It’s a tough Christmas for far too many Kiwis. Poverty is up, wages are down. 350,000 Kiwis are jobless or underemployed. The job losses are still coming – 130 from sawmills hammered by the high dollar, 160 from the Te Aroha meatworks fire, 400 as a result of the Pike River disaster, and untold numbers – that may reach 20,000 – from the earthquake. The rich got tax cuts, 70% got nothing. Drought is spreading. Thousands of Cantabrians face an uncertain future with their houses damaged and their jobs on the line.
As with the global recession, National isn’t responsible for creating these problems but, as government, it is responsible for fixing or ameliorating them. It’s not happening. Key promised to do “whatever it takes to assist the region” after the Canterbury Earthquake. Now, the message from National is “businesses that are struggling need to have a good look at themselves to identify whether it is just the earthquake or whether they are at a stage that they need to do more work on their business model and the earthquake has just brought it to a head earlier than it would normally” and a modest request for $4.1 million in assistance to keep businesses going was met with a pathetic $600,000 from the government.
Key and co promise big but, instead of delivering the help that is needed, National is exploiting disaster to advance its agenda.
We saw the Government’s cynical use of disaster during after the Canterbury Earthquake, when it rushed through CERRA, the Gerry Brownlee Enabling Act, that made Brownlee our virtual dictator. The law has already been used to circumvent the public’s concern about the safety of super-sized trucks on the roads by permitting over-dimension and over-weight trucks anywhere in the country as long as its part fo the ‘earthquake recovery’
Crisis was exploited again during the Hobbit shake-down, when the government slammed through legislation intended to remove the work rights of film workers.
Brownlee, again, is cynically exploiting disaster on the West Coast. He’s talking about by-passing the RMA using the new ‘Environmental Protection’ Agency to fast-track new mines and even allow Pike River to be open-cast mined – actually mountaintop removing mining – despite being on Schedule 4 land (won’t happen anyway: the company has said it never considered open-cast mining because removing 150m of hill-tip to get at a few metres of coal is plainly uneconomical). Of course, all the fast-tracking in the world wouldn’t create new mining jobs for several years.
Make no mistake: this isn’t about preserving the jobs that have been lost. It’s about making an end-run round the huge public opposition to mining on protected land. Brownlee thinks he can wrap the issue in the emotion of the disaster and get what he wants.
With drought spreading and set to become a more regular feature due to climate change, look for the government to seize more control of the nation’s water resources for farming interests. The first taste of this was the sacking of Ecan and the canceling of elections. More of this to come – regional councils may even be abolished with power concentrated in Nick Smith’s ‘Environmental Protection’ Agency. It’s all about letting dairy farmers on land that should never be used for dairy take more water out of our rivers and replace it with cow shit. The farmers have no shame in the fact that the rivers they swam in as kids are now unsafe, and National will always be at their side.