Chang­ing times but char­ity be­gins at home

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Last month I ex­pressed an opin­ion that peo­ple are no longer a pri­or­ity with the Gov­ern­ment.

I re­cently came across a com­ment from Paul Krug­man that seems to back up my thoughts. He feels that in his coun­try ( the United States) cer­tainly, and maybe in ours as well, too many politi­cians ‘‘take pos­i­tive glee in in­flict­ing fur­ther suf­fer­ing on the al­ready mis­er­able’’.

I hope that is not the case here, but you have to won­der.

Given the ef­forts of the Gov­ern­ment to make life ever harder for those on low in­comes, a fur­ther com­ment from Krug­man ap­pears to hit home.

‘‘To jus­tify elim­i­nat­ing safety net pro­grammes, Gov­ern­ment rhetoric goes some­thing like this: ‘You’re per­son­ally free to help the poor. But the Gov­ern­ment has no right to take peo­ple’s money and force them to give it to the poor . . . It is, how­ever, ap­par­ently per­fectly OK to take peo­ple’s money and force them to give it to agribusi­nesses and the wealthy.’’

The safety net to which I could re­fer is the short­age of hous­ing and the Gov­ern­ment’s in­ten­tion to sell off thou­sands of state houses in the name of in­creas­ing the so­cial hous­ing avail­able.

This is par­tic­u­larly ironic given the num­ber of our MPs who have re­cently been re­vealed as own­ing more than one house. Some of our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives have quite a large in­vest­ment in hous­ing of one sort or an­other.

My first in­stinct is to be sus­pi­cious. The main­te­nance of state houses has not been great over the years – and this goes for gov­ern­ments of all stripes.

It could be seen to be con­ve­nient to sell off those houses that would take too much money to up­grade so they were no longer a health risk to the oc­cu­pants. Or is that be­ing too cyn­i­cal?

The main ques­tion is: Does a Gov­ern­ment have any re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­vide so­cial hous­ing? Well, for the past 117 years, New Zealand has had a so­cial con- science, which looks like be­com­ing eroded in our cur­rent cli­mate of em­pha­sis on profit, share­hold­ers, chief ex­ec­u­tives’ salaries, div­i­dends and other signs of pros­per­ity, not the least of which is own­ing sev­eral prop­er­ties.

The only cri­te­rion for suc­cess th­ese days seems to be to make lots of money and let those who are not in a po­si­tion to do this drop off the perch.

I imag­ine Richard John Sed­don and Michael Joseph Sav­age, past pro­po­nents of so­cial se­cu­rity, would be rolling around in their graves by now.

We may not be like Europe at the mo­ment, hav­ing to cope with thou­sands of des­per­ate refugees tak­ing the risk of cross­ing the Mediter­ranean.

But we have more than enough of our own cit­i­zens des­per­ate for some­where to live in dig­nity and safety. Fast as things may be chang­ing around us, char­ity still be­gins at home.

Last month, our mem­bers turned out in force and were treated to an ex­cel­lent talk by Chris El­lis of Com­mu­nity Law.

This month, we have Frankie Manson, of the Health and Dis­abil­ity Com­mis­sion Ad­vo­cacy Ser­vice, com­ing to ad­dress us.

Are you aware of what the ad­vo­cacy ser­vice does? Do you know your rights as re­gards treat­ment by the health ser­vice? Even if you do, you can bring with you some­one who doesn’t. All wel­come.

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