Friday, November 10, 2017

Labour Government:The first week of a Government with a heart

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Numerous histories were made when Jacinda Ardern’s Coalition Labour/Greens/NZ First coalition government was sworn in in Wellington, New Zealand on Thursday 26 October, 2017.

She was the first millennial PM– which is children of Baby Boomers, generally born between 1980 and 2000. A very young one at 37. The other was the carnival atmosphere at the beehive that was unprecedented for a swearing-in ceremony.

And most important history of all - a very formidable, strong and, heavy opposition in form of the National Party, which have more members than Labour. The past government was rejoicing its economic performance, its surplus and bestowing benefits to its elite supporters. However, many of their policies were bereft of compassion, generosity and heart for the vulnerable. 

The new Labour -led coalition, comprising Labour/Greens and NZ First. The government made heart-felt ripples and compassionate decisions within a week of coming to power.
No sooner had the Labour coalition government come on board, than they made ripples which reached the suffering and vulnerable public within the first week. They heralded a big culture-change in government - listening to people, being sensitive to their feeling and being a caring government. 

Among others, these are some actions of the government with a heart within a week of taking office:

Sagar Narayan- temporary stay of deportation

Sagar Narayan is an intellectually disabled son of a New Zealand citizen, who has no relatives to take care of him in Fiji. He was supposed be deported a day after the new government was sworn in. However, newly-sworn Associate Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi confirmed he will complete an in-depth review of Narayan's case. Until then, the 20-year-old will not be deported.

Sanil Kumar, a Fijian who was "sentenced to death' by a heartless National Government which deported him to Fiji, where he died because of inadequate facilities. In contrast, Sagar Narayan's "death sentence" was averted by a Government with a heart.
This case is in contrast to Sanil Kumar tragedy in 2014 under a National Government which lacked compassion. This issue has already been covered by FIJI PUNDIT. National’s Associate Minister for Immigration, Nikki Kaye refused to budge. Sanil’s plea to NZ authorities that Fiji did not have proper facilities, and he was being sent to certain death, fell on deaf years. His prediction came true and he passed away in Fiji. National has blood on its hand.

Fortunately, we now have a government with a heart, that will not sentence sick people to death.

Teina Pora

Teina was wrongfully jailed for murder and rape of Susan Burdett in 1992. He had been behind bars for 22 years of his life. His conviction was quashed by Privy Council in March, 2015. National government approved a compensation of $2.52 million dollars. This was challenged by his team which rightfully sought the interest element for the gross injustice. This was denied by National Government.

Teina Pora, an innocent person who was wrongly convicted, and served some 20 years behind bars. National Government denied him inflation-adjusted compensation. Andrew Little, as the new Justice Minister, approved some $1m dollars for inflation.
New Justice Minister Andrew Little has revealed in his first day on the job that Teina Pora's $2.5m compensation for wrongful imprisonment will be increased to match inflation.

A government with a heart.

Pike River

The Pike River Mine disaster happened on the afternoon of 19 November 2010, in the Pike River Mine, 46 kilometres northeast of Greymouth, in the West Coast  of South Island of New Zealand. This disaster killed 29 men. Their bodies have not been recovered, and remain in the mine. The past National government refused re-entry and would have poured cold concrete at mine entrance to permanently seal it. It was saved through gallants actions of some concerned people.

Most of those who perished in Pike River disaster (27 out of 29). Their remains are still in the mine. The entry, announced and approved by Andrew Little, to be made in April will attempt to retrieve their remains and present closure to the family.
The new Government has announced entry, which among others will collect evidence as to what went wrong and retrieve any bodily remains of the miners that may be up there. The family wants closure, truth and accountability, and able to perform the last rites with the remains that would be retrieved.

The minister responsible for re-entry into Pike River, Andrew Little, hopes to get people in to the mine by April next year.

Pike River mine entrance which the past Government wanted permanently sealed

A government with a heart.

Ban of House sale to overseas buyers

What National government could not do in 9 years, Labour Coalition achieved in 5 days in government by seeking to amend laws that would stop overseas buyers speculating on our housing market without breaching trade agreements?

Where there is a will, there is a way.

Living wage

Minimum wages to gradually go up for the lowest paid workers to meet the living wage rate.

New Dunedin Hospital, Ignored Christchurch and mental health

Labour has announced new Dunedin hospital where Government will take full control and costs, and thrown out National’s public private partnership (PPP). It has announced construction in its first term.
In the aftermath of Christchurch earthquake, the city felt ignored and mental health issue was also ignored. The new Government has taken immediate new initiates to address the ignored issues. 

Satellite towns

The new Minister for Housing Phil Twyford immediately went into action and announced three satellite towns in outskirts of Auckland to decentralise the and spread out Auckland’s population. 

There was not much talk-just actions
Phil Twyford, new Minister for Housing and Transport - a minister with very heavy portfolios. The Action-man from Te Atatu (like yours truly), has immediately gone into action to tackle housing crisis which the past government denied even existed.
Finance with a heart and conscience

The new Minister of Finance Grant Robertson emphatically mapped out finance and economic policies of the new government by announcing that it will not be about statistics that put feather in government’s caps, but action on the ground that affects the life of common citizens. 

Economic cake shared by all.

Other events after a week

- A very rewarding and successful whirlwind visit to Australia.

- Paid parental leave to gradually increase from its 18 weeks to 26 weeks by the term of this parliament.

- Teina Pora’s interest element determined to be near a million dollars additional.

Rock star Economy?

Subsequent to some of the actions above, especially extension of paid parental leave, a Newstalk ZB talkback host quipped that Labour was moving towards a socialist regime.

Whatever you call it - benefits to common people and ruling with a heart is miles better than a rock star economy which means little to poor suffering down the economic ladder.

Star of this economy had been overseas housing speculators, multi-house owners and the elite -while the rock burdened and stifled the cries of vulnerable poorer people, suffering from a government showing surplus, but under-funding basic needs like education, health and housing, among others.

The flanker and Queen-maker, Andrew Little (left) who gave the Hail Mary Pass to Jacinda Ardern who did a winning touchdown. A selfless leader, Andrew passed the baton to the lass from Morrinsville, who has done miracles in just a week of coming to power. Jacinda has established her position as Leader of a Government with heart and compassion.
This government will not take pride in economic statistics but social responsibility statistics that has been shaming our country as a developed nation.

Indeed, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity delivered to us on Diwali Night will shine light and give economic equality and social justice to all its citizens.

If the first week is a guide, then this nation is blessed with a government with a heart.

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a Political Observer, Indian Newslink columnist and Media Commentator and runs his Blog, ‘Fiji Pundit.’ He lives in Auckland. Email:]

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