A sppech given by the ISO's Andrew Tait to Rock Enrol meeting
Ki te whare e tu nei, tena koeKi te marae takoto nei, tena koeKi te tangata whenua, Kai Tahu, tena koutouKi te tangata nei inaianei, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoaThank you for the invititation to speak here tonight on behalf of the International Socialists, to Jess and Olive and Sam and his team and everyone else who has helped organise this night – and to you all for coming out to Rock Enrol.
Who are we?
We are socialists – we stand for the rights of working people, students and the oppressed. We have been active in this city for 17 years – supporting strikes, campaigning for a living wage, fighting fees, and opposing racism, sexism and homophobia. We are internationalist. Many times we have organised demos that give Dunedin people a chance to speak out against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and modern-day apartheid in Israel/Palestine.
But we aren't just a protest organisation. We aim to represent the real interests of the working class majority of Dunedin, and New Zealand. Because although we have the right to vote – which was won by workers struggles – we are ruled by a kleptocracy, by a handful of wealthy families, by an old boys' club. No-one stands over us with a whip, but who steers the ship of state? Why do our young people have to emigrate to get decent work? Why do our wages stagnate, while rent, taxes and rates escalate?
Because we, the working class majority, have been defenceless in the face of a savage class war waged by the rich for the last thirty years. Some of you'll be wondering by now what planet I am on, what city I am describing. I'm telling a tale of two cities, one which owns the newspapers and runs the radio stations, the other which works, day in, day out, or sits alone at home, stuck without work on a starvation dole, with never a chance to speak for themselves.
A scant two years ago, the newspapers said the country was booming on the back of a real estate bubble. Times were good we were told, and then the house of cards folded and the same newspapers blamed us for living on tick, for spending beyond our means. But most working people, most people, made jack from the real estate boom, were shut out of the bubble or forced to buy a house at inflated prices.
These are the facts: In the 1980s, Labour privatised our national and municipal assets – providing windfall profits for speculators and redundancies and service cuts for us. In the 1990s, National smashed the unions and real wages took a hit of something like 25% from which they have never recovered. The Helen Clark government, which supposedly represents workers, enjoyed a decade-long economic boom. The wealth of the Rich List doubled. Worse, they had to raise the bar for entry from $25million to $50million. We got the crumbs once the rich had feasted.
Three decades of deceit from our politicians takes its toll on the electoral roll. Voter turnout has dropped as people tune out. Students have seen their fees rise year on year since 1989. Has the quality of education increased, are class sizes smaller? I know the Vice Chancellor's salary is bigger, over half a million now, so maybe some good has come of it.The average rental has gone up by more than 30% in the last decade alone, and probably doubled in the last 2. Are flats warmer and drier now though?The DCC, the University, the landlords and the liquor stores are an unholy alliance that leaches off the student population – something like 20,000 people – without any consultation, without any representation.
For working people, especially in South D, the situation is if anything worse. Even compared to our pathetic national average, wages in Otago are depressed. Labour MP Clare Curran has a nerve. She says she's angry. She revealed in Wednesday's D-Scene that she had discovered that people are doing it hard in the south. Lady, that's nothing new. What's more its only two years since your government was in power. Its good you're talking about this now but don't pretend you never knew.
To understand the contempt which our city bosses have for the south look at the sewage situation. For years, the beaches were regularly awash with a filthy brown tide. Beaches right beside some of the most highly populated suburbs in New Zealand, in Australasia. Beautiful beaches that enrich the lives of tens of thousands of people were smeared with shit for years, even while plans were laid for that monument to civic stupidity, a colossal memorial to the kleptocracy – the Forsyth Barr Stadium.
There's little more that can be said about this. We've got it now so we have to deal with it. But there's a warning here. When the majority are disenfranchised, are shut out of power by a few, don't except sensible decisions, expect idiocy.
Rock, enrol, and vote if you can peel through the candidates spin to find a good heart within but don't expect any positive changes until we can build a movement, many movements, to demand them and implement them.
For all of our troubles there is much that can be done. I'd like to tautoko the work of the Transition Towns in Port Chalmers, which is working to improve public transport to Port and in the NEV on insulation. I'd like to tautoko the work of Chris Matahaere, of Unite trade union, and all other unionists who work to improve our wages and conditions.
Because our vision of Dunedin is a grand one but it starts from grassroots work. Small steps to win free buses, free broadband, to defend our hospital and jobs and improve our wages and conditions will add together into a mighty movement that can reclaim democratic control of this city, this country, and the world from the control of the wealthy few.