In August I urged us all to vote and to be as educated as we can possibly be on the issues.
And I promised that my next column would say why I dream of a Greens 45, Labour 20 seat government, but would settle for the other way round. So here we are!
Essentially, it’s simple. I think most of the Greens policies are superior to Labour’s, together with their democratic way of developing them and their spokespeople’s reasoned and non-antagonistic way of arguing for them.
And only a few in the Labour leadership inspire me with any confidence that they really understand, care about, and believe it is possible to improve the situation for lower income New Zealanders.
Generally, I’m suspicious of whether Labour have really changed their spots after 30 years of largely right wing policies. OK, they inherited a tough situation in 1984.
But we should not forget that they initiated with Rogernomics the deregulation and related policies which substantially widened inequality in New Zealand from 1984 to 1990. And only recently have they started to question the agendas of unfettered free trade, privatisation and selling off New Zealand land and assets often at bargain basement prices which they themselves instituted. National went further and handed resources, dividends and power over NZ corporations and even government policies to largely overseas based corporations.
National’s and National-lite
National also took much further in the 1990’s the policies which widened inequality, with benefit cuts and the Employment Contracts Act, vastly worsening the situation of those at the bottom of the income distribution.
And Labour led governments from 1990 to 1999 were National-lite in major economic policy directions, doing little to reverse their previous extreme ideologically led policies. Admittedly they improved the situation of lower income families with a full time paid worker, with the Working for Families package, but did little to help beneficiaries.
As the Child Poverty Action Group and other clearly show, the In Work Credit part of WFF being payable only to those in work leaves most children of beneficiaries in poverty.
The disincentive or punishment approach to not being in paid work is immoral when suitable paid work and training is in short supply, the training incentives packages for beneficiaries have been cut (after Paula Bennett successfully used them), and negotiating the tax/transfer/paid work nexus with WINZ is a nightmare.
The DPB remains an essential lifeline for (mainly) women escaping violent or untenable relationships: few women would CHOOSE to be on it for longer than necessary given the stigma, WINZ attention, and barely adequate income.
But parenting remains a vital job, and hard on one’s own. Choosing to concentrate on this at least for a short period should be a viable choice for sole parents. What became of the need to recognise and value all the unpaid caring (and community) work that exceeds in total time the amount of paid work? The Greens policies on Children’s and Parental Tax Credits would make them available to all parents, whether in paid work or not.
So what are the real choices?
With both major parties still wedded to economic orthodoxy and Labour just a bit more prepared to tackle inequality and poverty within a capitalist market system, for me the Greens are the only real option (and I should for transparency declare that I am a member and volunteer with a billboard on my lawn).
I can just stomach those who argue for Internet Mana, especially if they draw genuinely new voters to throw out a National Government, but they are very strange bedfellows I find hard to trust. And Winston Peters as the kingmaker if the election does end up close is a depressing prospect, even though I like a few of his policies.
Not even the Greens are quite left enough for me. In order to have any chance of achieving their 15%, the leadership believes, probably correctly, that they have to show their fiscal responsibility as much as the other parties. Balanced budgets and growth are still the order of the day, rather than the steady state economy which many environmentalists believe essential. But at least it is green growth.
I’m a little cheered by the numbers of young people involved this time even if they still on average vote less than older people. The young candidates’ debate I saw on TV was so much more positive and all were less abusive of the other parties than the jaundiced older politicians.
With many people now having voted early and the polls still showing National a likely shoo-in, is there any hope? Well, we certainly need to get out the vote and not despair – encourage all your contacts to vote, whatever their views.
A supposed democracy without even a high turnout is a weak shell. And one poll (the latest Roy Morgan) had Greens at 16% and showed a possible government of Labour/Greens/Mana/New Zealand First, which is not ideal, but possibly tenable. For me, it is essential to have as many Greens in Parliament as possible to promote the cleaner environment, fairer society, and smart green economy that they genuinely work for, even if in the end the right wing prevails and the sense has to come from the opposition benches.