This is day five of the post Ruthenasia era and the response from the right is really underwhelming.
I am not surprised.
There has been an epic change in public opinion about benefits. It seems that Covid has made us realise that we are all in this together and that making sure those of us who are struggling the most have a decent quality of life is actually a good thing.
In February this year Radio New Zealand reported on a poll that did something radical, suggested there was a majority in favour of a benefit increase. From Harry Locke at Radio New Zealand:
A survey has found seven out of 10 New Zealanders believe the government should increase income support for those on low wages or not in paid work.
The UMR poll was commissioned by a group of more than 40 organisations, including unions, social service providers, and kaupapa Māori groups.
It found approval for increasing income support was largely consistent across salary groups, age ranges, renters and owners; and across the political spectrum.
There was a majority of support by voters for the four major parties, led by Greens’ supporters at 89 percent in favour.
“This poll shows that ensuring liveable incomes for all would be a popular move for the government, across the board, as well as the right thing to do,” Janet McAllister from Child Poverty Action Group said.
“Even two-thirds (66 percent) of those with high household incomes – over $100,000 – agree the government should increase income support for those financially less fortunate than themselves.
“Our compassionate and inclusive approach to caring for the most vulnerable during Covid-19 outbreaks served us well. We must take the same common sense approach to ensure everyone, whether they are working, caring for children, living with a disability or illness, learning, or have lost their jobs before or because of Covid-19, has a liveable income.”
This finding strongly recorded a change in the public psyche. Whereas 6 years ago too many of us were prepared to buy into the line that beneficiaries were inferior to the rest of us, the appearance of abject poverty on steroids and of kids living in cars and still trying to continue with their education, has made most of us realise that business as usual was not a good thing.
There has been some media commentary on the change but they are missing the big picture.
Including this effort by Andrea Vance. She clearly does not understand the nuance of what has happened to Labour over the past decade.
She said this:
It has taken a parliamentary generation of chaos to get to this point. Robertson, Jacinda Ardern, and their fellow ministers Stuart Nash, Chris Hipkins, Phil Twyford and Kelvin Davis entered Parliament as Labour reeled from the defeat of the Helen Clark-led administration.
For more than a decade, the party struggled to shrug off a reputation as weak on economics as it lurched between leaders.
In 2017, Ardern presented as the right candidate, striking at the right time with an image and message that resonated for that election cycle.
Across the world, voters were reacting against economic insecurity and inequality, blowing apart the boundaries of conventional politics.
Other democracies delivered Trumpism, Brexit, and the regimes of Jair Bolsonaro, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Narendra Modi, and Viktor Orbán.
New Zealand voters returned their own surprise: the Labour-NZ First-Greens Cerberus. Covid-19 and an apprehensive electorate further delayed Labour’s reforming agenda.
But Budget 2021 marks Labour’s return to its roots as the voice of those left behind. The political status quo of the last decade has been seduced by the idea that a booming economy vanquishes poverty, deprivation and social exclusion.
She missed some rather important features. For instance Carmel Sepuloni, who
has driven is driving the implementation of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group recommendations also entered Parliament in 2008.
And Carmel said this in her Maiden Speech:
During the 1990s I saw the political and economic climate of the time pull the rug of dignity out from under the feet of hard-working New Zealanders. There is very little that can match the degradation felt when men and women are unable to provide for their families. Unable to cope with the miniscule weekly sum that my father was allocated to look after his family, he made the decision to leave us and seek employment in Australia. Yes, he migrated to Australia in 1995, not 2005.
I observed a National Party Minister sarcastically reciting in the House the other day: “I remember the 1990s.”, in a disdainful tone. Her banter signalled National members’ tiredness of being reminded of their wrongdoings from the past. However, let me draw on a well-known whakataukī. “Titiro ki muri kia whakatika ā mua”—look to the past to proceed into the future. This may be a Māori proverb, but it is a concept that is shared by Pacific peoples. The memories of our Pacific peoples are very long indeed. We strongly believe in looking to our pasts to find our presents and to inform the decisions we make, going into the future. With that in mind, it is of little wonder that the vast majority of Pacific peoples remain Labour voters—the dawn raids under the Muldoon Government and high unemployment rates and low wages of the 1990s have ensured this legacy. This is reinforced by the list of achievement for Pacific people attained under the leadership of the Labour Government over the past 9 years.
Is it not ironic that I discuss the appalling employment conditions of the 1990s under a National Government, in light of the response by the new National Government to the recession that we now face? In the early stages of the 1990s the National Government introduced the Employment Contracts Act, which was to impact negatively on the rights of workers. Now, in late 2008, the introduction of the 90-day bill, which also serves to negatively impact on the rights of workers, hails the beginning of another ominous National Government term.
Vance does not appreciate or pay homage to the effect that Sepuloni and other members of Labour’s Maori Caucus and Pacifica Caucus have had on the party. Currently these groups have 25 members in a caucus with 65 MPs.
The combination of Manaakitanga and Aiga and the importance of community mean that the Maori Caucus and Pacifica Caucus are unashamedly left wing. And this is clearly affecting Labour’s policy direction.
If Vance’s take was poor Peter Dunne’s recent comments were off the chart. He thought it was ironic that Jacinda Ardern remembered the damage caused by the mother of all budgets. From Newshub:
“I thought it was a bit ironic – the Prime Minister recalling her recollections of the 1991 Budget as an 11-year-old … I think most of us would struggle to recall our recollections of significant political events at the age of 11.”
I don’t know what Dunne was doing when he was 11 but many activists I know were interested in politics even at a young age. For me I was 11 at the time of the 1972 general election and the Time for a Change campaign that saw Norm Kirk’s Labour swept to power. I can recall it vividly especially the euphoria of election night. Hell I was even delivering pamphlets for Labour at the time.
Carmel Sepuloni spoke eloquently of her memory of what happened when she was a 14 year old. And Jacinda was voted by her seventh form class the most likely to become Prime Minister because of her deep interest in politics while she was at school. Dunne’s comment display a complete lack of understanding of what makes her work.
Dunne was famously described by David Lange as “[a] man whose life is so boring that if it flashed past he wouldn’t be in it.” And I am not surprised that he cannot comprehend the idea that young people can be passionate about politics. I met him in 1983 when he spoke to a Young Labour event and even then he was dour, full of himself, totally lacking in progressive political ideals and was displaying easily recognisable careerist tendencies.
And to the rest of the media. Please pay more attention to Labour’s Maori and Pacific caucuses. They are power houses in the parliamentary party.