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Free Press. Tete-a-tete

Free Press. Tete-a-tete

ACT’s regular bulletin

This weekend Jacinda Ardern argued for the government, or an agency of Government, to set wages for whole industries. This is the proposal associated with the Kristine Bartlett vs. TerraNova case, where the Employment Court found that ‘pay equity’ can mean wages in one industry being set by comparison to another industry.

Why Not?
As David Seymour argues in his reply, if there was discrimination going on based on gender, where employers were actively thinking women should be paid less, we’d be the first to oppose it. Women do get paid less than men, but when you allow for a range of different choices that individuals make, such as on hours, danger, and subject choices, the gap all but disappears. The big remaining difference comes back to gender roles in bringing up children, where the culture is changing but there is otherwise little Government can do.

As expert employment lawyer Peter Cullen has said “Bartlett’s case is therefore somewhat of a step back to the days when union power and centralised wage fixing were supreme.” It echoes the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation, which has said aircraft cabin crew get paid less than pilots because they are mainly women and pilots are mainly men. It has taken a long time to get a free labour market, we don’t want to start going backwards.

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Prices and Information
ACT opposes all government price setting because we know prices are not just costs to be paid, they contain information. Information about what consumers are willing to pay, what producers are willing to sell for. In short, prices reflect human desire, and government price controls override people’s choices.

Poets and Accountants
If you want to be a poet that’s great, but you may find most people prefer to spend money on things other than your poetry. Some people think being an accountant is less romantic than writing poetry, but people will pay you a lot more for it. When Government overrides these price signals, it is overriding people’s desires leading to shortages of things people want and excesses of thing they don’t.

Government Must Act
The Government cannot let the court case stand. If it doesn’t legislate then the court will take us back to the collectivist days described by Peter Cullen, so what to do? No doubt the Government will be reluctant to be seen as anti-women, and that’s how the political left will paint it if it legislates over the TerraNova case, but the principle of a free labour market should not be abandoned lightly.

A Way Out?
There is an argument in cases such as TerraNova that the problem is really discrimination after all, it is the fact that there’s only one employer in the market and that’s the government (health and education tend to be dominated by women and by government). If the government isn’t being a good employer, what to do? If the government does legislate it should ensure that sector-to-sector pay equity comparisons only apply when government is the employer.

Signing Out
Free Press readers can be assured there will be no more identity politics for a while, we believe in a free society where all people are equal before the law. However, with the TerraNova case, the Chiefs stripper scandal, deadbeat dads, and the like, it seems New Zealand politics has not finished with gender as an issue.

Where are Winston’s List MPs?
Free Press enjoys Jamie MacKay’s Farming Show on Newstalk ZB. Regular guest Don Nicolson will say favourable things about ACT without being paid. Fascinatingly, another regular guest is David Broome – Winston Peters’ taxpayer-funded chief of staff. Convention is for such staffers to work behind the scenes on Parliamentary duties, but New Zealand First have essentially used taxpayer funding to give themselves an extra spokesperson. Why can’t Winston send one of his 10 list MPs to fill the slot? Doesn’t he trust his Primary Industries spokesman, Richard Prosser?

Highlights from the House
Free Press readers may want a summary of what’s happening in Wellington – Highlights from the House is a semi-regular update on David Seymour’s speeches in the House and media statements. You can read the latest edition here.


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