Yesterday my wife gave birth to a wonderful little daughter, and its events like these that certainly puts things into perspective. It’s also at times like this when we do take a good hard look at life and reassess what’s important.
I’m involved in politics because I believe that I have the ability to make a difference. I know, that sounds idealistic at best and glib at worst, but its true. I said in my maiden speech that if I can leave the world a slightly better place than it was when I entered, then it will have all been worth it. Perhaps another politician’s cliché, but again, its what I believe.
But what really drives me is the quest to solve the issues of inequality that bedevil our society. If I go a little further, I have a deep loathing for the situation that finds 270,000 NZ children living in poverty.
I recently read Mike Moore’s 1996 book ‘Children of the Poor: How poverty could destroy New Zealand’s future’. In it Mike decries the fact that 20,000 NZ children go to school hungry: well, this figure is up to around 80,000 now. That’s a disgrace in a country as wealthy as ours.
There are many who agreed with Key when he said that people go to food banks for lifestyle reasons, but anyone who has seen poverty at work knows this is total bullshit. We are a country full of proud people and the majority of families I used to refer to the Foodbank hated the fact they had to ask for charity; many were working to support growing children but simply couldn’t afford to make ends meet on the minimum wage.
Poverty wears people down; it snatches dreams and steals hope to the point where once-proud people simply give up. They forget they once had aspirations for their children and dreams of a better life, and go from day to day hand to mouth.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. And when I hear David Cunliffe talk about reducing poverty and inequality it makes me want to go even harder to ensure we end up with a Labour government. When I read people saying that Labour is swinging to the left because David Cunliffe wants to create social equity, realign the tax system so everyone pays their fair share, tackle child poverty head on, and drive regional economic development, I say ‘thank goodness’.
To be fair though, these aren’t the policies of the left or the right, but rather the politics of pragmatism and 21st century reality. No matter how wealthy the top 10% in society are, no one does well when the level of inequality is so high that huge numbers in our communities miss out on the necessities of life. Many from all sides of the political and socio-economic spectrum understand this; and its why Cunliffe’s message is resonating.
David Parker knows that we need to create a business environment that stimulates the type of economic growth that allows employment opportunities for all. This govt has proven that the ‘hands off – leave it to the market’ style of fiscal manageemnt simply doesn’t work anymore. The government does have a role to play in driving economic outcomes; and even more so in an economy the size of NZ’s.
Tackling poverty and inequality head on is difficult, but vital. It takes vision, hard work and a willingness to challenge the status quo. A Labour government under David Cunliffe will, I believe, pick up this challenge.
This is why I am involved in politics. Because I believe there is a better way, and because I would like my daughter (and her sister and two brothers) to grow up in a society that cares about all participants; not only those with the good fortune to be born into opportunity.