Thursday, February 5, 2009

Not getting it

Gremlins are all around us. Both my son (back from overseas) and I had important applications for courses vanish without trace. I emailed mine, as instructed, in late January and had an email confirming I'd done everything correctly and it was all taken care of. Then I found it had never reached the right person. Fortunately I had just enough time to do it all again. He posted his last week, then suddenly realised he hadn't sent a photo with it. So he phoned up, only to be told it had never arrived. He spent the day doing it all again, and faxing it this time. Both of us could so easily have missed out completely, never knowing our vital communications hadn't got there until it was too late. We did everything right, but systems let us down.

That must be what thousands of New Zealanders are thinking, as they watch their jobs disappear from under them. They've done everything right, so how come they're suddenly out of work? Today the Stats people came up with some numbers: 105,000 unemployed, the highest number since September 2002.

I hope this time around we'll at least be spared the finger-wagging rubbish about people not wanting to work and being eager to bludge off the state instead. I could never understand how politicians such as Ruth Richardson and Jenny Shipley were so sure that the appalling unemployment levels of the early 1990s were due to a sudden mass collapse of moral fibre, and that the only remedy was to slash already far from generous benefits.

Labour never saw fit to restore them, though it tinkered around the edges a bit, and did at least fix the worst problem: ludicrously high state house rents. But there's been no serious attempt to work out whether the amounts paid are actually capable of covering the most basic levels of current family living costs. The foodbanks have learnt the answer: they're not. And soon large numbers of shell-shocked people will learn it too.

A new film about "the David Dougherty case" screens this weekend. I've put a Letter from Elsewhere about it - "The invisible victim" - up on Scoop this week at

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