No, my blood pressure reached it’s hight when the Prime Minister discussed blatant mis-truths to the people’s house in question time today, following a question from Opposition leader Andrew Little. He has, in affect, manipulated official OECD statistics.
The extraordinary claims began with the remark “Income inequality has akshully [actually] narrowed under Nashnul [The National Party-led government]”. Firstly, one would hope it has narrowed. We’ve just come out of an economic crisis which, worldwide, saw the biggest gaps between rich and poor unfold. John Key is pointing out a specific point in time in which, during the economic recovery, the gap between rich and poor has narrowed. What he didn’t add is it has nowhere near shrunk back to it’s pre-recession levels. A correct and honest statement would have been ‘Income inequality has soared under this National Party-led government, but since then it has narrowed slightly due to global economic recovery – we still have work to do’.
I wrote online today, amidst my slight shock, “John Key has just claimed in the house that income inequality is not a problem under National, but it was rogue under Labour. He said under the Labour-led governments from 1985-2005 income inequality increased dramatically.”
Might I remind John Key, then, that whilst Labour may have governed for 10 years in that time period (1985-2005), his party governed for almost the exact amount of time (1990-1999). New Zealanders who follow politics closely, or for that matter any New Zealander who lived and worked through the tumultuous 1990s, would recall the 1990 budget delivered by then Minister-of-finance Ruth Richardson. The budget, dubbed ‘Ruthanasia’, ‘The mother of all budgets’ and ‘the black budget’ was arguably the most controversial since the first budget of the Nash Labour government (1957-1960) which saw rises in taxes on fuel.
The 1984-1990 Labour government was the first to introduce measures to free a heavily regulated economy which had been governed by Muldoon for the past decade. The economic policies (which John Key still supports) included mass-privatization, and ‘the gap’ grew.
In his TV3 documentary ‘Inside Child Poverty’, Bryan Bruce made the case that 90s National ‘accelerated’ Rogernomics, and extended the slash-and-burn measures to welfare. This is a pin-point moment in New Zealand’s history where economic inequality soared. Nowhere else is this better exemplified than in the area of child poverty.
Here’s a repeated graph I think we’re all too common with now. It is titled ‘Kiwi Children Living in Poverty Over The Last Three Decades’, and quite clearly shows the knock-ons of Ruthanasia.
From 1990, to 1993 (after just ONE term of National government) child poverty in New Zealand escalated from 15% to 30%. To further dampen the Prime Minister’s claims, child poverty actually fell in New Zealand in 2002, 2003 and 2004 Labour government budgets which included welfare extensions to poor families – a policy John Key once called ‘communism by stealth’. But let’s get back to the hard facts.
The Prime Minister has claimed on numerous occasions economic inequality in New Zealand is a ‘small’ or ‘minor’ problem which can easily be solved by generating greater economic growth (or as it’s known to John Key, trickle-down).
Back to the graph, and we see the direct parallel between economic inequality and poverty rates. Poverty rises again when National is re-elected. Critics argue this is due to the documented tax cuts National provided to the top 10% of income earners during the Global Financial Crisis.
Before you go blaming Labour, Prime Minister, you ought to look in the mirror. Your party oversaw what is undeniably a decade of unforgivable pain and misery among New Zealand’s lowest paid workers. The privatization of state assets, sharing wealth to shareholders instead of providing quality state services has also led to these dramatic increases. Nobody is giving Labour a clean slate, poverty should have fallen much further under Helen Clark (as her government constantly ran surpluses). All I am asking from you is to admit it was, in fact, your government that oversaw the most devastating changes those on the poor end of the scale could ever have imagined.
In the least, your friend Ruth Richardson, now an ACT Party member, owes an apology to the thousands of 1990s New Zealand children she placed in poverty.
John Key, we don’t want excuses. We want solutions. You are the one who has chosen to dwell on the past, and the statistics have been thrown right back in your face. We are interested in the future, and we want a Prime Minister who says ‘sorry’, moves on, and gets things done. No one deserves to live out their childhood in cramped conditions or in danger of contracting third-world diseases. All New Zealand kids deserve an equal start – it is your job to ensure this happens. Because when 60 mothers ever year lose their babies to these thirld-world diseases, in a country so rich and blessed, something has got to be discussed.
Lastly, here it is. The graph showing where and when the gap between our rich and poor has been at it’s largest. Now, tell me again, who oversaw the greatest increases in the wealth divide? You be the judge.