Who’s for the workers now?
Someone asked me earlier in the campaign, where did you grow up and what influence has it had on your politics?
Aside from a few years as an infant in Shackelton Road, Mt Eden, my first 20-odd years were spent in Mount Roskill. Deep in Labour territory.
My siblings and I walked, bare feet, to Waikowhai Primary down Glass Road and Albrecht Avenue – then, and sadly still now, streets mainly with state houses and many deep challenges.
My best mate at primary school, Jason – this was the ‘70s after all – lived in what looked like a state house and it was a sad day for me when he announced his family were moving to Sydney. It would have been around 1980/1 when thousands of Kiwis were leaving for a better life in Australia.
We were seriously off the pace.
My dad was a maths teacher and Mum worked the night shift at National Women’s three nights a week, and slept during the day. We weren’t hard up, but every dollar was carefully considered.
Fear of unemployment provided a dull drum beat in the background, throughout the ‘80s and in the early ‘90s.
So, how did that influence my politics?
My core sense has been that our prosperity is far from guaranteed. That we have to go out and fight for it.
My core sympathy is with those people, like the people I grew up with, who didn’t have much, but who worked their butts off to provide for themselves and their families.
Good governments encourage that great middle ground in New Zealand – encourage them to study, encourage them to work, to take responsibility for their families, and for some to start their own businesses and build it up.
It’s one of the great falsehoods of politics that centre-right parties like National are for big business and the rich.
Of course we want businesses to grow big – why not? We want people to be successful – again, why not?
But the core of our support lies with the workers, who want to do better for themselves and their families, and with the entrepreneurs, who want to have a go starting up their own small businesses.
We welcome ambition and celebrate it; we welcome self-reliance and celebrate it.
And the recipe for that hasn’t changed. It’s about keeping taxes low and pushing back against the tide of regulation that makes it more difficult to get ahead, or riskier to start something new or to hire the next person.
It’s about ensuring the next generation is well educated and has a work ethic.
At the time of writing, we’ve seen around 80,000 Kiwis go on to a benefit since March; tens of thousands more will follow over the next few months as the devastation of Covid lockdowns and restrictions continue to harm our economy.
We owe it to them to do everything we can to make it easier for Kiwis to employ those who are out of work – to take a chance and to take on that extra person.
That’s why we’ll keep taxes low, we’ll restore 90-day employment trials and start again on the RMA, and why we’ll allow companies to write off new investments more quickly. Because we know that with a little encouragement we can compete and we can restore our prosperity.
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