The political and the personal
Philip Matthews welcomes a welfare debate.
Greens with benefits
It usually takes a personal story to lift a dry policy launch from the quotidian news cycle and into genuinely important national coverage that reflects on large numbers of New Zealand lives. So it was when Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei confessed to committing benefit fraud as a young solo mother in the 1990s. That came as Turei co-launched what she hopes will be ’’the most significant changes to New Zealand’s welfare system in a generation’’, but the details were eclipsed by the revelation of her story and the sustained debate that followed. On one side, there was plenty of predictable selfrighteousness about ‘‘bludgers’’. On the other, there were hundreds of confessions of similar, morally complicated stories about the struggle of surviving and feeding children on very little.
An image floated around New Zealand’s political internet, suggesting that Labour leader Andrew Little is the local politician who would best suit being cast as Doctor Who. He has the earnestness but surely United Future leader Peter Dunne would win on sartorial grounds. But both have been pipped by Turei, as coleader James Shaw tweeted this week: ‘‘Announcing a new Time Lord to fight evil in the universe and also end poverty in New Zealand.’’ The only reason these jokes are even remotely relevant or funny is because the BBC unveiled its 13th doctor since the 1960s, and it is Broadchurch‘s Jodie Whittaker. Yes, a woman for the first time. Grown-up men were offended at this ransacking of their childhood, apparently. Wait until they hear that Happy Days is being rebooted, this time with a woman playing the Fonz. (Not true, but it should be.)
The 1990s revival
Twin Peaks is back. The X-Files, even Will and Grace. So are some of the less fun things about the 1990s: the beneficiary shaming that was a big feature of the decade and, as 500 Canterbury doctors pointed out this week, a squeeze on health funding in Christchurch. Sniping has been going on for some time between the Canterbury District Health Board and Wellington bean-counters. The doctors put the funding strain in historical context when they said they are experiencing 90s deja vu: ‘‘We well remember how strict financial constraints were applied by central government and Treasury to Canterbury Health Ltd in the 1990s ... The reforms, forced through against the express advice of local health professionals, resulted in serious complications for patients and well-documented, avoidable deaths.’’
It is easy to be negative about the Christchurch rebuild so here is some positive news. The eastern frame will open early in 2018. It will not include the nice houses in a campus-like setting that Fletcher Living has been charged with building; that part will reportedly be done by the science-fiction-like date of 2026. But there will be paved areas, a cycleway, lots of trees, a water feature, half a basketball court and – why the heck not? – two table tennis tables. The real news is that it means the Manchester St roadworks may actually come to an end one day.