by Don Franks

Almost always, news of a new baby coming brings great joy.

Then the anticipation, the preparation, the anxiety and finally the miracle of a wonderful new arrival.

In recent months I’ve been privileged to share this wonder with three young family friends. Watching the wee tot sleep, touching the tiny hands, sharing a first real little smile. It’s no wonder that the Christian religion has got so much mileage from its symbol of Madonna and child, because almost always, human birth is a joyous event.

Not in every case. There are accidental, unwanted pregnancies, imposed pregnancies and arrivals into a family already too desperately poor to support the existing brood.

New Zealand’s most famous anticipated baby will not be born into want. The mother’s prime ministerial income of  $471,000 is topped up with a tax-free allowance of just over $22,500. And, as a commentator here has noted, the prime minister will enjoy “the paid leave that the Alliance fought for and Helen Clark said would be introduced ‘over my dead body’.”

I don’t begrudge Jacinda and her guy living in comfort, I just get pissed off that so many other couples and families will never be able to. Inequality in New Zealand has been growing for years, under successive governments. Growing more and more rapidly. Today, the wealthiest 20 per cent of households hold 70 per cent of the wealth, while the top 10 per cent hold half – that’s right, half the wealth. At the other end of the household wealth spectrum, the bottom 40 per cent of households account for just 3 per cent of total wealth (Andy Fyers, The truth about inequality in New Zealand).

There appears quite wide hopes that the PM’s new baby will somehow usher in better times for all of us. Headlines like The Dominion Post’s “A giant step forward for NZ” set the tone. There is also respect for a modern woman apparently simultaneously doing perhaps the two most important jobs possible, being a mother and leading the country. I’ll buy the first claim, but not the second.

Today’s parliament serves two central functions, legitimising social change and fronting for whatever moves our local capitalists decide to make. In the first instance, parliament does not lead, it invariably warily follows existing social development, as in the case of homosexual law reform. When change has been effected outside, the careerists in the House will own it. In the case of economic developments, parliament is a modern-day rubber stamp. Factories and offices downsize or close, profoundly affecting, and in many cases wrecking, workers’ lives without parliament turning a hair.

Your job is expendable, far away from the Beehive business confidentiality rules. We should be furiously angry at the continual injustices but seem to have grown inured to them.

Jacinda Arden is an ideal modern face for the brutality of capitalism. She has made some noises about lifting children out of poverty and down the track a few individuals may benefit from this. Her policies will change nothing fundamental, because arresting our awful trajectory of inequality requires confronting capitalism. No New Zealand parliamentary party has ever been in the business of doing that. At best, some lucky children might be lifted to a nicer area of capitalism. There are few enough of these and they are on course to become even fewer and more rigidly exclusive.


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