Last week we had the incredible spectacle of Labour general secretary Tim Barnett arguing for the government to withhold family tax credits and Working for Families payments from people who are not enrolled to vote.
Barnett appeared before parliament’s Justice and Electoral Select Committee and argued such measures would help lift New Zealand’s low voter turnout.
So bereft of ideas, vision or common sense Labour is blaming non-voters for its repeated electoral failures.
According to the New Zealand Herald:
Despite being legally obliged to enrol, only 91.7 per cent of people had done so at the last election, down from 93.4 per cent in 2011.
An estimated 77.04 per cent of enrolled voters took part in the election, slightly higher than the 74.2 per cent turnout in 2011.
Low voter turnout tends to hurt the left more. In 2011, about 39,000 people were on the electoral roll in Mangere, whose voters favour Labour, compared to 48,000 in National stronghold Epsom.
Mr Barnett said Labour’s focus on increasing turnout was not self-serving.
“High turnout benefits the nation … it means more people are engaged in our democracy and you have to accept that’s a good thing.”
You can almost hear Barnett’s frustration behind this attack on the poor:
“It’s the bloody voters – useless bastards living in Mangere who can’t be bothered to enrol and get to the polling booth and tick Labour – cut their benefits, slash their car tyres, pee in their letterboxes”
Barnett’s public justification for this attack on non-voters said “There is widespread concern, not just Labour, with non-enrolment … there is pretty compelling evidence that there is a continuing pattern of people not enrolling.”
What about the continuing pattern of Labour’s political non-performance? Why on earth would anyone in Mangere vote Labour unless through habit?
There are many valid reasons why people on low incomes don’t enrol – escaping thuggish and vicious loan sharks being one. (It’s worth noting that for nine years in power the Labour government refused to regulate loan sharks in any way and left low-income families victims to modern day slavery)
If Labour wants low-income families to enrol and vote then it needs to give them a reason to do so – no sign of that.
While Barnett was looking for a parliamentary stick to corral and beat those he believes should vote Labour his party leader Andrew Little was “schmoozing with some of the cream of New Zealand capitalism”.
When was the last time Little “schmoozed” with the unemployed? state house tenants? families living in cars and caravans?
Like Labour parties around the world here in New Zealand the party is neo-liberal to its core. It’s a party with policies for the 1%.
If it wants the respect of low-income families then it needs to earn that respect rather than use parliament to demand it.