A couple of commenters this morning have dismissed Labour's dilemma over Catherine Delahunty's Income Tax (Universalisation of In-work Tax Credit) Amendment Bill as not being a biggie. Well; we reckon they're wrong.
Josie Pagani stood for Labour in the Rangitikei electorate last year, and was #38 on Labour's list. That of course was nowhere near high enough to get her elected. But after both the election and the appointment by caucus of David Shearer as Labour Party leader Ms Pagani wrote an opinion piece for the NZ Herald. Amongst other things, she expressed concern with the very policy that Labour ran with at the election, and which Catherine Delahunty is now promoting; Ms Pagani opined:
I met a truck driver in Marton. He owned his own truck and worked on contract for different companies. He told me he'd voted Labour all his life and so had his dad, who would turn in his grave if he knew his son wasn't voting Labour in 2011.He looked troubled. "What am I meant to do? National's there for the rich. Labour's there for the poor. No one is there for people like me."We lost because people like him weren't voting for us. We were seen as looking backwards, not forwards. We didn't sound aspirational, we sounded miserable. We were turning up on people's doorsteps telling them their lives were gloomy. And anyone who has ever been poor knows the last thing you want is someone telling you your life is crap.The hardest week to door-knock was when we were telling people - who had just come home from a day's work earning the minimum wage - that it was a great idea to extend their Working for Families tax credit to beneficiaries. "So what's the point of working my guts out all week while someone sitting at home on the dole gets the same tax credit as me?"There's a reason we're called "Labour": We have always represented people who work. If you work hard you should earn enough to pay the bills, save a bit and enjoy the holidays with your family. If you have a great idea to build a business and work really hard, a Labour government will back you to be world class. It's not just about dividing the economic pie fairly, it's about increasing the size of the pie so everyone can get their piece.We will always be the political party that is there for working people when the jobs disappear. But our reason for existing has to be that we want to make life better for working people, and they have to believe us.They won't believe we can change New Zealand until we change the Labour party. That means going back to basics and asking, "What does it mean to support working people today? How do we make New Zealand a global player in 2014?"
Labour parked this policy up after the election. Thanks to Ms Delahunty, it is back on the political radar. And Labour needs to address the question posed to Ms Pagani, which deserves repeating:
"So what's the point of working my guts out all week while someone sitting at home on the dole gets the same tax credit as me?"
Therein lies Labour's dilemma, in a nutshell. Waitakere Man would dismiss this proposal out of hand, because above all else, he just wants a fair go. Labour tried to be all things to all people, and failed dismally.