Opportunities Party- Which side are you on?

Leftwin recently posted a piece that looks at some of the detail in TOP policy regarding housing and the Minimum wage. It was noticed, and TOP felt the need to reply.

Few quick things:

On Housing

In the original critique Leftwin raised concerns that you were proposing all state housing be “gifted”to “community providers”. You don’t dispute this, so it is worth saying what this means – this is privatisation.

Again, I have real concerns that this is a massive transfer of wealth from public ownership into private hands. You say you are just for things “that work”. For most of NZ’s history, state housing has worked pretty well to provide a good quality housing stock for lower income earners. Dramatically moving away from a model that has successfully provided housing for millions of kiwis over the last 50 years doesn’t strike me as an exciting departure. Labour and National governments have left state housing underfunded and let the housing stock deteriorate. Rather than a new plan, this is more a dramatic escalation of bi-partisan policy to restrict state housing.

You fail to explain why transferring state homes to community providers extends coverage? Again, one state home housing the same number of people as one community provider home. Transferring ownership leaves us standing still. You say giving equity to community providers gives them better access to charitable funding or private loans.

  1. Why would a big community provider have more access to charitable funds than a small provider? Charitable funds are very stable, and do not increase when the role of an organisation increases.
  2. Community providers already have access to commercial banks and private charity – those things are already in place, and they are clearly not keeping up with the affordable housing crisis.

Sure, you have a range of other good policies on housing, such as a capital gains tax – I support that. But people are entitled to support good policies, and critique shitty ones. The final dismantling of any state housing system will be a real concern for many.

 

On the minimum wage

When ever questioned on the minimum wage TOP quickly wants to change the topic to housing and its UBI policies. Again, those are nice, but being right on a UBI doesn’t mean you can’t be wrong on the minimum wage.

TOP is presenting itself as the only party that respects “evidence” but here they are being deeply disingenuous. They repeatedly referred to Europe as an example where minimum wage rises pushed unemployment. When it was pointed out to them that the European countries with the higher minimum wage tended to have a lower rate of unemployment, rather than retracting the comment they accuse Leftwin of not living in the “real world”. Don’t know what planet TOP lives on, but Europe seems pretty real to me.

If we want examples closer to home, we can just look at New Zealand statistics. Between 2010 and 2017 the minimum wage increased from $12.75 to $15.75. Despite this, the unemployment rate has decreased from 6% to 4.9%.

We fully agree that unemployment is a complex thing, and that many different factors can drive it. That’s exactly our point. We need to break the myth that working people demanding a livable wage is a risk. Business profits have never been higher, and wages as a share of business costs have never been lower. Working people should challenge that logic.

 

This is politics

The most surprising thing is the arrogance with which The Opportunities Party approaches politics. How long can you exist in politics if you think everyone who disagrees with you is a dupe or stupid?

There are differing and conflicting positions that represent different interests. Two studies could look at an issue like privatisation, one could look at it from the perspective of a bank or financial institution, one could look at from the perspective of a community health provider. Those two studies would come up with wildly different findings and recommendations. In forming policy it’s not enough to just say “whatever works”, because you need to decide what ends you are aiming for. The research and studies you emphasise will depend on those decisions.

The reality is that politics is a complex game, and not everyone can be winners. There isn’t always a win-win solution. A landlord and a tenant negotiating rent aren’t on the same page. Workers and employers, the environment and industrial farming. Property developers and state housing tenants. The world is filled with a thousand little conflicts. At some point you’ve got to decide which side you’re on, and to pretend these conflicts don’t exist will end up with you on the side of the powerful.

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