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NZ POLITICS DAILY: The Left’s problem with inequality

The political left has a problem – inequality. They know that there’s increasing concern in New Zealand society about economic inequality, in particular child poverty, unemployment, and the rising cost of living. Somehow, though, they can’t seem to make much progress in convincing the public that the current National Government is the problem. In fact National has attempted to assuage concerns over inequality in its most recent Budget, which appears to have worked. Two major TV opinion polls out last night indicate a significant ‘Budget bounce’, which is appears to be due to National’s more centrist positioning on social concerns – see Adam Bennett’s National rides post-Budget wave. Of particular interest is the fact that 73% of the public favours National’s ‘families package’, with left-leaning voters also liking this policy. See also, Patrick Gower’s Labour's war-room now Cunliffe's panic station.

As I’ve argued previously, the National Government, and the rightwing in general, are not content to allow the political left to win the debate over issues of poverty and inequality – see my previous columns, The right wing fightback on inequality, and Fighting and debating inequality in 2014

There will continue to be a sharp focus on inequality during this election campaign. Usefully, in the weekend, TV3’s The Nation dedicated nearly an entire show to this topic. The best part was Torben Akel’s 8-minute video report, New Zealand's record on inequality. But it’s also important to watch the 12-minute interview with visiting British academics Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson. In response, see the 8-minute interview with Sue Moroney and Colin Craig, and the 10-minute panel discussion: Patrick Gower, Max Rashbrooke and Matthew Hooton. Labour’s Rob Salmond also comments in his blog post, The Nation on inequality

For more viewing on inequality in New Zealand – and how it might relate to this year’s election - you can watch my 1-hour interview with a journalist who is an expert on inequality – see: Vote Chat with Max Rashbrooke

So, what does the voting public think about the issue? The best in-depth information on this can be found in the UMR report on inequality, which was published recently. Amongst the findings, it seems that 50% of the public are ‘very concerned’ about ‘growing inequality’, 37% are ‘somewhat concerned’, and only 13% are ‘not concerned at all’. Also, 71% believe that the gap between the rich and poor is widening, with 78% believing that effects of the gap have been bad for New Zealand. The stats also show a significant growth in those preferring to live in a more equal society. 

Some of the most recent resurgence of interest in inequality in New Zealand is due to the visit by the authors of the Sprit Level, Richard Wilkinson and Pickett, who have been giving a series of public lectures at the University of Auckland. Tonight they talk in Dunedin on Inequality, sustainability and well-being

John Minto reports on the Auckland lectures in his blog post, Thoughts on The Spirit Level lectures – The big battle ahead – bringing democracy to our economy. He takes some issue with the authors’ solutions, saying ‘What the authors didn’t address directly however was the enormous struggle it will be to achieve this. The wealthy will never give up their unearned incomes or their effective control of our major political parties without one hell of a fight but it’s a fight New Zealand workers and workers globally will have to be up for’. See also, Minto’s Who pays tax, who pays the most tax and who doesn’t pay tax? and Keith Ng’s Why does the top 10% paying more tax? (An interactive story)

The other major ‘academic rockstar’ of the moment who is revitalising the inequality debate is French economist Thomas Piketty, whose book Capital in the Twenty-First Century is huge. For the best New Zealand take on the book, see Pattrick Smellie’s in-depth Listener feature, The book that hit like a bomb – which has been unlocked for non-subscribers.

Other interesting New Zealand commentary on Piketty can be found in Danyl McLauchlan’s This actually happened and Philip Ferguson’s Thomas Piketty’s ideas reach New Zealand

Academic approaches to understanding issues of inequality can be found on the interesting new AUT website, Briefing Papers which has just launched and aims to host documents that better help public discussion and debate about the state of the country. See, for instance, Brian Easton’s The Purpose of economic policy and Ian Shirley’s The Purposes of social policy.

For a student take on the issues, see two articles on inequality from this week’s Salient magazine – Duncan MacLachlan and Cam Price’s Inequality & Poverty, and Michael Pohl’s Inequality from the Left

At the University of Otago, some long-term academic research is now online – see the Socioeconomic Deprivation Indexes: NZDep and NZiDep, Department of Public Health. This is explained in Simon Collins’ The equality debate: Inequality in NZ under spotlight. And some interesting interactive visuals can be seen in the online Herald feature by Harkanwal Singh – see: Where are NZ's most deprived areas? (+interactive)

Academics will be leading much of the debate about inequality in the coming weeks. For example, Victoria University is hosting a free one-day conference on 19 June on Inequality: Causes and Consequences. And in a couple of weeks, academics Jonathan Boston and Simon Chapple will launch their new book, Child Poverty in New Zealand

Today’s content

Inequality

Torben Akel (TV3): New Zealand's record on inequality

Brian Easton (Briefing papers): The Purpose of economic policy

Ian Shirley (Briefing papers): The Purposes of social policy

John Minto (Daily Blog): Thoughts on The Spirit Level lectures – The big battle ahead – bringing democracy to our economy

Carrie Stoddart-Smith (Ellipsister): Briefly on the Nation

The Standard: Snapshot of a nation: inequality

TV3: Are more equal societies happier and healthier and generally better off?

TV3: Colin Craig, Sue Moroney respond to Spirit Level authors

Mark Hubbard (Life behind the iron drape): Inequality Timelines, and Matt Nolan’s Tweet of the Day

Frank Macskasy (Daily Blog): Review: TV3’s The Nation – “Let them eat ice cream!”

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): A Budget surplus built by beneficiaries

David Kennedy (Local Bodies): Bill English Helps the Vulnerable?

No Right Turn: The rich rort us again

Martin Hawes (Stuff): Budgeting tips from Bill English

Laura McQuillan (Newstalk ZB): Paula Bennett denies scramble at her Ministry

Rob Stock (Stuff): Confident wealthy plan a spend-up

Laura McQuillan (Newstalk ZB): Paula Bennett denies scramble at her Ministry

Duncan MacLachlan and Cam Price (Salient): Inequality & Poverty

Michael Pohl (Salient): Inequality from the Left

Penny Gault (Salient): Working Hard, or Hardly Working

 

Latest polls

Tracy Watkins (Stuff): 'Tough and tight' election for National?

Adam Bennett (Herald): National rides post-Budget wave

3 News Online Staff (TV3): National survives MP scandals in latest poll

NBR: Two polls show budget bounce for Nats

Corin Dann (TVNZ): National back in the box seat with a Budget bounce

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): TV polls

Patrick Gower (TV3): National's family policies get support in poll

TVNZ: Poll shows National surviving a tough few weeks

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Tonights 3 News/Reid Research Poll will have National at 51%

John Armstrong (Herald): Labour starting to look like contender

Rob Salmond (Polity): May TV polls

Jess McAllen (Stuff): Rocking the youth vote

Radio NZ: Mandatory voting idea questioned

Lynn Prentice (The Standard): Compulsory voting and an explicit “none of the above”

TVNZ: Under 30s most likely not to vote – poll

Danyl Mclauchlan (Dim-Post): Brumaire

 

GCSB

Fran O'Sullivan (Herald): Campbell's dot-connecting GCSB 'revelations' fail to pin details on John Key

Andrea Vance (Stuff): Have our spies signed us up to war in Yemen?

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): What’s the difference between John Key and a Drone? Trick question, nothing. Both are controlled by Washington

Redline: When Johnny defends the drone

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Manufacturing a domestic Muslim threat in Auckland as Drone strike leaks loom

John Braddock (WSW): New Zealand, Australian governments complicit in US drone attacks

Frank Macskasy (Daily Blog): National-ACT supporters – not the brightest lights in the night sky, eh?

Herald: Drone strike protest outside PM's home

Samantha Anderson (Daily Blog): The Prime Minister is the number one Minister in this country

Paul Buchanan (Kiwipolitico): Should NZ renounce lethal drones?

TVNZ: Protest vigil outside Prime Minister John Key's house

 

Greens

Andrea Vance (Stuff): Green shoots sprout to top

Radio NZ: Greens make changes to party list

Alex Mason (Newstalk ZB): Greens kick off on-the-ground campaign

Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Surprise choices as Greens decide election rankings

Edward Rooney (Herald): Green Party unveils party list for 2014 election

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): The final 2014 Green Party list

The Standard: The Green Party List

No Right Turn: The Green list

Pete George (Your NZ): Green Party list confirmed

Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): Green list doens’t rate ag

Patrick Leyland (Progress Report): Greens fail to rejuvenate

Matthew Beveridge: Green Party List

Matthew Beveridge: Green Party Candidates: Follow Up

 

National Party

Matthew Hooton (NBR): Radical Labour lets Key’s centrist party sneak ahead (paywalled)

Jared Savage (Herald): Maurice Williamson contacted police over another case

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): New disclosures by Judith Collins

Matthew Theunissen (Herald): MP to talk about undeclared gift next week

Natalie Akoorie (Herald): John Key: A 'tight and tough' election ahead

3 News Online Staff (TV3): National candidate defends tobacco job

Newswire: National names Palmerston North candidate

No Right Turn: A serial offender

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): A silly complaint

Greg Presland (The Standard): Tony Astle does not want progressive customers

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Williamson being a good electorate MP

 

NZ First

Duncan Garner (Stuff): Is this all you have, Winston?

Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Party in danger of Peter-ing out

Karl du Fresne: Mr Peters comes to Masterton

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Can NZ First survive without Winston

 

Labour Party

Vernon Small (Stuff): Labour seeks names for key seat

3 News Online Staff (TV3): Labour reopens Tamaki Makaurau nominations

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Labour’s Tamaki Makaurau fiasco continues

Steven Cowan (Against the Current): The spectre of “lesser evil’ politics

 

Housing

Jolisa Gracewood (Herald): Housing a gamble on our future

Radio NZ: Parties at odds over capital gains tax

Winston Peters (RadioLIVE): ‘Think Big’ Immigration –Cut it to the Bone

Laura Heathcote (Newstalk ZB): Craig: National ignoring housing problem

Cecile Meier (Stuff): To buy a house, or not to buy

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Editorials on Immigration

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Can’t win

NBR: Immigration Minister rejects cap on migrants

 

Kim Dotcom

Laura Walters (Stuff): Dotcom loses Record of Case fight

Olivia Allison (Radio NZ): FBI case against Dotcom revealed

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Judge dismisses Dotcom conspiracy theories

 

John Banks

Steve Braunias (Stuff): The secret diary of . . . John Banks

Ian Steward (Stuff): Mud flinging and then soap

 

Asylum seekers

Tony Wall and Tracy Watkins (Stuff): People-smugglers bid to sail first boat to NZ

Tracey Barnett (Stuff): No need to follow Australia's contentious lead

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Labour’s alien invasion from Mars is getting closer

Tony Wall (Stuff): Desperate bid to reach New Zealand

Newswire: NZ rejects UN's asylum seeker recommendation

Radio NZ: Offshore asylum seeker option open

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): A brief word on asylum seekers sailing to NZ

 

Mana Dot.com

Adam Bennett (Herald): Former MP Jones in talks with Harawira

Radio NZ: Jones 'put in place' over criticism

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Why the MANA Movement and Internet Party will happen – if it happens

Adam Bennett (Herald): Internet, Mana hookup is looking good

Tom Peters (WSW): NZ pseudo-left group defends Mana-Internet Party alliance

 

Maori politics

Adam Bennett (Herald): Peters puts spotlight on Maori trust

Simon Day (Stuff): Maori more important?

Jacqui Stanford (Newstalk ZB): Maori Party picks Sharples' stepson for Te Tai Tokerau

Vernon Small and Lois Cairns (Stuff): Ditched Christchurch councillor runs for Parliament

Mamari Stephens (Sparrowhawk): Māori in Australia: standing whose ground?

 

Civilian Party

Sophie Ryan and Rebecca Quilliam (Herald): The Civilian Party: 'An honestly dishonest politician'

Rebecca Quilliam (Herald): Satirist launches 'up-of-centre' party

Newswire: Party calls for free ice-cream and llamas

 

TPP

Audrey Young (Herald): Don't miss the TPP bus, warns Groser

Jordan McLuskey (Salient): A TPPAin the arse?

 

Other

Stuff: Today in politics: Monday, May 26

Simon Collins (Herald): Pokie payment change 'giant leap backwards'

Neal Wallace (ODT): Rude awakening

TVNZ: Phil Goff: 'Critically important' NZ becomes multi-lingual

Greg Presland (The Standard): The political beliefs of political reporters

Colin Espiner (Stuff): We're the biggest losers

Marika Hill (Stuff): 'Love rat' returns to Auckland

Laura Walters (Stuff): Parties adopt women-specific policies

Lynley Bilby (Herald): Police sex scandal worsens

Rodney Hide (Herald): Why I smacked my 3-year-old

Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): Thank God that’s fixed

Steve Price (MLJ): Law Commission on contempt

Alexia Russell (Newstalk ZB): No 'Epsom-style deal' for Conservative Party

Vaughan Elder (ODT): Hayne takes MPs to task

Laura McQuillan (Newstalk ZB): Government talks up clause it plans to scrap

Simon Collins (Herald): Pokie payment change 'giant leap backwards'

Jane Clifton (Listener): Pollies in Twitterland (paywalled)

Rachel Smalley (Newstalk ZB): Immigration policy needs to go further

Listener: Editorial: How the land lies

Comments and questions
4

When I was first married many years ago we quickly had two children, one income that was low, no house ownership, and we were pretty poor and I guess we were low end of the inequality level. But we worked hard - studying after work etc.
Some 15 years later we were both working - two teenagers at school, a house heavily mortgaged - having recently had to sell a house because our interest rates had hit 21%, so we sold a house and bought a doer-upper. So I guess we had climbed on the inequality stakes but were still lower middle
7 Years later our children were finishing high school, were were both working but heavily mortgaged and playing the pay to credit card 1 to cash advance to pay credit card 2 then to spend game. We had more wealth, still in debt but a major financial burden (children) was starting to lift. We had probably achieved middle equality.
Then in desperation sold everything paid off debt and went overseas and used currency leverage to buy back in NZ several years later.
Now our children are nearly 40, we have a freehold house but earning income is much harder,(pension some years off) so we are asset rich i.e. one house to live in but income is low - back to one wage now and again. I am not sure where that puts us on the inequality level, probably because of the assets near the top.

So I guess during our life (and I have not told it all) - we have touched at some time or the other on every level of the inequality calculation except for a few things. Had a good basic education (I don't have a degree, and my wife got one after we had been married 18 years), Were prepared to work hard, and we had good basic health and our children also had good basic health, but mostly we had aspirations.

I think we are though, quite typical of many New Zealanders, brought up in NZ starting from the mid 50's. This is why there is little traction.

I know it is getting harder as with technology and regulation, one now cannot do some of the things we used to do.

Unfortunately I think it will become worse as robotics start taking over the unskilled aspects of our lives.

However I do not see any answers in the dabbling any party left or right is looking at today.

Handouts are unsustainable and we are in a big mess with these, hand-ups are paramount but are by definition temporary in nature and are part of a tough love scenario which is not liked by many.
What to do - we need a lot more working together which unfortunately is not a factor in present day politics.

We need far fewer people expecting to live on welfare, rather than improving their own employment prospects through education, job training and similar; all of which are available in NZ. It only requires initiative and a desire to succeed.
None of this is helped of course, by a number of ideological groups who will provide all the excuses in the world as to why an individuals non achieving predicament, is anything but his/her own fault; health and disability issues excepted.

RJ Robert

I couldnt have written it better myself.

We introduce, straight from Brussels, the, Working For Families scenario. Our fittest, most able bodied people are now on welfare on the arrival of their first born. In addition we top it up with Paid Parental Leave.
These people then scale back their work and adjust their life to stay inside the WFF criteria.
We then go overseas and borrow nearly $ 5 billion dollars to make this happen and on and on go the consequences.
John and Bill will not touch it because of the voting risk. How absolutely crazy and stupid can we be?