Child Poverty messenger shot down. What about the message?

John Murphy together

Those who know me may be surprised to learn I’m saddened Hone Harawira is no longer in Parliament.

  • I’m not in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate.
  • I’m not Māori.
  • I have no particular affinity towards Hone Harawira nor necessarily agree with most of what he says.

Hone Harawira however was a strong voice for the disadvantaged, particularly the poor.

His “Feed the Kids” campaign was a tangible example of his concern. Even during the election he protested very strongly to his own party, Internet Mana, at their plans to promote cannabis law reform at the expense of feeding kids.

“Why am I seeing all this shit about weed and so ……. little about feed,” Hone Harawira wrote, rather ironically, in a leaked email. (But I digress.)

The Internet-Mana party quickly scrapped the cannabis policy.

Such is his passion, that in my view, the absence of Hone Harawira’s voice will make the Parliament less representative and potentially the country less aware of some pressing social concerns.

The likelihood of Hone Harawira being part of any shade of government coalition was always going to be slim.

However it was from opposition that Hone Harawira’s “Feed the Kids Bill” received the support of 70% of New Zealanders and got the Prime Minister to do something about supporting food in schools.

There is no excuse for even 2,000 New Zealand children to be living in poverty. That there are more than 200,000 New Zealand children living in severe poverty is a disgrace.

Let’s face it, the Internet-Mana party is probably more a “flashmob” than a long-term political party, it may last for an even shorter time than the most optimistic pundits allowed.

I think it’s sad, Hone Harawira, a champion voice for the disadvantaged will no longer be heard in our Parliament, however that’s the system.

Hone Harawira’s voice was credible when he spoke up for the poor, however he came unstuck; trading his credibility for the promise of money.

We are only as good as the friends we choose, or as The Beatles put it 50 years ago, “Money can’t buy me love”.

Fighting Child Poverty

In early August, more than 1,000 people packed St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Wellington for a Catholic and Anglican initiative to hear politicians address child poverty.

The meeting expressed concern about low incomes, gambling, alcohol, inadequate housing and debt. Archbishop Dew called on all politicians to make child poverty their top priority.

Archbishop Dew also said that child poverty is not just something for politicians to fix but something for the whole community to do something about.

True enough.

There are many ways to fight child poverty and they don’t always just involve the Government opening the tax payers’ wallet. But without the constant reminders from the likes of Hone Harawira, who will focus us to do something about it?

As they say, you can tell a lot about a society from the way it treats its most vulnerable.

– John Murphy is a Marist priest working in digital media at the Marist Internet Ministry, New Zealand.

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