Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Derisory Budget wages war on working class

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Protester John Minto was arrested within a minute of arriving at a peaceful rally. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Protester John Minto was arrested within a minute of arriving at a peaceful rally. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It's usual for any government to selectively release some of their Budget policies before it's dropped on Parliament. This year is no exception.

At present we have an $11 billion deficit. The Government claims it's going into the next election with a balanced budget. So I am surprised this week's pre-Budget policy releases save very little.

They can be called "wedge issues" that seem deliberately targeted at those on modest means. For example, does anyone believe spending a derisory $1 million on contraception for beneficiaries and their daughters is anything more than sending a message that women on the DPB need to stop breeding?

I wonder if they thought to offer castration to the sons of beneficiaries?

If we really want to reduce teenage pregnancy and abortion it would be more principled, and just as cost-effective, to offer it to all young women.

Another policy, adding another couple of bucks on prescriptions, is just a way of grinding down the poor.

John Key's Government is even upbeat about sacking an average of one teacher from every school. The survivors get the extra kids in their classes. The savings are going to charter schools before they are sold to prospective buyers.

How cynical to cut a school's funding, lowering performance and thus encouraging frustrated parents to send their kid to a privatised charter school that got the money.

Tertiary students with poor parents can kiss away their equal opportunity, too. Increasing loan repayments is one thing. But a new policy of reducing placements at universities and stopping any loans after four years means those students can forget about professions in medicine and post-graduate studies.

Here's the point I'm making: none of these announcements target our wealthier citizens. What's more, these policies save less than $200 million.

This week has been about targeting the poor to detract from the Government's economic incompetence and the dodgy behaviour of National's coalition partner.

We have a smiling salesman intent on transforming our once egalitarian society into a corporate state where the rich get the privileges at the expense of the poor.

Don't believe me? On Monday night I was working late in my office. A couple of members of my union turned up at nearly midnight after an altercation with the police in Glen Innes.

This Government is waging a war on this working-class community at night.

Seventy-six state homes are being demolished or trucked out of the community to enable the sale of land to property developers to build McMansions for the wealthy.

The residents have lived there for generations and have paid for their homes, through rent, many times over.

They accepted they'd have to move, but in many consultation meetings by Housing NZ and various ministers they were led to believe that no one would be moved out of their neighbourhood.

As recently as last year Pita Sharples turned up at a public meeting and assured the residents it wouldn't happen.

Those promises have now been broken.

No minister has returned. Instead the Minister of Housing, from the safety of Wellington, insults these long-term residents saying: "We no longer house criminal gangs in old, cold, mouldy state houses on half-acre sections."

He should visit this area to get his facts right rather than smearing the locals.

Who do turn up are the cops, to bust up the local protests and make sure the houses are removed. Our own form of cleansing. It's not ethnic, but rather class.

In the past three weeks 10 people have been arrested. Two needed hospital treatment and several women told me they had been injured by police.

Protest stalwart John Minto, who has been helping the residents, has been targeted, arrested twice on trumped-up charges and even had his ribs broken. And before some of you start twittering that Minto deserves it, he has never advocated violence and hasn't had a conviction for 20 years.

One of his arrests was made within a minute of his arrival at a peaceful rally where he was a publicised speaker.

There is something nasty going on. Maybe the offer of free contraception could be extended to anyone the Government decides is too poor - or lives on land they'd like to give to someone richer.

- Herald on Sunday

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