- Date published:
8:00 am, March 31st, 2020 - 35 comments
Categories: accountability, covid-19, Economy, election 2020, employment, equality, jobs, making shit up, minimum wage, paul goldsmith, Politics, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, wages, welfare, workers' rights - Tags: concern troll, fairness, part-time workers, wage subsidy scheme, windfall
A healthy democracy relies on a well-functioning Opposition whose job it is to hold the Government to account and to represent an alternative government (in waiting). Over the years, this has morphed into a dirty game of point scoring, which has undermined public trust in the political process and democracy at large.
At present, being an effective Opposition is harder than ever. On the one hand, we need non-partisan solutions and collaboration in these dark times. On the other hand, the Government is making even more far-reaching decisions and using emergency powers, which require a high(er) level of transparency, scrutiny, and accountability.
The current Leader of the Opposition was stuck in electioneering mode and colour blind as well as tone deaf to the changes around him. However, a calmer more rational figure stepped forward in the form of Paul Goldsmith, the cunning campaigner from Epsom, who also is, of course, a member of the 11-member Epidemic Response Committee (ERC) – I cannot think of any reason why they didn’t call it the Pandemic Response Committee. People were impressed with him, as he seemed to say more of the right things than his Leader did at the time. Moreover, some seem to think he’s hot, so hot that they were getting horny for him, allegedly. Different strokes for different folks, of course, so whatever floats your boat, especially in these stressful times.
With the daily updates from varous Government corners, it is guaranteed that mistakes are made whilst we’re moving deeper into unchartered territory day by day. The key is good communication, even more than usual. After a few initial hiccups, the Government now seems to have it down to almost a fine art.
The latest changes to Wage Subsidy Scheme announced on Friday may have contained some ambiguous language in the various stand-up and/or written press releases that led to some confusion. The normal response would be to check and ask for clarification. Not the National Finance Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith though. He constructed a few examples from nowhere (i.e. complete and utter fiction, none of which came even close to the realistic case studies on the Government’s website) to make the point that the new emergency measures were apparently providing some part-time earners an unfair windfall.
If we give Paul Goldsmith the benefit of doubt and assume he genuinely did not understand the scheme, we could and should have left it at that and let it go. However, it is not as simple as that. Because his examples were quite telling.
In his first example, he used a student working 4 hours per week and earning the grand total of $75 gross. His second example was that of a person working three (!) part-time jobs, each earning $100 per week. What do these examples have in common? They are the lowest level of weekly incomes. They are portraying people, real people who do (sub-)exist in NZ society, who struggle to earn a few measly dollars. Who would want to work three part-time jobs a week each earning $100? Unless they have to. Which student would want to work 4 hours per week unless they have to?
In typical National style, Paul Goldsmith blew his dog whistle and picked on people living in Struggle Street and he begrudged them their imaginary windfall of a few dollars. Remember, the subsidy for part-timers is capped at $350 per week (i.e. 20 hours at approximately the minimum wage of $17.70 an hour) yet Paul Goldsmith claimed they were “large windfalls”.
Now, it seems this was all a bigly misunderstanding on Paul Goldsmith’s behalf. The imaginary worker with three part-time jobs was not going to be able to claim three subsidies of $350 each from their three employers. The Minister of Finance did clarify this the next day, as did the PM. Phew! We were dangerously close to a Windfall Tax on low-income earners, which could have pushed the last few paperboys out of business.
It is a huge relief that National has the interests of all New Zealanders at heart, especially the low-income earners, and that they stand firmly for fairness. When this pandemic has blown over, I’d expect National to introduce a CGT forthwith because of the unfairness of the large windfalls that homeowners enjoy over the
great unwashed less fortunate Kiwis who have to pay astronomically high rents.
It is good to know we have an effective Opposition holding the Government to account and I look forward to the Election and a fair and clean election campaign. Given that perception is everything (hence the bulging PR teams and their helpful
buddies counter-parts in MSM) it often is less important what you say than how you say it. Tone and style are often more important, i.e. influential and key determinants of responses and ensuing discussions, than actual content, which all is very similar to the commentary here on The Standard. Behaving like a concern troll does not make for effective Opposition nor does it build trust in the political process; we all know what happens to concern trolls here on The Standard 😈