The America's Cup is now mercifully over - for now. Despite pleading poverty on social spending, the Labour Government has every intention to financially support another defence in 2023. In 2013 Willie Jackson wrote that the America's Cup was a rich man's sport and that the Government needed 'to get out of it'. Now a cabinet minister, Jackson appears to have no difficulties with his Labour Government funding a sporting event he once said was 'all about money'.
THANKFULLY THE America's Cup is now over and we can all get some sleep. Toni Street and Scotty Morrison, co-hosting TVNZ's saturation and often hysterical coverage of the event, wanted me to get excited about it. But I politely declined the invitation to become a yachting crazy just for one day. I have very little interest in yachting generally but I was not about to get excited about an elite sporting event in the name of patriotism and product endorsement.
Although both yachts had corporate logos emblazoned all over them, the America's Cup would have probably have sunk without trace without the involvement of the state. But the generous contribution of the Labour Government meant the America's Cup didn't have to hawk its wares elsewhere in the world. Despite all the mythologising about Team NZ boss Grant Dalton's 'gritty determination', he and his boys would of been marooned without the $137 million that the Labour Government forked out, including a hosting fee of $40 million. The Auckland City Council also came to the party with a $113 million contribution on 'necessary public infrastructure' and another $20 targeted at 'downtown upgrades'.
Despite pleading poverty on little things like benefit increases, the Labour Government still managed to find tens of millions of dollars to throw into the Waitemata Harbour. Meanwhile, as the NZ Herald noted this week, Grant Dalton is soon to be the proud owner of a $3.7 million 'power yacht' that includes, among other things, a wine fridge valued at $5,200.
The fact is that there are still more pressing things to worry about than two 'yachts' hydrofoiling around Waitemata Harbour. New Zealand is in crisis. I know that both Labour and National are united in their determination not to concede that 'the market' and neoliberalism have failed, but we are in a crisis. Young people are in crisis, elderly people are in crisis, the poor are in crisis, the jobless figures continue to rise, increasing number of people are living in motels, cars and garages and the labour movement is still leaderless and directionless, with nothing to offer but its derisory and cowardly support for the present government.
One of the cabinet ministers who approved all that Government money going to the America's Cup was Willie Jackson, the leader of the Maori caucus. But in 2013 he berated the National Government for providing $36 million to the America's Cup challenge and for knighting sailor Russell Coutts in 2009. Wrote Jackson:
'That's the problem with the America's Cup - it's all about money. It was always an elitist rich man's sport and it's time for New Zealand to get out of it'.
However Willie Jackson's political opinions are never less than shifting and yesterday the Labour cabinet, Jackson included, agreed to further funding 'to support the team to build for the next defence' and with further funding to be negotiated once a request for support is made by Team NZ. Apparently Willie Jackson now agrees with his leader Jacinda Ardern that 'we want to see it all over again in 2023.'
Crisis? What crisis?