Most commentators are talking about 2020 as the year we are glad to put behind us. They say it has been a tough year for business with uncertainty about the economy alongside lockdowns, quarantine isolation and no overseas travel.
Most of this negativity about 2020 is from the big capitalists and the middle class. Businesses have been complaining about the damage to profits from lockdowns and the lack of cheap migrant workers to exploit while the middle class have complained about restrictions on overseas travel.
But 2020 has had its big positives so let’s celebrate two of them:
- The Black Lives Matter global protests have been a celebration of our common humanity as much as an attack on racism and racist policies within the police and state agencies. This is as relevant in New Zealand as the US with the example just this week of racial profiling of Māori youth in the Wairarapa. Fighting racism is so important because racism is corrosive of worker unity and has always been a key tool to be whipped up (sorry about the mixed metaphor) at critical times to keep workers divided from each other.
- Ihumatao. Real change comes when people stand up and take action together and defy the laws put in place by politicians on behalf of the big corporates. The Bastion Point occupation had a similar genesis when the Muldoon government went behind the backs of the protestors and “negotiated” a settlement with a kaumatua (who was later given a knighthood) leaving the people out in the cold. Congratulations to SOUL Save Our Unique Landscapes) for mobilising on behalf of all New Zealanders.
But there are plenty of negatives from 2020 so lets not get carried away. Here are a few of them:
- The Prime Minister and MPs have been given a three-year salary cap – a symbolic gesture made to help the rest of us feel they care and that we are all suffering together. Yeah right! A freeze on a six figure salary of $182,600 for an MP – more than the income of a dozen superannuitants together – is no sacrifice.
- The absolute refusal of Labour to consider a capital gains tax or a wealth tax.
- The absolute refusal of Labour to do any more than token gestures to get children out of poverty or allow families on low incomes to live with dignity and self-respect.
- The absolute refusal of Labour to do anything significant to stop the rise of house prices.
- Labour’s absolute fixation on middle-class focus groups to veto policy change.
- The big business rorts on the public purse from the Covid 19 wage subsidy. Some of the biggest corporate bludgers have finally agreed to pay it back – including Ryman Healthcare within the last week. This money wasn’t going to workers in wages – it was going straight into corporate profits for wealthy shareholders.
- The failure of the Serious Fraud Office to lay charges against Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel for filing a false election expenses return. How can we possibly hold our elected representatives to account for conflicts of interest when we don’t know who is funding them?
- Tenure review is continuing – yes that’s right – the privatising (legalised theft) of our precious commons is still happening despite promises it would be stopped. We owe a serious debt to researcher Ann Brower who exposed this filthy scam whereby large pastoral leases in the South Island high country are being split into private productive land (sold to the wealthy leaseholders – who were the only ones allowed to purchase it!) while the unproductive land is put into the conservation estate. It was started in the 1990 by National’s Conservation Minister Denis Marshall and continued by successive governments since and we, the people, are heavy losers. This process covers vast areas of the South Island and one statistic sums it up. 15% of the land privatised under the scheme has since been on-sold at a value of 493 times (sic) what the government was paid for it by leaseholders. In other words every $1 of land value paid to the government was on-sold for $493 on the open market by the owners. Needless to say the negotiations have been privatised and the negotiators paid on getting settlements without any incentive to achieve a high price from leaseholders nor penalty for a low price. Getting the deal done was the aim and we have been utterly screwed. A small sign of the additional problems created surfaced last week when it was revealed pastoral lease negotiations failed to secure a 200m access strip through the Roxborough Gorge as part of a national cycle trail. Having fleeced the community through the pastoral lease negotiations the two owners are refusing to allow the completion of the cycleway without hefty pay-outs from the government. Cyclists in the meantime must pay $100 each for a 14 km river trip instead. Theft from the commons, now theft from the public purse. We can only shake our heads in disbelief.
Unfortunately, these negatives are just a small sample from 2020.
We are a little people!