Poverty in New Zealand: Address to the Catholic Conference on Poverty

9 August 2008, Palmerston North, by Richard Wallis, 2008 candidate for Wellington Central, number 5 on party list

Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to speak. I am Richard Wallis, Alliance spokesperson for education and candidate for Wellington Central. I lived here in Palmerston North for 10 years, first studying at Massey and then 5 years at the local Warehouse. I was a member of the St Pat’s community. It was the Massey Catholic group “Manako” where I was reminded of the importance of social justice.

So, are the policies of the Alliance and the aims of the Catholic Church compatible? Yes. Yes they are! Both value the importance of humans as more than another cog in the economic wheel. Both acknowledge the importance of receiving a fair wage for work done. Both recognise the importance of taking care of those at the bottom of the social and economic ladders of life.

Freedom from poverty is a reasonable expectation. It is reasonable to expect a fair wage for an honest day’s work. It is reasonable to expect access to healthcare, housing and education.

We all know that the cost of living is rising too much for the average wage to handle. But what can we do?

Well, we would:

• Increase the minimum wage to $17 per hour.
• Introduce a 35-hour working week with no loss of pay.
• Immediately introduce 5 weeks annual leave.
• Improve paid parental leave – primary caregivers get 12months and
their partners, 2 weeks.
• Remove that regressive tax, GST, replacing it with the fairer Financial Transactions Tax.

If I am having trouble putting food on the table or keeping the power turned on, why should I be told to fork out to some private medical provider? I shouldn’t. Doctor’s visits and prescriptions should be free. There should be no waiting lists and there should be no childhood poverty. The Alliance’s alternative budget shows how these things can be a reality.

Education is a basic tenant of the teachings of the church. No one should be denied their right to an education and once there should be given access to the best education available. But, if you want a decent education system you have to invest in it.

We would (amongst other things):
• Reduce class sizes and eliminate fees through increased funding.
• All people are entitled to a roof over their heads with insulation, running water, power and a phone line. We would invest an extra $1.4 billion in state housing creating an extra 7 350 state houses a year.

Of course someone will have to pay for all this. If you want an end to poverty, you need a progressive and fair tax system. Each according to their ability to pay!

You can clearly see how our policies go further towards the elimination of poverty than any other party polices here today.

Our policies will help people have full and decent lives that they are entitled to by right of being human. Freedom from poverty is a reasonable expectation.

Thank you again for your time.

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