Written By: - Date published: 9:55 am, January 27th, 2014 - 53 comments
Categories: child welfare, class war, education, election 2014, greens, housing, Metiria Turei, poverty, sustainability, vision - Tags:
Metiria Turei delivered a very strong, inspiring, and well-targeted speech yesterday at the Picnic for the Planet.
She began with some powerful words: words that outlined a fractured set of values, torn apart by the ruthless “neoliberal” onslaught against strong community values; words for an inclusive society where we are all in it together, working with and for each other.
Near the beginning of the speech, Turei said:
New Zealand needs the Greens in Government this year and we, I promise, are ready to be there.
We are so ready to be there! For the sake of our planet and for the sake of our kids.
Our country was built on the values of hard work, a fair share and looking out for your neighbour. And if you do, you’ll make it, and so will your family.
This is the opening line in the New Zealand story.
And it was written in a pact, made decades ago, that in exchange for our collective efforts the state will have our back.
A strong, free public health system and a strong, free public education system was the manifestation of that pact.
We were promised that no one would be left out because they were too sick or unable to work, or because their parents were poor and illiterate.
We were promised that the health and welfare system would be there for all of us.
We were promised that our kids would leave school ready and able to achieve to the fullest extent of their talents.
This pact is precious to us. It’s defined us, as a community, and it has defined what it means to be fair, and what is good and what is right.
Over the past 30 years that pact has been torn apart.
We can use our power this year to make sure that pact is honoured again.
Turei then points out, that these values were not fully realised, even in the better days of our past. She wants to fully implement these values in a way that’s appropriate for our current 21st century context:
This is not some hankering for the good old days, because let’s be honest, they weren’t exactly perfect, especially for Māori, Pacific People, disabled New Zealanders, women, or the environment for that matter.
It’s about reclaiming the values of fairness, and equality and a passion for our land and waters.The essence of our national character.
We can, and will, harness those values to drive us forward to something even better, for everyone: A place that’s fairer, happier, smarter, and Greener.
Yes, Greener! Reclaim the birth-rights of our children!
The right to swim in unpolluted rivers, to live in warm dry homes, to have a great education, to eat good healthy food. The right of everyone to be free to be everything they’re capable of being.
Turei identifies inequality as a defining issue for the coming election. I gave some background to the damaging impact of a wide inequality gap, in this post focused on The Spirit Level, and NZ’s inequality crisis.
In yesterday’s speech, Turei argues that environmental and human-focused policies, problems and solutions are intertwined.
Inequality encourages ecological recklessness among the wealthiest people and the richest nations.
Inequality drives over consumption, then hides the impact from the people who do most of the consuming; rich nations who shift their polluting industries offshore, and wealthy individuals who can afford to fly to Fiji to swim in pristine waters, while other people’s kids can no longer swim in their local river.
Turei refers to the Children’s Commissioner’s report, which shows that this is what poverty looks like in New Zealand today:
17 per cent of kids going without fresh food, their own bed, raincoats, doctors’ visits, birthday parties, and other things most of us would say are the bare minimum.
Ten per cent of kids living in severe poverty.
Poorer kids have three times the rate of hospital admissions for preventable illnesses. They are one and a half times as likely to die in infancy, and have an up to 50 per cent chance of becoming a poor adult, when, inevitably, the poverty cycle begins again for their kids.
The Education Hub Policy
A major plank in the Green party solution will be to create hubs for schools in lower income areas:
We will establish schools in lower income areas as hubs, where the health, social and welfare needs of children, and their families can be met onsite, where the kids are, at school.
Kids in lower decile schools will be: fed, through a national school lunch fund; sick kids will get medical attention from dedicated school nurses; and families will get the support they need to work, further their own education and be engaged in their kids learning.
We’ll employ a coordinator in each school to make these hubs happen and to take the burden off stretched teachers so they can do what they do best – educate our kids.
A key part of our plan is free after school and holiday care in decile one to four schools.
Free after school care will gives poorer children an opportunity to get involved in sports and cultural and music activities, and the space to do homework.
We’ll build early childhood centres onsite in low decile schools where there is a need.
Schools form the “heart” of communities. The education policy is further outlined in this press release.
Parliamentary Labour have signalled that they support this policy (NZ Herald).
NewstalkZB: ‘Greens to focus on inequality this year’.