The class divide in Aotearoa was open for all to see on Saturday night as anti-poverty protesters heckled and jeered attendees at the Young Nats’ ball.
The protest, organised by Auckland Action Against Poverty and supported by other groups including the International Socialists, Unite Union and the Mana Party, aimed to draw attention to the increasing inequalities in Aotearoa/New Zealand – inequalities generated not naturally but by the pro-business policies pursued by successive governments that have gutted welfare, health and education for the benefit of the few. Tickets to the Young Nats ball at the 5-star Rendevous Hotel cost $100 each – more than many beneficiaries and low-paid workers have left after paying for rent, food and other basic necessities.
The National Party, the open party of big business interests, has pursued an anti-equality agenda with particular rigour. In spite of a rise in unemployment following the global financial crisis in 2009, they have made it harder to get a benefit. More measures have been bought in that allow WINZ to suspend or cancel benefits. The purpose of the reforms is not only to keep a lid on state spending but also to atomise the working class by dividing it between those “worthy” and “unworthy” of support. And the attacks on beneficiaries are being followed-up by attacks on workers – on unions and on our right to organise for better pay and conditions. The National Party’s programme is to restrict workers’ rights so they can ensure as much wealth as possible continues to flow to the 1%.
On the Auckland University campus, the Young Nats club proudly advertises the number of benefits cancelled so far. They voted down a recent motion before the Auckland University Students’ Association to endorse the Living Wage campaign. Their agenda is out there every day for all to see. If we are to beat back their attacks on workers’ and beneficiaries’ rights, we must organise to oppose them and present a genuine alternative. Protests like Saturday’s are just the start.
Photo credit: Acknowledgements to John Paul – see his full album on Facebook here.