Written By: - Date published: 8:34 am, October 10th, 2013 - 7 comments
Categories: benefits, david cunliffe, employment, greens, housing, labour, mana, poverty, sustainability, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags: CTU, social security
As Eddie posted, Cunliffe made a very important speech to the CTU conference yesterday, re-committing parliamentary Labour’s to unions and to strengthening workers’ rights.
There was a bit of a discussion, started by Mary, last night on The Standard, about whether Cunliffe’s Labour would continue to marginalise beneficiaries while promoting the work ethic. I’m withholding judgement for now, and will continue to party vote Green to ensure Labour doesn’t cave to powerful right wing pressures, as well as keeping Labour left on social security issues.
Nevertheless, it was a significant, rousing and inspiring speech by Cunliffe, not just for the policy pledges as outlined by Eddie, but for the underlying philosophy expressed by Cunliffe – and in this he indicated a significant shift for parliamentary Labour: “from a cost-based to a values-based” strategy.
That is, Cunliffe is focusing on an inclusive society and one that provides a good life for “all” Kiwis, with opportunities for all. This is where his policies begin, and from that the financial based practicalities will be worked out. This is the reversal of the “neoliberal” agenda, that always focuses on economic matters first, while the social set-up follows and many struggle. This bankrupt, bankster serving, money-and-profits-above-all, “neoliberalism” benefits the few over the many, and at the expense of the less swell-off. The whole of society suffers.
Cunliffe is pointing to a different kind of society and policy platform.
He did not separate the deserving from the undeserving poor, and he did not just talk about the good life for all “workers”, but several times repeated that it was for “all New Zealanders”. Cunliffe began his speech talking about the plight of New Zealands precariat, and the unacceptable situation that unemployed people are living with: for instance, families with nowhere affordable to live, crowded into garages.
Main points from Cuniffe’s speech are reported here alongside videos and audios of the speech. I still will be waiting to see what Team Cunliffe will offer beneficiaries. A fair, livable and sustainable New Zealand needs a reformed social security system that works for ALL Kiwis.
A strengthening of worker rights and provisions is needed to turn life around for too many struggling Kiwis, and as part of a caring and inclusive society. However, I prefer values that don’t reinforce the punitive protestant work ethic. I prefer values that recognise not all Kiwis can participate in paid work, while many make a positive contribution through various kinds of unpaid work. Unpaid work is not necessarily done daily, weekly, or between set hours. But it is an important part of a well-functioning society.
Meanwhile, here is Cunliffe’s CTU speech – it is a significant one. And not “strident”, as claimed by Michael Fox on Stuff. But rousing, inspiring, and hopeful.
[Update] Gordon Campbell also touches on some of the same themes as in my above post. Extracts:
Dutifully though, the Dom-Post served its political masters by calling the speech ”strident” – you know, as in “strident” feminist – while the NZ Herald pressed much the same buttons via its headline “Labour Re-affirms Support For Unions’ Agenda.” Get the point: it’s the unions agenda, and he’s in their pocket. For a relevant contrast, try imagining the Herald headlining a John Key speech as “National Re-Affirms Support For Plutocrats’ Agenda.” Wouldn’t happen. In fact, responding to the needs of workplaces in strife is fairly familiar territory for Cunliffe.
The aspirational context of the speech though is likely to prove more important on the campaign trail next year than the policy details. What Cunliffe was outlining was a society where people and their families no longer get treated as disposable commodities. The speech envisioned a society governed by the value of people and the potential of their children, and not simply by the cost of their labour. If Cunliffe can marry this kind of feelgood vision with enough fiscal responsibility to be credible, National will have a fight on its hands next year.
[Update 2] Turei’s speech to the CTU – on Living Wage, asset sales, and insecure work and more.