The first Prime Minister I can remember is Bill Rowling. I was around five years old when he came to power. I don’t remember much about him. I put this down to the fact that he took over after Norm Kirk passed away and was then removed from office by questionable campaigning from the late Sir Robert Muldoon who, among other things, likened Rowling and his Labour Party to animated Russian dancers.
Rowling and Labour lost and the new superannuation fund set up by that government was pillaged and spent on massive projects designed to get oil out of the ground.
After that election the country faced 9 years under the regime of a man who literally ran everything. He was Prime Minister and Finance Minister so the buck stopped with him. Although it didn’t really stop as his spending prowess has been well documented as has his late night juiced-up announcement of the election that brought the David Lange Labour government to power.
Following that Labour government the country faced another National government hell-bent on the destruction of many facets of Kiwi society that had been built up over the previous three or four generations.
Free healthcare and free education were seen as the cornerstones of a developed nation. It was believed that a healthy, well-educated nation was a production nation. That 1990s National government – filled with cabinet ministers who had made their success thanks to the very subsidies (educational / farming) they were removing – cut benefits and pensions at a time featuring much higher rates of inflation than we have now.
It’s fine not having much money, just as long as the price of the food, power and rent you are paying doesn’t increase at a faster rate than the income you receive. Ruth Richardson decided at a time when inflation was 5% it would be a good idea to cut benefits. Not only was their more to pay, you had less to pay for it with.
Fast forward twenty or so years and we have a similar government trying to sell us similar policies – only this time the reforms include mandatory drug testing for job seekers and requiring parents receiving benefits to enroll their children in early childhood education and appropriate healthcare facilities. Admittedly this may fly in the face of my earlier “healthy, educated country” comment, but read on for clarification.
You have to ask yourself this: if this policy is so amazing, why are they not extending it out to ALL parents? They would never be able to because there are too many votes to be lost. At the moment this policy is about dividing the poor getting government money from the poor who are working for their money.
The only problem is that pretty much everybody gets Working for Families these days. That’s government money. Drug tests and parental tests for all!!
There was an incredibly important survey released in the United Kingdom this week. The article in the Independent newspaper was titled, “British public wrong about nearly everything, survey shows.” It goes on to document the survey results showing the British public had a warped perception of a range of aspects to their society.
The by-line of the article is this:
Research shows public opinion often deviates from facts on key social issues including crime, benefit fraud and immigration.
The article is well worth a read because many of the points made within can be easily transposed to the New Zealand situation. I’m sure we (our society) believe that benefit fraud is a multi-million dollar a year enterprise and that all beneficiaries exist to fleece the taxpayer. In actual fact benefit fraud was around $23 million last year – a record according to the New Zealand Herald which indicates it has previously been lower. Although this report from TV3 indicates welfare fraud could be as high as $39 million. It also mentions the fact that tax fraud could be anywhere between $1 and $6 billion dollars and we all know what this government thinks about tax evasion since many of the current cabinet protect their assets with family trusts.
Why is this? Why is it that the perception people have of these aspects of society is so far removed from what is actually happening?
There are two main reasons. Politicians and the main-stream media. Politicians spend their public lives manipulating public opinion through the main-stream media who appear to show little motivation to question or seriously delve into the claims made. When was the last time you saw John Key really questioned about what he was saying? admittedly it is a hard thing to do when the nightly news is all about soundbites and misformation.
We live in a country that has had, for many decades, one of the highest voter turn-out rates in the western world. In the past five decades the turnout has fallen from above 90% to below 70% at the last election. In the same period membership levels for political parties has also plummeted – from just under 300,000 in 1954 to a shade over 50,000 now.
It is all connected. People are not motivated to take part in our democracy because our political masters are seen as self-serving manipulators of the truth. They are prone to the exaggeration of facts or outright lies depending on the situation, the journalist or the audience. People are not motivated to join political parties because they don’t want to belong to an organisation that bases its existence on the manipulation of others. People don’t believe politicians because they know that they say one thing and mean another (see my blog from the weekend).
So when a politicians tells you that 20% of New Zealand children are leaving school unable to read and write, or in prison or similar such utterances suggesting things are seriously wrong with our education system, how much of that is truth and how much of it is exaggerated bullshit made up by former journalists and media comment writers hired by the politicians to gather as many votes as possible?
Politicians do not exist in the real world. They exist in their own little protective cocoon. Protected by their minders, their party machine and the unquestioning main-stream media.
Trust them and what they say about the education of your children AT YOUR PERIL.
Inflation Rates Across the Decades – Reserve Bank of New Zealand
The Mother of all Budgets – Te Ara On-line Encyclopedia
British public wrong about nearly everything, survey shows – The Independent, Tuesday July 9, 2013
Voter Turnout 1928 – 2011 – Te Ara On-line Encyclopedia
Party membership, 1954–2008 – Te Ara On-line Encyclopedia
Benefit fraud tops $23m in record year – New Zealand Herald, Monday Feb 25, 2013
Courts tougher on benefit fraud than tax dodging – 3 News, Oct 21, 2012
How super-rich Kiwis dodge tax – New Zealand Herald, Jun 1, 2013