This op-ed was originally published at RadioLive.co.nz.
It’s hard to tell exactly when the political tide changes; that precise moment when the people stand together and tell their government ‘we are the voters and you must change course’.
But when that tide does turn you feel it in your bones.
I felt it last week. I was picking my kids up from school and a teacher said “Mr Cunliffe, did you know John Key is about to sell our power companies? Those assets have been built up by generations of Kiwis! He has no right. You must stop him.”
A huge majority of New Zealanders oppose flogging off of our power companies, and Air New Zealand and Solid Energy too. But the National government is pushing ahead to line the pockets of ticket-clippers and their major donors.
I felt the tide turn in the huge pushback by parents over National’s shameless bid to increase class sizes, which was outrageously spun as a “teacher improvement” idea.
And I felt it in the sense of despair shared by so many over the Budget brought down last month.
The “Zero Budget” of 2012 will be remembered for sending a record number of New Zealanders to the departure lounges. We’ve already been losing 1,000 Kiwis a week, and with this hopeless government it’s going to get worse. If that weren’t bad enough, 52,000 more people are unemployed than when National was elected.
There was nothing in the Budget for hardworking, responsible Kiwis. On those things which matter most today – sustainable growth in the economy, jobs, exports and incomes – it utterly failed. Astonishingly, Economic Development programmes were cut by millions of dollars.
Do you know what the centrepiece of National’s Budget was? Increasing the tax burden of teenagers that have part-time jobs. Picking the pockets of paper boys and papergirls. That’s it.
And what a dreary June it has been.
The ACC saga has gone from bad to worse. The CEO and half of the Board have been bullied out in what looks like a last-ditched effort to save the Minister. What hope will that give to New Zealanders who’ve had their private information leaked? What about the thousands who’ve had valid ACC claims turned down, seemingly so National has a crisis as a pretext to privatise ACC?
The larger classroom sizes policy has earned John Key’s government an F grade. Schools were rightly shocked to learn they would lose as many as six or seven teachers, meaning up to 36 pupils in each class, along with big cuts to technology education such as woodwork.
National’s belated back-down was a welcome relief for parents, students and teachers. But the fact the policy was on the table shows how arrogant and out-of-touch the government has become. Every sensible person understands bigger class sizes means less one-on-one teacher contact time.
Next the Auditor-General announced a probe into the government’s shady SkyCity convention centre deal. What sort of Prime Minister stops a competitive tender until his preferred partner – a casino – has put a bid in? What sort of government would sell the country’s laws to a casino? And how can economic development minister Steven Joyce think it’s acceptable to push on with negotiations while the inquiry is underway?
We don’t do business or government like that in New Zealand. Our international reputation for open and transparent dealing must be protected. So it’s increasingly clear that, at a minimum, the SkyCity deal needs to be halted and Mr Joyce must be stood down.
Any way you look at it, it has been a time when New Zealanders took a good hard look at what they voted for. If recent polls are to be believed, they’re deciding it wasn’t this National Government.
So the tide has definitely turned and it’s not a moment too soon.