countries. One issue of particular relevance here is the conservation of tuna stocks and protection against overfishing, although there are the eels, which also deserve to be protected and which have a life cycle that takes them from Aotearoa waters out to the Tonga Trench—so tuna and eels. [Interruption ] Sorry, I was distracted—my apologies. One issue of particular relevance here is the conservation of tuna stocks and the protection against overfishing.

Tuna stocks in other parts of the world have been severely depleted by overfishing, and this serves as a cautionary tale, of course, for the Pacific, as we all know. The key Pacific tuna stocks are now approaching their sustainable limits. We must take action to maintain the productivity of this valuable resource. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention is the regional fisheries management organisation charged with the conservation and management of this highly migratory fish stock. Close cooperation between all the Pacific nations, including Aotearoa New Zealand, is necessary, so we speak with a united and clear voice about the need to promote and conserve this resource.

Finally, there are many issues for the Pacific Parliamentary and Political Leaders Forum to discuss, not least of which is how we in Aotearoa New Zealand intend to address our own attitude to the tuākana whom we welcome today. Aotearoa New Zealand is teina to the Pacific, to those in the Pacific who have been sovereign in their lands for centuries longer than the modern New Zealand has been around. Remembering this, we can demonstrate our respect to our tuākana, to our elders; re-establish our whānau connection with them; and meet our obligations proudly as uri o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. Tēnā koutou katoa.

04/23/2013 – 17:26


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