“Auckland mayor Len Brown supports living wage” says the headline for the story on the TVNZ website on Friday but what follows is so heavily qualified and compromised that Len’s views are barely related to anything promoted by the living wage campaign.
So while the incumbent mayor has “come out in support of a living wage” he says there would need to be a “full review on the economic feasibility of the plan” along with “what constitutes a living wage” and “what implementing it will mean for wage and salary relativities across the organisation”. No promises, no timelines and no guarantee even as to what living wage hourly rate might be paid.
To remove any doubt that his heart is not in it Brown says he would prefer to see the issue addressed by central government in the form of changes to the minimum wage.
You can almost hear the biblical plea “Father, won’t you take this cup from me?” in Len’s agonised announcement of his supposed support for the lowest-paid council employees.
His real worry is that if he goes in to bat for the living wage his corporate donations will dry up. So Len’s dilemma is how to pretend to his South Auckland voting base that he supports the living wage while assuring the corporates that he doesn’t really.
Hence Len’s Friday announcement has more holes than a Swiss cheese.
He faced a similar problem with the SkyCity pokies-for-convention-centre proposal. From the outset he was a strong supporter of this dirty deal and it’s obvious his backing was based on the $25,000 campaign donation he received from SkyCity for the last local body elections.
However Len now says he doesn’t support the financial arrangements for the deal – a fine example of moral contortionism – probably driven in part by the decision of SkyCity not to make a donation to his mayoral campaign this election.
Mayoral contender John Palino is no better. Palino was not a supporter of the living wage but later in the campaign changed his mind and declared his support at one of the living wage meetings only to retract it later. The corporates had clearly got to him in the meantime.
What we should all take from this is that politicians are only as brave as we force them to be. They are followers, not leaders, and without a gutsy public campaign to force change their default position will be to support the corporate status quo.
Note: John Minto is a contender for Auckland Mayor in the current local body elections.