Budget 2005: Turia attacks the Budget as 'visionless'

By Ruth Berry

The Budget proves the Government has wiped Maori from its radar and seals its fate in the Maori seats, the Maori Party claims.

Party co-leader Tariana Turia launched the attack saying Finance Minister Michael Cullen's Budget speech which "snubbed tangata whenua with no mention of the word Maori" epitomised its position.

In contrast the word Maori was frequently used in Dr Cullen's 2000 Budget, Labour's first during this tenure in office.

Its multimillion-dollar "Closing the Gaps" package of initiatives was one of the showpieces of that Budget.

The package was repeatedly attacked in Parliament, forcing the Government to abandon its name, but not the actual initiatives.

More recent National attacks over "race-based" funding, however, saw it promise to review some ethnically targeted initiatives, although most are unlikely to be axed.

Mrs Turia said a "shallow whistlestop roadshow" involving a community Treaty education programme worth $1.2 million was meant to placate New Zealanders who had lost faith in the Government's Treaty programme. Instead the Budget would cement that faith loss, she said.

While the word Maori wasn't mentioned, Dr Cullen referred to the "Kiwi breed" 26 times, Mrs Turia said.

"This Budget is just trying to appeal to middle New Zealand, just like the Government did with the foreshore and seabed debacle."

The Maori Party was concerned Budget funding was being directed into agencies instead of families. It was also unhappy about the "massive $40 million" going into courthouses, instead of a focus on restoring a "top-of-the-cliff" approach to reducing crime.

Tangata whenua would be pleased with funding increases for good-quality drinking water and cataract operations, but on balance the Budget was "visionless", she said.

Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia dismissed Mrs Turia's claim, saying "there's lots in there for Maori".

The Working for Families package unveiled last year and set to put more money in people's pockets soon, targeted low- to middle-income New Zealanders and would particularly benefit Maori.

The expanded mortgage deposit assistance scheme would increase the likelihood of many Maori owning their own home.

The cash injections for early childcare initiatives and health would similarly benefit Maori as would the "rates rebate for our pakeke, our old people".

Dr Cullen hadn't ignored Maori in his speech, rather he hadn't targeted any particular groups of people, Mr Horomia said.

Mr Horomia had two press statements in the Budget pack, with one saying the spending reflected the Government's determination to lift Maori educational attainment.

He said the $28 million to further expand the early childhood discretionary grants scheme and the $57 million student support scheme (both over four years) would benefit Maori.

He also announced $3.2 million over four years to maintain the Te Mana information programme. In a second "Realising Maori Potential" statement, he announced a four- year $14.8 million Kapohia nga Rawa initiative for outreach and community workers to work with whanau.

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