The 2014 Household Incomes Report, released yesterday, has been cherry picked by Government and opposition alike to show that the statistics match the story they have been telling.
The Government uses a comparison with 2 years ago and shows things are improving. The opposition uses a comparison with 4 years ago to show it is worse.
Fletcher, David, 1952-. Fletcher, David, 1952- :’The Budget will be introducing an incentive to get people back into the workforce.’ ‘What will it be called?’ ‘Poverty.’ Dominion Post, 15 May 2004.. Ref: DX-005-901. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23032217
The big problem for Labour is, in order to try to pretend it has not contributed to the problem; it needs to show that the widening income gap is a new phenomenon. The Government meantime needs to show it wasn’t their fault.
The reality is that all Governments since the mid-1980’s have contributed to the current situation to a greater or lesser extent. Labour by introducing neo-liberalism (free trade, permanent unemployment, and anti-Union laws) and National by creating even harsher labour laws and slashing benefits (to maintain a gap with the falling low wages). The last Labour Government reinforced this latter gap by providing ‘working for families’ only for low paid workers, while allowing benefits to fall further behind.
National is claiming credit for the improvements, in their version of the figures, and pointing to their insulation of homes (a Green Party policy, which was actually forced on them for support), rheumatic fever inoculations, and free breakfasts at schools as evidence of their support of the poor. However these only treat the symptoms, not the causes of the poverty.
Labour bemoans the deterioration of the situation on National’s watch according to their figures but also only offer policies treating the symptoms, rather than any radical steps to redress the underlying issues. This is despite the rhetoric of David Cunliffe, on a number of occasions, and the evident wish of the party membership for such a change.
Fletcher, David, 1952-. Fletcher, David, 1952- :’Closing the gap between the rich and the poor would be detrimental to the poor!’ ‘Why?’ ‘They’d have nothing to aspire to.’ Dominion Post, 17 May 2004.. Ref: DX-005-902. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22302201
At present only Mana and the Greens appear to be offering radical policies that are attempting to undo some of the harm caused by the policies of nearly a quarter of a century ago.
This is a disappointment on a number of levels. Until there is cross party acknowledgement of the reasons for the problem and an acceptance that the inequality chasm has, more or less, remained at its immoral levels for twenty years, then any progress is likely to be undone with a future change of Government.
Poverty, especially child poverty, is too important to be used as a political football. Regardless of how we define it, or what proportion of our children are, or are not, within a certain threshold, our politicians need to recognise that one child in deprivation is one too many.
- Nick W