Byron Clark’s speech at Linwood Community Arts Center

Christchurch Central candidate Byron Clark recently spoke at a meeting at the Linwood Community Arts Center organised by ICENG (Inner City East Neighbourhood Group, Inc) and Te Whare Roimata Trust. Candidates were asked to speak on the three most important issues facing New Zealand and the three most important issues facing Christchurch Central.

It was not difficult to pick the three most important issues facing New Zealand that I will talk about tonight.

The first is inequality.

A recent OECD report showed that inequality has increased significantly in New Zealand since the mid 1980s, while in the same period, there has been a significant increase in income poverty. It is notable that for most of this twenty year period we have had Labour in government. Inequality is not the result of some people being paid more than others, its the result of most of the wealth created by workers being legally stolen by an exploiting class the produces nothing, while we are paid just a fraction of that wealth in wages. To help alleviate this, the Workers Party would remove all restrictions on workers right to organise and take industrial action for better pay and conditions. For the unemployed, who’s numbers are expected to increase and capitalism goes further into an inevitable downturn, we would reverse Nationals 1991 benefit cuts, something Labour hasn’t done after nearly a decade in power.

Secondly, Freedom, or lack there of. We support the unrestricted right of people to speak, publish and participate in the political process, one of our candidates has been forced to take unpaid leave from his job for the duration of the campaign due to an undemocratic provision of the Electoral Act that prevents public servants from standing without giving up their income for three weeks. But its not just public sector workers that have their free speech rights restricted, I could draw your attention to the recent case where a Warehouse employee was fired for a critical comment about her employer made on the Internet, or I could bring up the -pefectly legal- contract McDonald’s employees sign saying they won’t talk about their working conditions to the media, without risking dismissal. When you can take someones income away from them for speaking out, you are taking away their right to free speech.

The third issue is environmental degradation, this is undoubtedly the biggest issue facing not only New Zealand but the world. The Workers Party is calling for solutions radically different from the mainstream parties. With the exception of ACT who don’t believe in human caused climate change, every party in parliament has supported the Emissions Trading Scheme, a free market solution to environmental issues. The free market hasn’t worked in the social sphere, why will it work in the environmental sphere?
We need environmentally sustainable production to meet human need, rather than private profit. And the way to do this is though a democratic planned economy.

Vote for us, and join the movement for real social change. Workers should be running the country.

Three issues facing Christchurch Central

While voters in Christchurch Central are effected by the issues I mentioned earlier, particularly inequality as this is one of the most unequal electorates in the country. Yet there are some significant local issues that concern me.

The first is housing, in amongst the increasing cost of food, petrol and electricity, council housing tenants, typically on low and fixed incomes, have seen an increase in their rents. While much of the blame can go to Bob Parkers city council, central government has played a part as Labours Local Government Act requires public services to be run as if they were commercial enterprises.
The Workers Party advocates a public housing program, to provide people with affordable housing and give work to the hundreds of construction workers losing their jobs in the recession.

Secondly, transport. This is another area where progress is constrained by the Local Government Act, while high petrol prices are causing more people to use public transport, bus fares are also going up. The Workers Party supports free public transport, organised by an elected public transport board made up of representatives of bus drivers and commuters. This way communities could decide how to most effectively serve their transport needs. We also support the development of light rail solutions and the building of infrastructure more conductive to cycling.

And third, is the issue of urban decay and the erosion of public space. For years we have heard about the decline of the central city and its not just rhetoric, I don’t have to walk far from my High St apartment to find buildings that have been empty for years. These locations could be used for public housing. Apartment buildings are energy efficient, and will reduce transport needs and road congestion if people can live near their workplace. There is also the problem of the erosion of public space, the suburban malls are psudo public space, sure you can shop there, but see how long before your trespassed if you hand out a political leaflet, or as happened to one of our Auckland members, try to help mall workers unionise. The central city is one of the last areas of public space we have, and the right of all individuals and groups to speak, hand out leaflets and put up posters should be protected.

Christchurch Central is a working class electorate, and needs an MP that represents works interests. If elected, I’ll take only the average Workers Wage from my MP salary and donate the rest to organisations advancing the interests of workers, elect me, and you won’t be disappointed.

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