Saturday, 17 November 2012

at labour party conference

so here is my piece that was published in today's waikato times.  i see that it already has 37 "likes" on facebook, a whole lot more than other recent op-eds at the times.  i'm really touched that people are liking & sharing the piece - i have to say that i've been a little nervous about how it might be received ever since i sent it off.

i haven't managed to put the link up earlier because i've been in auckland all day, at the labour party conference.  it was a great day, and great to see the membership making some good decisions.  i'm particularly heartened by the constitutional changes to leadership votes, but even more than that, the changes strengthening women's representation across the party.

i know the party will be better for these changes.  what was even more heartening was the process and the open debate.  a successful political party needs to have room for disagreement and for robust debate.  it was great to see the number of people speaking for both sides of the issue on the main leadership remit on the trigger for a leadership vote.  there was passion, engagement and very good articulation of the issues.  it's a sign of a healthy party in action.

the highlight for me was CTU president helen kelly's speech.  she really is one of nz's most valuable treasures, and her speech today was courageous, humane, and right on target.  if this woman was prime minister of nz, this country would be a much better place.  she has a strong grasp on a wide variety of issues, but brings with that a huge level of empathy and understanding of the struggles faced by so many people in this country.

i can't find a copy of the speech online, no doubt it will go up in a couple of days.  but i'll type in some bits of it.  when it goes up online, i'd strongly recommend reading the whole thing.

The Pike explosion and what happened to Charanpreet is all part of a culture that fails to acknowledge the important and significant role of work in our society.  Work is conceptualised as an input required to build successful businesses, and business is seen as something the market creates.  If markets fail to create successful business then work is the victim, if business models create low value or dangerous jobs, then this is acceptable in this context.  In this model, regulation is reduced to a "business knows best" light touch.  We know that this is unsustainable and that the market in New Zealand is calibrated to create low value, dangerous jobs.  There was no benefit to Fulton Hogan of directly offering Charanpreet well-paid, decent work that night - just as there was no benefit in the minds of the Board of Pike River in investing in safety.  The risk turned out to be badly judged but the settings that may have shifted them to understand this don't exist.


It is up to Labour to change this story - never more have we needed new solutions - strong, resolute determination to work in the interests of the whole country based on a renewed understanding of egalitarianism.  We must reclaim this word - make it ours again and develop policies that make it a reality.  Reinforcing the Egalitarian doctrine that all humans are equal in fundamental worth and social status and have the same political, economic, social and civil rights must be our goal.


How did we get to the point where the entire codgeratti of NZ politics, media and business are shocked at the privacy leaks of the Port but not its plans to sack everyone and replace them, and will no doubt support their new plans?


If you don't support the Wharfies' claim for a fair deal - then you are in the wrong party.  If you think contracting in the form of employment which killed Charanpreet is something more than a ruse to avoid the reciprocity of an employment relationship and to drive the price of labour down - then you have the wrong analysis.  And if you think anything more than a radical reform of all elements of social and economic policy towards a policy of egalitarianism will resolve these matters then in my humble view, you are not brave enough for what is needed now by the people of this country.

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