Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: We've failed our kids and they're off to Oz

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Don Brash proposed dropping the minimum wage to halt the exodus to Australia. Photo / APN
Don Brash proposed dropping the minimum wage to halt the exodus to Australia. Photo / APN

In three weeks my daughter flies to Melbourne with a group of her mates to start a new life.

All of them are young university graduates in low-level jobs and just want out.

They say most of their friends have either gone or are planning to go because there isn't the opportunity here.

I'm not the first parent and won't be the last who waves farewell to a child, but I have this deep unease about how widespread this feeling is among our young generation.

There was a time we were committed to building a future where our children would have the opportunities we never had.

A few years ago, I used to joke that there were two types of New Zealanders - those who lived in Auckland and those who were raising kids to live in Auckland.

It's worse than that now. We are actually raising our kids to live in Australia. All of us have either family or friends who have already made the choice and it's accelerating.

An analysis by the NZIER think tank on the Brash 2025 Taskforce predicts more than 412,000 Kiwis will move to Australia over the next 15 years. That's 500 a week. It's like transplanting the entire population of Wellington, the Hutt Valley and the Kapiti Coast across the Tasman.

The analysis shows that we have invested $200,000 in the education and health care of a 23-year-old university graduate like my daughter.

Their conclusion is our investment in the Kiwis choosing to move to Australia is $30 billion. Lucky Australia, stupid New Zealand.

To halt the exodus, we had the head of the taskforce, Don Brash, proposing dropping the minimum wage altogether. Apparently this would help free up the market and create higher-paid jobs. If you wonder why Brash hasn't raised the Act Party's polling after he decapitated Rodney Hide you need look no further than this sort of ideological nuttiness.

And oddly we had our Minister of Labour this week musing about reintroducing youth wages for workers in the 18 to 24-year-old bracket. Kate Wilkinson quickly backed down after an outcry, but the message to our next generation is clear. Screw you!

Joining this silliness on Thursday was the chief executive of the country's biggest employers' association flippantly suggesting women were less productive because they have monthly menstrual cycles. The sad thing is I've heard this sort of Neanderthal nonsense from other senior employer reps too. With this sort of thinking from our elites, no wonder smart kids want out.

Our great-grandparents built a welfare state in our country that included free education for all, created an economy with a goal of full employment, a roof over every family's head and a universal pension at the end of everyone's working life.

The past recipients of these benefits feel no responsibility to pass them on to today's young generation.

To fund their own tax cuts, they have forced today's generation to take out loans to pay for their education, pushed them into a KiwiSaver fund to pay for their own superannuation.

To top that, successive governments have abandoned any obligation to create full employment and any kids without rich parents will be renting for the rest of their lives.

The best that our elites can come up with this week was to suggest we pay them less than the minimum wage for non-existent jobs.

The corporate world's suggestion to replace the refugees to Australia is to open up immigration. That is so crazy on so many fronts. Goodbye First World, hello Third World.

Do they realise that any immigrant, once they get New Zealand citizenship, can automatically join the exodus to Australia? If we can't even offer our own children decent opportunities, I can't see how we can offer new immigrants enough to stop them moving to Australia either.

Frankly, we may as well become an offshore immigration holding pen for Australia.

Surely there is something deeply disturbing about the country we have created when our children have to leave us to build a better life?

- Herald on Sunday

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