Prior to the election, and after, I heard a lot of people say that there wasn’t much difference between Labour and National. Now let me be clear before I go on, I am a green voter and I’m not a fan of Labour. I believe Labour failed us as a country by deciding child poverty, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, climate change and base line inequalities, were too hard.
The Foreshore and Sea Bed legislation was an unnecessary and scandalous decision.
Working inside parliament and observing, and sometimes being involved in the negotiations between the Green Party and Labour, I was often appalled at the Labour Party’s approach to working with another party. Rather than see it as an opportunity to get through policy and legislation that was more radical, (even if consistent with their policy) than their own agenda would allow they often chose to treat the minor parties with contempt. The terms of cooperation agreements were granted reluctantly and only after pressure was applied.
But… I was never of the school that there was very little difference between the two major parties. My memory of the 90s from a community perspective was and is still too vivid.
I don’t romanticise old NZ but I do believe the National party contributed to/led a major cultural shift in the 1990s. This shift was away from community and a sense of collective and shared effort, to individualism – student loans, increased doctors fees etc etc.They created a culture of competition between community organisations that made it hard for us to speak out for fear of losing our funding. It was a shift away from a safety net culture to a culture of blame and mistrust – anyone remember ‘Dob in a beneficiary’?
I was facilitating a suicide prevention workshop with some young unemployed 16 and 17 years olds one day and we were talking about successful people. It was a defining moment for me when they all characterised success as an individual thing. I even asked ‘So you don’t think people helped them?’ They quite clearly asserted support from other people was irrelevant to success. Family, cultural capital, mentors, teacher were all irrelevant and invisible to them. The consequence of this thinking was striking. The (unfair) self blame that showed up and the poor chances of changing their situation were heart breaking.
The National Government of the 90s was seen as radical. This National Government has been seen (so far) as reasonable. I was adding up the campaigns I’ve joined over the last year though and it really doesn’t seem so reasonable to me:
- Sign Up – to set responsible targets for Copenhagen
- Keep NZAID separate from MFAT
- Bring back Adult education
- Pay Equity
- Removal of the R&D tax credit
- Maaori seats on Super City council
- Democratic process for community participation in Super City
- Stop ACC cuts
- Stop telling victims of sexual abuse they need to be crazy before you’ll support them
- Attacks on the Public service
- Support National Radio
- Stop Mining in National Parks
- Don’t increase GST
- Increase the minimum wage
- Stop Youth Rates
- Protect our student Unions
- Stop Factory Dairy Farming in the MacKenzie Basin
- No to Bootcamps and lowering the age of criminal culpability
- No to private prisons
- No to 3 strikes your out
- No to more and more roads
- No to ‘Core functions’ only for Local Government
- No work for dole.
- Bring back the Training Incentive Allowance
And then there is trying to keep track of the RMA reform, and what they might be planning for the Tertiary sector, let alone all the task forces and groups that are being set up to replace the role of the public service and elected officials, let alone all the initiatives they could have taken to improve things that they haven’t.