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Labour shouldn't back down

Labour shouldn't back down

Labour should not back down in the face of racist attacks on its policy by Don Brash.

Alliance president Jill Ovens says the Labour-led Government should renew its commitment to "closing the gaps" to address the growing disparities between rich and poor, Maori and Pakeha.

"We do have a divided nation, a nation of two citizenships - rich and poor. It just so happens that Maori and Pacific people are far more likely to be on benefits or in low-paid, vulnerable work. The children of the poor are overwhelmingly brown."

Ms Ovens says that Brash's hypocrisy is astounding in his claim that National stands for equality. During the reign of the New Right (1984 to 1999), the incomes of low- and middle-income earners declined in real terms, while the top 10% of earners saw their incomes soar.

"This was no accident. It was a deliberate policy to advance the class interests of the most privileged people in our society, those whom National represents."

Unfortunately, Labour-led Governments since 1999 have not undone the damage of the neo-liberal years, Ms Ovens says. The benefit cuts for the poor and tax cuts for the rich have never been reversed, except for a small increase at the highest tax step.

"The Labour Party enjoyed a strong mandate from New Zealand workers and the most marginalised in our society to act on their behalf, but they have squandered that because they have paid too much heed to the voices of business and so-called 'middle New Zealand'.

"Workers have every right to expect that a Labour-led Government will address the problems of poverty and increasing inequality that are blighting the lives of too many New Zealanders, both brown and white, but undeniably predominantly brown.

"Labour must attack Brash on the basis of what his policies will deliver to the working class - a huge step backwards.

"But Labour must also deliver real gains in terms of decent housing, access to quality health and education, reliable public transport, cheap electricity and water, jobs and a strengthening of employment legislation to empower workers."

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