- Date published:
10:55 am, January 6th, 2023 - 116 comments
Categories: benefits, class war, climate change, cost of living, covid-19, Economy, employment, grant robertson, housing, human rights, jacinda ardern, labour, Living Wage, national, poverty, same old national, Social issues, unemployment, welfare - Tags:
Judging by the terms of the so call informed commentary the result of this year’s election has already been determined.
It is almost as if we should not even bother campaigning.
This is certainly the position of blog accumulator and academic Bryce Edwards.
In one of his recent posts, helpfully broadcast by the Herald and the Daily Blog he sets out a list of why indeed Labour is stuffed.
I will deal with the reasons for his conclusion later but first I thought about the general nature of the proposition. What state is New Zealand in?
Well pretty good all things considered.
It does play to reflect on the performance of the Government during Covid. How our leaders handle a one in a one hundred year global pandemic is a good test of leadership. It should not be ignored. It is a fundamental test of the quality of leadership that we have been given recently.
And despite the doom and gloom painted by National and the weirdness of Voices for Freedom and their ilk dare I say it things are not too bad.
Our death rate from Covid is really, really low. Only Singapore among western nations is performing better.
Sure, we have a serious problem with rampant inflation. As does the rest of the developed world.
This suggests rather strongly that this is an international problem and not a locally sourced problem.
And we do have extraordinarily low unemployment, a public debt level that would be the envy of pretty well all of the developed world.
There are complaints about the availability of staff. Tourism operators particularly around Queenstown have complained that the low wage foreign immigrant workforce that used to be a mainstay of the industry are no longer available and they are having to offer higher wages. As if wage increases are a bad thing.
Even though the workers are being paid more than the minimum wage they cannot afford to stay in Queenstown and this is the root cause of the problem. If you want workers to work in resort towns then you need to pay them enough so that they can afford to live there.
And as has historically happened wage increases have been significantly higher under this Government than they have been under a National Government. This Stats NZ graph shows clearly what has happened historically. Note the peak this year. Inflation is hurting but real wages are increasing.
There are major complaints about the speed that this Government is acting. Some of them are valid. Allowing the Hate Speech process to take so long has meant that it has festered and is now accused of being something that it is not. Kris Faafoi may be internally rated well but to me he was always very poorly equipped to handle justice issues. This role should be the preserve of people who understand intimately the Justice system, i.e. lawyers, although Michael Cullen was a notable outsider who performed the role well.
The consultation process has taken too long and overreached. The Government should have allowed for existing provisions to cover more groups. If there was a case for other changes then these could have been made incrementally.
And to those who talk about the sanctity of the right to freedom of speech remember that we are talking about a particular form of speech which is directly implicated in the racist mass murder of kiwis because of their religion. There always has been a line between acceptable and unacceptable speech. The need is to draw that line clearly and to give its enforcement teeth.
Other areas where the rollout has been slow include housing, eradication of child poverty and the Auckland Light Rail project.
The problem with at least two of these areas is that earlier promises were good at catching headlines but unachievable, particularly in the middle of a global pandemic and a supply chain crisis. Having said that a large number of houses are being constructed and it is predicted that supply will match demand sometime this year. And house prices are falling.
The Government has added 10,000 state houses since coming to office and more are on the way. This should be contrasted with National’s performance when it was last in Government. Because it sold off over 6,000 units, reducing the stock from 69,000 in 2008 to 63,000 in 2017 during a time when the population increased dramatically.
National’s housing spokesperson Nicola Willis recently candidly acknowledged that National sold too many houses although she was remarkably vague about the number that were actually sold.
And light rail is a transformative project that will change the shape of Auckland in a way that Sir Dove Myer Robinson dreamed of. If we are to get away from our car dominated future, then this project needs to be built. And you can bet that if National gains power it will cancel this project and insist on building the East West Link instead.
As for child poverty as I recently noted 66,500 children have been lifted out of poverty. My preference is that all children are lifted out of poverty. Greater speed is vital but the general direction is good.
And from 2018 to March 2022 benefits have increased by 40% above the rate of inflation. Recent high inflation rates may have affected this but I cannot think of such a sustained increase ever happening since the first Labour Government.
Is Aotearoa a terrible place to live in? I don’t think so.
The topics Edwards chose to concentrate on are interesting:
As far as I am concerned there is a fundamentally important reason for three waters. Our infrastructure is not up to scratch. Kiwis have died from polluted water, the Capital city regularly has hundred year old infrastructure collapse and pumps sewerage into the harbour. Auckland is only now getting away from that habit. The information is there but there has been a full court press by National and its supporters which has been readily reported on by the media and the debate has not got past stage one. Snide racist attacks on the project shows how poor the debate has been.
But here is the funny thing. Apart from some payments by the Government to various councils nothing has changed. To describe something as a failure before it has even started is abjectly weird.
No the Government has not solved climate change. It has made some important progress and needs to make more. But it has had an opposition and its allies in the farming sector delaying and obfuscating and obstructing every step of the way. Do not expect a National Government to do better. Indeed a National Government would put efforts back by a decade at a time when speed is of utmost importance.
The Harbour Bridge cycleway and the change of Immigration settings for nurses are two decisions that were reversed fairly quickly. Politicians should be praised for being able to change their minds.
As I previously mentioned the cost of living crisis is an international one. You would struggle to understand that from some of the media commentary. Such as that from independent commentator and National Party member Liam Hehir who is mentioned in Edwards’ article and who claims that Grant Robertson has been a “flop” this year for Labour because he “lost control of the economic narrative. Despite being pretty capable and still a real asset for the government, the Minister of Finance simply has no credible message to sell on the cost of living crisis.”
Allowing National activists such a free shot at the Government raises questions about Edwards’ judgment. If you need this to be reinforced check out his latest collation where David Farrar gets mentioned seven times.
In response to the hate speech commentary can I repeat my earlier comments that it could have been handled better. But again nothing has changed yet. And failing to sell something to a group that refuses to accept the need is not a failure, it is inevitable.
The strange aspect of this policy is like the others, nothing has changed yet. Expecting the opposition and its friends to engage in a reasoned discourse about the changes is clearly not something that we should expect.
Of course we should let the likes of the Christchurch mass murderer spew their filth into the internet so that it can be picked up by the next person with a delusional sense of reality. There is no downside is there?
It speaks volumes about Edwards’ critique that clearly him and other commentators it is the message that is important, not actually addressing the problem. And the underlying economic indicators are remarkably good given what we have been through in the past three years.
The underlying themes of this blog post are that governing through a pandemic is really tough and to expect perfection is extraordinarily stupid, and that real progress has been made in many important areas despite recent issues. A global comparison shows how well we are being run as a country.
Should Labour have achieved things quicker? I am sure everyone would prefer that this happened although the clammy inertia of Wellington should never be underestimated. But if you think that support for National and or Act is the solution if in power they will not speed things up. They will take to important social norms and protections with a crowbar and make things infinitely worse.
By all means insist that things happen quicker and that this Government performs better. But do not expect that a change in Government will improve things.