Soapbox Tuesday #2 – The best laid schemes

First up let me deal with the elephant in the room. No, not my reflection in the mirror but the near five month gap between Soapbox Tuesday #1 and today. Turns out I’m a lazy fucker. Who knew?

To be fair to myself – it happens occasionally – I got sick with yet another chest/lung infection and to paraphrase the great Rabbie Burns the best-laid schemes o’ Mike an’ men gang aft, aft, aft agley.

You can find more of what I’ve been up to over in The Ultimate Worrier section but it’s my intention to write more again here as well as work on my first, properly thought out novel. There have been plenty of other starts but they’ve all been flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants shite so they don’t count. And so to more shite – politics.

We had an election in New Zealand just a few weeks ago and we still don’t know who’s going to form the new Government. This is because we have an MMP system where we cast two votes – one for a traditional first past the post electorate-based candidate and the other for a party. This leads to tactical voting, votes being split and, in this case, a delay in knowing who ‘won’.

And this is actually a good thing. In general. It means smaller parties get representation in Parliament and means when neither of the big parties – Labour or National – get a clear majority they have to negotiate with the minor parties to govern.

Unfortunately the downside this time around is that the power of balance is with Winston Peters, a 72-year-old man who is just a wee bit racist. Racist in a ‘those bloody foreigners coming over here, stealing our jobs and houses and looking funny’ kind of way. Yay. So concessions will be made by both National and Labour in an attempt to woo Winston and his votes and we await Thursday’s decision day to find out who will be our next Prime Minister and just how much concessions have been allowed.

Now not all of Winston’s policies are racist. Or bad. Unfortunately they don’t tend to be talked about so much because… well, New Zealand itself is just a bit racist. Compared to other countries – I’m looking at you, Australia – relations between the indigenous people of Aotearoa and the colonists are better than they were, but there’s still a widely held belief that Māori should somehow shut up and just be thankful to all those people who stole their land, killed them in massive numbers and kept them subservient for many years.

Casual racism is everywhere you look and it doesn’t help that it makes it nigh impossible to have conversations around immigration – conversations that need to be held with questions that need to be asked. But maybe not the ones you think.

Generally those conversations start with something along the likes of ‘why do we let so many people in to New Zealand?’ – and that’s a perfect example of the wrong question.

It’s really not that easy to migrate to New Zealand (I did it and it was costly and took a decent amount of time) and we let people do so because, overwhelmingly, migration is a net positive for our economy. Migrants put far more into New Zealand than they ever take out.

So what questions need to be asked? Here are the ones that I believe need to form a core part of any discussion about immigration:

  1. Why have successive governments, of both political sides, allowed New Zealand’s infrastructure to lag so far behind, knowing that immigration would be needed to grow the economy?
  2. Why have neither of the major parties done anything substantial to combat the near-exponential growth in housing prices, which means owning a home in metropolitan areas where the jobs are is now a near impossibility for new generations?
  3. Why is there no Capital Gains Tax on investment properties and why are their massive tax breaks available to those who already own a home to buy more, pushing first time buyers out of the market?
  4. Why is public transport so woefully underfunded compared to roading?

And those are just off the top of my head.

See, the issue isn’t about the people coming into the country, it’s about those in charge doing fuck all because the majority of them have multiple houses and are doing just fine. Because it’s politically unacceptable to do anything that might be for the greater good. Because they’re cowards.

I voted for change in this election – and I hope a Labour-led Goverment with the Greens and NZ First supporting will be able to help those less fortunate in society, to deal with some of the issues that stop New Zealand being the paradise that those looking in from afar tend to see.

But I know, deep in my heart, they won’t. Because when they can point the finger at people who are trying to create a better life for themselves and their families no-one is ever going to blame them for NZ’s governmental failings.