Cutting crap with Andrew Little

Labour's latest

Lunging boldly towards John Key, shouting “Cut the crap!”, Andrew Little was great, wasn’t he?

Labour’s new leader spoke for many people fed up with Key’s flippant arrogant deceit.

Andrew Little nailing the prime minister on lying about contacting a right-wing blogger was sterling stuff. All the more for being unexpected militant behaviour from the former EPMU leader.

As head of the union involved, Little never carried on like that during the Pike River mining disaster.

As a conservative lawyer leading a conservative union, Andrew Little left a lot of crap uncut.

His rebirth as a feisty fighter was welcomed by Labour Party members weary of lame duck leaders. Maybe this time Labour would march onwards to victory.

With this in mind, it’s interesting to look at Little’s first major policy speech since his election as Labour leader.

The Labour leader’s speech announced a new initiative by the party: a Future of Work Commission to work over the next two years developing policies for creating more jobs and preparing New Zealand for economic challenges over the next twenty years.

“The purpose of the Commission will be to look at how we adapt to the rapidly approaching changes ahead; how we make sure ours is a society and an economy that generates work and incomes for a stable and prosperous community, and how we prepare for the likelihood of multiple changes in jobs over a working life, including having periods of no paid work.

“This project will include portfolios such as social development, economic development, education, labour, skills and training, and ICT.

“The Commission will get around New Zealand. It will hold public seminars and workshops and will draw attention to issues around work in New Zealand that need to be addressed.

“It will engage external advisors and experts including, where possible, from overseas. It will work closely with local universities and academics.

“Labour is going to spend the next three years focused on solutions, not sitting on the sidelines complaining,” Little explained.

“This means Labour will fight the next election with a long-term economic plan built on the best expert advice and the real world experience of our communities and businesses.”

This is a shrewd move.

Labour is dusting off to present itself as a positive alternative government. This is three years’ electioneering dressed up as planning for a decent well-oiled society.

And a clear reminder to the big business world – Labour will do what it takes to help you run capitalism.

All in all, pretty good public relations towards the next election.

The exercise can be no more than that, because capitalism has no truck with socio-economic plans. Capitalist governments sort out minimal essential infrastructure in areas that the private sector finds unprofitable. Other social development staggers unevenly in the wake of maximum profit pursuit,
along with collateral damage to workers’ jobs and incomes.

Anticipating this, Andrew Little is already talking our expectations down further.

“I don’t think New Zealanders ask much of their Government or their laws,” said the Labour leader. “All they want is to know that if they work hard and pay their taxes, they’ve got a decent chance, they can save a bit for retirement and try to give their kids a leg up. And if circumstances make work impossible, people still have the means to live in dignity.”

“We don’t ask the world,” Little continued. “If we’re honest, even some of the most simple aspirations are becoming harder and harder to fulfil. It’s getting harder to find secure, well-paid jobs. It’s getting harder to buy a home, harder to afford to start a family or to retire.”

Then came Andrew’s clincher: “this isn’t just a problem for the low paid. More and more people on good incomes, mid-level incomes, are finding it harder to save, harder to pay the mortgage, harder to keep their businesses afloat, harder to get ahead.”

“Today,” he emphasized, “being the party of working people isn’t just about being there for New Zealanders who work 9 to 5 on a salary or on a shift for an hourly wage.

“So today I have a clear message about that: to people working hard to get a small business off the ground, to people choosing to work on contract, people who are their own bosses, and are thinking about maybe being able to take on someone else: I want you to know, we get it. The Labour Party will work for you.”

This is a clear pitch at so-called middle New Zealand, small business people who get out and vote. People who voted National but might be thinking a change would be good for the country.

Abstract empty rhetoric apart, there’s nothing in Andrew Little’s plan for those battling at the bottom.

Like National – and all other parliamentary parties but Mana – Labour has long since abandoned the very low-paid and the beneficiaries. Fewer and fewer of those people now bother to vote, and why should they? They know parliament has discarded them.

Labour’s Future of Work Commission is about securing decent jobs for Labour Party politicians, not you and I.

The thousands of us on or around the minimum wage need to look elsewhere for our economic salvation.

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