Anyone with even token socialist leanings would’ve been disappointed with the offerings of that conference. Delegates were told in no uncertain terms there was a need to get at least 2000 extra party votes in each electorate, a laughable expectation if the opinion polls are any indication, and to choose candidates who are, in the words of Labour's Moira Coatsworth, “not part of their main sectoral base”. This is clearly representing a further attempt to move away from having union leaders, academics and working class people representing Labour in Parliament to more middle class islands. Labour’s leadership also indicated there was going to be an organisational review undertaken.
Ministry of Children
A key platform of their election strategy is campaigning for children. This includes the establishment of a Ministry of Children and attacking the government for its attacks on Working For Families, cuts to early childhood education and addressing the growing gap between the rich and poor in New Zealand.
Another key platform of their election campaign is to push for the re-instatement of many of the key initiatives introduced by Labour during the 1999-2008 Labour Government including re-introducing tax breaks for companies investing in research and development, re-instating tax credits at 12.5%, extending the Emission Trading Scheme to farmers, greater investment in Kiwisaver and Working for Families and reversing the tax cuts for the wealthy.
However, most of Labour's emphasis is being placed on pursuing the votes of the 'middle class' victims of the budget who’ve been hit by rapidly rising food prices and cuts to Working for Families payments by placing a stronger emphasis on monetary and taxation policies to promote growth and significant investment in trade and training.
As a sop to the working class the Labour Party did state they would raise the minimum wage to $15 a hour and address the anti-worker laws that have been passed by the National led government, such as the 90 Day “Hire and Fire At Will” Law. Although these reforms are welcome it does not go far enough.
Though the Labour Party Conference showed that its leadership has understood that working people are being stung by the policies of the current government they had little beyond empty rhetoric and fire and brimstone electioneering speeches to offer the working classes.
There is a growing anger amongst working people that their concerns are being ignored in favour of big business and wealthy individuals. This is becoming a very strong sentiment on social networking sites such as facebook and twitter.
The failure of the Labour Party to do more than acknowledge their concerns and then to fob them off with token reforms like raising the minimum wage and the establishment of a Ministry of Children is seen as a slap across the face. Crudely put, a limp-wristed politically correct liberal reformist platform is not going to attract voters, least of all working class voters.
Minor reformist policies are not enough. It is now time for Labour to show it has the interests of New Zealand’s working class at heart and introduce a socialist programme of genuine change that will give workers real and lasting prosperity and security in their lives.
Such changes include:
The establishment of public works programmes to create real and meaningful jobs for workers rather than McJobs.
Nationalisation of all work places threatened with closure by the workers themselves.
An end to wage cuts and freezes and an increase of the minimum wage to at least $17 an hour.
The introduction of a 32 hour working week.
Repeal the 90 Day Law and individual employment contracts in favour of collective trade union bargaining.
Nationalisation and workers control and management of the big monopolies, and banks that dominate our lives.
Only with such a programme can Labour hope of winning the 2011 election campaign. Workers are tired of token gestures. They want real change and they want it now.
As events in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Greece (to name but a few countries) have shown people through-out the world are now willing to take to the streets and fight for their rights rather than rely on existing power structures to do it. It is no longer a question of if the workers will take to the streets but when. The bosses and their lackeys take note payback is coming.