PARENTS are really interfering people ...

After the birth of a child, they immediately poke their noses in and insist on feeding the thing, try to ensure it's got a roof over its head, has warm clothing, and all sorts of intrusive stuff like that.

Even the Spartans left their naked newborn kids out in the open for only one night to see if it was sufficiently Spartan before – if it was still alive – taking it back home and imposing sustenance on it.

Soon, the state starts interfering too, coming up with all sorts of family support systems, early childhood care, building schools and health facilities for the brats, employing teachers, doctors and dentists … the interference never ends.


Just jesting, of course. No one seriously suggests these types of "interference" are anything other than beneficial boosts for getting new generations off to a good start. Or do they?

As the current catchphrase "Learning for Life" indicates, there's often no clear demarcation between the formative and fully-formed phases of life.

Not only are the unitechs, the universities and wananga full of still-transitioning young adults, but many may return to additional training later in life. We discontinue supporting these training facilities at our peril.

Yet there are legions who continue to insist that there's a mythical creature out there called a "free market", a beast apparently existing in a vacuum divorced from all such beneficial societal inputs.

Not too long ago we had a pretty good apprenticeship system, ensuring a steady stream of properly trained tradespeople. We also had a pretty good building code to go with it.
Both were decimated by the forces of "privatisation". The casualties of catastrophically constructed leaky homes are still battling in the courts a decade later, and the construction industry is whining about how they can't find skilled tradies and need another 10,000 apprentices.

Frank Greenall
Frank Greenall

Government and unions were both integral parts of the apprentice training apparatus.
In bigger centres, apprentices attended regular night classes at local trades' halls and technical colleges, and advanced along state-supported qualification routes. The system needed rejuvenation, but radical legislation threw the baby out with the bath water, as per the building standards fiasco.

The worm is slowly turning again, with a current government recognising that wider support for the apprentice system is justified.

Limited funding is now available for employers taking on the unemployed as apprentices, and a new industry plan is to be announced today. The Department of Corrections also plans to spend up to $10 million over four years to train up prisoners and have them building actual houses to help meet the new housing goals.


But these initiatives are really just window tinsel.

Despite the supposed new direction stance of the Coalition Government, it is still suffused – abetted by vested business interests – with the spurious notion that major economic solutions lie with the mythical "market".

There is a market, but most fail to recognise that government is an integral part of that market. Moreover, that it's also highly irresponsible not to pull the appropriate government levers that will help address pressing trade-training issues.

During World War I, we found the resources to train, house, clothe, feed, medicate, arm, equip, and transport to the other side of the globe 10 per cent of our entire population to fight a war that to this day no one can really explain. To repeat, 10 per cent of our entire population – about 100,000 out of a million or so.

If we could manage that a century ago, why is it so hard now – when we're a lot more affluent — to declare a war on housing shortages, and pump even a fifth of that number into a housing campaign that will achieve what a dribbling KiwiBuild programme, with its supposedly "affordable" $600,000 houses, will inevitably fail on?

Gosh — we could even call the builders the Household Cavalry.