New Zealanders don’t like inequality. Nigel Latta’s programme on inequality on TV1 recently drew so many donations for the people featured on the programme that he has had to start a trust to deal with the excess funds. Every time Campbell Live on TV3 runs a programme about someone down on their luck the donations come pouring in. The programme raised many times the amount needed for a young boy’s orthodontics; a family whose house was attacked by termites were given enough for a new home. The list goes on.
When confronted by concrete examples of the effects of inequality on people’s lives i.e. people not able to afford the necessities of life out of their own income, New Zealanders dig into their pockets and try to make things right. We want everyone to have a fair go, to have a decent life.
What gets lost, though, is the connection between politics and inequality. New Zealanders hate inequality so much, perhaps it never occurs to us that some policies implemented by the government deliberately foster inequality. For example, we can’t believe that a government would set benefits and the minimum wage at a level so low people can’t afford to heat their homes or feed their families properly. Or that the government is quite happy to restrict access to health care, education, even electricity and water, for those who can’t afford to pay.
Sadly, we need to wise up. Inequality is a political issue. Parliament makes the rules that let one sector of the community become very wealthy and leaves others living in poverty. Parliament could just as easily change the rules to make it harder to become very wealthy but easier for everyone to have a decent standard of living – if the government of the day wanted to. And they would want to if they thought that’s what the voters wanted.
The upcoming election is a chance to take a stand against inequality and for the common good, to find out which parties have policies that will increase inequality – even if they swear black and blue that they don’t – and stop voting for them.
Here’s a hint; policies that don’t include a progressive tax structure, free doctors and dentist visits and prescriptions, free education, a minimum wage that is equal to a living wage, liveable benefit levels, affordable housing, electricity, and food, contribute to inequality.
We, in the Alliance Party, believe everyone deserves a fair go, and that we should rely on our government – not TV programmes – to make sure they get it.