Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Challenging the government on inequality

Yesterday the Greens did something we don't see nearly enough of in our Parliament: challenged the government on inequality. Highlighting the finding of the UN Human Development Report 2009 that New Zealand had the sixth-highest level of inequality amongst developed nations, they asked what the government was planning on doing about it. The answer, after a lot of denial and spluttering, was essentially "nothing".

The government needs to do better than this. Inequality isn't just a political concern of the left. As the Greens pointed out, it is the cause of numerous social ills. According to The Spirit Level, a recent study of the effects of inequality,

Almost every modern social and environmental problem—ill-health, lack of community life, violence, drugs, obesity, mental illness, long working hours, big prison populations—is more likely to occur in a less equal society.
Don't believe it? See the evidence for yourself.

Reducing inequality should be at the heart of an evidence-based social policy. It is the key to improving those social indicators, to having better health, safer communities, and wasting less money on prisons. Those are things even the right purports to care about. Its time they acted.

The Greens will be pushing the government more on this today, asking the Social Development Minister what she thinks of our awful level of inequality. Hopefully she'll have a response beyond shrugging her shoulders this time.

(More from jeanette Fitzsimons here)