Red Alert

On Fairness and Courage

Posted by on September 2nd, 2012

As the excited crowd left the public gallery of Parliament on Wednesday evening, the Speaker had to pause the business of the House. There was a buzz in the air following the vote on Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill. It was a great night for fairness, equality and courage. The journey New Zealand has been on since the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in the 80s, through Civil Unions in 00s took another important step in giving all New Zealanders a fair go. We saw some courageous testimonies in the days leading up to the vote and some courageous speeches and voting on the night.

When the crowd had dispersed, and the gallery was deserted, my friend and colleague David Clark got up to introduce his private members bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in line with Labour’s 2011 manifesto commitment. The crowd should have stayed. He gave a great speech. So did Darien Fenton who followed on from him focusing on the plight of the cleaners in Parliament. Have a look at the speeches, they are thoughtful and heartfelt pleas for a fair wage for all workers. The response from the government speakers was as predictable as it was out of touch.

Those National MPs should all have listened to the courage of Sosefina Masoe a cleaner who spoke the next day at the Wellington launch of the Living Wage campaign. She has spoken publicly before of her story of working for just on the minimum wage while trying to support her children and wider family. Talking to her afterwards it was hard not be moved by her hopes for a better life for her children. It is what all New Zealanders would want. She deserves far better than a $13.50 minimum wage, she deserves a living wage. Our Bill is a first step.

I would have loved the crowd who so enthusiastically supported marriage equality to have stayed and cheered on a fair go for our lowest paid workers. The issues come from the same well-spring. Its all part of the agenda of a fair go for all New Zealanders and a society where we reject exclusion and unfairness and embrace and value the contribution that all Kiwis can make to our society.

I am proud that Labour had two Bills in a row on the order paper on Wednesday that pursued the core progressive values of fairness and equality. We must, and will, continue to show the courage to propose the measures to build the better and fairer society, in all its many forms.

5 Responses to “On Fairness and Courage”

  1. Nick K says:

    Why is $15 p/h a “fair wage”?

  2. Shane says:

    Being members’ bills, will the two generally be debated alongside one another in the future?

    Sometimes I wish I lived in Wellington, then I certainly would be there to watch more debates, like the two bills mentioned here. I have already watched most of both debates online.

    At some stage I might make the trip down from Palmy to watch, although I suspect the gallery would be full for Louisa Wall’s bill and it would be difficult to get a seat. If David Clark’s bill were to come before or after it, that would make it an even more worthwhile trip.

    Perhaps the MPs could do their bit by giving us reminders about the days and times a debate on a particular bill will occur.

  3. Kay says:

    I watched the Marriage Equality debate on Parliament TV on the computer. It was good to hear fair balanced debate mostly conducted in a calm way (except for John Hayes). David Clark’s contribution to the Marriage Equality discussion was particularly good.

    I watched some of the Minimum Wage Bill discussion and you are right about how important this is. Almost as important as that related topic Child Poverty in New Zealand. The amount of media coverage NOT being devoted to Child Poverty is scandalous. It takes a long time to make an improvement in such a big problem. In 2007 the child poverty level had dropped to 17% trending down. By 2011 it was at 21% and trending up. Global Financial Crisis? No because in the same time period the rich got richer while the poor got poorer.

  4. lovinthatchangefeeling says:

    Deleted. Unverified accusation. Clare

  5. It is hard work getting anything done in opposition, so this is good news. A lot more needs to be done though – especially in the area of “fairness” that you speak of. Equity, real fairness, economic fairness, is a long way off for New Zealand and it’s sad that the government is unable to focus on this key issue.

    Equality on the other hand is an -easier- by which I mean generally bipartisan issue. Labour needs to step up this rhetoric of fairness. It resonates with New Zealanders.

    David Fischer, an American historian, did a fascinating study on NZer’s notions of fairness (“Fairness and Freedom”(2012)) and found that the political discourse on both sides rely on this concept a lot. This is Labour’s comparative advantage because while both sides talk about fairness, the Labour Party means it, and people know that. Time to start making that better known.