Sonja Davies Peace Award. Sonja is the only MP to have her own memorial tree and plaque in the grounds of Parliament. Every year the available members of the group gather by the tree on her birthday to remember and celebrate her life and achievements. Today there were only three of us. When we got to the tree we found that someone had already left yellow roses there.
Rae Julian (right), Barbara Mabbett (centre) and me.
Sonja would have been appalled by what is happening to so many people in New Zealand today. A Salvation Army report earlier this year shows child poverty stuck at 22%. Unemployment has doubled in the past five years and there is a severe shortage of safe affordable houses to rent or own. Food poverty has increased dramatically, not only among beneficiaries but among pensioners and the growing number of employees on wages too low to make ends meet.
Wages used to make up 55 percent of GDP; now they are only 44 percent. This is not because GDP has been growing rapidly; it's because wages have been so badly eroded, especially for those earning the least. The current campaign for a living wage is making headway, but so are policies designed to eat away at conditions and job security. Sonja's son, Mark, was killed at work. As the spate of forestry deaths have shown, New Zealand continues to have one of the worst workplace death and injury records in the developed world.
But in contrast to the early 1990s, when the plight of the poor and the rapid rise in inequality spurred national outrage, today's bland government whitewash and facade of concern seems to be keeping outrage at bay. The consequences will be like climate change - inescapable and affecting us all.