In Simon Wilson’s latest article in a series that mainly focusses on what Labour needs to do to turn around their failing strategies lists what he calls THE SHAME INDEX in National’s Index of Shame, and the other issues the left needs to focus on this election.
Shame on them. Shame. On. Them. And disgust on them, because there’s an awful lot for Labour and the Greens to shame the government with. This is an incomplete list.
Wilson makes no attempt to disguise where his political preferences lie.
1. Child poverty
Combatting child poverty is a mindset. When you declare it, and mean it, you’re saying you’re putting children first, you’re going to work systematically and comprehensively and you’re going to prioritise this work. And it’s a terrifically valuable Trojan Horse: you can’t combat child poverty without doing education, health, housing, domestic violence…
That’s a lot of things to sort out – of course everyone wants less ‘child poverty’ and domestic violence, and better education, health and housing, but to be able to afford to spend more money on them you need a sound economy, sufficient tax revenue, and an appreciation of the challenges of making meaningful differences on all of these things. And the time it would require – waving a political wand is not going to cut it.
2. Filthy rivers
It’s about cows. Not just cows, but mainly cows.
There’s no doubt that water quality is a major issue of concern. And that the dairy boom is a significant factor. So do we force the number of dairy cows down significantly? Later in the article Wilson wants exports increased, and dairy is one of our biggest exports.
Improvements are already happening, for example Fonterra requires waterways to be fenced off on farms supplying them with milk. Fixing the problems takes time – can dirty waterways be cleaned up more quickly?
3. Domestic violence
I put this up in a previous post, but where’s the comprehensive All Blacks-led campaign to remake the idea of what masculinity is?
Domestic violence (and violence in general) is one of the biggest blights on New Zealand society. The current government, and past governments, have tried to address it with some successful changes but nowhere near enough. It will take more than an All Black led campaign to fix it. And the All Blacks are not under the control of Government – why not an MP campaign?
4. Tax evasion
We already accept the principle of equality in our elections, with MMP. We accept it with GST: everybody pays. So why doesn’t the same principle apply to tax on all income?
Governments, through IRD, have worked to reduce tax evasion – it’s illegal so if it can be proven it is prosecuted.
It’s not clear what Wilson suggests here, but I doubt he really means a flat tax on ‘all income’, he doesn’t define income, and I don’t know if he understands what he is proposing or is just pushing a populist anti-tax evasion line without really knowing how to deal with it.
5. Farm worker deaths
Since 2013 there’s been a concerted safety campaign in forestry and it seems to be working. But the industry with the biggest number of workplace deaths (nearly five times more than forestry over the last five years) is agriculture. The government refuses to act.
It is certainly a serious problem, but to compare deaths in different industries the number of workers should also be compared. There is in fact about four times as many agriculture deaths per year than forestry deaths – see Workplace fatalities by industry – and the rate of both has dropped since 2013-14.
I would be surprised if the government “refuses to act”. In fact a government agency is trying to do something: “WorkSafe is partnering with farmers and their families, rural community, and sector organisations on a comprehensive information and education campaign starting from February 2015 to tackle the high number of deaths and serious injuries on farms.”
6. Underfunded mental health services
How is this not a major scandal?
Certainly a good case could be made to fund mental health, and all health services, better. How much of an increase in the total health budget would be enough? And where would that money come from?
7. The surging wealth inequality gap
Did you know the salaries of CEOs in our big companies jumped 10 per cent in 2015 and 12 per cent last year?
The escalation in higher incomes does seem obscene, but what is the solution? Impose income limits on private companies?
Should we care about high incomes? Shouldn’t the focus be on raising low incomes and increasing employment levels and productivity?
8. The housing crisis
Because the government has not wanted to unsettle homeowners or mess with their ability to buy more property, we have a housing crisis that is crippling the country’s major city and fast spreading to other centres too.
That’s an extremely simplistic view on the surge in property prices that is occurring in many countries around the world as well as New Zealand. It
Housing is a big issue but Wilson’s simplistic view is aimed at the effects rather than the causes, which are complex, are difficult to turn around, involves local bodies at least as much as central government, and appears to be more of a political hit than based on facts or reality.
9. The Emissions Trading Scheme
The government’s principal vehicle for meeting international commitments to fight the causes of climate change is ridiculously weak and misguided, partly because it excludes agriculture (46 per cent of our emissions) but also because it does not work as an effective tool for reducing the emissions it does measure.
The NZ ETS was initiated by the last Labour government and was tweaked by National and is ineffective. What is not stated nor probably known is what could be effective in it’s place.
One way of reducing agricultural emissions is to reduce animals numbers, which will impact on the exports that Wilson wants to increase.
10. Pike River
This one is pretty simple, really. Promises were made and human decency should prevail.
This is highly contentious but not as simple as Wilson suggests. If body recovery costs more lives who will be blamed? Some Pike River families think it’s a decent decision to leave the bodies where they are.
What is indecent is the level of politicisation of the issue by some. Labour have made noises but haven’t promised to recover the bodies.
11. The Saudi sheep deal
The auditor-general decided there was no evidence Murray McCully had been corrupt in putting this deal together, but she did identify “significant shortcomings”. This shabby affair set a new low for government integrity.
12. Housing the homeless
The shortage of emergency and short-term housing for the homeless is appalling in itself, but the added levels of bureaucratic absurdity just beggar belief.
To a large extent yes. Housing and rental costs are a real and growing problem – but so is housing people who are difficult to house, especially those involved in using or producing drugs.
13. Healthy food in schools
Seriously, what would it cost to get serious about healthy eating in schools?
Wilson takes an odd shot here at a former National MP and links it to Dirty Politics. Is he playing dirty?
Should nutrition guidelines be enforced in school cafeterias? And all food outlets close to schools controlled? Should more be done to provide ‘free’ (taxpayer funded) breakfasts and lunches to kids at school? No suggestions on any of this from Wilson.
14. Underfunded homecare services for the elderly
What nonsense – and, surely, how easy it would be to fix.
If it was easy and cost effective to fix I think that it would have been done. Does Wilson think that uneconomic underfunding is deliberate? More money will help, but where does that money come from? Taxes from dairy exports?
15. The neglect of Northland
The province of such beauty and such destitution. Northland’s not the only neglected part of the country but it’s one of the most obvious.
No suggestions on how to fix the regions including Northland. I would like to see more done to help regions but writing an online article isn’t a solution, it’s a vague diss.
16. Abuse of children in state care
This is historic but should be addressed better now. Are resources more effective in another inquiry, or in doing something practical?
17. Deep-sea oil drilling
It’s nothing short of perverse for the government to maintain its commitment to deep-sea oil exploration. Not only is it nuts to imagine there is any useful place in the future of this country for a growth in carbon fuels, but the companies themselves are no longer interested.
The Government isn’t spending money on deep sea drilling, they are allowing companies to explore of they choose. If they choose not to what’s the problem? Seems like a gripe without an actual problem.
18. Blaming Helen Clark
Seriously, they’re still doing it, in their ninth year in office.
Clark’s Government did commit the next government to some fairly hefty ongoing costs such as interest free student loans and Work For Families, both of which would be quite difficult to undo, but it does look pathetic to keep blaming Labour (rather than Clark).
This is a mostly vague populist political hit list from Wilson. It’s hard to see it making a significant impact on poliutical change.
I wonder if he balances it with an index of government achievements?