By the time you read this we will know if Hone’s ‘Feed the Children’ Bill is heading to select committee or has been run over by the weight of government inaction backed by the servitude of Peter ‘I’m-about-families-as-long-as-they-are-white-middle-class-heterosexual’ Dunne.
It doesn’t matter that the Children’s Commissioner has a fantastic report outlining 76 recommendations to improve the lot of our poorest children (written by a very wide apolitical cross-section of NZ society), or that there is a fiscal cost to feeding children, or that Hone has mismanaged the PR around his Bill; what matters is that there are still 270,000 New Zealand children living in poverty. I have said it before and I will continue to say it; this is our Nation’s shame and, for me, it is the no 1 issue in a long list of issues that really matter.
Those over 40 will remember that when we were growing up Australia was known as ‘The Lucky Country’ and we called ourselves ‘God’s own’. I haven’t heard NZ referred to this for years; the reason is that for a growing number of citizens it isn’t. Our global marketing strategy is based around images of us being a clean, green wonderland, 100% pure and all that crap, whereas the stark reality is that many of our children don’t even have decent drinking water.
And what really pisses me off about the whole Aaron Gilmore saga is the media have been fixated on this clown when they have missed a very serious opportunity to hold our government (and our selves) to account. The only serious commentator who has actually gone hard in exposing the dreadful underbelly of NZ society is John Campbell, and I applaud his exposes on hungry children and government lies.
Brian Edwards wrote a rather interesting piece on his blog where he had a real go at the media over Gilmore, and said that their behavior is a reason why he will never call himself a journalist.
I am unsure whether the media’s preoccupation with such trivia is because that’s what they perceive we want, or because their egos are becoming larger than many of the politicians they attempt to hold to account. So they now have a scalp. And the first reading of a Bill that has the potential to alleviate a barrier to learning for many of our poorest goes largely unreported upon.
No matter what the result of Hone’s Bill, we cannot let this issue slip below the water and disappear out of the consciousness of middle NZ. When Once Were Warriors was first released I asked a good friend what he thought of the film. He said that he was aware that the sort of violence portrayed in the movie existed, but didn’t need it shoved in his face.
It appeared the film had offended his sense of middle class security; of who we are as a nation, and it made him feel uncomfortable, so easier just to sweep it under the mat and go on sipping latte’s in a comfortable café while avoiding the unpleasantries of an alternative reality.
Well, the time is now here when we do actually need to ‘shove’ such realities in the faces of all Kiwis in a last-ditch attempt to educate the nation as to the stark reality of many who live in the country we all call home.
The activism around gay marriage was huge – and hugely successful. Lets hope these same people now turn their attention towards solving another basic human right: that of all children to grow up with a full belly and a caring society. Time will tell.