Government spin on poverty accepted by union leadership

by Don Franks 

The Auckland City Mission is struggling with a 40 percent increase in demand for food parcels this year. A total of 23,020 were needed by June. Last month Missioner Chris Farrelly told the Herald the “cupboards are bare” and without an emergency food drive, he can’t see how the charity can continue to provide for those in need. “Literally, we cannot do it at the moment. We are struggling just to get through what we need to do day by day, there is not much we can actually put aside for the pre-Christmas period,” he said.

Some people needing food from Auckland’s City Mission are out of work. Others are working. Just not getting adequately paid. 

About 40 percent of New Zealand full-time workers are on the minimum wage of $660 per week. Average rental in Auckland for a three bedroom house is $552. 

An Oxfam report in January this year, Public Good or Private Wealth, reveals NZ’s billionaires’ collective wealth increased by NZ$1.1b in 2017-2018, while the poorest 50 percent of New Zealand’s population decreased their wealth by NZ$1.3b.

Today, the top five percent has more wealth (45% of wealth) than the bottom 90 percent (42% of wealth) while the top one percent of the population has 25 percent of all wealth in New Zealand.
Oxfam’s executive director Rachael Le Mesurier said the issue was appropriately taxing wealth in New Zealand, not income tax on everyday Kiwis. “One of the key things we can do to tackle inequality here and across the world is to tax wealth more. Our taxes pay for schools, hospitals and infrastructure … across the world, rich multinational corporations and extremely wealthy individuals are not paying their fair share.” She said New Zealand was one country that taxed wealth at one of the lowest levels in the OECD.
There’s no sign of this gross inequality being reversed. The government boast of a record $7.5 billion operating surplus and tout a Coalition Government Economic Plan for “transitioning the economy to be more productive, sustainable and inclusive to tackle New Zealand’s long-term challenges”.
“The two business tax changes we are announcing today are practical examples of how delivering our Economic Plan will help businesses move from volume to value,” said finance minister Grant Robertson,when releasing the plan on September 23.

“These measures will also help to deepen the pool of capital invested in New Zealand’s productive assets, by incentivising innovation. This is all part of a 30-year plan to make the economy more productive, sustainable and inclusive.” 

 A government reassurance to business that their system won’t be spoiled by any radical attacks on inequality.  A message you’d expect from a government committed to capitalism.

What we’ve now also come to expect is union office arse-licking like this statement from the NZ Council of Trade Unions the day the Plan was released. 

“The Council of Trade Unions has applauded today’s announcement by the Government that wellness is a feature of their Economic Plan.

“Working people need an economy which makes life better. An economy which doesn’t improve the lives of all New Zealanders and our planet is an economy which isn’t working. The economy exists to serve, not the other way around,” said CTU President Richard Wagstaff.

“It’s tremendously important and significant that the Governments Economic plan supports and promotes better wages and better conditions at work as well as addressing the social wage. We have glaring gaps in fundamental necessities like housing that are all essential to wellbeing.”

“This wider wellbeing focus will make sure New Zealand is a better place for all,” Wagstaff said.  

It will do no such thing. In the absence of organised mass resistance, New Zealand continues to become a much worse place for the poor. The main problem is an atomised working class, with minimal organisation and no political representation. 

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