The Muldoon government entered parliament in 1975 to a generous welfare system which Muldoon was reluctant to change because he didn’t want to hurt ‘ordinary New Zealanders.’
However, he was also determined to control inflation and reduce debt so in 1980, the government launched the Think Big programme of large-scale industrial projects, mainly based around energy projects.
The Muldoon government was followed by the 1984 Rogernomics era. Roger Douglas introduced severe deregulation policies and free trade reforms.
He was a follower of American economist Milton Friedman, an advisor to the Reagan administration, writer of the 1962 ‘Capitalism and Freedom’, and whose motto was ‘speed is the key strategy for achieving radical economic change’.
Ruth Richardson (who later supported the ACT party) followed with her ‘Ruthanasia’ ongoing free market reforms, reduced social services and reduced labour relations.
This period of radical reform failed to deliver the higher standard of living and economic benefits promised. People living in poverty grew by 35%, crime and unemployment increased, and there was a deterioration in health care and standards among the working and middle class people. Many ex-supporters now believe that Think Big sank New Zealand into huge debt without significant return.
I remember having a sense of oppression and foreboding about the state of New Zealand at this time. I would soon be of voting age but had very little idea about politics, except for a strange fascination and yet disgust for Muldoon every time I saw him on TV.
‘The information to justify feelings’
It’s the same feeling I have under the current government. Except now I have the information to justify the feelings. The failed wholesale sell off of NZ’s state assets, the insane drive to mine, drill and destroy NZ’s mineral reserves, the TPPA free market negotiations which will sell of anything left over to the highest overseas bidder, the massive fast-track ‘streamlining’ of jobs, social services, healthcare and education, all combine to give me that same sense of foreboding.
I recently watched a documentary called ‘Mind the Gap’ which explains how we all suffer under the types of reforms that our current government adheres to. We are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime and more likely to suffer from sickness due to the increase in illness generally when we don’t take care of our poorest members of society: http://www.tv3.co.nz/INSIDE-NEW-ZEALAND-Mind-The-Gap/tabid/3692/articleID/94816/Default.aspx
NZ’s ‘clean green’ brand is a genuine reflection of what we all want as a nation. Every New Zealander is proud of our mountains, our rivers, our farming industry and our tourism.
We are proud of our business people and our ‘can do’ number eight wire mentality. Our brand is not just something to be used to flog off our nation’s assets to the highest bidder.
‘Mind the Gap’ shows the way
‘Mind the Gap’ shows us how things could be done differently. Subsidies could be used to support sustainable businesses and technology.
These could be paid for by penalties to those who continue to stick to old-fashioned ideologies about how business should be successful. If we supported those who wanted to operate sustainably, locally, organically and using genuine community collaboration, not only could we charge top dollar for our products and services overseas, but we would create jobs as well as genuinely live up to our brand.
This government doesn’t seem to understand that an investment in our people, in protecting our environment and in a sustainable future is not a cost. It is an investment in the future of NZ.