Wednesday, 1 June 2011

National - out of touch with ordinary people

A few days ago I went with some mates to Dannevirke and spent the morning and afternoon door knocking as part of our campaign for Labour in the Wairarapa. We listened to local people telling us how they were coping under a National Government. It became clear; Dannevirke and its people like most communities in the Wairarapa have been poorly served under National as a result of Key's policies.

The National/ACT agenda of borrowing to fund tax cuts to the rich while cutting back on social spending and benefits is devastating middle and lower income New Zealand. Rural towns like Dannevirke relied in the past on a few large employers like the carpet mills and freezing works. One by one these have been closed or outsourced. No one has come to fill the void. The result is that generations who grew up in this beautiful rural town are now unemployed. Their parents are elderly and there is no economic future for the people in that community. Many don't even have the money to relocate for work. But if they do, they leave elderly parents behind and the place slowly becomes a ghost town.

Things that you and I would regard as staples such as cheese and lamb are regarded as luxuries by a lot of people in Dannevirke. One mum told me that she "has enough to buy her bread, meat and some milk, but cheese is a rarity”. It is sad that in an area surrounded by dairy farms - mums use milk sparingly and cheese is regarded as a rarity. As I knocked on door after door I heard the same thing - the rising cost of living was not only using up what little money people had each week, it was now eating into what little savings people had and was driving them into debt.

The Government’s cutback policy has at one of its stated aims to reduce debt. In reality it is driving more and more people deeper and deeper into debt.

I walked past the local National MP's office. It is only open 6 hours a week. Most people have never seen him. No one I spoke to could ever recall him coming to talk to him or her to ask how he or she was doing? These people are hurting and desperately need a hand. All they get is the Prime Minister crowing about how great the Government is doing and an absentee MP. It is as if National lives in a bubble divorced from the realities of what life is really like for people in rural New Zealand towns.

Up one street I spoke to a young single mum. She had applied for 100 jobs and had been knocked back every time. Cheese was something her kids hadn't tasted since last year. The temperature had dropped to 9 degrees, but there was no fire in the hearth. Wood was not an essential.

One woman who had three kids was in despair. Her face showed the strain as she calmly recounted her story. She lives on potatoes and bread she bakes herself. She can't afford to run a car, so carries all her groceries home by hand. Some Monday's her kids’ stay home from school as she is ashamed to send them to school without lunches.

Across the road there was a block of flats. At the first door I met Victoria. She was a small woman who was middle aged. She was married to Troy. They have no kids. She told me that Troy used to have a job as a handyman at a police station. They both had been looking for work for three years but had found nothing. She is one of life battlers. She told me of the despair and hopelessness they feel with life under National. What little they had saved has now long gone. Some nights she said she just sits and cries.

National has done nothing to help everyday New Zealanders. It is common when I am out door knocking to hear similar stories. People are being let down by this Government which is arrogant and out of touch. It appears that despite the smiles and waves this Government has only one aim - to make those at the top richer while ignoring how life is for everybody else.

All of the people I spoke to had had enough. They only heard of Labour's policies because people like myself and my team went to speak to them. They won't hear this hope from the media, which is pro-National and is just as out of touch as Government.

As Labour's policies around food and taxation were explained to them they experienced something they hadn't felt in a long time - hope, and the fact that someone in politics actually cares about them. We need to get up and start telling our communities this simple truth - that only Labour really cares and will stand up for a fair deal for everyone.

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