Yesterday I attended the rally in Civic Square protesting the government’s latest attacks on worker’s rights. It’s always interesting to put events of today into context. This quote comes from Peter Fraser’s speech to Parliament on the Employment Bill back in 1945:
“…if we have learned anything … it is that the worst thing in the world is to go on making a depression worse by reducing incomes. At that time, the whole power of the State should be used to maintain purchasing-power … I declare that as long as this Government remains in office, notwithstanding what happens in the outside world, notwithstanding what happens to prices, even of our own commodities, we can still produce sufficient to house and feed and clothe adequately our men, women and children, and particularly the children. Never again will this country be permitted to return to the terrible conditions that prevailed before this Government came to office. It is indeed a terrible thing and a reflection on our civilization that, in a land of plenty, children should lack sufficient to eat…”
The old cliche goes that those who don’t learn the lessons of history are bound to repeat them. Ministers in the current National government obviously didn’t pay much attention during their history lessons. Since coming to office they’ve slashed spending on many vital public services, laid off thousands of public servants, and yanked away vital support from many of those who find themselves down on their luck. The purchasing power that Fraser alludes to is being eroded through their GST increase and the inflation it will cause, along with their unofficial ‘wage freeze’.
National’s latest moves to impose ‘fire at will’ provisions on all new employees and sell their holidays will only make matters worse. National promised Kiwis they were ‘aspirational’ – the question is for whom? It certainly isn’t ordinary hard-working Kiwis who are struggling with rising costs, stagnant wages, and lower levels of support from their government.