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What now post-election – business as usual?

Nov 27th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, Opinion

THE results are in and the real surprise is that Winston is back, but Key will be PM for another three years, and there’s no grand coalition on the left.

Before the election, child poverty was a hotly-debated topic.

Will National’s policies help create a brighter future for children and young people?

What is in store for us for the next three years?

First up, asset sales – the selldown of 49% of the power companies to private investors can only drive power prices upwards, which means we’ll all be paying more.

These “mum and dad” investors will be looking to maximise the return on their investment, which means they will push to lift prices.

If they don’t get that return then they are incentivised to sell their shares on, usually to overseas investors and when that happens, the profits go offshore and NZ has less money in circulation to keep the economy going.

So who these “mum and dad” investors, anyway?

The National party rhetoric around asset sales leads us to believe that these “mums and dads” are just ordinary Kiwis.

The reality is different: these are high income, well off people with spare money to invest.

Ordinary mums and dads are thinking about paying the bills and feeding their children, and don’t have the luxury of wondering what to do with the left-over cash.

Secondly, the benefit reforms – these have been well signalled by the Government, which will mean tougher times for those already struggling at the bottom of the heap.

The Rebstock report, which was about overhauling the benefit system, didn’t look to see if there would be corresponding jobs for all the beneficiaries that the Government wants to push into work.

This is something the Government was weak on in the last term.

When asked where all the jobs are, Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett says she believes the jobs are “out there”.

Just like in The X-Files – the truth is always “out there”.

Unfortunately, with the economy in a slump, businesses won’t want to mop up the pool of unemployed any time soon.

While this might seem desirable from a business point of view, to force people into competing with each other for a small number of jobs will have social impacts too.

Children and young people will be the first to suffer when parents are left out of pocket, depressed and increasingly frustrated as they are rejected from job after job.

Of course you can’t separate unemployment from what’s happening in the wider labour market.

Having a pool of unemployed has served to keep a downward pressure on wages overall.

Adults are generally too timid to push for wage increases because they might be next for the chop.

For young people, this is even harder.

It’s difficult to predict whether the Key Government will raise the minimum wage but we already know they are going to lower it for under 18 year olds to $10.40, down from $13.

They call this a “starting out” wage, but it is effectively a return to youth rates for an employee’s first six months.

This, along with the 90-day trial period, seems to be National’s only answer to dealing with the near 30% youth unemployment.

But questions remain about whether the Maori party be able to put the brakes on a National/Act/United Future Government?

This seems unlikely because as long as it has got its prized Whanau Ora policy it will be happy.

This was the only policy its Rongatai candidate, Aroha Rickus, seemed to have any knowledge of at the last candidates’ meeting.

Pita Sharples has already said that they could support asset sales as long as Iwi get a cut.

The gloss will come off Key in his second term with the media not being so kind to him after Tea-gate.

How long will they let him get away with image over substance politics?

The kind of politics that says the Titanic is half afloat when it’s half sunk.

With voter turnout as low as 65%, the rosy rhetoric won’t wash with those so disillusioned they don’t bother to vote at all.

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is a Whitireia journalism student.
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