Defending the Indefensible
The Southland CTU has organised a political debate on the economy in an attempt to get some serious attention applied to the potential loss of around 2,000 jobs to the region. There is considerable concern regarding the down sizing of the freezing work industry and the possible closure of the Tiwai Smelter. The Government has claimed that they can do little to help and there has been a general hands off approach to job losses around the regions. Investing in our own people and maintaining a skilled workforce in New Zealand has not been a priority as seen by the constant outsourcing of contracts, the closure of Dunedin's Hillside Workshops and a 15% loss of workers in the construction industry.
While the Green Party, Labour, New Zealand First and the CTU are being represented at the debate by high ranking members (Turei, Cunliffe, Peters and CTU National Secretary Peter Conway) the National Government is notable by it's absence. Invercargill MP Eric Roy sent a bizarre letter to the Southland Times claiming the following:
"...there was no dialogue over the dates for the meeting - I was told it is this date and that's that."
"The National-led Government does have a business growth agenda...the number of jobs has actually been growing over the last two years. The number of jobs in the economy overall has grown by 57,000 in the same time period."
"Unions and opposition parties have an opportunity to support areas that make a real difference for companies- like reforming the RMA, supporting employment law changes to increase flexibility and controlling ACC's costs. If the political opposition and unions were serious about jobs, as one example they could ask Forest and Bird to withdraw its objections to Bathurst Resources' Escarpment Mine project near Westport."
"The Government is working hard to give business the opportunity to grow and create jobs across a range of sectors such as oil and gas exploration, the expansion of intensive agriculture, the development of aquaculture, investment in hi-tech innovation, and encouraging foreign investment."
I found Invercargill MP Eric Roy's letter extraordinary (November 13). The Green Party judged the meeting to discuss Southland's job crisis as an important one and consequently we have one of our co-leaders attending. To not have anyone fronting up to represent the government is concerning.
While the wealthy of New Zealand have enjoyed tax cuts, and have seen their incomes grow by almost 20%, the burden of the recovery has been placed on ordinary New Zealanders. While Mr Roy claims his government has created 57,000 jobs this figure is very similar to the 53,000 people who have migrated to Australia over the same period (the highest level ever). The numbers of unemployed have grown by 78,000 under this Government and the true number of New Zealanders without jobs is actually close to 300,000.
Mr Roy bizarrely appears to blame the lack of growth on Forest and Bird for protesting against the mining of a significant natural environment and Unions for not allowing even greater erosion of pay and conditions. He should be looking instead at his own government's cutting of around 4,000 jobs in the state sector (resulting in systemic failures in almost every department) while spending record amounts on consultants and $2 billion a year to maintain tax cuts to the rich.
The Green's home insulation scheme is one of the few initiatives that have managed to produce a positive return on the investment while the Government's $12 billion motorway projects largely fail cost benefit analysis. It is about time Mr Roy and his Government got serious about creating sustainable jobs and supporting the regions instead of protecting the incomes of the already wealthy. We have suffered enough.