Jostling around in the post-election, waiting to see what happens period was this interview by John Campbell with Grant Robertson on Monday.
Cute that Labour are stealing the Greens’ priorities of inequality and climate. But is it anything other than government formation politicking?
Talking about Labour now having an electoral mandate, Robertson says,
I think the mandate is the stability that we’ve shown, particularly over the covid period […] but also for the plan that we’ve got that to start addressing some of those big long term issues, that you and I have talked about a lot, John, on this show, and that is around climate change, inequality, growing those higher wage jobs, we have a plan for that.
Ok, so Labour has a plan for inequality. Is there a reason they haven’t told us what it is?
Campbell asks him if, given they picked up lots of National voters, Labour intend to occupy the centre ground. Robertson’s response is they laid out a plan in the election and they’re asking National voters to trust that.
When asked specifically about the WEAG report and if raising benefits meaningfully will be supported by the centre right, Robertson says they’re using the report as the blueprint, but they need to bring New Zealanders along with them. It’s not that I don’t believe that. I do think Labour want to do right by poor people, and I do think that they are one of the organisations working to shift the welfare Overton Window.
I also think that the Greens are the ones who’ve thrown the window open and said hey, there’s a better way to do this. We are now being asked once again by Labour to be patient, as they ignore the fresh breeze coming in and instead rearrange some furniture. To clarify the mangled metaphors there, the Greens are talking about ending poverty, Labour aren’t.
Yep, so much centrist ‘we’d love to raise benefits, we just can’t do anything about that right now, but we have a plan’, followed by some vague hand wave to the future.
The thing that fucks me off about this part of the interview is that while the question about National voters is valid, the complete absence of questions about what beneficiaries might be thinking about this ‘governing for all New Zealand’ government is damning (of Campbell and Robertson).
Thanks mates, we get it. National voters need to be heeded, beneficiaries are the things to be talked about. We know that we are the objects in this national conversation, but maybe try and make it not quite so obvious.
There is plenty of low hanging fruit in welfare, and Labour have not only not touched it they can’t even bring themselves to talk about it. It’s not simply about raising benefits, it’s that Labour have no grand narrative that makes sense to beneficiaries. We’re just left out of the picture.
I don’t believe they have a plan other than Make More Jobs (a worthy goal but insufficient for those that can’t work for whatever reason). I guess there’s the idea that if we create jobs and grow the economy there will be more money to support welfare. Somewhere down the line. When we have a mandate. Unless we have more crises that rock the economy like climate change, another pandemic, and earthquake, the US going full postal and so on.
The framing of budgets in wellbeing is important, and Labour did a phenomenal job managing the country during covid. But there’s a disconnect here when Robertson says as finance Minister it’s not just about balancing the books it’s about the wellbeing of people in the community. I’d like to see him come into The Standard or onto twitter and
talk with listen to some of the regulars here who are long term beneficiaries and care givers, and have him front up to why they’re not being included in this governmental wellbeing for all New Zealanders.
(I’m still in two minds about what the Greens should do, but there seems a clear conflict between the need for climate action (better served by Shaw as Minister) and addressing inequality (probably way better served from the cross benches)).