There had been concerns quietly muttered by organisers that maybe few Aucklanders would take the time on their anniversary day to attend, that fear quickly evaporated as the hall at Kelston Girls College rapidly filled to capacity and spilled outside. Around 700 Labour faithful packed the venue and hoped Cunliffe’s state of the nation address would prove why he should be leader.
They were not disappointed.
$60 a week for children 3 and under for households with a combined income of $150 000 pitches directly at Labour core values and including beneficiaries into this plan is the first direct action against inequality any Government has attempted.
Cunliffe set the scene of NZ far less optimistic than the one Key had envisioned last week.
-Housing costs in Auckland up 15%
-Milk, cheese and eggs up 7%
-Meat and chicken up 8%
-8% interest rates equalling an extra $136 per week for most mortgages
-National gave billions in tax cuts, sold off public assets and handed over corporate welfare to casinos, movie moguls and smelters.
-Top 10% own 50% of our wealth.
-Bottom 50% owns just 5% of wealth.
-Between 1984 and 2011 the top 1% rose nearly 10 times as fast as the bottom 10%.
After making the case for the decay of the egalitarian state, Labour’s solutions were clearly set…
-59 000 families receiving $60 per week for children 3 and under.
-Increasing free early childhood education to 25 hours.
-More early childhood centres.
-80% of pregnant mums getting antenatal checks by 10 weeks.
-Providing free antenatal classes for every expectant mum who wants them.
-Extending visits to WellChild providers for families that need extra support.
-Increase paid parental leave to 26 weeks.
Cunliffe was relaxed, made off the cuff jokes during the speech and managed to persuasively bat away any questions the media scrum tried to put to him on issues he had little interest in focusing on. Patrick Gower kept asking questions about cannabis reform after it was brought up with the Greens, Cunliffe’s best line when asked by Paddy to offer an opinion on Obama saying alcohol was less harmful than cannabis was to say, “I think Obama has more experience on that than me’.
It was an über confident Cunliffe on display, a stark comparison to the nervous and unsure performance Key put on last week for his state of the nation address.
By ensuring beneficiaries are included in this plan, Cunliffe has shown he’s not frightened to clearly define who Labour intend to support regardless of the beneficiary bashing culture National love to bait.
It was a best start for NZ and it was a great start for Labour.