By Mandy Hager
So the government has announced it will give $9.5m over 5 years towards weetbix and milk in decile 1 and 2 schools ‘who want it’ – with private companies Sanitarium and Fonterra forking out equivalent amounts. Whoop-de-do!
While there is no doubt that this will be of some help to those children whose schools are eligible and who take up the offer (ignoring the fact that there are kids in need right up to decile 10), it falls far short of what is needed to address the problems of the 270,000 (and rising) children who live below the poverty line in this country — 270,000 children who are the most vulnerable and who, if the bigger issues of poverty and deprivation are not addressed, will cost the country many, many billions in the future through the health, welfare, education and justice budgets.
Why the hell aren’t we all up in arms about this appalling statistic? 270,000 children BELOW the poverty line! And, this, while the National government cuts more and more funding to the community agencies who were already scrabbling to pick up the slack.
National’s only response to such queries is to say that they are working on producing jobs to pull people out of poverty. Really? Since they came into government in 2008 40,000 manufacturing jobs have gone and more than 1,000 manufacturers have folded, government agencies have shed staff like fleas from a cat — the Public Service losing over 1,119 jobs, Defence 655, Conservation 72, Kiwi Rail 158… and every day we hear more and more stories of closures and redundancies. Of course, they trumpet that unemployment has gone down, but don’t mention that most of this is due to people either giving up and removing themselves from the data, or being shoved onto other lists to make the figures look a little better.
So just what, exactly, is National doing to provide more jobs? All they seem to come up with are schemes designed to sell us out to foreign investors (asset sales, public/private partnerships, dirty deals such as Sky City) – or spending ludicrous amounts of money on Think Big infrastructure such as unnecessary roads. Oh yes, or handing over our ‘protected’ conservation estate and seabed to huge mining corporations, whose track records for safety and environmental protection are appalling.
They say they have to balance the books – that some spurious bottom line is more important than the welfare of their most vulnerable people (a group which grows ever bigger as National’s ‘austerity’ measures bump more and more people down the slippery slope.)
Yet they have spent:
- $1.7 billion bailing out South Canterbury Finance
- $100 million a year to keep our troops in Afghanistan
- $630 million on the proposed McKays to Peka Peka expressway – with a total for all their RoNS (Roads of National Stupidity) in excess of $10.7 billion – not to mention the hundreds of thousands spent by NZTA on PR and their corrupt Board of Enquiry process.
- $3 million to prop up Wanganui Collegiate (after an $800,000 stop-gap measure the year before) – plus an overall budget of another $22 million to prop up other PRIVATE schools
- Their recent agreement to spend $1.5 billion to redo the NZ tax system, when they’ve already thrown away $3.5 million on the extra staff needed to sort out the ongoing Novopay debacle (as well as the $6m package to help schools with the extra work and a $5m remediation plan – all this as well as the initial cost of $182 million purchase price for Novopay.)
- $67.1 million on tax credits to Warner Brothers
I could keep going, but I’m sure you get the picture. All this, and they’ve just announced a raft of legislation to take $1 billion a year out of welfare recipients’ hands.
It’s all a matter of priority – and, from what we’ve seen since 2008, National’s priorities seem to fall on the side of Big Business and multinational corporations, not the young and vulnerable at home. It smacks of feathering the nests of the rich at the expense of the rest of us.
Quite simply, it disgusts me.