I saw your letter week before week; the one to John Key resigning from the National Party. John Key mentioned that he didn’t plan on replying to you; a bit rude, really. But given you did send the letter to every media outlet in New Zealand, I guess it lost that personal touch.
I didn’t want to see your letter go unacknowledged though, so here I am, writing to you to say thanks.
Thank you for reminding me that you believe low wages are the route to higher employment. Paying young people less is not what I would call a comprehensive list of ideas to deal with unemployment, yet it’s the only one I have heard ACT raise in two and a half years. Points for consistency, but none for ignoring the fact that the last time youth unemployment was this high, we were paying young people less than everyone else.
Thank you for restating your position on the environment. You claim we should be fast followers on the issue of climate change, for the sake of our farmers. I would argue we should be leaders of environmental reform for the sake of all of us.
Of course, supporting our exporters is crucial and that includes the dairy industry, as our biggest export earners. But surely that means acknowledging that our brand matters. There is a reason that the UK labels our butter as ‘free range’- there is a growing global movement of conscience consumers and retaining our brand advantage means that it’s time to stop pretending we’re clean and green, and start acknowledging that lagging behind will not only have environmental repercussions, but economic ones also.
Thank you for highlighting what the National party really stands for. I’m writing this during budget week, and while legislation is going through Parliament to cut Kiwsaver, working for families, and restrict student loans. The way the Government is talking, it would be easy to think these are all steps that they’ve been forced into because of the Christchurch earthquakes and the global financial crisis. Let’s be honest though, if fiscal restraint was the only game in town, they would have pulled back on their almost $25billion in tax cuts, which is responsible for roughly $130 million a week worth of our borrowing. Instead, they’ve gone for the things they never really believed in: Working for Families (which in opposition they called ‘communism’); student loans, which John Key called a bribe; and Kiwsaver, the personal savings scheme which you all called too ‘generous.’ Ultimately, these cuts will hurt, but they won’t fix the real issue- our stagnant low wage economy.
Thank you for reminding us again, about the wage gap between New Zealand and Australia, but I would add a few more ‘gaps’ to the list. The skills gap is one. Recently, I had a desperate mum contact me. Her son had just graduated from MIT with a plumbing qualification. The next step in his career was to become an apprentice, something that shouldn’t have been hard given the lack of qualified tradespeople across the country. Despite a desperate search, he couldn’t find a single placement in New Zealand so he turned to Australia. He is now training in Melbourne, where he has been bonded for the next 3 years. And what has the Government response been? To cut $55 million from industry training. Of course the wage gap matters, but let’s not pretend that money is the only reason our young people are looking offshore or that there is nothing the Government can do about it.
Thank you for mentioning superannuation. Not an especially sexy subject matter, but incredibly important nonetheless. Your answer though, to raise the age of entitlement, seems to come without any analysis of the other choices the government is disregarding. It’s not a default option, but it becomes that way in lieu of decent planning. I still remember sitting in Parliament for the Government’s first budget as they suspended all payments into the country’s superannuation fund for the next decade and realising that this was the moment they wrote off my generation.
In many ways though Mr Brash, I fear that you have written off not just my generation, but New Zealand. There was no hope in your letter, no sense of aspiration or of the idea that we can build a prosperous country and do it without adopting an ‘every man and women for themselves’ mentality. And that’s the real reason I want to thank you, because you reminded me why I got into politics and why I became an MP- because we have the potential to be so much more than what you would consign us to.