Written By: - Date published: 3:23 pm, February 1st, 2016 - 84 comments
Categories: benefits, class war, cost of living, debt / deficit, economy, Economy, poverty, socialism, welfare - Tags: child poverty, education, fees, primary school, secondary school
Those reading The Standard will know that I am less than impressed with Little’s announcement yesterday of 3 years free tertiary education. A valid comeback is – so what would you do differently?
Anthony Robins quite correctly stated that:
…one thing that (Labour) have done consistently is roll out big bold policies. KiwiBuild. NZ Power. Capital gains tax. Each of these seized the agenda and helped shaped the national debate on important topics.
These 3 “big bold policies” attempt to tackle some of the biggest issues making life hard for Kiwis today: severe housing unaffordability, energy poverty and the spiralling day to day cost of living for those on fixed and low incomes.
One criticism (out of many) that I have of Labour’s new ‘3 years free’ policy is that it misses such critical priorities in favour of pandering to middle class swing voters whose children are the ones most likely to go to university.
(And let’s face it, universities are by far and away the biggest budget item in the tertiary education sector, sitting at roughly five times the size of polytech budgets. Everything else is small fry).
A second criticism I have is that when you look at the list of “big bold policies” it is clear that Labour cannot hold the course. What happened to NZ Power? Gone. What happened to CGT? Gone.
Labour might make “big bold” policy announcements, but the electorate is getting pretty used to the idea that it’ll back off if the going gets tough. Other examples are GST off fruits and vegetables and raising the Super age (a dumb and regressive policy, so thank goodness for that one).
But what would I do differently?
A massively important, “big bold” policy which I believe cut to the very heart of the problems facing NZ today, was the $60 per week allowance proposed for every NZ child up to one year old.
David Cunliffe was Leader, and it was he who announced the policy. (My feeling is that the policy risks being abandoned by the current Labour caucus as being far too expensive and far too left wing).
That policy directly addressed one of the most serious crisis priorities facing NZ today: widespread child poverty.
Approximately 50,000 Kiwi kids are under one year old. At $60 per week, and made totally universal (no means test) this “big bold” Labour policy would have cost ~$156M per annum.
But with a $1.2B budget that figure could be increased to $65 per week, and extended to apply to all under five year olds: i.e. approx 250,000 Kiwi kids.
But wait! That only comes up to ~$845M per year of spend out of a $1200M available budget. There’s $355M left in the kitty. What to do with those monies?
I would add one more aspect to the policy announcement: make all public primary and public secondary schools completely fee free for Kiwi families.
This policy would show the public that NZ Labour can not only stick to its guns on an issue of utmost priority to the future of the nation (child poverty) but that it is more than willing to double down on it.
The policy is deliberately universal and designed to assist all Kiwi families regardless of income, but its progressive structure will direct relatively more help to those struggling in the bottom socioeconomic tiers of the country, where Maori and Pasifika remain painfully over-represented.
We also know that those same Maori and Pasifika families tend to be larger: therefore this approach would help them even more.
The real icing on the cake is that investment in younger children, and especially the under fives, has massively more societal returns than waiting until that young person is 18 or 20 years old and looking to go to polytech or university.
A Kiwi Kids allowance for every under five year old, and free public primary and secondary schooling. Traditional Labour values, done with traditional Labour smarts, targetting one of the most pressing crises facing our nation.
In my view, that’s 2017 sorted, right there.