I thought about making my last pre-election post about a policy comparison, item by item, between Nat and Labour. But in the end I decided that, for me at least, it’s a simpler decision than that. There aren’t five or ten or a dozen policy reasons to vote for the Left in this election. There are 100,000 reasons to vote for a Labour / Green government. Every one of them is a child.
We all know that NZ has appalling stats on child poverty, and that it is doing real damage to our society. 3 News have run a real campaign on the issue this year – journalism at its best as a force for social justice. This culminated in an excellent documentary on Tuesday night. If you didn’t catch it you can watch it online here. It created quite a stir, especially the headline claim:
More than 100 New Zealand children who died last year would probably have survived had they lived in Japan, Sweden or the Czech Republic, a new documentary shows.
But will we actually do anything as a result? The number of kids living in poverty was falling (at last) in the later years of the last Labour government, and it is rising again under National. The question is, how much do we care?
The Greens have excellent child welfare policy. As do Labour, who have promised to put children at the centre of policy. Labour, The Greens and The Maori Party collectively signed a pledge on child welfare. The mainstay of Labour’s plan is a (fully costed) $2.6 Billion pledge to tackle child poverty head on, and make a real difference. The response from child care organisations was excellent, calling the plan comprehensive and brave. Both Labour and The Greens say they can lift 100,000 children out of poverty.
National’s response was the usual nonsense about perpetuating a “welfare trap”. Pathetic. (Lew has an excellent discussion of the Nats’ impoverished response to child poverty.) Welfare levels were at historic lows under the last Labour government. People want to work. There is no welfare trap, there’s a no-jobs trap. But even putting that aside, the Nat response is the usual blinkered, short term thinking. The costs of child poverty to society, even in narrow monetary terms, are estimated at $6 billion annually (see this excellent summary from Grant Robertson). Labour’s $2.6 Billion plan for action is far cheaper than doing nothing.
So that’s it really. In the end its pretty simple for me. I’m asking you to vote for the Left this election, for 100,000 reasons. Cheers.