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Susan's Editorial: Time for Labour to start addressing issues that matter

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| Monday, July 15, 2013

Susan's Editorial: Time for Labour to start addressing issues that matter

If I were running Labour I would stop banging on about woman only seats, about social engineering. And I would focus on something far more important, something that I believe resonates with New Zealanders.

I’m talking about inequality, about the growing gap between the haves and the have nots. I am not talking worker versus beneficiary here. I am referring to the great many New Zealanders who get out of bed every day who go to work.

More than half of our working households get some sort of government benefit. And there is new research out showing that in terms of income distribution, New Zealand has become one of the most unequal developed countries in the world. This is not something that has happened overnight, it is not something that we can blame on one government or another. It is something that has crept up on us over the past 30 years.

Did you know that the wealthiest 10 per cent of this country own more than half of it? And that the poorest half own just five per cent? In the United States the numbers are even more exaggerated with the top one per cent owning 93 per cent, leaving the remaining 99 per cent of Americans with a measly seven per cent of total wealth. I would hate to see that happen here.

The fact is New Zealand is a low income nation. There’s only one reason Aussie companies are sending their call centres here - because they are cheaper to run, cheaper to man. In this country we have always prided ourselves on our universal education and health, that no matter how poor our parents are we can get an education, we can get ahead.

I am beginning to wonder if that is still the case.

When we talked about inequality on Q+A yesterday we were overwhelmed with feedback because people care, because it matters, and it's time Labour started addressing the things that matter and stopped fighting amongst themselves.

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