The repeal of section 59 cast Labour as the we-know-best social engineers who wanted the voters to be better than what they really were. The little brother self sabotaging mindset NZ personifies had been probed and fed by the right wing spin doctors and the backlash resentment was so brutal and perfectly manufactured that Labour have been paralyzed from being active in social welfare for a decade.
Rather than blame themselves for their lack of Public Broadcasting funding and vision that would have deflated the corporate media generated anti-smacking hysteria, Labour decided they couldn’t ever be perceived as weak on social welfare ever again and started over compensating.
Enter a political leader with no institutional knowledge or instinct of the Party. Shearer’s initial advisor was John Pagani who preached the Pagani Doctrine. It envisioned a Labour Party that was tough on Social Welfare like the patronizing good hearted parent who had concluded tough love was suddenly needed.
Rather than inspire the 800 000 enrolled voters who didn’t bother to vote, Labour seem to be intent on winning the hearts of National Party voters over. Hardly a visionary plan.
Shearer’s worst implementation of the Pagani Doctrine was the infamous roof painting sickness beneficiary. Here’s the Aaron Hawkins interview with David Shearer over those comments…
Hawkins: To quote a famous Labour politician, ‘I’ve been thinking’ about this constituent of yours in Mt Albert that you have used to illustrate fairness and responsibility to society, this sickness beneficiary who’s up painting his roof, and I have to ask on behalf of Giovanni Tiso, who has been campaigning now bilingually to get a straight answer from you for ten days now. Did that actually happen? Is that a true anecdote from your time… [Shearer interrupts]
Shearer: Yeah, yeah, I was going around the streets before the last election, knocked on a guy’s door, he walked out on the lawn with me and pointed over and said this guy supposedly – I think he said he had a bad back or a bad something or other – and the point was, I mean, wasn’t actually… whether this guy was right or not I don’t know, but the point is, what I was trying to make is the point about fairness and the way New Zealanders feel about fairness. They don’t want… this guy in particular said look I’m working hard, I pay my taxes, I’m doing all the right things and this guy – in his opinion, and that’s what I said in my thing – is ripping the system off. Now I don’t care if you’re a millionaire not paying his taxes or somebody on the benefit who shouldn’t be getting one. The way that New Zealanders see that is that it’s not fair when somebody is not doing the right thing. That’s the point of what I was saying.
Hawkins: So you don’t know if it’s true, at no point did you go talk to the beneficiary in question?
Shearer: No, the point was Aaron – the point was how people perceive others not playing by the rules, that’s all I was saying. So I mean that’s a story – the account of this guy, if what he was telling me is true, but I didn’t do a police investigation on somebody, but the point was how do people perceive others, and I think overwhelmingly in New Zealand we don’t like people who are not playing by the rules, in a sense not adhering to what I call the social contract.
Hawkins: I don’t think it’s the equivalent of a police enquiry to simply fact-check an anecdote that you are going to turn into a political platform.
Shearer: It’s not a political platform, the whole point of it as I keep saying to you is illustrating how people feel about others. That was all it was saying. It was somebody relating something to me and I was relating that on. It is about how people feel about others not playing by the rules. And we have a very highly developed sense for that in New Zealand, for good or for bad, and I actually think it’s good. But what does happen is that if people have that perception it means that everybody who legitimately receives a benefit – and overwhelmingly New Zealanders support that as well – they actually get tarred with the same brush. It’s really important that we make sure that the system works well and that people have confidence in it.
Hawkins: Isn’t that what Paula Bennett was doing, using a couple of examples of people not playing by the rules and not playing fairly within the welfare system to show up its flaws?
Shearer: Well what she did was she went into the Ministry, pulled out people’s private information and using her privileged position as a Minister and then put them into the news media because they happened to disagree with it. I think it’s a quantifiably mega-jump more than what I was talking about.
…the Leadership understand that there is a resentment amongst their blue collar voters towards those on welfare and instead of highlighting National’s anti-union employment policies in the 1990s as the explanation for the reason why those blue collar workers have such pitiful hourly rates that they look at the welfare cheque with envy, Labour decide to flirt with the darker angels of their nature by having Shearer dog whistles up some welfare fraud anecdote at a Grey Power meeting.
The backlash by Labour Party voters was enough to have David Shearer move from complaining about beneficiaries on roofs to 100 000 affordablish roofs for the children of the middle classes. He’s followed that up with the impressive Labour/Green electricity reforms but seems to have slipped once again in welfare.
This is David Shearer on feed the kids…
Labour leader David Shearer said providing breakfast to children was ultimately a parent’s responsibility and any programme must be targeted.
…blaming the parents for hungry children and refusing universality is the exact same position as the National Party. Ruth Richardson set the welfare levels beneath the weekly minimum nutritional levels for adults, they’re designed to keep those on welfare hungry as an incentive. That Helen Clark never changed that in her 9 years is a deep sin stained on the soul of the modern day Labour Party.
Where is the compassion and social justice perspective in regurgitating National’s position?
Standing up for the weak requires political courage, Shearer’s comments suggests he’s still sitting down.