Clark's message of hope
Unlike Key's negative speech - a deficit model whereby young people were presented as 'problems' to be 'fixed' - Helen Clark today has outlined a broad and positive agenda to realise the potential of young New Zealanders. Clark didn't deny the challenges we face. But she presented a Labour vision, and Labour policies to address them.
Clark did what Key didn't - she provided context. Rather than look at youth crime in isolation, she looked at the bigger picture - the economic context, the role of sustainability in propriety including social sustainability, the consequences of National's attacks on the most vulnerable in the 1990s.
Today's young violent criminals are the children of
the "Mother of All Budgets" in 1991.
A magic wand can't wave that away - but by giving everyone a chance to succeed and supporting the economy's potential to grow, we can over time make a big difference.
And most importantly she talked about early intervention. The point I was making yesterday about dealing with the symptoms and not the causes of youth crime. When we have 14 and 15 year olds committing serious crime we know we have failed as a society. When things get to that point, it is much more difficult and resource intensive to turn things around. Which is why Labour is investing in early intervention - early childhood education, B4 School Health Checks to identify young people with anti-social behaviour early and tackle it then. That is visionary. Condemning our young people to lives of poverty and crime and then sending them to boot camp is not ambitious for New Zealand.
And finally, Labour continues the biggest extension of state education in New Zealand's history - first through early childhood education, and now through extending the school leaving age to 18. But this is a modern approach where young people can opt for training or apprenticeships rather than just formal schooling.
Helen's speech was a more compelling and holistic state of the nation. She looked to the potential of our young people and business and families to succeed. A message of hope and optimism. Substance.