Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"Improving the lives of New Zealanders"

In the speech from the throne today, the government announced its commitment to "improving the lives of New Zealanders". It's first way of doing this? Abusing urgency to strip new workers of employment protection by Christmas.

Whose lives will this improve? Certainly not ordinary New Zealanders who work for a living. They'll be forced to tug their forelock to their bosses, suck up to them and not complain about anything, join a union, or sign up for KiwiSaver, work whatever hours and overtime are demanded (on whatever "notice" is given), and bugger what it says in the contract for the first three months - or else they'll be out. The flow-on effect will be reduced wages, working conditions and job security for everyone. Well, almost everyone. Employers - and particularly bad, abusive employers - will do well out of it.

The conclusion? To National, "New Zealanders" equals "employers". The rest of us - the vast majority of us - don't count.

Worse, they'll be doing this under urgency, with no select committee stage and no real chance for debate. As I've pointed out before, this is not the way things are done in our democracy. Serious policy (and this is serious policy) gets serious consideration and public consultation through a select committee. You have to go back to the FPP-era and the Douglas-Richardson blitzkrieg to find real policy bills being rammed through in this way. Unfortunately, National seems to be taking its cues on how to behave from that era. They're autocrats, and so they govern autocratically. It will be interesting to see how much tolerance the public has for this sort of abuse, and whether they will pay a price for it in three years time.