Written By: - Date published: 10:18 am, September 20th, 2013 - 220 comments
Categories: child welfare, climate change, david cunliffe, economy, employment, gst, housing, labour, Left, pasifika, poverty, trade, Unions, vision, workers' rights - Tags:
It looks like David Cunliffe is aiming to continue reaching beyond the MSM via blogs and social media to connect with the Labour and left base. It was interesting that so early in his tenure as Labour caucus leader, David Cunliffe chose to do a live interview on The Daily Blog Live, via Skype, last night. Cunliffe also posted on The Standard’s open mike, to announce that the interview was about to begin. I do hope this continues.
Critique of some significant points made in the interview
Cunliffe continued to outline his vision, or ambition, to develop a new form of social democracy appropriate for the 21st century context. He is emphatically keeping hopes alive for a new direction and break with the soft “neoliberalism” of Third Way politics. There was much in the interview to excite those on the left who have learned to be critical of statements of a new direction from Labour leaders.
In response to some skepticism, Cunliffe says to judge them by their actions. We will.
My main quibble about last night’s interview was that it addressed those on the left knowledgeable about economic and financial policies, at the expense of the everyday language of struggling Kiwis. Many of us are wary of how Cunliffe’s caucus will tackle the crisis of the inequality gap, and work for the struggling poor, especially beneficiaries. We have become wary after the way Shearer prioritised the “deserving” working poor, while undermining the (allegedly) “undeserving” beneficiaries.
Cunliffe has shifted way from that by nominally acknowledging the needs of the poor and those on benefits and the importance of scoail security as intended by the 1930s Labour government. However, this still remains to be fleshed out in anywhere near as much detail as his focus on jobs, employment regulations and industrial policy. Neverthelesst is good to hear Cunliffe speak strongly in support of unions. This needs to happen for a strong social security policy to be developed.
Cunliffe has been working extremely hard over the last week, to get his team/s organised. He clearly has a great work ethic. However, once he has sorted out his caucus line-up and internal structures and staffing, I will be looking for a strong cluster of Labour MPs working on social security and policy issues. I will be looking to see some positive development in social security polices, and on things like the improvement of state housing provisions.
The Content of the Interview
Below is a chronological summary of the content of the interview, highlighting points related to my critique above.
Key’s government acts as if the GFC never happened. But for Cunliffe:
Our challenge is to describe what the next phase looks like for Social Democrats: a programme which will be job rich, value rich, a foundation for a new social equity. But one which is also pragmatically achievable and fiscally affordable. So I think we can do all of those things.
But in doing so, if we’re successful, I think we’ll end up describing a brand new form of community-based social democracy – which will be, I hope, amongst the early versions of that description internationally – Just as we were, sadly, during the Rogernomics era.
Cunliffe favours CGT, and critiques the income inequalities, through which many have become relatively less well-off since WWII, while a small percentage of the top wealth holders have increased their wealth. While many in NZ are struggling on low incomes, including those on benefits, others gain from income that is untaxed: e.g. through property speculation and share trade speculation. I would add that much of this income is gained through very little effort on by those who gain financially.
Cunliffe attacks the wealthy who avoid paying taxes through trusts etc. He will be aiming to ensure everyone pays their fair share.
Furthermore, on inequality: we need “a little more in the coffers” so we “get a little more to play with”. (5:30 mins)
I don’t think however that our tax and benefit system is inexhaustible. And there’s a whole bunch of literature around about building into the wage system, better structures and processes, so that we have more social equity.
So stuff like industry standard agreements, which would put unions back at the heart of industrial relations; the idea that we would have a living wage, and that we would highlight that through the government sector; the fact that we would raise the minimum wage; the fact that we would protect vulnerable workers; and the fact that we would get better jobs – is all part of a package that, rather than redistributes, you might say pre-distributes by hard wiring and better levels social equity right from the start. And we have to change the industrial relations frame work to get there, and we will.
Cuniffe states, human induced climate change is a fact. The climate will shift within various parts of NZ (wetter on the west coast, dryer on the east); sea levels will rise, and their will be environmental refugees, especially from the low-lying atolls of the Pacific. It may affect our markets and result in some global instability. We therefore need better management of our water resources; build forest sinks; carbon pricing; a workable ETS; participating in post-Kyoto Treaty negotiations.
With respect to poverty, Cunliffe says we need an economy relatively resilient to climate change so avoid escalating unemployment and poverty.
Cunliffe argues that NZ can lead the way on responding to climate change refugees, and that can be incorporated with asylum policy. This is particularly relevant to our relationships with atolls and islands under threat in the Pacific. (10 mins approx)
And it’s part of a bigger picture, isn’t it? I mean, New Zealand should be, in my view, kind of like a Nordic of the South Pacific: a small smart country that’s prepared to lead in international human rights. And that’s a contribution we can make.
On New Zealand’s international independence (approx 10.59 mins):
Cunliffe points to his experience when he was a junior diplomat, running an aid programme for a couple of years in the South Pacific and representing the Pacific in Washington DC at Congress. He argues there are now bigger powers operating in the South Pacific with bigger cheque books than we can compete with. In strategic terms we need to deepen our engagement with the South Pacific, and improve the quality of it, such as with the seasonal worker scheme, bringing workers from Pacific islands to NZ.
I would like to see us develop a Pacific broadcasting capability in the longer term, as we can afford it. […] I think we need to be broadcasting in Pacific languages into the Pacific, out of New Zealand.
Bomber asked (13.05 mins) about the lessons of Lehman’s collapse for the future of neoliberalism: Cunliffe gives his explanation of what happened.
approx 15.13 mins:
There hasn’t been sufficient re-regulation yet in my view of global financial markets.
Then Cunliffe goes on to talk of the problem of the Kiwi dollar being the “speculative plaything of international markets”. Ultimately this impacts on exports and jobs in NZ, raises our international debt and makes many Kiwis poorer. FTT (Financial Trading Tax) will likely be in play internationally in the future, but NZ is too small a country to do it alone.
On progressive taxation: (approx 18.33 mins). Won’t be able to lower GST, at least until the CGT begins to gain traction. Budget wise, they will be constrained as to how much they can re-progressivise the tax system. It will be done gradually, according to how much can be afforded. There will be some fine tuning of WFF, initially.
… we are still thinking pretty hard about delivering for our poorest children. And looking at a range of options to deliver higher levels of support [right into?] the poorest families even [where?] working.
Cunliffe goes on to talk of improving gender equality and empowering women: extend PPL (Paid Prentla Leave), restore ECE (Early Childhood) subsidies so every Kiwi child gets ECE.
Cunliffe explains why they will review the GCSB before changing the law. The aim will be to balance security needs with rights to privacy and freedom of association of New Zealanders; and balancing domestic issues with those with an international focus.
Cunliffe would aim to reinstate NZ’s independent sovereignty and foreign policies, which would maintain friendly and respectful relations with both China and The US, without locking NZ into supporting one or the other. Cunliffe acknowledges the complexity of the TPPA, but says there needs to be sufficient details released publicly for a genuine public debate about it, in order to maintain our democratic sovereignty.
Selwyn Manning puts to Cunliffe, that while there is excitement within centre left about Cunliffe’s leadership, some on left and centre left blogs indicate skepticism as to whether Cunliffe will stick to his promises. People are wary because they have been betrayed before by Labour politicians, especially 1984-1990.
Cunliffe says he turned down a treasury job in the 1980s because he never agreed with Rogernomics, and has continued to disagree with it.
Cunliffe says the last week he has been hard out making over the caucus line-up, as well as reworking their “internal structures and staffing”. These “mechanics” need to be right before they can deliver for our people”. So he says:
… judge us by our actions. Somebody asked me yesterday, “Are you going to do all those things you said on the campaign trail?”And the answer is, “You bet!”
It’s great to see such engagement with the left blogosphere, beyond the MSM, to produce such a hopeful vision for change. In the future, some of us would also like to see more fleshing out of social security and other policies to benefit the struggling poor, especially beneficiaries.
judge us by our actions.
You bet! Many of us will.