Written By: - Date published: 11:00 am, July 25th, 2014 - 14 comments
Categories: capitalism, climate change, election 2014, equality, greens, Metiria Turei, poverty, russel norman, sustainability - Tags:
This week the Green Party has been continuing it’s election focus on reducing poverty and inequalities (with a strong focus on its impact on children), and developing sustainable communities. This brings into focus two current crises that we need to put every effort into tackling: poverty/inequality; and the destruction of our environment as a result of climate change and over-dependence on extractive resources.
The underlying causes of both these crises is the profiteering, individualistic, and often short-term ethos of capitalism, especially the turbo-charged, consumerist, “neoliberal” brand of capitalism that has been running rampant in recent decades.
The Green Party has chosen to focus it’s election campaign on tackling these crises through some key areas, and practical policies,. These are likely to have meaning for large numbers of kiwi households living within our current context, dominated by media-fueled culture of misinformation, diversion, and individualism.
It seems, though, that the Greens have decided that it won’t have electoral traction to focus strongly on the impact on adults of of poverty and the inequality gap.
At the beginning of the week, Metiria Turei announced a policy of 20 hours free early childhood education for two year olds. This is to be one plank an inter-related raft of policies focused on “thriving kids”.
The Green Party today announced that its key social platform for this election will be to tackle child poverty and inequality by ensuring every child in New Zealand has enough to thrive.
The Green Party will make a series of policy announcements in the run up to the election which will cumulatively form a plan to ensure that every child has enough of what they need to thrive.
In the first of these announcements, made today, the party has announced a package to support families by extending access to free early childhood education and improve the quality of all ECE.
The key policy points in the Green Party’s plan for supporting families access ECE are:
- Extend the 20 Hours free early childhood education subsidy to cover two-year-olds, at an initial cost of $255 million. As the benefits of this successful scheme are opened up to at least another 40,000 children, more kids will get a good start in life and the burdens on their families will be eased.
- Provide $32 million a year to restore funding for 100% qualified teachers, as part of an ambitious plan to boost the quality of early childhood education and make sure every child gets the right care and support.
The cost of the package will be $297 million per year, rising to $367 million within four years.
The evidence has long been clear that the early years are crucial to a child’s social, physical and educational development; and that good early childhood care and education provisions can contribute living a positive and satisfying life as an adult. The policy outline quotes some relevant sources, providing supporting evidence.
The outline then points out how this will help families on low incomes:
…for every dollar spent now on ECE, society saves anywhere between $3 and $16 down the track.
Subsiding high-quality ECE is a powerful equaliser, helping compensate for the harder start in life that many children face, and making a bigger difference to low-income families. It also smooths the path for families that have both parents in work because they cannot afford to have one at home fulltime with their child. According to a 2010 OECD study, New Zealand working families pay 28 per cent of their net income on childcare – the fourth highest percentage of family income in the group of 32 industrialised nations belonging to the organisation. Extending ECE subsidies addresses a shortfall in the support provided to some young families.
Yesterday Russel Norman announced a renewable energy policy that continues the focus on children, schools and their communities: the “Solar in Schools’ Policy:
The Green Party will help schools install solar and save money on their power bills by investing $20 million into solar PV systems in schools.
The $20 million is expected to:
- Help around 500 schools install solar over three years
- Result in 6.7MW of total installed capacity
- Achieve annual savings of $1.64m (exclusive of GST) over the 25 year lifespan of the panels installed
- Achieve total savings of $41m (exclusive of GST) over the 25 year lifespan of the panels installed
- Allow schools to invest in other areas of teaching and learning with the money saved
- Educate kids, staff, parents and the wider community about clean energy
These are very good policies, tackling urgent needs, and promoted in a way that will be meaningful to people in many households, especially those with children and young people.
We also need a strong surge of grassroots pressure to put more focus on the impacts of poverty, inequalities, and environmental destruction on people of all ages. Children do not exist in communities that are separate from the lives of adults – young, old and in-between.
As an older member of society, I am very happy for government spending to prioritise measures to ensure all children get the very best start in life. This IS the key to a thriving society of the future.
And I really like the way the policies on environment are inter-linked with those aiming to tackle income and wealth inequalities, and produce livable collaborative communities.
We are all in this together.