Issues of economic inequality are politically back in vogue. Going into the general election, the political left, in particular, is suddenly much more focused on this traditional leftwing subject. A good example of this can be seen in today’s Herald opinion piece by academic Anne Salmond: We could do with a change of heart. She berates successive governments for their neoliberal policy framework that has furthered inequality, and asks the big political question: ‘In whose interests is our country being run?’. Essentially Salmond is channeling the more coherent elements of the global ‘Occupy’ movement. And she suggests that it’d take more than just a change of government to truly affect changes in the deeply unequal distribution of wealth and income in New Zealand. Related to Salmond’s almost-revolutionary demands, there’s a strong element of class and left politics being reported today. Simon Collins reports that Charities' food handouts at record after Govt cuts, The Standard says its Time to take back what’s ours, and Claire Trevett covers the fact that Key admits underclass still growing despite the fact that he campaigned strongly on this issue in coming to power in 2008. Of course the Labour Party is reflecting this growth in concern with traditional left issues, and today it released its industrial relations policies, and they have a more leftwing character than in the past. See for example, Danya Levy’s Labour targets sectors for minimum wage and Derek Cheng’s Labour Party launches work and wages policy.
This resurgence of interest in, and focus on, inequality is fascinating. After all, for decades now, this subject has been largely absent from the parliamentary political system, and few political actors have been interested in raising questions about the distribution of material wealth. Quite simply, economic inequality has not mattered in New Zealand politics. This has refleccted the general decline of the political left, and the defeat of ideologies and movements that are most associated with combating economic inequality. Class politics has been at a very low ebb in recent years, and the ideas of socialism, Marxism, egalitarianism, anti-capitalism have been largely discredited and out of fashion in both New Zealand politics and academia.
But a resurgence of interest and concern with inequality isn’t just occurring on the left side of politics. In last year’s British general election, the Conservative party successfully campaigned on reducing economic inequality. The Tory’s election advertisements even featured the sarcastic negative faux-Labour adverts in which a grinning Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown is accompanied by the text ‘I increased the gap between rich and poor – vote for me’. It was a remarkable campaign focus for the party traditionally associated with the defence of inequality in British society. As one British leftwing political commentator pointed out, ‘the new ideological keywords of the Conservative were, remarkably, poverty, inequality, compassion and society’.
So what has been happening? I explored some of these issues in a series of blog posts last year on the topic of inequality. In particular, in a blog post entitled The resurgence of issues of economic inequality, I detailed the rising interest and concern with inequality, pointing out that a combination of factors, including the arrival of the worst economic recession since the 1930s and the unraveling of the leftish identity politics project, has produced a small but significant revival of interest in issues of class politics. This focus on inequality is more than just a shift in emphasis and suggests something important going on in parliamentary politics.
Related to this, the ministerial hearings into the involvement of foreign fishing boats in New Zealand waters began this week, and it's bringing into light the very different attitudes towards inequality and exploitation. Michael Field’s article entitled 'We need more cheap foreign fishermen' says it all. The main fishing body is complaining that New Zealand workers are too expensive and they want the ability to bring in more low-paid immigrant workers. Unsurprisingly, the Maritime Union has responded by labeling the industry bosses as ‘greedy’ – see: Foreign charter vessels about greed: union.
Other political items of either importance, insight, interest, or influence, include the following: Frances Cook’s Goff 'splits hairs' over deep sea drilling moratorium, Dan Satherley’s A brief history of elections in New Zealand, Colin James’ Not a syndrome yet but Key's slips are showing, Felix Marwick’s Who’d want to be leader?, Rob Hosking’s Raise the pension age and ditch MMP – survey, Ian Llewellyn’s MMP – The Forgotten Question, Russell Brown’s Winning the RWC: it’s complicated, and Sue Kedgley’s Time to review how Parliament works. [Continue reading below for a full list of the highlights of NZ Politics Daily]
Below are the internet links to all the NZ politics material from the last 24 hours that are either informative, insightful, interesting or influential. This list and the links are taken from a fuller document, NZ Politics Daily, which is emailed out, Monday to Friday, to various researchers, academics, journalists, MPs and so forth. The document is purely for research purposes only, and if you would like to be on the subscription list, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Claire Trevett (NZH): Key admits underclass still growing
Dame Anne Salmond (NZH): We could do with a change of heart
Simon Collins (NZH): Charities' food handouts at record after Govt cuts
The Standard: Time to take back what’s ours
Danya Levy (Stuff): Labour targets sectors for minimum wage
Derek Cheng (NZH): Labour Party launches work and wages policy
Maria Slade (Stuff): Affordable housing could boost growth
Michael Field (Stuff): 'We need more cheap foreign fishermen'
Robert Winter (Idle Thoughts): Seafood Industry Council: Bring Back Slavery
No Right Turn: Our fishing industry is morally bankrupt
Nelson Mail: Talley's to appear at fishing inquiry
Rena oil spill
Patrick Gower (TV3): Govt forced to ‘beg’ after Rena liability blunder – Goff
Frances Cook (TV3): Goff 'splits hairs' over deep sea drilling moratorium
Lloyd Burr (TV3): MSC will help foot Rena cleanup bill – Joyce
Danya Levy (Stuff): Labour questions Joyce over oil liability convention
Chris Trotter (Press): All too hard to face unpalatable truth about oil
Richard Long (Dom Post): Rena rants hardly well grounded
Rob Maetizig and Leighton Keith (Taranaki Daily News): Activists fail to board survey ship
Barry Soper (Newstalk ZB): Political Report for October 18
Cleo Francis and Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Govt weighs up Rena business package
Kirsty Johnston (Stuff): Rena: Key tours bird recovery centre
Dan Satherley (TV3): A brief history of elections in New Zealand
John Hartevelt (Stuff): Nats: $550 million for KiwiSaver auto-enrolment
Derek Cheng (NZH): Call for all police constables to carry guns
Colin James (ODT): Not a syndrome yet but Key's slips are showing
Danya Levy (Stuff): New Citizens Party joins with Conservatives
Ian Llewellyn (electionresults): Conservative Party Hoovers Up New Citizens Party
Rob Hosking (NBR): Raise the pension age and ditch MMP – survey
Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Who’d want to be leader?
Russell Brown (Public address): Thinking Digital
Matthew LIttlewood (Timaru Herald): Voting reminder to rugby fans
Dave Kennedy (Local bodies): Billboards and Bicycles
Electoral reform campaign
Newstalk ZB: Campaign for electoral reform heats up
Ian Llewellyn (electionresults): MMP – The Forgotten Question
Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): Vote for FPP won’t get change
Katie Bradford-Crozier (Newstalk ZB): Loss incurred by RWC worth it – PM
Russell Brown (Hard News): Winning the RWC: it’s complicated
David Farrar (Stuff): A new flag for New Zealand
Earthquake readiness and recovery
Paul Gorman (Press): Debate to turn dreams into reality
Martin van Beynen (Press): Insurance runaround 'worse than quake mess'
Keith Lynch (Press): Commuter heaven has gone to hell
Chris Hutching (NBR): Winners, losers from Brownlee's earthquake rezoning
Chris Hutching (NBR): Government 'ultimatum' on Christchurch asset sales
Sue Kedgley (Dom Post): Time to review how Parliament works
Claire Trevett (NZH): Feeley: Book not a 'booby prize'
John Hartevelt (Stuff): Teachers' strike rights 'under threat'
Dita De Boni (NZH): Tolley's anti-teacher volley
Fiona Rae (Listener): NZ cannot ignore the torture of Afghan prisoners
No Right Turn: Thwarting the OIA
Jordan Carter (Just Left): Labour's policy on Information and Comms Technology
Manoj Daji (NZH): One-size-fits-all approach misses the mark in sport
Katie Bradford-Crozier (Newstalk ZB): Idea of Te Papa North welcomed by Labour
Steve Hopkins (Stuff): Students occupy clock tower over fee hike
James Weir and Kimberley Crayton-Brown (Stuff): Optimism Bluff smelter to stay open
Matthew Littlewood (Timaru Herald): Power struggle
Bernard Orsman (NZH): Referendum idea on tolls to fund loop
Tim Selwyn (Tumeke): Tolling for a loop
Ian Steward (Stuff): Ex-MP Taito Phillip Field's jail time 'eye-opening'
Ian Steward and Paul Easton (Dom Post): Disgraced Field out but asserts innocence [Not currently online]
Matt Nippert (NBR): Minister demands meeting as Feeley cleared by probe
Dom Post: Today in politics: Tuesday