Is Newstalk ZB host Kate Hawkesby championing the interests of the working class?
TWO SOBERING news stories were published over the weekend but they were left unremarked on in the mainstream media.
Surprisingly the substantial comment (well, 400 words or so) has come from an unexpected source, namely Newstalk ZB host and NZ Herald columnist Kate Hawkesby. She writes:
"Some confronting news out of the Salvation Army this week - the majority of people asking for food parcels have never had to ask for help before: they are what's known as, the "working poor.
This comes in the same week that the City Mission in Auckland claims to have run out of canned food due to a 25 per cent increase in demand. Community workers claim it's the high cost of everyday living which is forcing families into a situation where they simply cannot afford enough food."
Hawkesby is the partner of Newstalk ZB breakfast host Mike Hosking. Although she is also a supporter of the National Party and although I'm not fully familiar with her politics, she doesn't seem to share the rabidly right wing views of Hosking. Certainly there's no sign of Hosking's trademark poor-bashing in her observation that many people are doing it hard entirely because economic conditions have worsened considerably for them:
"These are hard-working families, struggling with high rents, petrol prices, health and education costs, who are finding there's just not enough left over to put food on the table."
In her entire column Hawkesby never utters the words 'lazy, 'bludger', 'drugs' or 'irresponsible' once. So good on her for not victim-blaming.
What she doesn't say though is that the economic deprivation she describes didn't just happen when Winston Peters spurned Bill English for Jacinda Ardern. The level of poverty was deepening and the chasm of inequality was widening throughout the nine years of National-led governments.
But Labour came into the government with its leader promising to 'really tackle' poverty. Unfortunately all the talk of social transformation has come to nought with Labour just as committed to austerity as National ever was. While Jacinda Ardern expresses concern for the poor and for people struggling, her finance minister Grant Robertson is continuing to pray at the altar of neoliberalism - intoning he will not loosen the purse strings until they reduce government debt to 20 per cent of GDP by 2022. The guy praying next to him is former Labour finance minister Michael Cullen.
Kate Hawkesby observes:
"Those at the coal face, in the communities working to assist the poor, the poverty stricken and those facing all manner of hardships, say it will take bold and courageous people to make the changes required to close the gap. Let's hope this Government, alongside it's bold words, can also put their money where their mouth is."
She doesn't suggest what 'changes' are required and let's hope she's not just engaged in some cynical point scoring. Perhaps in Hawkesby's next column she will ask the question why the government can't introduce the kind of progressive economic policies that Jeremy Corbyn's UK Labour Party plan to implement once they become the government. That would really cause Mike Hosking to break out in a cold sweat...