Kapiti Labours for solution to inequality
By Graham Bathgate
A recent discussion on ‘Inequality in NZ’ by the Kapiti Labour Committee turned up several key ideas:
- Labour needs to get back to being a movement as in its early years when it introduced free education and health.
- People should be able to buy their first homes more easily (though no-one at the meeting suggested there should free housing).
- These three areas — free education, health and housing — are where government should provide more help than is being given at the moment by a National Government.
- This kind of help from a Labour government, true to its roots and beliefs, should form firm policies. This would go a long way to reducing the inequality which has developed in New Zealand since the 1980’s.
Three main areas
The participants discussed three main points:
- Egalitarianism in New Zealand.
- The fact that an unequal society is unhappy, and
- Solutions to these problems.
We’ve lost the “God’s Own” quality which pertained back in the 1970’s, and we’ve certainly lost the equality which came about in the 1930’s or at least the aspiration to an equal society.
Back in the 1840’s, part of the reason people came to New Zealand was the lack of class system, which enabled them to make their own way and forge futures — ‘everyone as good as his neighbour.’
There’s a need to return to a more equal society, one which is less based on money or privilege.
Inequality = unhappiness
The more unequal a society, the unhappier its people.
Research has shown this is true. In 2011, a study published in the journal Psychological Science showed that American people’s happiness is less when the gap between rich and poor is wide.
The OECD now ranks Denmark as having the smallest gap between rich and poor, and the whole of Danish society benefits socially, politically and economically.
In NZ, the longer a National government is in power the more unequal society becomes, the more gaps there are, the more problems there are, and the less support provided for support groups.
Education of young people is essential for a progressive and fair society; real free education can go a long way to helping equality in society. But too much money goes on infrastructure such as million-dollar expressways, some of which could go to having an uplifting effect on society.
Our National government over the past nine has contributed to inequality and unhappiness with its cuts to education and social services.
Health is a major issue
Health is a big issue in considering inequality because it should not be that some people can get all the health benefits they wish while others don’t have even the most basic access to healthcare, such as visiting a doctor.
In New Zealand healthcare should be free to all, the original Labour Party promise. The argument is used now too often that New Zealand isn’t as rich as it was back in the 1950’s when we had free health service and education, but surely that’s what makes a society “richer” in other ways, and certainly more balanced, probably a lot happier.
What to do?
So what should a kinder government do?
Wages should be fairer. The public service wages now are on a par with business and corporate incomes. There could be a cap put on public service salaries while the bottom-line wage is increased.
A kinder government under Labour needs to try to make education free again, more accessible and available at all levels, including night classes which should be re-instated. Private schooling should be a minor option and receive less government funding.
Everyone should be able to get medical help easily. The tax system needs to be fairer.
And the Kapiti Labour Committee plans to hold another discussion
meeting in late June to suggest more solutions to a thorny problem
in New Zealand. Contact Lesley at firstname.lastname@example.org