New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott arrive for the dedication of the Australian National Memorial in Wellington.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott arrive for the dedication of the Australian National Memorial in Wellington. Mark Mitchell NZH

NZ Maori Party issues scathing letter to Tony Abbott

NEW ZEALAND'S Maori Party coleaders have used the visit of Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott to criticise his treatment of Aboriginal people, releasing a scathing open letter about the decision to close 150 Aboriginal communities in Australia.

The Maori Party's letter coincides with Mr Abbott's visit to New Zealand for the dedication of the Australian War Memorial in Wellington.

The Maori Party are Government support partners. In their letter, co-leaders Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox called for Mr Abbott to reinstate Federal funding for those communities and commit to "basic human rights."

They objected to Mr Abbott's description of those living in the communities as making "a lifestyle choice".

"The right of indigenous people to live on their traditional land and to live as a community is not a lifestyle choice, it is an integral part of our identity."

Mr Abbott had backed the Western Australian government's decision to close the communities and move about 1000 people living in them, saying "what we can't do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices".

The coleaders said the Maori Party was formed in response to "discriminatory actions" by a previous Government - a reference to the Labour Party's Foreshore and Seabed Act.

"The Maori Party shares the pain of Australia's First Peoples who face losing their connection to their ancestral land and the destruction of their communities as a result of Government actions."

They also said it was against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, signed by Australia in 2009, which states that the rights of indigenous people to their lands and resources should be protected. It also states that any "forced population transfer" which undermines those rights should be prevented or compensated for.

"Mr Abbott, your government's actions constitute a return to the flawed policies of the past and will result in the loss of basic human rights such as access to clean water and the right to choose where to live."

Mana leader Hone Harawira has also raised the issue in a statement in which he described the policy as "genocide".

Mr Harawira, who was in Canberra for Anzac week, had described former Australian Prime Minister John Howard as "a racist bastard" in 2007 after introducing an intervention plan for aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. He said Mr Abbott's actions earned him the same title.

Mr Harawira said the Convention of the Prevention of Genocide included transferring children and taking actions to bring about the destruction of a group, such as removing basic services. Mr Harawira said the last time he was in Canberra was in 2008 when former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised for the policies of the Stolen Generation.

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