MUST READ: The case against the hollowness of Jacinda’s Labour – we need more than words!

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A few months ago I wrote a critique of the Government’s plastic bag ban that isn’t. Proposing restrictions on check out bags while the rest of our lives are saturated in plastic, that we dutifully ‘recycle’, for it to be buried or burnt in Malaysia or Vietnam, is no victory for the environment.
Some people responded that the government is doing the best it can, fixing nine years of National’s mistakes, ‘give it a chance’. But there were nine years of Labour before that, remember, and it’s not National or Labour’s specific failure, but (capitalist) government failure per se that has led to plastic saturated oceans, climate change, extremes of poverty and wealth. Left wing or right wing, they’re still wings of the same bird, and no wonder it’s struggling to fly.

So it was disappointing this week while the government were on the one hand passing its ‘no new oil and gas’ bill into law, that it was offering exemptions to oil and gas drillers to extend existing permits for new oil and gas. When is a ban not a ban? When we embrace double speak as political de rigeur.
Leadership requires courage as well as rhetoric – and if your party just gets the occasional chance to reform environmental and social injustices before the pendulum swings back to the other party, wouldn’t you make the most of it? Get radical while you have the chance. At least make the plastic bag ban count. Make the ‘ban on new oil and gas’ an actual ban in effect, not just in words.

But we seem to have lost the capacity for critical scrutiny of political messages. Are we so relieved that this government isn’t National-led that we will settle for less than what might have been? Now that with relief we finally have a Labour-led Government, have we lost a sense of inquiry and our ear for irony? Is it no longer acceptable to expect better, more, a real move away from the austerity and hypocrisy of the past nine years. How long should we wait and what compromises are we prepared to accept in the hope of eventual real change?

Because hope won’t feed the kids, pay a deposit for a house, pay the power bill or put fuel in the tank. Hope alone won’t change the six figure salaries of executives or the too-low minimum wage. Hope won’t stop climate change, suicide, little kids getting bashed to death, synthetic cannabis ruining and killing people on our streets. Only real change will do that. And we don’t have much time.

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This week when Jacinda Ardern started wooing media audiences with her baby and her speech making, many New Zealanders on the left have been caught up in the hype and the hope. And rightfully so. Here’s a confident, articulate, optimistic woman – our woman – on the world stage, complete with baby and supportive partner. We were celebrating 125 years of women’s suffrage, te reo week, our exceptional geographic isolation and opportunities. Here was our Prime Minister, talking about kindness and hope, with baby in arms, apparently making responsibility to future generations real.

She told stories about growing up inspired by Nelson Mandela, made aware of his plight, and the plight of black South Africans because New Zealanders protested against apartheid, in many ways a culture clash, defining our nation. She told the Nelson Mandela Peace Forum that her dad was a policeman, and the events were ingrained in her psyche. She didn’t mention that it was seminal for many of us, because here in NZ, cops were beating the protestors who stood up against the brutality of South African minority white rule. The New Zealand state opposed those protestors and used violence against them. To oppose apartheid took the courage to stand in the face of state and public opposition and force.

When Jacinda told the UN that as a girl she never grew up believing her gender would stand in the way of achieving whatever she wanted in life, it was a rousing and encouraging moment. But in fact, if you’re poor, Maori or Pasifika, from a single parent family, the odds are already against you.
When Jacinda drew applause for the NZ stand against new oil and gas, my own ears for irony were tuned to the concessions to big oil being made back home, still on track to plunder our Pacific and contribute to climate change that continues to be our ‘nuclear free’ challenge.

When Jacinda talked about the fact that globalisation is seen as a threat by many New Zealanders, that it hasn’t benefitted all equally and that it’s lost some of its social licence, I thought of jobs going offshore. I thought of low paid workers in manual labour, many de-unionised, struggling for dignity and a living wage, threatened by precarious work. I thought of the risk of capital flight as large companies maintain the threat of going offshore if workers’ rights and environmental standards are even perceived to impact on profit. I thought about Theo Spierings, who, while Fonterra CEO, earned $40million in seven years, while agriculture destroys our water quality, contributes to 50% of our climate change emissions, we systematically mistreat animals, and farmers commit suicide from stress.

When Jacinda talked about multilateralism and international peace and security, I thought of the recent extension of troop deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. When she talked about compassion and kindness I thought about the 82 children killed by caregivers between 2007 and 2016, and our high, and disproportionately high rate of young Maori men, in prison.

I thought about Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the UK Labour Party conference, recognising the Palestinian state, rejecting the corporate model that almost brought the world to economic collapse in the Global Financial Crisis, talking about the prospect of a four-day working week, using new technologies and automation as an opportunity for better quality of life for workers and more control of their lives. Talking about a whole new economic model.

It’s a sad reflection on the UN that it has been set abuzz because there’s been a ‘baby in the house’, considering most of the people there assumedly, since its inception have also been parents. There are glass walls between politicians and ‘the people’ who are the subjects of debate for way too long. It’s wonderful that it’s a New Zealand Prime Minister who has revealed that disjuncture. It’s a sad reflection that talk about hope and kindness is so novel in that realm.

Disappointingly, it appeared the UN General Assembly chamber was less than half full by the time Jacinda delivered her speech. It’s my hope though, that emboldened by that vision and the successful reception it gained, Jacinda can breathe life into the ailing bird, give it wings, move beyond the hype, the double speak, stare down the threats of capital flight, and act for the workers and the children of others back in the real world of politics at home. Or is there more hope that pigs might fly?

26 COMMENTS

  1. Yep Christine, its all a bit Obama to my mind
    The fine oratory made us want to believe, but it never matched up to the reality

  2. Well, on one hand, the leader has to set the vision, that’s the way it always is.

    On the other real substance needs to start coming through even if it is the beginning and I would suggest Labours housing policy is the shining light example here.

    But I would suggest no matter how enthusiastic Labour is, there is so much they can achieve in less than one year, tethered to the reality of being in coalition with other not so like-minded parties, the sizable damage done by 9 years of neglect and the enormity of the problems.

    Meanwhile, miniature molehills are being turned into Mt Everest by “Business” and as of late National, to overshadow the PM at the UN all of which is tying a very compliant media up in knots, megaphoned by the helpers like Hosking etc. And all of which is distracting the government from its direction.

    Somewhere in the present Labour MUST preempt and manage their way in government to achieve their proposed agenda and they must present in a way that shows the courage of their convictions. Its no good being a bunch of wishy washy social workers meaning well because having Jacinda backfooting every stupid little thing and reacting rather than brushing it off is not helping one bit.

  3. Well said, Christine.

    You are absolutely right. Hope does not fix anything; appropriate action is the only thing that might.

    And you are absolutely right when you point out that the many of the ‘problems’ we are facing are direct products of the capitalist system we endure.

    That said, we live in a world in which governments generally do not act in the long-term interests of the people they pretend to represent. Governments in NZ (and a very long list of similar countries) act to protect and promote capitalism. They act in the short-term interests of banks, corporations and opportunists.

    Governments are primarily concerned with NOT rocking the boat. They are primarily concerned with NOT addressing the major factors that are causing long-term harm. The Adern government is little different from any that preceded it and does not have the will to implement fundamental change.

    The Guardian (one of the best of an awfully bad lot in the mainstream media) reports that ‘Children in the UK are being denied their basic human right to breathe clean air and facing a long term “health crisis” because of the toxic fumes they breathe on their way to and from school’:

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/28/uks-children-denied-basic-human-right-to-clean-air-says-unicef

    It’s much the same in NZ.

    With regard to the UN, it is worth noting that Servern Suzuki (daughter of the noted environmentalist David Suzuki), at the age of 12, addressed the UN in 1992, “to tell adults you must change your ways.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJJGuIZVfLM

    Although her speech was compelling and was delivered brilliantly, it had little effect on the UN and had no impact on world politics. The adults of the time did not change their ways and governments carried on serving the global military-financial-industrial complex.

    26 years after that profound wake-up call practically every aspect of life is more polluted and less sustainable than it was.

    Sadly, we have to look forward to a continuation of the decline we have been experiencing.

  4. “She told stories about growing up inspired by Nelson Mandela, made aware of his plight, and the plight of black South Africans because New Zealanders protested against apartheid, in many ways a culture clash, defining our nation.”…” To oppose apartheid took the courage to stand in the face of state and public opposition and force.”

    It is 100 years since the birth of Mandela. We have just returned from Melbourne were we saw a fantastic Mandela exhibit. The apartheid regime in South Africa. the cruelties imposed on Africans, had many similarities with the Zionist regime today. Except that the Zionist regime is so much crueler. And today’s Western media and political elite prefer to look the other way. Take the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, 69 killed, a massacre that led to huge headlines in the West.
    But the still occurring Friday shooting of unarmed Gazan demonstrators?..including children, medics, journalists?

    It’s very safe to talk about having been inspired by Mandela. But hypocritical to then remain silent about the plight of the Palestinian people.

  5. 100+ agree, end the globalist free trade nightmare, make the bankers face Austerity, stop cosseting China,s bullshit.
    Forget global warming its a con game, get some real science advisers and listen to the populations wishes, or keep up the same old same old and cop the consequences.
    We are witnessing a low key civil war in the states, is that what it will take to get change here?
    labor are deer in the headlights, the natz are foaming at the mouth nut jobs, its looking like we need new leadership to get a forward direction, we need a Trumpian type to upset the apple-cart, crazy like a fox political Machiavellian.
    Whats up Winston

  6. Liberalism in all it’s forms is in essence a business as usual capitalist philosophy that draws its power & meaning from its support for free wheeling & dealing individualism. The greater good & the environment comes second in a liberal/libertarian world.

    It’s obvious from our PM’s feel good show at the UN, that she’s hell bent on replacing Germany’s Merkel & France’s Macron as the poster person for the liberal globalisation elite.

    As Christine has rightly pointed out, the PM’s fine fluffy words will be lapped up at home by a public thirsty for feel good news, but it’s radical action that’s sorely needed as words are cheap.

    As I see it the only way out of the quagmire the liberal establishment are burying us in; is to seriously challenge their hegemony by growing a radical, genuinely alternative, green tinged anti-establishment movement.

  7. Some of you might exclaim” Oh fuck no!? Not Countryboy blathering on about agriculture again.”
    And you’d be right. And yes I am.
    Labour and National are the same thing. One’s red, the other’s blue. Otherwise same-same, not that different.
    It’s this simple.
    A few farmer types came here quite a few years ago and began to farm these rich and fertile lands with its agreeable climate and plentiful water supplies.
    Then, they managed to invent and utilise refrigerated shipping to get otherwise perishable goods, like meat and dairy, to northern hemisphere markets.
    The result of that was a fuck load of money pouring in.
    Enter the grifters.
    A cadre of hangers on and frankly, swindling con artists made fast their positions between the consumer and the manufacturer. ( Consumer; People who liked to eat well and had the money to be able to do so and the manufacturer i.e. NZ/AO farmer.) Once a supply line was established, all the Kiwi crooks had to do was sit on their fat arses and watch the money flow like honey.
    And that was all well and good. The ticks became bloated on farmer money, the provinces flourished, but when there became too many ticks, things started to get wobbly.
    The countryside was plundered, the small, rural towns were starved to death and those few inhabitants fled to nine-to-fives in the big cities where ticks by any other name harvested them until they’re nothing more than a fresh mound in the lawn cemetery.
    Then, the ticks came up with a brilliant idea to sell off the stuff and things bought and paid for with farmer money as a final nest feathering before they bid a fair fair adieu to us suckers.
    The problem now is that, that historic swindling ( Lawyers/banksters/dodgy legislation written into law/equally dodgy deals done/secrets kept… etc. Usual , as I’ve written, dodgy political stuff must be kept a secret. Otherwise? Well, do I need to explain just how big a shock wave might hit the Ponsonby suburbs? There are still Good Ol Boys who’d shit their man-panties if the truth came out. )
    There are a raft of crooks to this day who’d find it very difficult to explain to a royal commission of inquiry just how they came by their billions. Is that not correct michael fay, david richwhite, bnz, alan gibb, chandler, hart, watties, fletcher-challenge, wrightson, pgg etc? All you fancy, flouncy Big Building people with dirt under your nails, skeletons in your closets and blood on your hands.
    Of course, you, dear reader, won’t believe me. You probably voted Labour and now that Labour was victorious, you want to cling to the desperate hope that Labour will, somehow, be different.
    They won’t be. They can’t be. They won’t be allowed to be. ( And why does some coward fuck located in Epsom keep trying to breach my Google/Apple ID’s and passwords? You want a fight? Name your car park bitch? )
    Moving on.
    Does it not make you devout Labour voters wonder why it was that jonky jumped ship prior to the last election?
    Was it because it was time National handed the governance baton over to Labour? Just as Labour did back in the early 00’s?
    I hate to say this, dear reader, but you’re being head-fucked and the head fuckery is highly sophisticated and complex and vast amounts of money is involved and an entire country’s very existence is immeshed in a big stinking fucking lie.
    Should I become a politician? I’ve been thinking about it for some time now.
    Come ‘out’ and all that? How long do you think I’d live? Longer than David Lange? Longer than Norman Kirk? Longer than Rod Donald? Have you ever noticed ? It’s only the good guys who get sick and die suddenly? Fuck face roger douglas will live to a hundred.

    • It’s the same with all primary industries CB (apart from mining which is vertically controlled multinationals). Occasionally an accident or natural phenomenon disrupts the natural order and there’s profit at the ground level, but only a little time is needed for the down streamers to correct the problem and the producer’s share is reduced to the absolute minimum that is needed to keep the product coming to market. Sometimes less if prices can be manipulated up and down so hope is installed once every few years which keeps the suckers going for three or four at a loss.
      It doesn’t matter if your growing meat or wool or grain or veges or timber or catching fish. It’s the same throughout.
      D J S

  8. Bugger. Sorry. I spelled ‘enmeshed’ wrong. God, I hate that.
    Did you know? I used to call ‘onyx’, oinks? I kid you not.
    I used to get this a lot.
    ” Ooo ! I love your ‘oinks’ door handles.”
    Followed by someone going ;
    ” Bahahahaha aha ahahahahaha ahaha hahahahahah haha ahah aaaaaaaaaa .. ”
    So embarrassed.

  9. Come on, Jacinda in New York and at the UN, that has been a glamourised story perpetuated primarily by the small NZ media. Do a Google or Bing search for ‘Jacinda Ardern’ and global media, you will find most results originate from NZ Inc.

    Yes, she got a mention by one or the other US news and chat show broadcasts, some social media in the US, also here and there in other places, but most was at the end of any news, treated more like a nice little oddity to also report on.

    NZers are navel gazing here, the world is a much larger place, and most people on this planet would not even know where New Zealand is, and who is in charge of running the place.

    And for her speech and actions while in government, much is simply slogan talk, words more so than real action, and what Christine writes here exposes the sad reality.

    This government is put together by three parties in Parliament, none have on their own a majority, it is a MMP government, where even the largest of the parties depends so much on at least one smaller party, it has not so much to say, as the Labour led government has been turned into a ‘coalition government’ now, where the Greens hardly get a mention.

    The plastic bag situation is indeed appalling, at Countdown they keep handing one way plastic bags out as usual, I have seen it at St Lukes Mall and in other shops. It is all a marketing plot, simply greenwashing, nothing more, it is supposed to make the company look good. Instead of automatically handing out plastic bags they should ask people first, whether they need a bag or have their own, they are not even doing that.

    Add the fact that endless products are packaged in plastic, and that even Wellington City Council cannot recycle much, same as many others, it is sent off in large quantities again overseas, dumped and burned, as nobody can economically recycle much of it.

    What can you make from all the various types of plastics, for instance, I have been collecting it and returned it at the supermarkets. But it can only be inferior products made from the wide mixture of plastics ending up in the collection bins.

    Most carry on as usual, drive their cars everywhere, and TVNZ is leading the way now, reporting almost daily about how expensive petrol is now becoming.

    It is a dilemma, you need a majority of people to change the crap system we have, but look at how few vote even Greens, the professional greenwashing party now, do much departed from initial ideals.

    People vote with their pockets, what is left in them, not with the conscience to sacrifice a wasteful lifestyle for something nobody is certain what it should look like.

    The Nats hang around forty plus percent, those are the hard core of naysayers to any serious change in society and the economy, the rest are a bunch of smaller parties voted for, barely enough to govern. Hence we have what we have, neither here nor there, in political terms.

  10. Come on!
    Did we, in our wildest dreams, expect that Jacinda’s government can reverse and/or change over 30 years of neo-liberal abuse in just one year?
    It aint gonna happen, but I am willing to cut them a bit of slack because the alternative is to keep on plodding on like automatons until this country loses its soul to the devil.
    Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Romans needed help to do it.

    • Mike the Lefty says; the alternative is to keep on plodding on like automatons until this country loses its soul to the devil.

      No, the alternative is to come with a genuine radical alternative to replace the elitist liberal establishment. Get your thinking cap on.

  11. You’re on fire sis!

    On what is pretty much the biggest world stage, we get to hear more about who she is?? Really!?
    That Latte Socialist in her just couldn’t let this opportunity go by without an impromptu kumbyah session.
    The hype at home in little ole NZ was unbearable, where as if you were plugged into the www, she hardly sustained a flutter except for a few ‘mainstream american news outlets, and lets face it. Anybody with half-a-brain wouldn’t be reading anything from MSM.

    “Meetoo” am worried about this one term government who I think has squandered a golden opportunity to make real changes to the structure of our peoples lives. They’ve abdicated and/or deferred their responsibility for the Big Stuff, like CGT, Housing, Health & Education by diminishing their real importance to everyone that is in urgent need.
    The recent strike action by all sectors was passed by as a minor flutter or squabble amongst the peasants being greedy and trying to sabotage the governments accounts. The BRR’s were used as an argument against any real investment into these sectors and decided to not fix the hospitals properly. The nurses got presented with the same offer which was the original offer for the 5th time to swallow which they did eventually, which the package won’t solve anything for them at all.

    Stoners’ HNZ plans have turn into a piece of 1960’s-1970’s Social Engineering! Limiting the Social Housing mix to 30/30/30 at best! But what! In his own backyard in Te Atatu or Tat North, the pakeha don’t want Social Housing there, only last week there were protests against a development there!

    JT has offered to take Goff’s job from him as Mayor of Auckland if he doesnt reign in the corrupt CCO Panuku & officials! About time I say!
    Stoner has also gone off the reservation by borrowing from the money markets at a higher borrowing costs compared to what the Crown could get at a better rate!

    Dildo’s $11bn hole is starting to appear, its $9b wide at the mo with all of this off the books cooking going on!

    All of the major decisions have been referred to committees and working groups outside of the cabinet, government. The Cabinet are just rubber stamping and dealing with the day to day running and the small stuff.
    We wait for another 10-12 months and then what? Wait for an answer of some sort and then its election cycle. Then the real campaigning gets underway and the slogans come out? “Lets Do This, This Time!?” Maybe??

    Time for a Revolution, a Republic. Do whats needed now, in this time, not somewhere in the (distant) future, you know, ‘tomorrow??”

  12. You’re spot on. But every time we start demanding some substance instead of style, they just throw more Faery Dust in our eyes.

    I’m callin’ bullshit on this government.

  13. “When Jacinda talked about the fact that globalisation is seen as a threat by many New Zealanders, that it hasn’t benefitted all equally and that it’s lost some of its social licence, I thought of jobs going offshore. ”

    What about successive left and right governments flooding the NZ labour market with immigrant labour in an attempt to drive down wages and boost GDP figures? Take a look at recent ‘essential skills’ migrant categories from MBIE:

    Essential skills visa approvals 2016/17
    Truck Driver (General) 400
    Winery Cellar Hand 396
    Waiter 345
    Sales Assistant (General) 320
    Personal Care Assistant 289
    Massage Therapist 259
    Baker 231
    Painting Trades Worker 220
    Builder’s Labourer 185
    Kitchenhand 181
    Fast Food Cook 118
    Farm, Forestry and Garden Workers nec 116
    Bar Attendant 102

    Before blaming offshoring of jobs, take a look at the rort we are running around immigration.

  14. “When Jacinda talked about the fact that globalisation is seen as a threat by many New Zealanders, that it hasn’t benefitted all equally and that it’s lost some of its social licence, I thought of jobs going offshore. ”

    What about successive left and right governments flooding the NZ labour market with immigrant labour in an attempt to drive down wages and boost GDP figures? Take a look at recent ‘essential skills’ migrant categories from MBIE:

    Essential skills visa approvals 2016/17
    Truck Driver (General) 400
    Winery Cellar Hand 396
    Waiter 345
    Sales Assistant (General) 320
    Personal Care Assistant 289
    Massage Therapist 259
    Baker 231
    Painting Trades Worker 220
    Builder’s Labourer 185
    Kitchenhand 181
    Fast Food Cook 118
    Farm, Forestry and Garden Workers nec 116
    Bar Attendant 102

    Before blaming offshoring of jobs, take a look at the rort we are running around immigration.

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