Welcome to Kiwiboomers!

 

labour1938"You're from Auckland?" asked a woman at an out of town  gathering recently.

"Yep".  Just Another Fabulous Aucklander.

"So you're a millionaire then?"

Hmm… When every homeowner in Auckland is a millionaire, who isn't? The one-per-centers. Auckland's  housing crisis has unseen depths - racism, inequalities and deepest of all, an institutional unfairness for future  generations.  1936 has  an answer: concerted Government interventions.

The belittling of Little…

andrew-little-labour-leader-205-getty‘ …the series of promises Labour Leader Andrew Little set out were so grandiose as to be unbelievable” wrote Claire Trevett in the New Zealand Herald. And went on:

‘It amounted to promising to solve poverty, build “affordable” houses for everyone, feed every hungry child, banishing cold damp homes forever, building masses of infrastructure and pumping funding into the health and education systems. The only one he missed was turning water into wine’. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11643048

Fair enough – she’s the Herald’s Political Editor in Wellington and the paper is  hardly noted for its support of Labour Party views. And so to TVOne, where what we’ve heard at breakfast is so often recycled and paraded as news at 6pm. Nothing there to tell us much about the substance of Little’s speech, except that there were ‘mixed messages’ within it.

One way or another, Opposition parties have a much tougher ride with the media than does National whose business-friendly ministers have a lot in common with  the agendas of big business.

So what did Little say that was so astounding it rivalled the gospel story? He canvassed the social ills of present society – homelessness, plummeting home ownership and stalled wages for many.  Then as you’d expect he compared all that with the  growing wealth of property speculators and tax dodgers. He said  144,000 were out of work – 40,000 more than when National took office.

He  pointed out that the share of the national economic growth had fallen each year under National. Under the last Government it was 50%. Today it is 37%.  He listed the slippages in international rankings:  305,000 children living in poverty and 42,000 children hospitalised each year because they  had to live in poor quality homes. Much of that is known, but Little also came with a plan which deserved much more than flippant dismissal:

  • Labour would launch a mass home building programme to deliver new affordable homes in Auckland and around the country; ‘cracking down on offshore speculators who drive prices up and lock families out of the market. Labour would tell overseas  buyers that if they buy a house in New Zealand, they have to add to the stock as they do in Australia.
  • Restore the funding estimated at $1.7 billion which National has cut from public health.
  • Labour would commit the country once more to the principle of high quality, free public education.
  • Three years’ free post-school education so Kiwis can train and retrain without having to take on huge debt.

If all this sounds improbable then this year provides an 80th anniversary – an instructive one. In 1936 the new Labour Government had begun its state house building programme involving an estimated 180 builders and 5,000 tradesmen  who built 5,000 state houses a year.

In the years before 1935 and the election of the Labour Government, the housing shortfall was …20,000 in a society  run on laissez-faire free market principles.

If we’re using biblical terms, then 80 years ago, water was turned into wine and the same can be done  again. What’s in the way? An ideology which Guardian writer George Monbiot described as nameless – but destructive. He wrote:

Neoliberalism: do you know what it is? Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump.

But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?  Read more at http://gu.com/p/4tbfb?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

In New Zealand all roads lead back to 1984 after a breathtaking  betrayal of an entire electorate by Labour, led by David Lange. Now it’s commonplace to hear commentators and leaders ruing problems by saying ‘ over the past 30 years…’  as if this time frame alone was responsible when this unnamed ideology took root.

TV documentary maker Bryan Bruce showed what’s gone wrong with our education system in his doco on TV3 this week:  Individualism, the promotion of competition at the expense of co-operation, the closure of smaller schools when research showed they provided better learning than larger ones; and the emphasis on tests as opposed to learning in the broadest sense.

Very American. But that’s the role model our leaders have chosen to follow rather than the more enlightened countries of Norway, Finland and Sweden – with all the social costs Little outlined in his speech.

Just not enough minutes in the day!

take it easy

Ever feel like there’s just not enough minutes in the day?  Who hasn’t?  It seems that busyness has become the new norm. For some even a badge of honour.

 “Just not enough minutes in the day!” –  declared with a proud smile, a shrug of the shoulders and shake of the head.  “I’ve just been so busy!”  The words slip off the tongue as easily as a mindless “How are you?” It’s expected.

Continue reading

The Unholy Triad

I’ve always struggled to understand economics, which means I have a bit of cheek embarking on   a view of the economics of the western world. Still, in my possibly naive view there are simple rules. Take Alzheimers for instance. By taking daily exercise, eating healthy food and maintaining mental and social stimulation, there is a good chance of avoiding Alzheimers. Similar rules apply for avoiding type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and probably many other diseases that swoop in when the rules are ignored.

Continue reading

So what the heck is wrong with sugary drinkss?

Sweet asThere are plenty of things worse than the occasional soft drink. Like Islamic State, or athlete’s foot, or genital warts. Shouldn’t we tax these things first, before we attack those delicious and very reasonably-priced soft drinks that bring such joy to the lives of our beloved children?

Continue reading

When you’re young and in love…

Balham, London, 1961. I was twenty and my fiancé eighteen when we decided to get married.    London was my fiancé’s home town. Being young and in love we discounted obstacles, the first being my girlfriend’s mother, who was not impressed by the idea. Not only was I from a northern tribe with a Liverpool accent, I was a labourer. We never did become pals but we learned to tolerate each other.

Continue reading

Art class – day one…

drawingYou’ve wanted to paint for years  –  but  always  filed it away as  a nice thought, one that can  wait until  say…  you were  older?  Until  you realise you’re already there.     And once you’ve declared  your interest in the craft  to an old  friend over coffee, you’ve already painted yourself into a  corner,  because friends being friends, listen.

Continue reading

Another round of applause

Mike Moore

The first time I heard an audience stand and applaud a film, it was for Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine,  an indictment of a mass shooting and  America’s gun laws.

The second time I heard it was last week at the first screening of his  film,  Which country should we invade next?

Continue reading

Kiwiosities: The Last Moose

Kiwiosities coverExcerpts from Kiwiosities, a book by Gordon Ell on the traditions and folklore of New Zealand.

Tales of giant elk or moose in deepest Fiordland arise from their importation from Canada early last century.

Continue reading