Sowry sinks to new low
National's campaign has sunk to new and sickening depths with a cabinet minister's attack on an Auckland mother of seven who featured in Labour's televised campaign opening last Friday, Labour MP Pete Hodgson said today.
"Roger Sowry's callous attack on Catherine Holloway shows how desperate and out of touch National has become.
"In the advertisement Catherine says that after paying $310 rent, she had around $40 to $50 left to live on. She made this statement having answered four other questions from Helen Clark, all of which gave an insight into serious poverty. Catherine saying 'you grab a cab and it costs you 50 bucks' best exemplified the poverty trap.
"That is the context in which any reasonable person would understand her remark that she had around $40 or $50 to live on.
"Mr Sowry says Catherine's story simply cannot be true. Well, we have a message for Mr Sowry. It's actually worse than Labour's televised opening portrayed.
"One of Mr Sowry's many mis-calculations in this sad tale is his assumption that Catherine's seven children are all dependants. Two are not; they are in training.
"This woman's tragedy began through the most fundamental social problem, poor housing. Her Housing New Zealand house in South Auckland was so damp that it was mildewed. All of her children have asthma to some degree, and her three-year-old daughter is a severe asthmatic.
"The relationship between poor housing and the asthma is so clear that her doctor ordered her to leave the property. However, before then her children had been so seriously prone to repeated ill-health that she estimates the worst affected child has been to Middlemore Hospital about 20 times in the last two years. Catherine has no car and uses taxis to get her children to the hospital.
"This is a family health profile that Mr Sowry and his healthy and wealthy colleagues cannot begin to comprehend. Mr Sowry will never understand that taxi costs can blow out in a month when a mother must secure medical help for sick children.
"Nor will he ever understand the child care and other costs that a family under such significant stress has to deal with. Inevitably Catherine got behind in her rent payments and after a brief period in private sector accommodation, was admitted to an Auckland emergency shelter.
"Emergency shelters do not admit people unless their circumstances are extreme.
"Since living in the emergency shelter the family has made very considerable progress in repaying debts to Housing New Zealand and various friends, and Catherine hopes one day to return to a normal home like any other family."
Pete Hodgson said that since the showing of the advertisement, Housing New Zealand, who had steadfastly declined to find a replacement for her mildewed house, now appeared to be going to some trouble to find this family appropriate accommodation.