I'm pleased to say I never held up any of my three kids for a politician to kiss.

What is that grotesque practice about, who started it, and why isn't there a law against it?

My kids would have yelled their heads off. Jacinda Ardern would have had her hair yanked for good measure, and the sight of Bill English, with six kids of his own, having kittens climb over him the other night, was embarrassing.

Watching such awkward media stunts would almost turn you off voting. You'd be ashamed to stand. But vote we must.


Richard Prebble, Labour's former architect of change, says he's already voted, for National.

There's a Judas kiss for you in this dawning era of social concern. Prebble's triumphs - complicity in selling off state assets, corporatising government departments under the Lange government - are the very moves some of us look back on in anger.

We wince at the conferring of knighthoods on obscenely wealthy buyers of state assets by what was formerly the party of the workers, and by the passing of all but a few trade unions. At the same time, we realise that people who weren't alive in the 80s don't know what we're on about. They've known nothing but monetarism.

How could they believe that union membership was once compulsory, and that unions negotiated your pay and working conditions with the leverage of their entire membership?

They've grown up expected to negotiate directly with their employers, a model that sounds great in theory, but in practice pits individuals with little bargaining power against the very people they rely on to earn their living.

As a result, people desperate for work don't earn a living wage or dare to expect it. And then there are working arrangements once unknown in this country, like some desperate migrants revealed to be slaves.

The free - uncontrolled - market leaves unscrupulous people free to do appalling things, and the market, natural arbiter of all things, we're told, doesn't seem to care.

Try telling young bartenders and wait staff that they once got meal breaks, were paid overtime if they worked longer than 40 hours in a week, or more than eight hours a day, and their employer paid for their taxi fares home when they worked too late for public transport. They won't believe you.

They've grown up with government departments no longer mandated to serve the people, but ordered to act like corporations, business being the ideal world model, and profits the most desired outcome. It doesn't get much colder than that.

We don't ask what good Fonterra, say, has done for ordinary New Zealanders, let alone what it's done for the poor. We marvel at the salaries paid by that company and others instead and wait for their wealth to trickle down, as we're told it will. Has it happened, and I missed it?

Huge salaries are the new norm for people doing what government servants once did for much less, but that's the business model for you. It works really well for some, not many, but in a Darwinian sort of way, that's a good thing. The many should adapt or perish.

I once lived in a state house, its rent geared to my mother's limited ability to pay, the state keeping it in good condition.

She couldn't afford market rents, as many people still can't, but for reasons that remain mysterious to me, we sold off state houses and people now live in cars or sleep rough.

Because houses are expensive, because an unknown number of them are leaky buildings, and because in any case they're in short supply, more people rent than ever before, but landlords don't have to keep their properties liveable.

Some tenants are monsters, but so are some landlords, and with housing so scarce everywhere they can rent out hovels.

Whose idea was it to overhaul our building codes so homes would rot, and who imagined that market rents could be paid by the poor? Hang on, we subsidise poor people's rents so that landlords can keep rents high.

Confused? I am.

Why do we need more immigrants when we can't house the people who live here already?

Why is nobody ever prosecuted for letting their animals pollute waterways?

Why are hospitals and mental health services in permanent crisis?

How can people paying off student loans ever hope to buy their own homes?

Why are New Zealanders too posh to help growers harvest the crops that feed them, and what could be more important than helping people, not just children but whole families, live decent lives?

Suddenly both major parties seem to be pondering such questions.

Relax. It happens every three years.