Opinion: There is a fair bit of political uncertainty around. It will not dissipate quickly. Even when a new Government begins work there will be a lot of preparation and prioritisation of positions, policies and actions to feed the news flow.

All fine if you like that sort of thing. It disappears at the push of a button if you don’t.

For many people going about their daily lives it is going to be a very difficult time. This is not a doomsday view of a bitter leftist. My depression is clinical not situational. It was going to be a very difficult time for many whatever the election outcome.

Inflation may be slowing but it is not gone, rents are rising, building consents are falling, pressures continue in key workforces, job losses are affecting many. The list is long. “Cost of living” issues which politicians liked to talk about still face most of the population and will be largely unchanged for many months to come. There is as much risk of deterioration as improvement.

We can expect to see lots of diversions as this reality unfolds. I suspect few at the most difficult margins of the cost of living have been under any illusions about that. Many did not enrol or did not vote for that reason, among others. The real passion and expectations of the election were largely among those with higher aspirations than just meeting rent, food, power and transport. They may be the ones who will now get exercised about congestion charges or slow coalition negotiations in the news fodder. The poor will just keep dealing with what they have to.

The things politicians can improve are mainly quite slow to implement and have an impact. This does not make them unimportant, for only big changes in how we organise and operate our economy and society will do, and politicians are the conduit for those. Equally they are the blockage or gate to change as well. Those who say people voted for “change” or expect to see change now are talking about relatively small shifts in the style and content of running the same old ship. Which is fine if you have a first-class cabin, or even a good one. Not attractive if the bilge water is lapping around your ankles.

It is possible to meet the real needs of those struggling to maintain a decent life. As a country we decided not to do that. We decided to ignore, evade or postpone the actions needed. That’s what the “strong liberal democracy” that politicians speak of has chosen. We live with that choice.

Poverty will be untouched in substance in this next period of government. No one is even pretending they will be fixed or substantively ameliorated with any urgency. The offered answer to the costs of being alive is in a gold pot at the end of a long rainbow of false promises and misconceptions. Just as it was before the election.

Maybe we have lost the appetite for everyone to have a “fair go” in life. I don’t personally think that we have, even as we may have lost faith in the ability of our politicians to deliver. At a whānau and community level we still intuitively look to support each other. We should focus on that strength and not be overwhelmed by our weaknesses.

In the short term there is a real need for personal action. The demand for help with all aspects of the costs of life for families will keep growing. One philanthropist described to me the other day a rough but shocking calculation that while the demands for help were doubling, the flow of funding to meet the demands was halving. As individuals and as families who can meet our costs of living we have a moral obligation to do more to bridge the gaps for those who cannot. There are no excuses. There are many sound agencies with ways to assist family poverty. They need money. They are not hard to find.

We have chosen to have many poor families. That was quite easy, even abstract, from the comfort of the ballot cubicle. It was portrayed by the major political parties as something we have to accept as it was “not the right time” or because we must “fix the economy first”. Though it is “right” when it is needed and the economy is already “fixed” against those in most need.

But it is another thing to walk on by in real life, to choose not to contribute and share when you know the need is there and you know most of us can help. These are not statistics, these are people in need with whom we share space and air. They are us.

It may not really matter to those who need the hand whether you contribute from love or from guilt, but we will be a better place for everyone if it is from love.

So let’s do some real sharing – it is the only short term way we can be part of a better place. Rebuilding a society based on a fair go starts with us. Our political outcomes will reflect that if we act accordingly between elections.

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  1. “These are not statistics, these are people in need with whom we share space and air. They are us.”

    Thank you for a voice of sanity, humanity and compassion. And for calling it as it is out there/ here in the real world.

  2. Good on you. You have never been scared you to speak up on issues dear to your heart. We don’t need to always agree, but we can listen to each other. There is no need to politically bully people into thinking the same as one. This is freedom of speech. Mr Peters often says statements that are not always “PC”, but I feel he is not threatening.

  3. Thank you Rob, there is no ambiguity in your words. Nice to see you speaking exactly what you think.

  4. Thanks, Rob. Like you, I don’t think we should be putting up with poverty just to make the rich more comfortable. It is unconscionable. For several years now I have thrown my lot in with TOP (the O stands for ‘opportunity’) because I felt Labour had turned its back on the poor. Surprised to find Chippy has momentarily found some backbone to call for a ceasefire in Gaza – but it comes at a low cost to him as an individual. If only he and Labour had had the courage to stand up for the poor. We need politicians of courage and honour. I don’t think it takes much. The solutions are very straightforward. (You can’t keep spending low if you want to give all our kids a proper future. You can’t ignore climate change and global heating if you want to save the planet. And so on.)
    What’s your advice? Where do we look for courageous policy and principled action?

  5. The main focus of the global economy over the last 40 years (at the neo-liberal coup) has been to increase inequality. Rob rightly points to New Zealand here and the way we have been doing it. This is the Post Truth Era where denial has become mainstream. No wonder Luxon and Peters can get away with it. And Labour before that. And Seymore can try to build a fantasy land. It will be useful (necessary) to try to understand where all this has come from. Please have a look at my blog to see my discussions on this. Thanks.

  6. What the commentators say and confirm Rob’s concerns are true they all do not reflect on the Past Labour Govt’s complete failure to sort out a reality check to put in place a set of policy directions to address the very concerns they rightly identify in spite of the fact that they had a Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in control of a unique sole decision making Government who took the portfolio of the “Poor and disadvantaged”, who promulgated ‘Love thy Neighbour” and “Be Kind” . How does one explain this apparent anomaly? If the commentators were All in charge what Policies would they put in place to resolve the ever emerging increase of the ‘Haves and Havenots”

  7. Excellent read of excellent values. I have been living in a 1 bedroom flat in in the heart of one of NZs wealthiest suburbs, Herne Bay, for 14yrs. My landlord has not put my rent up once. I have put my own rent up twice to express my gratitude. We have a shared respect for each other. Maximising ones profit margins at every opportunity seems to have become a guiding rule of living for many & it seems collateral damage to others & the world at large are accepted as part of the process. During these ‘hard times’ in this hood there have been increased sightings of bentley & rolls royce, so ‘hard times’ take on a strange perspective. It can be overwhelming but as you highlight Rob, adjusting the focus back to doing what you can ideally through a genuine love, makes such a difference. I recently received a certificate for 10yrs of regular voluntary work with the local hospice, I give $2 to the peeps asking for money at the traffic lights & on the street. Maybe they will spend it on some indulgence, but I reckon if you have the desperation &/or the courage ask other people for help, you deserve it. I mention the above as those types of actions are how I balance my own sanity as a pensioner who still has to work to pay my bills. There is in fact enough for everyone, food, money, shelter, if we were willing to see each other through a lens of empathy. Thanks Rob

  8. I am not sure if we realize how much stress Ardern was under during the COVID crisis. Day in day out she was having to make very difficult decisions for some 30 months. I suspect that this was why she resigned in January, she had nothing left to give. Yes, it is right to say that the Labour Party missed a major opportunity to actually do something about inequality and poverty in New Zealand but the government also had to deal with Covid and that was a full-time job of its own. I think Hipkins made a major error in not getting behind significant changes such as Three Waters etc. and backing a major reform of the tax system. It would not surprise me if, in next year’s election, we do not see the Greens making further advances hopefully at the expense of Nation and NZ First who could well be out of parliament again if Winston continues to behave in the way he is at the moment.

  9. “Poverty will be untouched in substance in this next period of government.”

    That seems overly optimistic. Thousands of workers are about to lose their jobs; many public services are about to be slashed; no-cause evictions are to be introduced; the beneficiary system is to be constricted. As bad as they are, present poverty numbers seem likely to get much worse.

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