Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Closing the gap"

At the 2008 election, National campaigned on "closing the gap with Australia", specifically the gap in wages and living standards. But on their watch, that gap has grown wider:

a comparison of average weekly earnings in November 2008 and February this year shows New Zealand wages grew by 5.2 per cent over that period while Australia's grew by 6.7 per cent.

Australia's ordinary average wage rose from A$1165 to A$1243 while New Zealand's went from NZ$891 to NZ$947. On yesterday's currency rates, the gap widened from $540 a week in December 2008 to $580 in March this year.

The article attributes this to the recession, which Australia avoided with a well-targeted stimulus package. Meanwhile, National was using accounting tricks to pretend it was doing something, while in practice leaving everything to the market - giving us lower wages and higher unemployment. But that's not the whole story. Australia also strengthened its labour laws, repealing John Howard's hated "workchoices". National weakened them, introducing a 90-day fire-at-will period. Australia has strong unions. We don't, and National is trying to crush even the feeble remnants by removing the right of access to workplaces. These are policies designed to widen the gap, not shrink it.

Meanwhile, the government admitted in the House yesterday that it has targets for its "closing the gap" goal - but refused to say what they were. And in light of the above, its no wonder. Targets mean accountability. They mean that we can see if the government is performing according to its own expectations and judge accordingly. But that is the last thing National wants - because ultimately, its "closing the gap" policy is just empty rhetoric, a prop used to justify attacks on workers and kiwi living standards for the benefit of its rich clique of cronies - all in the name of "boosting economic growth", of course.