On the hustings

What a week this has been in politics! We have been to two pre-election meetings, neither of them very well attended. 

The first was hosted by the teachers’ union, the NZEI. They had four speakers: Plunket, Kindergarten Association, Principals’ Association, and a paediatrician from the local hospital. They highlighted issues like child poverty, and lack of money for early childhood education. They asked some questions of the politicians. 

Then we had responses from three party representatives: National, Labour and the Greens. 

Finally the NZEI chair asked for questions from the floor and the last of these blew the discussion wide open. A white-haired lady announced she and her friends were from the National Council of Women. She had watched a stream of support workers looking after her husband, who died last year. They were all good workers, but were finding it difficult to cope on the minimum wage. What would the politicians do?

Labour talked about increasing the minimum wage, the Greens talked about Living Wage. National mentioned the subject of enlarging the pie so everyone’s slice gets bigger. Whereupon the NCW lady interrupted and told him not to waffle but to say what they would actually do, to much applause from the rest of the audience.

The other meeting was to watch a film: it featured Robert Reich (Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labour) and was called Inequality for All. It was very well produced and is well worth viewing. All the statistics about social problems followed the same graph as income inequality: they looked like the Golden Gate Bridge, with two peaks, one in the 1930s depression, and one in the last decade with the Global Financial Crisis.

One of the people Reich had brought in to support his argument was a billionaire whose income was in the tens of billions. He said his tax rate worked out at about 11%. And that is one of the problems: if big corporations and wealthy people were paying their fair share, governments could afford to lift investment in the support workforce and to better help family caregivers.

 So don’t sit wringing your hands or cursing all politicians! Use your brains, do a little homework, and make up your mind to vote for whichever party you think will make life better for all carers and, even more importantly, the people they support.

Frank Gaze is a New Plymouth based writer and blogger.