Labour, why do you do this to me? One day you’re announcing neo-Keynesian policies to help us through the coming recession, then you stand up for the principle that access to education shouldn’t be dependent on the wealth of ones parents, and, then, just when I’m starting to believe that you really are a true Left party underneath it all, you go and refuse to commit to a $15 an hour minimum wage.
As we enter tough economic times, looking after the incomes of low paid workers is vital and has the important flow-on effect of keeping alive economic activity in poorer communities. With the rest of the Left championing $15 an hour, it puts Labour strangely out of step. But, perhaps, that is the point. Maybe Labour is keeping $15 an hour as a bargaining chip for post-election deals with the Greens and Progressives. A cheap, agreeable concession. If that is the strategy, however, it does rely on Labour winning the election first and committing to $15 an hour would have been a great way to ensure that happens. More likely, Labour fears a business backlash from pledging $15 and chickened out.
All in all, a lost opportunity politically, a let down for workers, and a reminder that if you want a truly left-wing Labour-led Government you need to party vote Green.
It’s not all bad news, though. In the same speech as Cullen announced Labour would not be pledging a $15 minimum wage, he did promise that the minimum wage would at least keep pace with inflation or the average wage, whichever rises faster. That’s minor compared to recent increases but better than National will commit to and will at least stop the minimum wage falling behind again as it did in the 1990s.
Cullen also announced that Labour would seek to have more of the Superannuation Fund’s billions invested in New Zealand. A truly bold government would go further and create a development fund tasked with investing in NZ infrastructure, buying back NZ assets, and investing in foreign assets that are crucial to our trade networks. The Superannuation Fund could put money in as could ordinary Kiwis through their Kiwibank Kiwisaver accounts and other New Zealand-based investors. Now, that would be something to vote for.