Inequality – NZers should be ashamed of themselves



Richard Randerson’s hard hitting column criticising NZers over their apathy towards inequality is a must read…

How can any society regard itself as moral when it allows a quarter or more of its children, with their families, to live in poverty, in cold, damp and overcrowded houses, with inadequate food, and suffering from illnesses such as asthma, rheumatic fever or TB?

Or turns a blind eye to children ashamed to go to school in worn-out clothing, without lunch or money for a class trip, or mothers forced to clean buildings in the middle of the night on rock-bottom wages?

How can we allow kids to have the best years of their lives ruined by the stain of poverty and the shame of social exclusion, with parents denied the natural joy and pride of being able to adequately provide for and enjoy some of the simple pleasures like a day at the beach?

…it is an obscenity that we allow our own children to rot in a country of such plenty, especially for a country that had such a proud tradition of egalitarianism. This is the horror of 30 years of neoliberalism, a cult of the individual where selfishness is a virtue. Those who are poor are blamed for being poor and mocked and denigrated when they ask for help (the ever hateful Cameron Slater’s attack on those cueing for food parcels is surely a new low for a fascist hate monger who already skims the bottom of the sewer). The story over the holidays of a family who were let down by the Salvation Army provoked a response from this supposedly Christian charity that was more Paula Bennett hate than Christ like love…

In a TV3 programme in 2013, Duncan Garner and Guyon Espiner led two teams in a debate on child poverty: was it the result of poor parenting and bad budgeting, or was it a lack of income? One team was from the well-heeled commentariat of the “pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps” brigade; the other included Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills with input from budget advisers and foodbank operators who know the reality of poverty on a daily basis.

There was an obvious disjunction between theory and fact. A vote from studio and TV audiences at the end revealed that 63 per cent believed poverty to be the result of poor parenting and budgeting skills. Garner summarised the vote as “the view of middle New Zealand”.

…listening to those who have done well smugly blame the parents for children going hungry as a response to the 250 000 children living in poverty is sick and completely avoids the fact that the benefits were cut down to the level they are by Ruth Richardson, and the formula used to decide the amounts were purposely done to provide slightly less than an adult requires calorie wise so as to keep those on benefits hungry – the idea is spite as social policy and no Government since has had the moral courage to change that state of affairs. When hunger is used as an incentive to deal with beneficiaries rather than their actual welfare, we have failed as a society…

It is popular to describe the behaviour of this latter group as anti-social, but in truth anti-social behaviour starts with the affluent who minimise their tax payments and thus avoid contributing to the social fabric. It is to be found in politicians who know votes can be won by appealing to people’s financial self-interest, and suggesting the poor have only themselves to blame. The behaviour of voters who support such policies rather than opting for the common good is also anti-social.

…I championed the Internet/MANA relationship because Labour + Greens + NZ First could never generate a Government majority that would do the radical things that those on the bottom of the heap need to make their lives worth living. 20 000 new state houses, free tertiary education, a right to a job and feeding every poor kid in every poor school would have done more to lift those out of poverty than any other policy platform, Labour and NZ First decided to kill that off by pushing Kelvin Davis.

I understand they cheered at Labour Party HQ when Hone’s loss was announced.


Inequality damages us all...

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Rising inequality holds back economic growth — according to a recent report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The organization, which is primarily composed of high-income countries, analyzed economic growth from 1990 to 2010 and found that almost all 21 examined countries missed out on economic growth due to rising inequalities. (We take a closer look at the countries that were hardest hit in the second half of this post.)

“When income inequality rises, economic growth falls,” the authors of thereport concluded.


…I’ll leave the last point to Richard Raderson’s brilliant column…

Thirty years ago, New Zealand was a much more equal society. It could be so again. But it will take a huge shift in the mindset of the majority to undo the impact of the forces of individualism which have eroded our sense of mutuality and the common good and turned us into one of the most unequal societies in the western world. Changing this state of affairs is a moral challenge to us all.



  1. Could not agree more and it is not only benefits its the cost of daily medicines and getting to a doctor or whatever too.

  2. Good New Zealanders are being chewed up and spat out by this government and its ‘followers’. It’s a disgrace!

  3. In previous centuries when things went bad – people died from disease, starved because of crop failure or were defeated in war they were told that it was divine retribution – God was punishing them for their sins. Then came the early modern age when (most) people came to realize that bad things didn’t happen due to the action or inaction of an illusionary sky fairy, they happened due to “natural causes”. Modern philosophers further ventured that humans were largely responsible for what happened to other humans and that our destiny was largely in our own hands. Fast forward to New Zealand today; when the rich take a hit as they did in the last big economic depression they never blame themselves – it is always due to “economic conditions” (another name for natural causes), they seldom consider that their own greed and myopia might be the cause. When the poor take a hit, it is their own fault according to the wealthy financial establishment. They should have seen it coming and made contingency plans.
    The notion of equality in this country is long dead. Equality is a dirty word for the wealthy elite – it reeks of 1930s MJ Savage era and there is no f…..n way we are going back to that! The wealthy elite are elite only because they (and their toadies) think that money is everything and nothing else matters. If they are not wealthier than the next guy then they are nothing and they hate being nothing. We will only get equality when the rich elect to have less so that the poor can have more. Is this likely to happen in New Zealand? yeah right!

    • I couldn’t have said it better Mike. Greed is the problem, greed and selfishness. The New Zealand public has been indoctrinated with these values for 30 years and they’re going to be difficult to overcome. However, persistence beats resistance. If we continue to point out the callous heartless nature of this mindset to each person who holds it we may eventually turn the tide.

  4. Remember, It’s All Luck
    You are lucky to be here. You were incalculably lucky to be born, and incredibly lucky to be brought up by a nice family that helped you get educated and encouraged you to go to Uni. Or if you were born into a horrible family, that’s unlucky and you have my sympathy… but you were still lucky: lucky that you happened to be made of the sort of DNA that made the sort of brain which – when placed in a horrible childhood environment – would make decisions that meant you ended up, eventually, graduating Uni. Well done you, for dragging yourself up by the shoelaces, but you were lucky. You didn’t create the bit of you that dragged you up. They’re not even your shoelaces.
    I suppose I worked hard to achieve whatever dubious achievements I’ve achieved … but I didn’t make the bit of me that works hard, any more than I made the bit of me that ate too many burgers instead of going to lectures while I was here at UWA.
    Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes, nor truly blame others for their failures will humble you and make you more compassionate.
    Empathy is intuitive, but is also something you can work on, intellectually. (Tim Minchin UWA Address)

    • Well said Martyn. I posted Richard Randerson’s article on F’book and his work made me feel both angry and guilty. I am the product of a good education, tertiary study, a health service that now does relative miracles, the kiwi way of life and our beautiful land and peoples. I came to NZ seeking an egalitarian society which I found here in the mid sixties. That has now largely gone, and I am angry that the neo-liberal movement has done so much damage. And there is some guilt because I was ‘lucky’ enough to be born in a time and place over which I had no control. The ‘Spirit Level’ and other studies have shown the benefits to all of society, and probably all societies, of having more equality. I hope you, I and many others will continue to press, campaign and if necessary take non-violent resistance actions to restore ‘God’s own’ to a place where all may hold their heads high and enjoy a life of fulfillment and meaning. Kia kaha e hoa.

  5. The saddest part of the pre Christmas Auckland City Mission story is that families queued for hours to get food parcels of the basics worth just $64. Some were after a one off food grant from WINZ workers who were specially brought in to ascertain any entitlements. The hours of time and petrol costs and humiliation for a stop gap payment when all the time our disgusting policies deny them vital tax funded poverty relief based on a distorted ideology beggars belief.
    A one off food grant might be worth $720 but families are denied at least $3000 tax-free a year simply because parents cant jump through the hoops of having enough hours of paid work to be free of the benefit system

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