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Chris Ford: National/ACT Coalition aiming to complete New Right revolution

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

 National and ACT's supply and confidence deal is the most significant document in almost 12 years. This document signals, more or less, both parties intent to complete the New Right, neo-liberal revolution that commenced in 1984.

The intention to trial charter schools marks the beginning of the end of public education in this country. Although this is a trial, there is no doubt that National and ACT will resource the first trial schools much better than any state schools. Thus the first few will be deemed success stories but they will be so only due to the fact that they will select the best academically performing students whilst leaving the remainder to languish within the state system. Then, on the basis of the 'success' of these first trial schools, more privately run schools will be created, leading to the eventual privatisation of primary and secondary school provision in this country. 

The plans to privatise employment placement services (as recommended by the Welfare Working Group) also presents an issue. Private sector corporates and voluntary agencies will be incentivised to place vulnerable unemployed people in very low paying or even non-paying positions. This will enable employers to exploit the crap out of these workers who will, in the main, have been cajoled into taking work due to the threat of having their benefit payments stopped. These moves might be applauded by many within the electorate given the recent election results. I have no doubt that National and ACT are prepared to exploit the electorate's anti-welfarist views to the hilt in order to appease their respective corporate backers. However, I believe that many workers have unthinkingly swallowed the New Right's propaganda about welfare. Sadly though, with the European economy about to tank, many more Kiwi workers will lose their livelihoods meaning that many of those who at the moment begrudge the state paying the dole may change their views once they themselves become unemployed. Furthermore, many low paid workers are already on very low wages and due to the very small gap that exists between benefits and wages, many manual workers mistakenly believe that benefit levels can sustain a good lifestyle when for most people on them it doesn't.

Logically, National and ACT's plans to implement more of the WWG's recommendations and create charter schools chimes in nicely with their major goal - that of the need to reduce public expenditure. Both parties have in fact agreed to cap public spending by no more than the rate of inflation and population growth through legislation. Attacking welfare and education spending, two of the largest items of state expenditure, makes logical sense if you think about it from their neo-liberal perspective. The two New Right parties are not just seeking to do this from an economic perspective but from a purely ideological one. These parties manifestly want to reduce the size of the state so as to enable the free market to dominate all spheres of life. In the world view of National, ACT and their corporate masters, if this means the rich getting even richer and the poor getting even poorer then so be it. Every individual will be held responsible for their own success or failure - this will be (and already is) the mantra of the education and welfare systems. There will be no truck given at all to the idea that unemployment and poverty is caused by the underlying economic conditions produced by modern capitalism.

That's why I see the National/ACT deal as effectively a death sentence for what remains of the welfare state. The majority of New Zealanders (who are already doing it tough financially) could one day be regretting their decision to put John Key and his National/ACT Government back into office for when they need the welfare state most, it won't be there to serve them! 


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