AUCKLAND — Award-winning documentary maker Bryan Bruce reminded voters that economic decisions are moral decisions, and to keep this in mind as the election reaches
the home stretch.
“Economics is about morality, not about numbers,” said Mr Bruce at an election forum
hosted by the Auckland Social Justice and Peace commission on September 2 at the St
Columba Centre in Ponsonby.
The forum was attended by candidates from five parties — National, Labour, Green, United
Future and Internet-Mana.
Mr Bruce, who produced the documentaries Mind the Gap and Inside Child Poverty, illustrated
his point by asking, “Do you want to spend $80 million redesigning our currency, or
$80 million on feeding healthy lunches to school?”
He said 30 years ago, New Zealand had changed from the “we” society to the “me” society
as the then Labour government introduced its neoliberal policies.
“Neoliberalism is an economic theory that appeals to the politics of selfishness, because it fits the wants and the desires of the individuals,” he said.
That economic theory encouraged entrepreneurs and businesses to make more and more money that was to eventually “trickle down” to the poor, he explained.
“Labour introduced neoliberalism, but National put it on steroids. It’s a theory that promotes competition over cooperation. A theory that rewards cunning over compassion. A
theory that saw us deregulating our financial industry on the premise that greed is good,”
he said.
Mr Bruce said his family came to New Zealand as poor immigrants in 1956. Within five years, his parents were able to save up for a deposit on a three-bedroom house in Christchurch. The government loaned them the rest of the money with four per cent interest payable in 40 years
through the State Advances line. He also had free education from primary school to
“New Zealand gave me those opportunities as a child and as a young person because we were a country that believed that what was good for the kids was ultimately good for all of us,” he said.
“Unlike today’s university graduates, I didn’t flee our shore to work in some other country, to make someone else’s economy better. I stayed. Because I felt, and I still feel, a deep connection to our country. Because, you see, it gave me, a poor kid from Leith, a future.”
Today, however, he said the “economic tail is wagging the moral dog”.“At what point do we admit that the economic theory we have been living under for the past 30 years has simply failed to deliver the best possible outcome to the greatest number of people,” he said.
“Our economy is deciding what kind of country we will be, what kind of people we’ll
be. We should turn it around the other way and go: Who are we and what are we going to
stand for?”
When asked about their housing policies, Internet- Mana candidate John Minto said his party plans to build 10,000 homes a year until the country doesn’t need to any more. Labour candidate Su’a William Sio said their plan was to build 100,000 homes within 10 years. Green candidate Jan Logie said the Greens will bring back rent-to-own schemes.
Responding on other issues, National Party candidate Alfred Ngaro said his party’s
track record reflects its concern for society, citing the benefit it enacted for unsupported
and orphan children. United Future candidate Damien Light said his party supports income sharing tax policy for couples with dependent children.