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Andrew Little: if you want to send a really strong message to New Zealanders…

14 November 2015 4 comments

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Andrew-Little

 

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Palmerston North, 8 November 2015 – E nga mana

E nga tapu

E Te whanau o te roopu reipa

Tena koutou katoa

Talofa lava

Kia orana

Malo e lelei

Nǐ hǎo

Namaste

Thank you so much for that welcome.

Can I acknowledge party president Nigel Haworth, our new senior vice president Virginia Andersen, our Māori vice president Nanaia Mahuta and all of our hard working New Zealand Councilors.

I also want to acknowledge our outgoing General Secretary Tim Barnett. Tim, thank you so much for everything you’ve done for this party and the huge effort you have made.

Thank you to everyone in our caucus, especially my Deputy Annette King and our Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.

And can I also acknowledge and say thank you for your patience to the two most important people in the world to me: my wife Leigh and my son Cam.

Why We Fight

Over 100 years ago, a group of miners gathered in a small union hall in Waihi and voted to take a stand against a company that was exploiting them.

The dispute had gone on for months already.

The miners’ hopes were simple.

They wanted to be treated well at work, to be paid fairly, and they wanted to know that when they went to work they would come home safely.

So the miners went on strike to press their case.

The response was immediate and devastating.

The full power of a corrupt and cosy establishment was unleashed against them.

The Prime Minister of the day branded them “enemies of order.”

One miner was beaten to death.

A young union organiser, a recent immigrant from Scotland, was helping the miners with their cause, travelling the country to raise money and give speeches in support.

He saw first hand the lengths that the powerful would go to in order to cling on to their position.

He saw that if the dreams of ordinary people were going to be possible, they needed more than a voice — they needed to have their hands on the law-making power of Parliament.

That young man’s name was Peter Fraser.

The party that he helped found, our party, has been on the job for nearly 100 years.

  • 100 years of fighting for a more just New Zealand.
  • 100 years of standing up to the smug and the self-contented.
  • 100 years of making life better for all New Zealanders;

All the people who organised together and campaigned together over the last century, people like you and me; they’ve left us an awesome legacy.

Just think of what our party has achieved:

  • Think of Joe Savage, who built our modern social safety net, our health care, our pensions, and who carried the furniture into the very first state house.
  • Think of Peter Fraser fighting for a state education system at home, and a lasting peace abroad.
  • Think of Walter Nash and his fight for affordable home loans.
  • Think of Norman Kirk walking onto the grounds at Waitangi hand in hand with a young Māori boy, sending the powerful message that it was time to restore mana to the Treaty of Waitangi.
  • Think of David Lange and the courage it took to stand up to a superpower. To assert what he called the power of humanity, the power of decision, over the madness of nuclear war.
  • And, just a few years ago, think of all the good Helen Clark did to lift New Zealand families through the Cullen Fund, KiwiSaver and Working for Families.

Our party has never been afraid to take on the big fights:

  • To lift New Zealanders up.
  • To restore opportunity.
  • To help us live our dreams.

You know, as New Zealanders, we don’t ask for the world. We have some simple aspirations.

Owning a home; having security for the people we love; a chance to enjoy the outdoors and the environment we love; and a job that gives us the time and the money to lead a fulfilling life.

These are the aspirations that we all share.

Together, they’re the Kiwi Dream, a dream that’s central to our country’s identity.

We’ve always been a progressive, big hearted people.

We believe in looking out for each other and doing the right thing.

We believe everyone should have the same opportunities to make the most of this life.

Our forebears in this great party put these values at the heart of the Labour project.

Whenever the Kiwi dream has been threatened, Labour championed it.

Whenever the rights of New Zealanders needed defending, Labour defended them.

That’s what previous generations did.

Now it’s our turn. Now it’s our turn.

We’ve come together this weekend to begin the work of rebuilding the Kiwi Dream.

I came to this party because Labour has always stood up for a fair go — for opportunity for everyone.

It’s an enormous honour to have been elected your Leader — I don’t underestimate the responsibility I hold.

But I’m not one of those people who can say I was born to Labour.

In fact, it was quite the opposite.

The first time my Mum voted for a Labour candidate was when she voted for me.

My Dad was another story altogether. He was a staunch National supporter.

He used to yell at the TV whenever political opponents came on the telly.

The people who most got under his skin? Union leaders, and pretty much everyone in the Labour Party.

So, “Andrew Little, Leader of the Labour Party and former union leader” probably isn’t the ambition he had for his son.

He’s probably up there right now going “god, look at my boy, where did I go wrong?”

But the truth is, he did a great job.

He and mum taught me some basic values.

Think for yourself. Make up your own mind. Stand up for other people and never be afraid to lend a helping hand to someone who needs it.

So Dad, you did the right thing, you were just in the wrong party.

My own political views were forged in the era of the Springbok Tour, and of the controversies over justice for Arthur Allan Thomas and justice in the Erebus Disaster.

I watched these events unfold and discovered in myself an intolerance for injustice.

When I see injustice, it sticks in my craw and I am compelled to stand up to it, and fight it.

The injustice I speak of is when the powerful and the privileged abuse their position to take advantage of the weak.

Here’s what I believe:

  • I believe in dignity. The dignity of the person matters most; and every person must have the opportunity to realise their full potential;
  • I believe in equality. A system that shuts people out because of where they live, or who they are, or who they love, or who their parents are is unjust and cannot stand;
  • I believe in the great freedoms that make us who we are. Freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of association.

I know that the freedom I cherish cannot come at the expense of other people’s freedom. And I am very clear: there is no freedom in poverty and deprivation.

And I believe in fair rewards, too. Everyone who works to make this country great should share in the rewards.

It’s those values that I have carried with me my entire life.

The experiences I’ve had in my working life have taught me the type of leadership you need if you want to fight and win for progressive causes.

I learnt that it isn’t about making everyone happy or trying to avoid confrontation and disagreement.

Instead it’s about taking a stand because it’s the right thing to do.

I learned that real change — lasting change — change that’s worth fighting for takes patience, and resolve and determination.

It takes a long term view, keeping your eyes on the prize, not being drawn into every battle and skirmish and never giving up on what matters.

It’s these values and a lifetime of fighting for them that’s led me to believe we need to change the direction of our country.

Because right now this government isn’t living up to our values.

We aren’t being true to who we are, and that means more people are being shut out of the Kiwi Dream.

Most Kiwis believe that hard work should bring fair rewards.

But our economy is increasingly weighted in favour of those already doing well, while putting up barriers that stop other people getting ahead.

That’s why the incomes of the top 10 percent of New Zealanders are now ten times the income of the bottom 10 per cent. Ten times.

Most New Zealanders used to grow up believing they would be able to own their own home if they worked hard and saved hard.

But our houses have become playthings for speculators, many of whom live offshore — putting home ownership out of reach of ordinary New Zealanders.

That’s why in Auckland last year, the average house made more than three times as much as the average worker.

That’s right, the average Aucklander made $58,000 last year, but the average house price went up by more than $180,000.

That’s just crazy.

And now home ownership rates have hit their lowest level in 64 years.

We have to turn that around.

Most Kiwis also expect New Zealand to be a force for good on the world stage.

But this government is ducking its obligations and turning us into a lightweight in the international community.

We enlisted the support of many countries to get onto the UN Security Council.

We promised we would be the conscience of the world — that we would provide moral leadership.

But when we were faced with a real question of moral leadership: a humanitarian crisis engulfing millions of Syrian refugees, New Zealanders looked on in horror as the government dithered and prevaricated because they were waiting for a poll.

This is not the legacy of our great internationalist leaders: Fraser, Kirk, Clark.

And what about health?

Most Kiwis believe when you get sick, the public health system will be there to help you get well.

But our health system is stretched to breaking point, slashing services and denying Kiwis the care they need.

That’s why when Graham Higgins from Northland needed a procedure to diagnose his cancer, he had to wait over 6 months — by which time his cancer had become terminal.

I’ve battled cancer myself.

I know what it’s like to wait for the results of that test that could change your life.

So I’m making this commitment right now: when I’m Prime Minister I’ll make sure Kiwis get the care they need when they need it and I’ll give our doctors and nurses and health workers the funding they need to do their jobs.

But these aren’t the only values we’ve lost in the last few years.

Most Kiwis believe we owe it to our kids to give them a better life than we had.

But this government has turned a blind eye to appalling rates of poverty in this country.

That’s why the children’s wards of our hospitals are seeing Kiwi kids sick with third world diseases.

It’s why Emma-Lita Bourne died in a state house because her home was mouldy and unhealthy and no one was willing to help.

We must never let anything like that happen again.

New Zealand, we are a better country than that.

We’ve got to turn the page on the last seven years;

We’ve got to turn the page on rising inequality, on child poverty, on the housing crisis and on cuts to our health system,

If we want to restore the Kiwi Dream then we have to change the government.

And, once we’ve done that, we have to change the way we govern, too.

Right now, it seems the government is more interested in slapstick and personal sledging than in genuine leadership;

It’s more interested in flags and pandas than in serious issues.

It seems like the latest political sideshow is often more important than what is happening to you or your family.

I didn’t become an MP to play parliamentary parlour games.

I came into politics to help people.

To change lives for the better.

To take this country forward.

I ran for the leadership of our party because I want to lead a Government that makes a genuine difference.

Today, I want to give New Zealanders a clear idea of the shape and character of the sixth Labour Government.

I want to show you how we’ll put Kiwi values back to work in our government, so everyone can live the Kiwi Dream.

The Economy

It starts with restoring the values that should underpin how we run our economy.

We need to remember who we run the economy for.

People. New Zealanders. Their families.

This government’s forgotten that.

They’ve been rewarding property speculators, tax dodgers and big corporates at the expense of Kiwi families.

And here’s the truth: it’s not working.

The economy is slowing.

Just when we should be soaring, we’re stalling again.

Just this week we’ve learned the economy lost 11,000 jobs in the last three months.

Unemployment has hit 6% and is expected to reach 7% by the end of next year.

That’s the highest level since the height of the GFC.

The economy is actually going backwards in half of our regions.

If we’re going to restore the Kiwi Dream of opportunity for everyone, we need a stronger economy

That starts with getting more New Zealanders into higher skilled, better paid jobs.

Ask me my three priorities as Labour Leader?

Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.

You can ask me my top ten as well but I think you get the gist.

A job is about more than just a pay packet, it’s about the dignity of work. It’s about a place and a purpose in your community.

Every Kiwi who can work should be able to work.

Every business that needs a skilled worker should be able to find one.

And where people can’t work, the government should support them because we won’t allow Kiwis to be thrown on the scrap heap.

From day one, we’ll kick-start the economy.

  • We’ll bring forward major infrastructure projects like the City Rail Link in Auckland and passenger rail in Canterbury.
  • We’ll build better schools so every Kiwi kid can learn in a modern, high quality building.
  • We’ll set up a Regional Infrastructure Fund for major development projects to create jobs and boost our regions.

We will be relentlessly focussed on the future. That’s why I’m proud of Grant Robertson’s Future of Work Commission, which is showing us how to build a better economy for the future.

We’ll create thousands of new jobs in new industries by restoring research and development tax credits — giving our businesses a tax break on every dollar they spend on innovation.

We’ll modernise our education system so our kids are better prepared for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.

And we’ll tackle climate change, because the only way our economy has a future is if our planet has a future.

That means aiming higher on renewable energy — we should be bold enough to say we want to see 100% renewable energy in New Zealand.

That also means doing better on reducing emissions. I want us to reach across the political divide, bring parties together and agree on ways to make New Zealand a leader on climate change. We don’t want to be a shirker on this issue.

Labour’s proposal for the Paris conference is a 40% CO2 reduction below 1990 levels. That’s the kind of ambition we need on this issue.

We also need to improve our social safety net so it works better in a world where people change their careers more often.

And today, I want to add the next element of Labour’s economic plan.

As you might have guessed, it’s about jobs.

It’s about the government lifting its game and living its values.

There are 151,000 New Zealanders out of work already and that number is increasing. 151,000.

On top of that, there’s 90,000 underemployed New Zealanders, and another 200,000 who can only find temporary work.

For everyone to have a fair shot at the Kiwi Dream, everyone needs a chance at a decent, secure job, and the government should be doing its bit to make that happen.

But it isn’t.

Not even on the most basic decisions.

The government spends $40 billion a year purchasing goods and services.

That’s huge buying power but, currently, government bodies only consider their own bottom line when they make purchasing decisions. Not the country’s bottom line, just their own.

They buy ‘cheaper’ options, often from overseas, regardless of the impact on New Zealand, even if it means Kiwis will lose work.

That’s the kind of dangerously short sighted thinking that has been behind some of the biggest government botch ups in the last few years.

  • the Hillside workshop closure in Dunedin and asbestos in imported rail wagons;
  • The Novopay debacle
  • Kiwi businesses shut out of the $1.9 billion IRD computer system contract.

At a time when our economy is stalled and our regions are struggling, there is a better way.

So today I’m announcing the first part of our jobs plan.

We’ll use the government’s buying power to create jobs here at home instead of sending them off overseas.

We will make job creation and the overall benefit to New Zealand a priority in how the government chooses its suppliers.

No more shipping tax-payers’ money offshore and starving our own companies of opportunities.

No more sending jobs overseas when we could be supporting a stronger economy here at home.

That’s billions of dollars that we will focus on creating jobs here in New Zealand.

And because we are putting existing money to better use, this policy has little to no fiscal cost.

Our plan, which we’re calling “Our Work, Our Future,” will put people to work, boost our businesses and it won’t break the bank.

Rebuilding the Kiwi Dream also means restoring opportunity to the thousands of New Zealand kids who are missing out — robbed of their future by the circumstances of their birth.

It means shining a light into dark corners of our country where people are trapped.

We still have 305,000 children living in poverty. 305,000.

2 out of 5 of those children have a parent who is working.

This can’t continue. It is unjust and it’s not who we are.

We all know this, but we’ve turned our backs for far too long.

Well, that ends today.

I’m committing our party to a new principle:

We will not tolerate poverty in New Zealand in the 21st century.

We won’t tolerate the poverty of the human spirit that means we choose to leave hundreds of thousands of children languishing in deprivation.

We won’t tolerate the poverty of imagination that means we stop thinking of creative ways to bring that poverty to an end.

Because I know that when this speech is over we will hear the usual chorus of jaded and cynical voices. They’ll say:

“It can’t be done. It’s too ambitious. You’re dreaming.”

To the cynics I say this:

Even if you’ve given up, I haven’t. I won’t. Ever. It’s not who I am.

New Zealanders are sick and tired of a politics that’s defined by cynicism and devoid of ambition.

It’s time to do better.

New Zealand, I’m asking you to join with me in a concerted effort to eradicate poverty in our country.

In government, we will put action on poverty at the heart of everything we do.

We’ll increase the number of hours people can work without having their benefit cut — to give more people a pathway back into full time work.

We’ll work towards 100% qualified teachers in ECE centers so every kid can get the best start in life.

We’ll feed hungry kids with our food in schools programme and we’ll make sure every child grows up in a warm, safe, dry home with our Healthy Homes Guarantee.

And we will get serious about lifting wages by working with unions and employers on modern and progressive workplace relations that boosts wages and lifts productivity and shares the gains fairly.

Every decision my government makes will be checked against its impact on child poverty.

So, every Budget, every year, we won’t just report on GDP growth or how much money we’ve spent, we’ll front up and tell the country how many children a Labour government has lifted out of poverty.

Standing up for Kiwis

The final part of rebuilding the Kiwi Dream is having a government that stands up for Kiwis again.

For many of us in this room, I know the TPPA is very important.

There are many things we still don’t know about what’s in the agreement.

But there is one thing we do know.

The National Government has signed us up to a clause that says we will not be able to make laws restricting the sale of land or housing to non-resident foreigners.

That’s what they’ve done.

They’ve signed us up to a commitment to other governments, and other people who don’t live in New Zealand, who don’t want to live in New Zealand, who don’t care about New Zealand.

That commitment limits what our democratically elected representatives in parliament can do.

And it’s wrong.

It’s wrong.

It’s an attack on democracy.

It’s selling out our democratic right to make our own laws.

And this matters to me because I’ve had some fights for New Zealanders under some very bad laws.

I started my law career under the Employment Contracts Act — a terrible law that cut the wages of thousands of New Zealanders.

The reason I came to Parliament was to make sure that we had laws that were good for New Zealand.

And I’m not giving that away to anybody.

But I’m not the only one with that view.

Remember Peter Fraser — one of the founding voices of our party. He saw what was happening to the Waihi Miners and he saw that for ordinary people to have a shot at their dreams they needed a democratic government on their side.

That’s what is at stake here.

Can we hold on to our democratic rights? Not if we let National trade them away.

So, I’m telling you, when it comes to undermining our democracy and our sovereignty in the TPPA, I am totally opposed and I will fight with every fibre in my body to stop it, to resist it, to make sure it never happens in New Zealand.

Our party has always backed the Kiwi Dream.

For nearly 100 years Labour has been fighting for New Zealand.

And today, it’s our turn to continue that fight.

Today, too many people feel like their dreams are slipping away.

And this government isn’t standing up for Kiwis or for what we believe.

It’s our job to turn this around.

In just two years, we can change the government and we can change this country.

We can restore opportunity.

We can create jobs.

We can end poverty and help Kiwis get ahead again.

Together, we can rise to the challenge of a new era, and chart a better course of our country.

I’m asking all of you today to make your voice heard.

I’m asking you to join our campaign, to talk to your neighbours and your friends and your family, to show them there is a better way.

Let’s send the message out from this hall today that the days of doing the easy thing are over.

It’s time to do the right thing.

The days of cowering to powerful vested interests are over.

It’s time to stand up for New Zealand.

The days of shrugging our shoulders and tolerating poverty and inequality are over.

It’s time to aim higher and do better.

It’s time to raise our sights.

We can do this.

We must do this, and we will do this.

New Zealand, together, it’s time for us to rebuild the Kiwi dream.

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[Re-published verbatim via the Labour Party website]

Comment: Andrew Little said;

Most Kiwis believe we owe it to our kids to give them a better life than we had.

But this government has turned a blind eye to appalling rates of poverty in this country.

That’s why the children’s wards of our hospitals are seeing Kiwi kids sick with third world diseases.

It’s why Emma-Lita Bourne died in a state house because her home was mouldy and unhealthy and no one was willing to help.

We must never let anything like that happen again.

New Zealand, we are a better country than that.

We’ve got to turn the page on the last seven years;

We’ve got to turn the page on rising inequality, on child poverty, on the housing crisis and on cuts to our health system…

[…]

We still have 305,000 children living in poverty. 305,000.

2 out of 5 of those children have a parent who is working.

This can’t continue. It is unjust and it’s not who we are.

We all know this, but we’ve turned our backs for far too long.

Well, that ends today.

I’m committing our party to a new principle:

We will not tolerate poverty in New Zealand in the 21st century...

[…]

We’ll work towards 100% qualified teachers in ECE centers so every kid can get the best start in life.

We’ll feed hungry kids with our food in schools programme and we’ll make sure every child grows up in a warm, safe, dry home with our Healthy Homes Guarantee.

Fine words. Words conveying a strong message.

Now Andrew Little needs to follow up those words of hope by doing something simple and at little cost to the tax-system; announce a new role of Minister for Children, and take on the position himself.

John Key has allocated the portfolio of Minister for Tourism to himself, and takes his role ‘seriously’ by regularly holidaying on the sun-drenched, warm-sands, of a Hawaiian beach. Nice for him. He gets a very nice tan out of it.

Andrew Little should do the polar opposite; take on the role of Minister for Children, and show the people of New Zealand where the priorities of a real Prime Minister should be.

Come the day after the next election, the plaque on the Ninth Floor PM’s office should read;

Rt. Hon. Andrew Little
Prime Minister
Minister for Children

He’ll miss out on the suntan, but his reward will be true legacy-making stuff.

And better than a new flag, any day.

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What's Done to children they will do to society

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 November 2015.

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Journalists encouraging irresponsible government policy?

6 January 2014 3 comments

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John Armstrong - Cutting tax tempting for National

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Sorry, John, but precisely WHO is talking about tax cuts?

Because so far, all I’m hearing is a couple of journos putting the question to Dear Leader and his faithful little side-kick, Lassie Bill English. No one else is seriously contemplating cutting taxes – not when New Zealand’s sovereign debt is now $60 billion as at 9 November this year – and  increasing by $27 million every day since Key’s hopelessly  incompetent government came to power in 2008.

According to Hamish Rutherford, writing for Fairfax Media, this equates to $13,000 for every man, woman, and child in New Zealand – and expected to increase by another $10 billion by 2017.

We need to address this problem – not fuel it by increasing consumption of imported goods, thereby worsening our balance of payments.

For god sakes, stop encouraging National to engage in any further irresponsible slashing of revenue.  National’s two previous tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 did nothing to  help stem the growth in our sovereign debt. Not when revenue fell by up to $4 billion after those tax cuts.

We have other priorities.

For example, why is the Wellington City Mission short of $2 million to carry out it’s valuable work to assist the poorest in our society? It is obscene that the Mission will have to consider reducing some services, as Chief executive Michelle Branney recently suggested.

Why are New Zealand’s poorest families unable to afford basic  medicines since this government-for-the-rich increased prescription charges in January 2013? When National cut taxes, it attempted to make up for the revenue shortfall by raising GST (despite promising in 2008 not to) and increasing government charges such as for prescriptions, Court fees, etc.

Why are New Zealanders needlessly suffering from rare diseases because PHARMAC cannot afford life-giving medication?

Why are poverty-related diseases making a come-back with such a vengeance?

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills…

… report is expected to reveal a 12 per cent rise from 2007 to 2011 in hospital admissions for poverty-related illnesses such as acute bronchiolitis, gastroenteritis, asthma, acute upper respiratory infections and skin infections.

“Most New Zealanders will find the numbers of children affected by disease shocking,” Wills told the Herald on Sunday, “but for those of us working clinically with families in poverty it is not surprising.”

Wills also works as a paediatrician in Hawke’s Bay. He said hospital wards were now full of poor, sick children every month of the year – not just in winter. There was no longer a “summer lull” in diseases.

English found himself so cash-strapped after their tax cut profligacy that, by 2012, he was even reaching into the meagre pay-packets of newspaper delivery boys and girls to grab extra tax revenue.

Instead of frittering away taxes, we need to be looking at the real problems confronting us;

  • Address child poverty problems

When children go to school hungry because families cannot afford sufficient food after paying high rents, electricity bills, etc. then there is something seriously wrong with our country.

Especially when we are now seeing children eating out of rubbish bins because there is no food at home for them. I refuse to believe that most New Zealanders want this kind of society for their children.

This is not the New Zealand I grew up in.

The next Prime Minister must make this a #1 priority, and begin with taking on the role of Minister for Children and implementing a comprehensive Food In Schools programme (not the shonkey half-measures undertaken by National earlier this year).

Next on the agenda; returning welfare payments to pre-1991-slash levels (inflation indexed); reduce prescription prices for medicine;  and implement a massive job creation programme.

  • Pay down debt

From 2000 to 2008, Clark’s administration not only paid down debt, but also posted Budget surpluses,

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Government Debt

New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

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Government Budgets

New Zealand Government Budget

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To be fair, Labour’s Finance Minister, Michael Cullen did not have the Global Financial Crisis to contend with. But by exercising fiscal prudence –  instead of  tax-cut lolly-scrambles demanded by the then-National opposition – he left the country in a fit state to weather the on-coming financial storm that was about to envelope the planet.

By the time National came to power in 2008, the global financial crisis was well and truly upon us, with the collapse of Lehman Bros on 15 September 2008. The GFC had started earlier, and signs were apparent to all but the most intransigent optimist that dark storm clouds were on the horizon.

As unemployment rose and economic activity slowed, National persevered stubbornly with it’s tax-cut programme – a move that would further indebt this country and put our government’s books back into the red again. At one stage, National was  borrowing $380 million  a week to make up for the shortfall.

This despite the fact that it was common knowledge that we were facing a dire crisis, as Tracy Watkin and Vernon Small reported on 23 April 2009,

The recession was expected to blow a $50b hole in the economy during the next three years, plunging the Government further into the red as costs climb and tax revenues fall.

“That’s $50 billion we will not recover as a nation, and $50 billion that cannot be taxed by the Government,” Mr English told a business audience in Auckland.

And yet, despite his own candid admission, English went ahead with tax cuts that we could ill afford, and had to make up with massive borrowings; cuts to government services; increased user-pays; mass sackings of state sector worker, and eventual partial asset sales. Even welfare was targetted for “reforms” (read; cost cutting) to claw back government spending.

Little wonder that by September 2011, credit rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poors had downgraded us.

  • Invest in upskilling the unemployed

Why are we importing tradespeople from overseas when we have 7.1% (153,210) unemployment in this country?

National’s response to the skills shortage was this ideological fob-off from Bill English, in June 2011,

In the first place, it is the responsibility of the companies that expect to rebuild Christchurch to ensure that they have the skills.

And to ensure that everyone understood that National was maintaining it’s long-held tradition of shirking responsibility, he added,

Of course it will be tight, because they are competing with very, very large salaries, particularly those in Western Australia where something like $250 billion worth of capital projects are in the pipeline.”

IBID

That’s the problem with a government that places it’s faith in a free market solution to everything (except corporate welfare) – nothing happens.

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to offer free skills training to every unemployed person in New Zealand, along with subsidised accomodation in Christchurch for workers moving from other towns and cities to take up work offers?

There would have been a cost, to be certain. But that would have been off-set by (a) reduced welfare payments; (b) upskilled workers who would continue to use their new training for subsequent building projects; (c) more taxes paid by more employed workers;  and (d) a flow-on effect to other businesses as income-earning workers spent their wages.

The $4 billion frittered away in tax cuts would have made a considerable dent in our unemployment and given a much needed boost to our economy. And by providing work to the unemployed, the government would have saved millions in welfare.

But by sitting on it’s hands and doing nothing, National has maintained the status quo; 160,000 unemployed wasting their time, and requiring more of our taxes to be paid for the dole.

Is this crazy or what?

Hopefully an incoming Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?)  will have more sensible policies than what we’ve seen thus far from National. (Which won’t be hard to achieve.)

And other areas which desperately require State intervention,

  • A fairer taxation system, including reducing (or even eliminating) GST; introducing a comprehensive Capital Gains Tax;  looking at a Financial Transactions Tax (or “Robin Hood” tax, as Mana refers to it); making the first $20,000 tax free; and increasing tax for the top 1%.
  • A sensible pricing system for electricity especially for low/fixed-income earners.
  • Increase funding for early childhood education.
  • More state housing, so our fellow New Zealanders have a decent roof  over their heads.
  • Invest in public transport, especially in Auckland, before the city grinds to a stop.

Those are the things we need to look at. Not cutting taxes for the well off (which is usually what the Nats end up doing).

These should be the priorities of a sensible government. Anything, everything,  else is grossly irresponsible.

Otherwise, what the hell are we leaving our children?

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debt-mountain-cartoon.

May I have some food, a home, parents

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Postscript

Armstrong’s article on tax cuts features a large image of a smiling David Cunliffe. Note; Cunliffe. Not English, nor John Key.

Is there a subtle sub-text being conveyed here that I’m missing? Perhaps I’m getting the wrong ‘message’ from Armstrong’s piece, especially when he finishes with this intriguing comment,

Overall, English will not want to tie himself to future tax cuts without more solid evidence they can be sustained.”

My… that almost sounds like a veiled warning, doesn’t it?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 December 2013.

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References

Bill English: Dr Cullen maintains tradition of tax-cut denial

Wikipedia: Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers

NZ Herald: Govt borrowing $380m a week

Fairfax media: $50b hole in economy

TV3 News: Double credit downgrade a double blow for NZ economy

Fairfax media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

The Press: Irish rush for quake jobs

NBR: Chch rebuild companies will have to find skilled workers – English

TV1 News: Rise in prescription charges ‘not fair’ – Labour

NZ Herald: Tax cuts: High earners set to benefit most

NZ Herald: Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour

Fairfax media: $4b in tax cuts coming

Dominion Post: Bennett expects welfare reform to save $1.6b

Fairfax media: Public debt climbs by $27m a day

Radio NZ: Pharmacies ‘carry cost’ of increases

NZ Herald: Child poverty ills rising

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Fairfax media: Mum Not Prepared To Wait And Die

Radio NZ: PM defends record of helping poor families

Radio NZ: 5th year in deficit at City Mission

Radio NZ: Funding declined for housing project

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Cutting tax tempting for National

The Atlantic: Tax Cuts Don’t Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-Year Study Finds

Sources

Trading Economics:  New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

Trading Economics: New Zealand Government Budget

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2013 quarter (6 Nov 2013)

Roy Morgan: New Zealand real unemployment down 0.3% to 8.5% and a further 8.6% (down 1%) of workforce are under-employed (5 Dec 2013)

Statistics NZ: 2006 Census

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census

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A short, open letter to the new leader of the Labour Party…

5 September 2013 3 comments

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poverty-pass-it-on

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Kia ora and g’day…

Firstly, congratulations on winning the leadership of the New Zealand Labour Party. With the “primaries” out of the way, it’s now time to knuckle down and work together to throw out this self-serving, incompetent government. A Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) coalition is a government-in-waiting and there is much work to be done to rebuild our society.

Our first concern should be child poverty. This is a pernicious problem (I refuse point-blank to call it an “issue”) which creates a toxicity that seeps through every aspect of our society and economy. Even National-voting comfortable middle class aspirationists cannot escape the consequences that child poverty creates in our country.

New Zealand once had a great record of being at the top of the OECD for child welfare. (We’re still near the top of the OECD PISA ratings in education, despite what supporters of ACT’s misguided Charter Schools policy might say.)

Some estimates suggest around quarter of a million children living in poverty.

This is unacceptable and it beggars belief that some New Zealanders think it is not their problem. Well, I’ve news for those naive people; it is our problem. Ignoring it will not make it go away. One way or another, we all pay for this ongoing cancer in our midst.

Our current Prime Minister, John “What-me-worry?” Key, is Minister for Tourism. He diligently carries out his duties to promote tourism by lounging on the warm, sunny beaches near his holiday home on Hawaii’s island of Maui. Quite how this benefits New Zealand tourism escapes me… but I’m no expert on this matter.

An incoming Labour Prime Minister can do much better. (In fact, I can’t see how he couldn’t.)

It is my belief that the new Leader of the Labour Party, and incoming Prime Minister, should declare to the country the seriousness of child poverty.

This can best be done by creating a new role of Minister for Children.

It would send a clear signal to every New Zealander that this is our number one priority and that the obscenity of child poverty will no longer by tolerated by decent, fair-minded New Zealanders.

There is no need for a Ministry of Education or any similar bureaucratic body. My suggestion is for an ODESC-style agency comprising  of representatives from various ministries; departments; and NGOs  which would liaise and draft policies and agendas to attack child poverty.

Child poverty is a crisis in our once egalitarian country. There is simply no excuse for a society that considers itself fair and decent to permit this to fester.

As for those who bury their heads in the sand by playing the blame-game – suggesting that parents are at fault for having children when their social-economic circumstances are dire – should reflect on these points;

  1. Children do not choose which families they are born into.
  2. Parents circumstances change. Prior to the global financial crisis, we had low unemployment at around 3.4%. It is now approximately double that. Parents do not choose global financial melt-downs, nor the poverty it creates.
  3. The neo-liberal economic “reforms” of the 1980s and 1990s promised us a “trickling down” of jobs and increased prosperity. None of that has happened and instead wealth has trickled upward. It is now harder and more expensive to raise a family than it ever has been since 1984.

The next Prime Minister of New Zealand will not have the luxury of lying under a Hawaaian sun on a beach in Maui.

As Minister for Children, he will have his work cut out for him. This will be a real working Prime Minister.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 September 2013.

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