The 2016 budget has been delivered. The best analysis has been provided by Deborah Russell. Her conclusion is captured by the opening paragraph of her article published in the Herald. Crosby Textor dreams of having this quality of succinct analysis. The added bonus is that it is reality based and not spin.
Very quietly, a cut here and a decrease there, a failure to keep up with inflation in one place, and ignoring increasing population in another place, the Government is walking away from New Zealand’s longstanding social compact.
And she is right. The effect is gradual and mostly subtle but New Zealand is less and less that wonderful egalitarian place that almost all of us wish it was because of this budget.
Maybe National is planning a tax cut next year. Maybe we should give the wealthy even more money. Or maybe we should try and fix some terrible social problems that Aotearoa clearly has. Now.
How did we get to our current situation? The John Key leadership of the country was initially so promising. Originally he sounded like National’s version of Michael Joseph Savage wanting to make New Zealand a better place for all of us. Yet it is now increasingly clear that this was spin designed to make sure that National gained and retained power and not an attempt to continue Aotearoa’s egalitarian tradition.
Something strange is happening to John Key’s website. It is losing track of his speeches. Previously it had every one, word for word, and you used to be able to go there and search phrases like “climate change” and “child poverty” and work out how important these issues were to John from year to year. But now it only has the text of eleven speeches from the past eighteen months and they are not searchable.
Maybe it has been determined that for political purposes ignorance is actually bliss and we should not be allowed to even guess what John was thinking of from year to year. If this is true it is very retrograde.
I discovered this Kafkaesque revision of what we are allowed to know about John Key’s speeches when I tried to find the infamous state of the nation speech Key gave in 2007 when he was leader of the opposition. It was nowhere to be found on his site. The only copy I could locate was a reprint on the Herald website.
The speech is well written and reading it you get a sense of how keen Key was to appeal to Labour and left supporters. And given what has happened since what a sham it was.
Following are some excerpts.
For me, politics is about the ability to make change for the betterment of all New Zealanders. It’s about challenging us all to dream how great our country can be and then setting out to achieve it.
Part of The Kiwi Way is a belief in opportunity and in giving people a fair go.
As New Zealanders, we have grown up to believe in and cherish an egalitarian society. We like to think that our children’s futures will be determined by their abilities, their motivation and their hard work. They will not be dictated by the size of their parent’s bank balance or the suburb they were born in.
For most New Zealanders, being born into a struggling household is not a life sentence.
Since I’ve been an MP, I’ve talked to a lot of people who grew up in my street, or in streets just like it. Many have done well for themselves.
However, things are different now than they were 30 years ago. It used to be that any street in any community could be the launching pad for a happy and fulfilling life. That’s not the case anymore. Today many are being left behind.
These are tough problems – very tough problems. But I have no intention of being a Prime Minister who tackles only the easy and convenient issues. I don’t pretend I’ve got all the solutions. But I can tell you that dealing with the problems of our growing underclass is a priority for National, both in opposition and in government.
[W]e are all in this together. We all stand to lose from the emergence of a growing underclass, and we all stand to gain by doing something about it.
Is it really beyond us as a country to ensure that every kid turns up to primary school with some food in their stomach? I don’t think so.
Hunger and malnutrition are simply unacceptable in a developed country like New Zealand. And it’s a fact that kids can’t and don’t learn if they are constantly hungry. Their brains don’t develop properly and they can’t stay focused in the classroom. An empty stomach and an empty lunchbox set kids up for an empty life.
Obviously it’s a parent’s responsibility to feed their children. What more fundamental parenting role could there be? But that is not what is happening in some parts of the country.
Unless we tackle this problem we are effectively punishing children for the sins of their parents.
Get all that?
So eight long years on how is this Government doing with improving New Zealanders’ lives? Are Kiwi children getting a fair go? Are Kiwis still being left behind? Is the underclass a priority for this Government? Are we doing what we can to make sure that kids attending school are fed or are we punishing them for the sins of their parents?
Or was this all CT spin designed to gain the right power so they could sell our assets, privatise state services and give tax cuts to the rich?
Key’s current indifference to the plight of the poor and homeless and the public response is summed up by Stephanie Rodgers in this passage:
But this week John Key has looked up and everyone’s staring at him saying “WTF, mate? People are living in cars? We’re putting them up in motels so their kids can sleep in a bed for once and we’re charging them for the privilege? What the hell is going on and why aren’t you doing anything about it?”
Nine long years ago John Key expressed a desire to improve the plight of the poor. Nine years later things are only getting worse.