Tuesday, January 29, 2008

John Key chooses his target

In 2005, Don Brash tried to win an election by waging a divisive campaign of hate targeted at Maori. Fortunately for New Zealand, it didn't work. Unfortunately, John Key seems to have decided to use the same tactic, and now he's chosen his target: young New Zealanders, a group conveniently unable to vote and hence unable to defend themselves at the ballot box. His speech today was dripping with paedophobia, portraying an us vs. them scenario of New Zealand against its own children, and promising brutal solutions to protect "us" ("people like you and me" - older, white, New Zealanders) from "them" ("teenage parents", "illiterate and innumerate school leavers", and other young people). Harsher sentences, electronic tagging, parenting orders, plus of course the old conservative chestnut, boot camps. "Send 'em all to the army to learn some discipline, that'll sort 'em out". But in case someone forgot to tell granddad, they're not actually allowed to beat people in the army anymore like they were in his day. And no, Key hasn't forgotten National's uber-policy of looting the state - these camps will be contracted out to private providers, meaning that we will effectively get private youth prisons (with all the evil that entails) in New Zealand.

But we shouldn't think that Key isn't compassionate: he's also promising to cut off benefits for young people who are not in work (in which case they don't need them) or in training. But as Russell points out, Key's nightmare of "16- and 17-year-olds being able to leave school and drift along aimlessly while being financially supported by the Government" is a fantasy. Young people are only eligible for benefits if they are partnered with children, or genuinely unable to fall back on their parents for support (for example, because they have fled an abusive family). Government support seems well-justified in both cases, and Key's preferred tactic of threatening starvation doesn't seem like a good solution to either.

In short, this is the same old National Party: divisive, punitive, vicious, and bullying those unable to defend themselves. And I'm glad Key has finally made it clear to the public.