Today, the National Government managed to out produce Fonterra in its production of hot air and manure, with their explanations to justify the figures released in the latest (UNICEF) report documenting how little John Key’s administration has done to reduce child poverty (by just 0.40 per cent since 2008).
The new Minister for Social Development, Anne Tolley, explained on Radio NZ that we had done quite well given we had come out of one of the biggest global recessions since the Great Depression, and explained Australia managed to reduce from just over 19% to 13%, because their recession was hitting later.
Our local UNICEF representative gave another explanation, when TVNZ reported ‘The National Advocacy Manager for UNICEF NZ, Deborah Morris-Travers, says the Government needs to review how it is tackling child poverty. “The report points to Australia where cash payments were made available to low-income families, protecting the poorest children and stimulating consumption to promote recovery. This is contrasted with New Zealand’s policy of tax cuts, which have done nothing to improve the situation for child poverty.”’
In four years, Australia moved from having the 19th-lowest rank to the seventh-lowest rate of child poverty (but unfortunately their new Government appears intent on copying our Government losing formula to the expected detriment of its less fortunate citizens).
Finland and Norway, countries with similar populations to ours, reduced their poverty rates by more than 4 per cent and 3 per cent respectively. Though perhaps they also missed the Global recession?
The lack of movement is to do with ideology. The same blind ideology that led to the sale of some of our most profitable assets during the last term, despite economists advising that it did not make financial sense; Blind ideology, which is leading National to sell State Houses, at a time when large numbers of our poorest are struggling to find a roof over their heads, let alone a healthy one.
While Australia gave their poorest a financial boost, National gave tax cuts to the rich, increased GST (impacting the poor most), cut benefits, allowed ‘Working for Families’ to fall behind inflation, and housing policies in Auckland and Christchurch concentrated on big corporate projects rather than desperately needed accommodation. If that’s not bad enough they are now in the process of passing employment legislation that further undermines employees (especially vulnerable employees) ability to secure a decent pay rise.
In short, for all the rhetoric from John Key about how important reduction in poverty is to his Government in this latest term, their actions suggest procrastination (with yet another committee), distraction (flag referendums), denial (with lengthy delays in releasing official information contrary to their beliefs), and a general willingness to spend money anywhere but where it is desperately needed.
When it comes down to it, John Key only had to face the effects of a Global Recession when Michael Joseph Savage faced the effects of the Great Depression in 1935. John Key started with a surplus bequeathed to him by the previous Labour Government while Michael J Savage inherited a country in despair from the United/Reform Coalition Government.
The big difference was that Michael Joseph Savage believed that the wealth of a country was to be shared fairly amongst the people that produced it. That everyone who wanted to work should be provided with the opportunity to do so and at a rate that was sufficient for their needs. He also believed that those who were unable to work, for no fault of their own, should be looked after. Unlike John Key, his actions matched his words.
He died at the height of his popularity; for decades afterwards, his photograph hung on the wall of thousands of New Zealand homes. He had helped set the social pattern of New Zealand for two generations, and had become its icon.
New Zealand desperately needs another Michael Joseph Savage now, if we are to end the shame of our country’s treatment of our poor and once more have a country that cares about each other and shares more equally.
– Nick W