In the last 48 hours, Parliament has done two things that have disappointed me. Both involved opposition Parliamentary Bills that were making an honest attempt to address social issues that have been left on the wayside by successive Governments despite no shortage of rhetoric about dealing with them.
The first, a Bill by Green co-leader Metiria Turei to ensure that children will be fed in schools, had its origins in the previous Parliament. Former Mana M.P. Hone Harawira had authored a Bill with Ms Turei to address a growing problem of children going to school with no lunch or having had no breakfast, or both. Mr Harawira lost his seat to Labour in the 2014 election and exited Parliament, but Ms Turei decided to forge on with the Bill. It was voted down by 59-61, thus sending a striking signal to the electorate that a party claiming to be working for New Zealanders is not interested in the well being of school children. A second Bill by Labour Member of Parliament David Shearer with similar intentions was stopped 60-60.
Perhaps I should not be surprised, especially after seeing that a Bill by Labour that was intended to ensure rental homes are warm and dry was also voted down. National claims that there is no housing crisis, though if they were to go to eastern Christchurch and talk to the residents about their quake damaged homes they would find the truth is rather different. If they talked to a young couple saving up for their first home and wondering if they will ever have enough money, they would find the truth is rather different. If they spent a night in a student flat and watched students with debts incurred from university fees, basic living expenses trying to get by from day to day, again they would know the truth is rather different.
Can someone explain to me the rationale of a political party that claims to be working for all New Zealanders, in voting down a Parliamentary Bill that would have ensured all children get fed?
For all of my knowledge about New Zealand political parties, how they function and the policy platforms they bring with them, on one hand the National Party decision to vote down a Bill that would have had a meaningful impact on one of society’s most vulnerable people smacks of National party politics – vote it down simply because it grates against your conservative base. And yet this is the same party that regularly – i.e. most days of the week – puts graphics with captions on their Facebook page saying things like “Under National crime rates are down by ______”, or similar and it claims to have a vision of a brighter future for New Zealand.
But, however well intending or not well intending, National are, their Parliamentary priorities are remarkably wrong for a Government making the above statements. And the voting public as yet, do not seem to mind. To many people John Key is still this nice fella who one can have a beer and a good yarn to, still one with a degree of compassion about him. To those same people Labour is still a disorganized rabble and the Greens and New Zealand First are not much better.
And although I see the first signs of a significant political weather change on the horizon, it is not likely to arrive for a bit.