Mind the Gap: Guest TV Review from David Cunliffe

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By David Cunliffe.

9074491The land of milk and honey?

Like many Kiwis who watched campaigning documentary maker Bryan Bruce’s Mind the Gap on Thursday night (29 August 2013), I found it sobering and confronting.  I came away with a strong sense that, like our ‘clean green image’, the perception of New Zealand as the land of milk and honey is, for so many of our people, a complete myth.

New Zealand has a widening gap between rich and poor.  It’s significant, getting worse, and  the National-led Government’s policies are contributing to this growing human crisis.

This is a story about how, as Bruce put it, the middle class is getting squeezed from two directions and has become the ‘struggling class’, while the wealthy, continue to prosper at everyone’s expense.

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It’s a story about hard-working New Zealanders’ constant struggle to keep their heads above water and do their best for their children.

The National-led Government would have us believe that welfare reforms and punishing beneficiaries will solve all our problems. The figures from last night’s documentary show that beneficiaries are not the issue.

The documentary said our country loses $23 million in benefit fraud each year, while we lose up to $5 billion in tax evasion. Think about that disparity – where do you think the Government’s priorities should be?

Today’s Kiwi kids will be the first generation to do worse than their parents. And of those kids 270,000 are growing up in homes that can’t provide the food, clothing and warm environment that they have a right to expect.

As a first step, we need a living wage and we need a fairer tax system, including making sure the rich pay their share of tax and a capital gains tax. We need to strengthen our industrial laws, including industry standard agreements.

The National-led Government is all about short-term gains at the expense of the kind of long-term growth that will sustain the Kiwi dream.   Instead, we lurch from year-to-year, while families around the country struggle with increasing power prices, food prices and rents.

The challenge is to believe that we can make a difference; that the issue is not too big or too hard. We do want to keep the Kiwi dream alive and have a strong society where everyone has a fair chance and a fair share.

David Cunliffe
Labour Party MP

49 COMMENTS

  1. The first and most effective step to addressing poverty in NZ is to get rid of this mean spirited, punitive, poverty denying, victim blaming Key Govt.

  2. What Mr Cunliffe fails to recognize is that its his party that has contributed to this mess,in fact they got the boll rolling with the Lange govt and have continued on ever since,to put the blame solely on National is a bit lame,if Cunliffe wants to make a real difference and close the gap then he needs to stop the selling assets programme that both parties have embarked on,not empty retorik and baby kissing opportunity’s.What all these politicians promise and what they actually deliver on the day is where the biggest gap is.

    • When the Goff and Key were in a TV debate before the last election and asked what their greatest regrets were, Goff clearly stated that for him it was the asset sales program of the eighties. It is clear that that Rogernomics were a hi jack of Labour Party values and all those pushing it have moved on, as well as declaring that their true colours were actually the extreme right, as in ACT. It is possible to learn from the past.

      • It is possible to learn from the past, unfortunately, we haven’t got the impression from Labour that they have learnt. If they had they wouldn’t be talking about a single buyer for electricity but renationalisation.

      • Goff is a classic example of the rot that is still deep in the gut of Labour, inserting his tongue firmly into the back-end of US foreign policy (at least until the UK stops rubber-stamping it). He was a cabinet minister right through the Rogernomics government, and like all unreformed neoliberals, continues to claim that the problem of the 80s Labour government was in communication, not policy. I agree that unless the new Labour leader makes a clean break with neo-liberalism, explicitly rejects the Lange/ Douglas and Clark/ Cullen governments as hijackers of Labour, and turfs fossil like Goff out of the caucus (or somehow convinces them to follow Shearer’s example and fall on their swords), they can’t be trusted to act on their lip service to social justice once in government.

    • Get over what happened 30 years ago. We need vision, not constant harping back to history as justification for endorsing there is no alternative to what this incredibly damaging govt has done and continues to do. It is all going to come home to roost when this country is on its knees due to the dubious short term decisions being made.

      • Get over what happened over the last 5 years… The same argument for defending Labour could be used to defend another three years of National. Perhaps this is why a wise person once said a change of leaders is the joy of fools?

      • Alison get a grip it is not all 30 years ago. Cunliffe was a minister in Clark’s government. A Labour government for 9 years of strong economic growth. 150,000 kids were left in poverty, this is from a party that supposedly represents the poor. They have sucked up the votes from south auckland for ever and done nothing for these people. South Auckland has had useless labour representation in parliament, bum sitters nothing more, keeping quiet in the back benchers, pathetic! During those time there were campaigns to get rid of loan sharks, parasites on the poor, Labour did NOTHING. There have been endless calls to close down the pokies (money all sucked off in to the well off suburbs in Auckland), and to restrict the many fastfood outlets. Labour could have and should have done something about all these problems but they didn’t give a stuff.
        Finally Labour needs to tell us if they will actually front up and pull the GCSB legislation that has just become law, none of this we will have a review of all the security services and then make a decision.

    • That was then. Think now. Stop foreign purchase of NZ. Will the Natacts do it — duh..
      Stop foreign purchase of NZ property and land. Kiwi citizens only!
      And get those bastard tax evaders!

    • To be fair, they were handed a bankrupt country by a deranged national party leader Muldoon. Some reform was in order and desperate measures had to be taken, reegardless, Lange was a good man, and an infinitely greater man than school boy key will ever be.

      Let’s not forget that the incoming labour were ambushed by a bankrupt country, an ideologically corrupted treasury, ( I suspect foreign influence obviously, of the thatcher/reagan/ pinochet chicago school mafia variety ) and infiltrated by an inept, thick as pig shit, business round table Cretin; Roger ‘NZ up the backside gnome dick’ Douglas, whose political beliefs gave him absolutely no rightful place in the Labour Party, as his Zombie like ( much like his ridiculous ideas) re-emergence form the crypt in the Act Party later confirmed.
      Of course, I’m sure the Labour Party has it’s “neo liberal” plants right now, ( let’s be honest here, the policies have nothing do with any kind of real freemarket, not that that’s even functionally possible, and everything to do with corporate welfare and laissez faire for the masses ) we all know the vested interests sucking on the government tit and leaching form the common wealth like to have a bob each way, so it doesn’t really matter whose in power, nothing will change for them too much. I seriously doubt there are not the ignorant, ideologically blinkered true converts in both parties.
      Cunliffe, if he is to truly help New Zealand with some fresh thinking, will need to clean house, and keep this insidious scurge from the reigns of power.
      Of course we can guarantee, that the bankers and financiers will attempt to punish New Zealand if we seriously start to show progressive movement in policy, we have to high an international profile. So this will have to be guarded against, and those influences named and called into the light for the scabrous oppressors that they genuinely are. ( I don’t don’t believe this is hyperbole.

      I like Cunliffe, Iv’e heard him speak and I like his style, the question is, can he steel himself, put his balls on the line for the betterment of the country, with some truly enlightened, genuinely meaningful policy changes for the direction of New Zealand?

      God knows we haven’t had a truly inspiring, risk taking leader from the labour party for generations, (though give Helen Clarke her due, she put in a damn good wicket) and we desperately need one now.

      I am one of those who have struggled and tried, and I’m ashamed to say at times given up entirely in the face of a game theat seems rigged, designed to consign you to debt slave drudgery for your entire life and force you to subjugate your dreams in order to line the big boys pockets, to feed you pills and leave you rotting, to promise reward for hard work, and deliver you a slap in the face, as you realise you will never ever end up having paid your dues, they will always demand and take more.

      We live in a punitive society, where I have been told straight faced by private school boys, “hmm you seem intelligent, I know what your problem is, you went to the wrong school ! ”
      Where parking fines in the thousands are handed out like candy on a vehicle you need in order to work, even though it’s parked outside your own dam house, your not driving it, and your trying to save the many to get the work it needs done. This amounts to a tax on the poor paying the rates of the rich.
      Where absentee landlords pay share milkers and farm managers a comparative pittance to slave their guts out while the “landed gentry” get fat on the productivity rinsed out of the land at our environments expense and have the filthy gall to call themselves “men of the land” or “heartland NZ’ers”

      Where policies have turned my generation in to the generation of renters, where your told that the only reason to own property is for ” capital gain “, not so that you can have your own place, make some changes, put in a garden, with out fearing being kicked out at short notice, at any point in time, because the landlords daughter needs a place.

      Where baby boomers have done nothing but sit back and watch you get robbed, thousands of dollars in debt for an education they got for free, and then claim you’ve got it easy.

      Where they say “ I had to work in the holodays to make enough to get by for the year”
      Without even considering how lucky they were, as in what? You mean even without skills or experience, you were able to get a job at all? let alone a job where they could save enough to keep them going all year? What’s that? Yous saved the equivalent of 12 to 15 thousand dollars minimum in a couple months of summer holidays? Try and tell me you can do that now, and I will laugh in your face.

      Try and leave the country, and they’ll charge compound interest on your loan, yes, NZ is becoming an open air prison, where we are all expected to slave our lives away in order to fund overseas government bond buyers and banking Cartels, with their property bubble invested, debt based fiat currency.

      It’s a bad joke, a bad bad joke, and you wonder why we have one of the highest suicide rates in the western world.

      We need change, and we need it badly. The neo liberal policies of the last thirty years are with out question, an outright failure.

      My question is, can Cunliffe step up to the mark and really change things?
      Will he? I certainly hope so, for all our sakes.

      • This should be it’s own blog and a guest essay on someones site. Everything you have expressed resonates with me. Some may think you have gone a bit too far, I absolutely do not, had you gone on, I’d have read on. Well done Q Bert

      • hey thanks for the +1’s, glad you guys know where I’m coming from … Some pretty terrible typos and grammatical errors in there… your versus you’re etc… quite embarrassing, but I just felt the need to drop that and I didn’t proof it…

  3. David, it’ll take a lot for our extended family to trust Labour again. We will need more than generalities and flannel . What we need is an apology for all the shit you lot started and to be able to REALLY believe that you are not still riddled with National-Lite supporters . What we’re all looking for is a Norman Kirk , a leader who will put the ‘kiwi’ back into NZ . At the moment, the party leader who looks the most like that is an Aussie !

  4. Time for fresh ideas – a fair approach would be a revolutionary approach – and a fresh change of government. Jhon Key IS selling New Zealand assets! The recent Labour Party strongly opposed it. All we can deal with, is what is happening right now. The past is locked away forever, all we can do is learn from it. Most people I know are extremely hard working, intelligent and ambitious people that given a fair chance would excel. It is this indomitable human spirit that I love, but governments shouldn’t exploit this hardworking ethic, this entrepreneurial spirit and forbearance that New Zealanders possess to just make them work harder for less money, to stretch their limited budgets just because they can endure it! These are the people with the ideas, the ambition, all New Zealanders want is just a fair chance.

    • And dont forget all the workers who used to be employee’s who are now szelf employed contractors paying two thirds of the cost of what used to be a businesses expenses.

      While being paid bullshit contract rates.

    • Yeah nice, but recent Labour are part of the problem not the solution. So if through the current introspective Labour they finally realise that they represent the people and not milk them for their own ambition then we can look forward to a future. And we had better start looking through the front window because we are already doing a “Thelma & Louise” off the cliff!

      • No I wasn’t listening. I don’t remember seeing Phil Goff at the last election, was he running against Key?
        Perhaps if my mountain of student debt wasn’t blocking my view, then I would have seen Goff.
        Does anyone remember who was the minister that introduced the student fee sham on Gen X and beyond? Sorry for being too brainwashed to listen to that waste of space in 2011. Goff is a disgrace. I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire…but I’d probably take a dump on him
        My question to Cunliffe is what is he going to do about student loans? I want Key out, but if Labour think they can get in and continue to screw the younger generations, then they can shove it. Talking about getting arrested at the boarder pissed me off, is that where you stand on student fees Mr Cunliffe? Or are you going to walk the walk, rather than talk the talk? Hope dies in the eyes of the young everytime studylink reminds us that we had to get into debt if we wanted a future. I’m sick of the rock and the hard place.

        • It was the education minister, Mr Lockwood Smith of Jim Bolger’s National that introduced the student loan scheme. It was the Labour party of Mrs Helen Clark that abolished the interest on student loan. Just google it to be well informed. Cheers.

          • Labour introduced the FEES, Nats introduced the LOANS. And Goff was dead keen on a student loan scheme too, the
            banks just wouldn’t let it fly at the time.

            Bit rich to harp on about GST-free fruit and veg too when Labour introduced GST in the first place.

            • Thank you Mama, glad you could read my rant and are well informed, its a shame that Clem was too drunk/politically blinded to do the basics.
              And thanks for the google suggestion Clem. I suggest you learn to read if you want to be well informed. Cheers.

              • My pleasure Fatty. It doesn’t matter how many facts, hard truths and analysis you throw at them though, they just keep on drinking the Kool Aid.

        • Yes bastards, they all had tax funded tertiary education and suddenly,. we can’t afford to go on funding tertiary education. What a disgrace. Can you imagine what that has done to the poor, I heard recently of a kid who had to leave university because he can’t afford the $2000+ it costs to train/bus in and out of Otara every day to attend!

          • Yes I’m not sure what the government thinks will happen if numbers of NZers don’t sign up to get student loans to attend the country’s universities – effectively lowering intake numbers would result in campus closures (hi Hekia) would it not?

  5. The ideas are already there. It’s just a case of selling them to the public.

    Everyone who’s done economics knows that market failure exists, and that marketising something doesn’t automatically lead to increased efficiency. That means that for many things we have to rely on knowledge and planning to get a decent result instead of decentralised markets.

    I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who knows the theoretical case for welfare state interventionism, so why does it sometimes seem as if the left is avoiding the economic argument despite holding the winning hand?

    Media pundits seem able to get away with presenting flatulence as common sense when it comes to economics. They should be called out on it.

  6. To all the people who vote negatively about people when they have a genuine distrust of Labour, and it’s antics over the last few years – what the… Why live in a democracy if you can’t handle criticism?

    The Labour faithful need to realize that a big reason people have turned off politics is the Labour party. If you think we should forgive them and Stalin at the same time – “your dreaming mate, your dreaming”. Labour have taken this country and flush it down the toilet – we gave them a chance to fix it – and they wimped out.

    One member of the political party does not make a change. I do not doubt for one second that Mr Cunliffe does not embrace free-market/zombie economics – but he is one member.

    Zombie economics is a beast who needs to be slain – it’s head cut off and the body burnt. Can labour do that? – history says probably not – it has to much dead wood and spineless zombie runners.

    You need zombie hunters and whilst Mr Cunliffe is one – I struggle to see any others in labour

    The greens have quit a few good zombie hunters

    And Hone – He is a zombie hunter! – look at the howl from national every time he gets up to speak – especially that walking dead apologist Henare.

    • I do not doubt for one second that Mr Cunliffe does not embrace free-market/zombie economics

      Except for the fact that he does. He said on Red Alert that he’s a believer in comparative advantage which is a central facet of free-market economics.

      Although, thankfully, that’s being called into question now as well.

      • That’s not right. Believing in comparative advantage doesn’t automatically commit you to radical free market principles or even a radical approach to free trade.

        The left doesn’t need kook economics to win. We win with the regular stuff.

        • Regular stuff? “You can’t solve problems with the same thinking used to create them.” – Einstein.
          The economic system is fundamentally flawed. 98% of our money supply is created by commercial banks and loaned to us at crippling interest. We are sliding further and further into debt – the government (no matter how many assets they sell), businesses, students and families, all in debt.
          We need to restore the Reserve Bank, our OWN bank, to full function, so that the only money created in NZ is public money for the public good. That’s not kooky economics, no matter what brainwashing is done by the media (part of the corporate power structure).
          Commercial banks could then borrow from the RBNZ for the money to on-lend to investors. Students could get an education for free, as a public investment in the future. We could have fully funded health care, and widely available public transport instead of debt-burdened DHBs and PHOs, and PPP toll roads.
          If the RBNZ could create the billions to bail out the commercial banks in 2008, and later shell out big bucks for South Canterbury Finance, why can’t we have money created for the public good?
          Selling our assets and pretending that the national debt will be reduced – THAT’S kooky economics! GST, that robs the poor and lets billion dollar finance companies escape payment, THAT’S kooky economics. Children going hungry to school, as well as a shame and a disgrace, is directly due to “kooky economics”.

          • You misunderstood my comment. I was saying that the generally accepted economic theory is on the side of the left. What you are talking about is policy.

        • Believing in comparative advantage doesn’t automatically commit you to radical free market principles or even a radical approach to free trade.

          Yeah, actually, it does.

          The left doesn’t need kook economics to win.

          The “kook economics” is what we have now and Labour isn’t winning with it.

    • “To all the people who vote negatively about people when they have a genuine distrust of Labour, and it’s antics over the last few years – what the… – ”

      Yes indeed, it is like people who still unwaveringly support the Labour party want to pretend that these things never happened. I lived in Kirk and then Anderton’s electorate for 30 years, I leafleted for Labour, I actively supported Labour and then finally threw the towel in after Rogernomics screwed this country. I joined New Labour and then left when Anderton decided that he too had to have the baubles of power.

      King, Goff, Mallard, they all need to go and go now if anyone is to believe that the interests of the Labour party lie before their fat salaries and perks.

  7. Since the gutting of New Zealand by the Roger Douglas government of the 1980’s (the so-called leader of the labour party David Lange, was merely a side show), I have been waiting for an apology from Labour for the right wing policies they inflicted upon us! Even a sincere admission of guilt would help restore my trust. But no, indeed some of the followers of Douglas are still in Labour poisoning the chalice.

  8. $5 Billion in Tax evasion. Really??? Are you sure the issue isn’t tax avoidance rather than evasion. The IRD really needs reforming if they are failing to collect that much per year.

    Why hasn’t Labour raised this as a major scandal in Government if the country really was failing to collect this much?

    • The IRD already is spending $1billion on their computer upgrade and seems to be one of the better run government departments. We will always get tax evasion while we insist on taxing work. Historically income tax is relatively new and is forced on governments by the banks..What we need is a tax system which taxes things that don’t move. Milton Friedman (yes the enemy himself) said that it is best to tax land, but this seems to have been forgotten by those who advocate neoclassical economics. While we fail to put a price on the monopoly holding of land, wealth continues to concentrate with landowners, especially in inner Auckland and Wellington. The gap between those who hold good land and those who don’t just keeps widening. Sadly Labour won’t be doing anything about this. While Labour favours democracy they can’t have this without a democratic money system. Our money system has been privatised – given to the banks. Michael Joseph Savage understood the democratisation of money and so did Abraham Lincoln. And Winston Churchill understood about land tax.

    • My wife works for the IRD. Most New Zealanders are responsible people who pay their taxes.

      However, there is a hard core of people who attempt to rort the tax system at every opportunity. Most of them are obviously National voters and their favourite trick is to continually lie about their income in order to get Working For Families. It doesn’t get any more shameless than these folks.

      • Agree that lying to get a state benefit is appalling. That is not the same as tax evasion though. $5 billion a year is huge. It should be the defining topic of the next election. Will David Cunliffe make it so?

      • Shouldn’t the IRD be employing more people to track down some of these people who are robbing the country of 5 billion a year…

  9. Thumbs down for using the term ‘middle class’, because it DIVIDES working class into two sections, lower and middle. If you are going to talk about class, then only two general definitions really matter, employers and employees.
    Working class is not ‘blue collar’, it is anybody who exchanges their skills and effort for a set wage or salary. The opposite to working class are not ‘professionals’, they are those who own the means to hire workers and profit from them.

  10. It doesn’t seem to matter much which party is in power in Government. As long as we have an economic system which limits access to resources to what people earn from their work,and that is controlled by employment provided by those who have some control or “ownership” of the resources and use them and those they employ to increase that control we will continue to have continuing and growing poverty for those at the end of trickle down economic theory.

    • I am ashamed to say it, but since moving to Australia last year I have never before lived in such comfort and , for us, luxury. We have gone from a situation where we had to have both parents working our respective arses off to try and keep our family afloat. Now we are in such a privileged position of only needing to have one parent doing the paid work, and the other keeping hearth and home for ourselves and our children. Believe me we are not on a high wicket in terms of income either. It seems so wrong that we had to leave our lovely country to achieve, what for us is, a way of life that before would have been impossible in New Zealand.

  11. I’m sounding really old, but when I first joined the workforce my friends and I constantly changed jobs for various reasons, you could walk out the door on friday and be in another job by the end of the week. Then they bought in computers and the redundancies began. We wouldn’t be without them of course, it’s just progress…

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