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From “Cost-based to Value-based”

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: ,

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.

TVNZ report

3 News report

NZ Herald report.

[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.

7 comments on “From “Cost-based to Value-based””

  1. Rogue Trooper 1

    Very Good.

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    Outstanding synopsis karol. FYI I’ve communicated to Cunliffe once in the last couple of months with regards to the subject of ensuring beneficiaries are not sidelined by exclusive languaging and a focus on “workers”, and in the last few days he has made reference to the accomplishments of the “Kurow Three” so I know that the topic of ‘social security’ is not far from his mind.

  3. Chooky 3

    thanks Karol….Go Cunliffe

  4. aerobubble 4

    A fight on their hands? Really, do you think Labour have it in them?

    Just listening to the pod of Dr Grimes, where he starts off saying everyone agrees that inflation targetting works, despite the policy being introduced after the middle east glut of cheap high density fuel and leading up to the present day with huge global indebtedness. I ask you, what does a religion look like, well economics is a religion when men like Dr Grimes can not cite one instance where inflation targeting doesn’t work. The essence of the argument is, politician can read, they see that a glut of high density fuels is on the way, this will produce a driven economy that has nothing to do with how well the rent seekers sponge up the wealth (which they have done very very well) or how effective the role of a central bank is in bring down inflation when seriously it wasn’t them, it was simple the force drive of cheaper and cheaper oil. Driven economies like war time economies) are very stable and very predictable, lower inflation was inevitable with monetry easing.

    So its not about being entirely defensively coming across as fiscally responsible, its about attacking the lies of the last thirty year that have improvised our society, turning middle classes into beggars and beggars into untouchables, while strip mining wealth to a 1%.

  5. Chris 5

    That has to be one of the most outstanding speeches from the left for a very long time.

    As an aside we finally have a Prime Minister in the making who can articulate his message clearly and concisely.

    I look forward to hearing more about New Zealand and seeing Nu Zillind dispatched with haste to the nearest trash bin.

  6. xtasy 6

    This was a pretty strong and good speech by Cunliffe, the first such speech I heard from a Labour leader since Helen’s best times! Especially towards the end he sends home the message and makes a strong commitment.

    But as Mary, and I agree a lot with her, as a beneficiary at present, for mostly health reasons, I have suffered immensely under this present government, even having been driven close to suicide a few times, I will wait for what Labour has for us in store!

    I want to be treated fairly, respectfully and be included in my journey towards work or treatment, not by some demagoguery, ideological government that relies on pseudo science and manipulations by a Dr David Bratt as Principal Health Advisor for MSD and WINZ.

    Labour will have to throw out this crap that they present us, and the biased, largely insufficiently, or even unproved, ideas by one Mansel Aylward from the UK, paid for his “research” by a basically corrupt US insurance giant by the name of Unum Provident, who also were involved in designing work capability tests and welfare reforms in the UK, where thousands died, either through suicide, or early death, for not coping with expectations by DWP.

    I last read this submission, which gives me more concerns about what comes next in NZ:


    MSD’s Principal Health Advisor Dr Bratt and his team seem to be preparing new ways of outsourcing Work Capability Assessments, to be done by selected professionals, some not even with medical qualifications! This affects ALL sick and disabled on BENEFITS: THERE are major changes happening, yet again, and it is highly worrying stuff!

    Hence until I hear a clear commitment by Labour that satisfies me, I will at least party vote Greens or even Mana, simply for this reason!

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