A couple of weeks ago I ran into Matthew Hooton and we sat down and had coffee together and talked about politics. One of the subjects we speculated about was David Cunliffe’s upcoming speech.
I suggested that, ‘Every opposition leader dreams of replicating Orewa?’ Matthew agreed. ‘You find an issue that isn’t part of the current conversation but is hugely relevant. That ignites debate and catches the government off guard. But . . . what is that issue?’ We both tried to think of one but couldn’t, and went on to talk about other things.
This chart sourced from an RBNZ study shows the change in house prices to income over the past few decades.
So an average couple in the 1980s could comfortably service an average mortgage with one salary while an average couple in 21st century New Zealand struggles to service their average mortgage with two salaries.
This changes the choices facing that couple in terms of parenthood and child-raising in a way I don’t think previous generations can comprehend (especially given the boomer addiction to the fantasy that they ‘did it tough’ raising a family in the world’s most generous welfare state). Dropping to a single income for months or years for each child and meeting childcare costs when both parents are working again are huge challenges to contemporary families that – until now – haven’t been acknowledged in our political discourse.
Just as Helen Clark knew the battle against Brash’s Orewa rhetoric was doomed and instantly canceled Labour’s ‘Closing the Gaps’ policies aimed at improving outcomes for Maori, John Key seems to have grasped that Cunliffe is onto a winner. Having spent four years insisting that he’d like to increase paid parental leave but there simply wasn’t any money, he has – literally overnight – suddenly decided that Yes! There IS money! Presumably he polled on Cunliffe’s policy overnight and this is the result.