Community Scoop

NZ Election Could Turn On Pacific Votes – Samoan Perspective

Press Release – Pacific Media Watch

AUCKLAND ( Samoa Observer/Pacific Scoop/ Pacific Media Watch ): New Zealanders head to the polls on Saturday and – if polls are to be believed – To’osavili John Key’s conservative National Party will remain to power.

By Aigaletaule’ale’a F. Tauafiafi of the Samoa Observer

AUCKLAND (Samoa Observer/Pacific Scoop/ Pacific Media Watch): New Zealanders head to the polls on Saturday and – if polls are to be believed – To’osavili John Key’s conservative National Party will remain to power.

That being the case, the Labour Party will again be in opposition and this most probably signals the demise of Lilomaiava Phil Goff as its leader.

But Labour and others like the Mana Party are confident that if the Maori and Pacific communities turn out in numbers, the polls will be proven wrong and Labour will win. Labour front bench and finance spokesperson, David Cunliffe summed it up.

“The difference between the ‘left block’, that is, Labour plus the Greens, plus maybe Winston [Peters, of NZ First], and the right block which is National plus Act plus maybe United Future is six to eight percent,” says Cunliffe. “And if Winston gets up, then that difference is only three percent so we can turn that in a week.”

And for that swing in votes, Labour is banking on the people in south and west Auckland to make the difference.

Failure to vote the difference in 2008
“If they turn out, they will bring Labour home,” says Cunliffe.

In 2008, more than 300,000 Pacific Islanders failed to register. Forty five percent of Māori voters did not cast their votes.

In Mangere alone, 10,000 Pacific Islanders on the roll did not cast their vote.

Despite this, Cuncliffe says, they brought Labour home in the 2005 election.

“In 2005, against what the polls predicted, South Auckland and West Auckland came out in numbers and Labour came home.

I remember that night, I’ll never ever forget it. At 9pm we were 13 percent behind. In half an hour we were ahead by two percent. It was a thing of great beauty.”

That scenario may well play out again in six days time.

But at the end of the day, it’s the people elected to turning promises on economic growth, education, health, housing and so forth into reality who really count. That essentially points to the party leader and how strongly he believes in what he’s doing.

In the Pacific, there’s no better example of that leadership than the Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.

Top of the list is how confident, how much he believes the issues put forward will bear fruition. And that’s crucial because policies are nothing more than a wish list.

And as Tuilaepa has shown, he does not do second guessing. Once his mind is made up, that’s it.

South Auckland ‘crucial’
So in six days time, New Zealanders will elect a leader they hope will not second guess taking the country to a better future.

For Pacific islanders canvassed by the Samoa Observer, their voice shouts for change. And the reality is they actually have the power to effect that change if they decide to turn out in their numbers and put pen to paper. Cunliffe puts it best: “There’s only so much we can do.

“We can be as clear as we can be about the choice, and we can swear on the Bible that we will work our guts out to help our people but we need their help this time. They need to help themselves by getting every person to the polls. And I can’t stress it more – South Auckland is crucial.”

Over the past two weeks, the campaigning machines have slowly rolled into South Auckland.
Lilomaiava Phil Goff was at the Otara markets two Saturdays ago. He met the people and re-emphasised Labour’s message of raising the minimum wage, stopping asset sales, removing GST from fresh fruits and vegetables and removing tax from the first $5,000 of earned wages.

There were enthusiastic responses.

Three Saturdays ago, Vaovasamanaia Winston Peters was at the same venue. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the current government.

‘Fair tax’
“What they’re doing is punishing the lower income with higher GST … higher everything to fund their indulgences.”

“The first thing we bring is a fair tax system where everyone pays a tax. And when everyone pays their proper tax then there will be less personal tax.

“We then focus on everything that everybody wants such as decent housing, health and first world wages. Those are the four things the Pacific people here want in Otara. We focus on things that mean something to people.

“Not on these high faluting ideas that sound good but don’t put a single crumb of bread on the table.”

But National’s MP for Maugakiekie, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga is a strong supporter for putting up the GST in 2011.

This is despite leader John Key’s 2008 promise that there will be no GST increase during their first term in office.

Defending a GST rise
Said Peseta: “We never said we would raise GST to pay off the deficit. Our major tax reforms in 2010 included a tax switch which raised GST and cut personal tax. This is helping tilt the economy towards savings, exports and investment – and away from excessive borrowing and consumption.”

“The tax switch was accompanied by a package of measures to compensate people receiving benefits, Superannuation and Working for Families. As a result, the vast bulk of people are better off as a result of this tax switch.”

Peseta explained that removing the GST off fresh fruit and vegetables as promoted by Labour is irresponsible.

“Taking GST off fruit and vegetables would cost over $300 million a year that would need to be made up by raising taxes in other areas.

This is why Labour wants our people to work an extra two years before they can receive their superannuation. Something Phil Goff was opposed to do in July this year.

“Labour wants us to pay more in taxes and work longer to cover their reckless spending.”

But Reverend Featuna’i Liuaana, who looks after an 800-member congregation in Sandringham, does not agree. He says there’s hypocrisy rife in National’s programmes.

“There seems to be a hypocrisy going on in government programmes and what they actually do.” As an example, he points to health programmes.

“There’s a lot of drive by National for people to stay fit, eat healthy food so there’s less bill for medical services but what our people have found is that the foods they need for them to be healthy are the most expensive ones.”

And contrary to the points made by Peseta lotu-Iiga, Rev. Liuaana says the GST exacerbated the hardship for people in his congregation and general Pasifika community.

“The GST drove up the prices of basic healthy foods like vegetables and things like that. So our people are now forced to go back to eating mutton flaps and the more fattening foods like pisupo and things like that because they’re cheaper. GST is one of the reasons why they can’t afford it.”

NZ is a Pacific nation
For social justice party Mana leader Hone Harawira, he doesn’t quite understand all the fuss. As far as he’s concerned things are fairly simple.

One of those is for New Zealand to acknowledge its place in the Pacific and change its immigration policies accordingly.

“At some point in the future, this country has to recognise that it’s a Pacific nation. This is not England or South Africa, we let Australians come and go without even blinking.”

He is strongly against the selling of assets as promoted by National.

“This government is paying $360 million a week in overseas debt. If these asset sales go through and they get $5 billion then they will reduce that [overseas debt payments] to $290 million.

“Wow, big deal. It just means they will have to do it again and again and again until the whole country is owned by someone from America.

“What’s the whole point of that?

“I don’t want anybody’s grandchildren to grow up in a land owned by somebody else.”

He emphasised that life, “isn’t all about money, it’s about community, sharing our commitment to one another. If you get that right then money isn’t even an issue after that.” And that is why the Mana Party, says Harawira, “can work with everyone but National and Act.

“We’re free thinkers, innovators. We’ve learned over the years how to make things work with not a lot of money.”

Many living in hardship
So the stage is set and realistically, the results could hinge on the Pacific and Maori voter turn-outs.
For Mangere’s MP, Su’a William Sio, Pacific people should be the first at the polls because they are already living in hardship.

“Many of them should now be tasting the hardship that they’ve received under this current government,” says Su’a.

But the reality is, he said: “If our community is not prepared to help themselves then how on earth can we help them? They need to be out there next Saturday. If they’re not voting then they can’t expect a lot of support from the government if the government is going to be National.”

Prime Minister John Key has two Pacific Island candidates running, one is Peseta Lotu-Iiga. He acknowledges that National doesn’t get as much of the Pacific vote as they would have liked but its improving.

He told Tagata Pasifika they are slowly picking up support but “if you think of the values and principles that underpin the Pacific community they’re very closely aligned to what National believes in. So we’ve got to work harder in that community because it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight”.

He also believes Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga is ministerial material.

“I can’t tell you whether he’ll get there on in the next three years, I haven’t sat down and really thought about that, but he’s extremely bright.

“He’s got a very bright future with us and we just need to keep nurturing him. I’m extremely confident he will be a minister one day.”

The same promise was made by Labour’s David Cunliffe.

Will there be a Pacific Islander in cabinet if Labour wins? “I would say about 100 percent,” he said.
In the end, New Zealanders will go to the polls and either vote for the issues or the leader they trust will lead them to a better future.

Source: Samoa Observer
Tagata Pasifika report
Key talks up policies on Pacific issues: Pacific Media Watch 7735

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