The worst inequality is that which traps people inter-generationally. It is so unfair to see children stuck with low aspirations or expectancy of a better life because of their pedigree or whakapapa.
The social status or the life choices of one generation should not confine or relegate to low achievement those who follow them.
Thankfully that inequality is not as prevalent as politicians on the left want to make out.
An Otago University study I have seen reported that of those in the bottom 10 per cent of income in 2002, only 25 per cent were still in that bottom 10 per cent by 2009. This tells me that, over time, most people are able to work their way out of hard times. However, if we're to help that other 25 per cent, then education is the key.
I have been in many schools recently across the electorate, including the 125th anniversary at Matapu and the 100th at St Mary's Stratford. Both are great educational institutions that have left a proud legacy of citizenship and achievement.
Education is the answer to almost everything - whether it is the most basic test in primary school or the competing interests of macro-economic or social policy. We can teach a person to drive a forklift, but we can't expect them to get the right pallet on the right truck if they can't read. Kids can't dream big and aspire to do better if they don't know what is on life's menu.
Our kids also face the hurdle that when times do get tough they impact on youth harder than others - young people not in education, employment or work is around 11.3 per cent, against an adult unemployment rate of 6 per cent. While this is better than it's been since the start of the global financial crisis, it still illustrates the challenge young people looking to make a better life for themselves than their parents had to face at that very first step. So it is on these young people we need to concentrate our effort.
National has big aspirations for our children, their children and our future as a country, and so it set targets for learning. We had a few scraps along the way but we are seeing results.
The percentage of kids leaving high school with NCEA level two is up 10.3 per cent since 2008 to 76.8 per cent. Yet we're not done there, having set ourselves the goal of 85 per cent by 2017. It is one of the 10 targets for Better Public Services which are focusing the mind of this government with other goals such as reducing crime and raising health results.
Children are doing better in education at the moment, and so we make no apology for setting targets and focusing the sector. Some will say it is teaching to the test, or happening in spite of government leadership, but the obvious point is that these gains don't just happen by throwing money at the problem. We have to care enough to intervene child by child, and this is across the social sector in health, welfare, education, and justice.
There are 5 per cent of people who experience about 80 per cent of the negative social conditions and so are most exposed to crime, ill-health, poor housing, and so are the most vulnerable in society. Preventing this spread of vulnerability across generations is the chief goal of John Key and the National Government.
Inequality will be a big issue this election. With these positive indicators coming through, I guess we can say, "bring it on".