Monday, April 7, 2014

The Young Nats Celebrate Wealth and Privilege


The National Party is often accused of lacking empathy and when this was suggested by Metiria Turei she got a memorably vicious response from Anne Tolley and Judith Collins. To me empathy is best displayed through actions and I have noted that most of the policies that have come from the Government have supported the already rich and have increased inequality.

When I attend protests in support of the living wage or meeting with those concerned with worker health and safety, National MPs are notable by their absence. The issue of child poverty and our shocking child health and safety statistics are shameful for a relatively wealthy country such as ours with an abundance of food and natural resources. Why should 285,000 of our children not have their basic needs met? Why should this Government steadfastly ignore advice in addressing poverty and refuse to use a measure to track progress in addressing it?

In a country where 20% of our working population is either unemployed or underemployed, the wealthiest 10% own over 50% of our nation's wealth and 50% of our population share only 5% of our wealth, something is wrong. Inequality in New Zealand is the fastest growing in the OECD.

I consider myself wealthy, I own my own house on a quarter acre and we recently bought a small bach using a modest mortgage. Living in Invercargill is obviously an advantage over Auckland.  We have two cars (through necessity as public transport is limited) and although neither was made this century they are economical and perfectly functional. We saved for our children's education and are able to provide them some financial support while attending university, both work during their holiday breaks. My wife's family live in the UK so we do travel overseas fairly regularly. I am aware that we actually live a privileged life compared to the vast majority of New Zealanders and that we probably earn within the top 20% of household incomes.

While hard work and academic study contributed to our current position, both my wife and I had the support of middle income professional parents and we had lots of support in achieving our goals. A large number of New Zealanders will never achieve what we've got and it's not because they lack determination or hard work, research shows that the circumstances you are born to and brought up in largely determine your future success, poverty begets poverty. Upward mobility is actually not easy.

I also have many amazing friends who struggle to survive on their incomes, despite having good qualifications, because they choose to work in education, health and welfare and are motivated by serving others rather than personal wealth. It is not a coincidence that those working in rest homes earn the minimum wage and those working in banks selling debt packages (that many don't need or want) can earn much more.

For the Young Nats to hold extravagant balls year after year is just a blatant celebration of privilege and personal wealth. It is like they are thumbing their noses at all those who can't even afford to park outside the palatial facilities where the balls are held. I bet most will think that such occasions are something they are entitled to and a perfectly normal activity. Research has shown a correlation between growing wealth and declining empathy. I'm sure many Young Nats are perfectly pleasant intelligent young people but I cannot imagine many would make empathetic future Ministers of Welfare.


"Bemused Young Nats sipped champagne and jostled for the best vantage point on the balcony above before moving indoors and turning the camera on themselves" (Susie Nordqvist TV3)

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