The Budget: a socialist response

budget 2018“Budget 2018 sets out the first steps in a plan for transformation.” That’s how Grant Robertson introduced Labour’s first Budget. Hopes for transformation brought Labour, the Greens and NZ First into government last year. A glance around at the inequality, underfunding and social suffering that have become normalised after nine years of National shows how much needs to be transformed. There is a $2.7 billion gap in health funding between 2010 levels and now, according to Council of Trade Unions research. About one in eight children live in poverty. Workers have faced years of stagnant wages, and students have seen cuts to allowance eligibility and caps to the number of years they can receive a loan. The Salvation Army describes poverty levels as “critical”, with almost 40% of families facing food insecurity. Unemployed workers on benefits face the punitive and demeaning culture of WINZ, while families with at least one member in full-time employment make up about 40% of those in poverty. This is the background to Budget 2018, and to the kind of transformations needed by workers, students, and the poor.

 

Labour campaigned on a series of reforms that, since they won office, have seen their popularity increase: removing fees on the first year of tertiary study; an increase in the minimum wage; a healthy homes guarantee; a winter energy package for retired workers; extension to paid parental leave. These are all reforms socialists should support, but they are just a small fraction of the range of measures needed to address the scale of the problems working people face.

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Renting and Class Struggle

 

Police attempt eviction in Ponsonby 1931

Police attempt an eviction in Ponsonby, 1931. 

by Dougal McNeill 

Renting can often seem like an isolating and powerless experience. We have to compete against other potential tenants for properties, going through the stress of flat hunting, viewings and landlords’ checks into our finances and private lives. Tenancy rules are weighted in favour of landlords. Rent comes out automatically from your bank account, but there is nothing automatic about getting landlords to come around and fix problems in the properties they make money from. It’s an alienating relationship.

 

But rent, just like wage labour, is shaped by class struggle. Just as bosses exploit workers in the workplace, landlords exploit tenants through rent. And housing, just like the workplace, has seen ebbs and flows of class struggle over the decades. Niki Rauti’s battle in Glen Innes last year put the question of state housing – and the redevelopment of Auckland for the rich – at the centre of national discussion. She was joining a long line of class fighters for housing.

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Green vomit and statistical nonsense: lies about immigration and housing

shaw-turei

It’s a laugh a minute in the funny world of anti-immigrant ‘progressive’ politics

by Tim Leadbeater

A few days ago the Labour party announced a new policy of increasing police numbers by 1000. I groaned at this news but it didn’t really surprise me. Then yesterday I heard of the new Greens policy on immigration, with James Shaw calling for a drastic reduction in numbers. Is New Zealand First calling the shots here, aided and encouraged by a compliant and uncritical media happy to jump on the anti-immigrant bandwagon? The Greens and Labour will almost certainly need the support of NZF to form a government next year, and Winston really just hates those hippy-dippy lentil munching do gooders. James Shaw knows this, yet needs to send a very clear signal to Peters that the Greens are willing to compromise. Immigration is a hot topic, and Shaw can easily frame the issue in terms of “sustainablitity” and “infrastructure”. No need for racist dog-whistles or Chinese sounding surnames, this is Sensible and Practical Greens policy, easily digested by sensitive liberals turned off by the crude nationalistic appeals of NZF. [Read more…]

The Housing Question in Dunedin

house-037By Jen Wilson

In early 2014  Finance Minister Bill English boasted that the government’s  new housing policy would see “the biggest changes in state housing since it was invented”.  He was not talking about the vastly increased dividend that the government demands from HNZ ($215 million net  in the 4 years up to 2013), or changes to the in the threshold for state housing assistance so that only the most urgent cases are now eligible. Nor was he referring to the fact that all  tenants  including the elderly and disabled would have their tenancies reviewed and if ineligible, would be required to find alternative accommodation. No, the really exciting announcement for Bill English was the intended  sale, for approximately $5billion, of 22,000  state houses, to private social  housing providers.  [Read more…]

Chinese are not to blame – a New Zealand Housing Crisis

Cartoon by Vincent Konrad

Cartoon by Vincent Konrad

By Joshua O’Sullivan

Auckland and Christchurch are in severe housing crises due to a lack of supply among other things. In Auckland, according to Fiona Rotheram in The Listener, the average house price is now $776,729 as of February and is at its highest since before the global financial crisis. An Auckland house now worth $1,000,000, earned $2200 a week last year just from rising prices. The average increase in valuations of housing in Auckland rose 13% last year.

If these numbers seem ludicrous it’s because they are. Out-of-control house prices have massive effects throughout the economy and for working class lives. Auckland and Christchurch are anomalies; the rest of the country has had mild to low growth in prices. Christchurch real estate is buoyed by a lack of supply due to the earthquake destroying the housing stock. Auckland is another story. Auckland‘s supply issue is due to a combination of factors: property speculation and lack of central planning. [Read more…]

Cruel and Usual: Housing NZ Kick Out Tenant

HNZ

by Joshua O’Sullivan

Housing New Zealand has done an about face on its duty of care towards its tenants with more stories coming out every day. Even the mainstream media has picked up on some of the abuses such as the elderly disabled man getting kicked out of his house in Mt Roskil, or the continued stories of harassment of tenants by HNZ staff. Or the “transformation” of Glen Innes, removing as many state tenants as they can and transferring the ownership of those properties (some 2800) to private developers through the government and council owned Tamaki Redevelopment Corporation. But all this large scale gentrification projects as they are reported in the media miss the disgusting carelessness HNZ has when it interferes with people’s lives. Those affected by these evictions often have nowhere else to go, and while the government is selling off these state houses and over 5000 families still on the waiting list, HNZ is not rehousing them.

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