We seem to be living in an era of virtual government, where governments promote only an illusion of policy kapow! rather than the sort of leadership where real solutions are proposed, funded and enacted. Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett’s latest bright idea on the social housing shortage definitely falls into this digital FX realm of faux policy.
Rather than build new houses or increase allowances to meet existing needs, Bennett’s response is to pay the needy and the homeless to go somewhere else where they – hopefully – won’t be a visible presence in the Auckland electorates that are of more pressing political concern to this government in 2017.
The government is considering paying those on Auckland’s housing wait list a lump sum, as well as moving costs if they go somewhere with empty houses.
Half of the country’s entire wait list for social housing was in Auckland alone – over 2000 households. That backlog prompted Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett to suggest cash incentives to get people looking elsewhere.
This kind of transmigration policy is more commonly associated with countries like Indonesia, which routinely dumps its unwanted millions of poor Javanese out into its outposts of empire, such as West Papua. One of the problems with the Bennett proposal is that Porirua is second on the list of her prospective dumping grounds yet – according to the town’s mayor – Porirua doesn’t have the resources to cope with an influx, especially since it is facing an influx of Syrian refugees next month who will stretch any resources that may currently exist on Bennett’s green screen.
Porirua’s mayor, Nick Leggett, said his city was one of the places it was suggested they go… “We don’t have massive vacancies and we’ve got people with unmet need currently, who are not being housed. So I would prefer to see that locals have that need met first.”
He said a group of incoming refugees from Syria would also add to the pressure, and said many people waiting for houses did not fit the requirements for the homes that were available.
Mayors of other regional cities are saying much the same. Namely: any people being enticed to relocate would need to have jobs and resources beforehand, such that they would not become a drain on destinations already under stress. Meaning: such people probably wouldn’t need to be paid to relocate in the first place.
Gisborne mayor Meng Foon said they too had vacant houses, but most needed major work to be liveable. He said he did not have a problem with paying people to move to Gisborne so long as they worked when they were there. “Relocate people that have potential, that have jobs, that have the potential to build businesses in Gisborne.” New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd said the lure of a cash carrot was not enough on its own.
Oops. Reset. Can a new virtual solution be devised by the FX crew that come up with this government’s fantasy policy mix? If the social housing ‘solution’ was meant to be a trailer for the big production – in which Bennett is cast as the Wonder Woman who leads the National Party into its future après Key – then there’s obvious trouble ahead. Currently, the (ballot) box office returns from a production cast led by Paula B. look decidedly risky. She may be a solid character actor, but she’s just not leading woman material at this stage.
Paralysis in Iran
New Zealand is not the only country saddled with a government that seems to be more of a façade than a living, working reality. Iran is in the same fix, too. If Iran’s (relatively) liberal Rouhani government was hoping that its nuclear deal and the lifting of international sanctions would win it some brownie points at home….well, it will be feeling disappointed.
How come? Well, in the same week that the Rouhani government was celebrating its success in bringing Iran back into the international fold – with all the economic advantages this should entail – the clerical authorities of Iran’s Guardian Council were busily rejecting almost all the liberal/moderate candidates that had applied for permission to run in the February 26 parliamentary elections:
Sunday, a day after the sanctions were lifted, Rouhani said he was “not happy” that only four of his candidates in Tehran to run in next month’s parliamentary elections were approved by Iran’s Guardian Council, according to Iranian reporter Rohollah Faghihi at Entekhab News.
The four are among [only] 30 moderates approved to run, representing a mere 1% of all candidates, said Ali Vaez, an Iran analyst with the International Crisis Group based in London. The Guardian Council consists of members appointed by the supreme leader and parliament to vet candidates seeking office.
The nuclear deal has exacerbated political infighting in Iran between Rouhani and hard-liners who opposed the [nuclear] accord, and the clash “will get worse before it gets even worse,” Vaez said.
Iran will go to the polls on two separate issues in February (a) to elect a Parliament, and (b to elect the “Council of Experts” that will select a successor to the country’s ailing supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In June 2017, Iran will elect a new President. For liberals, it is an exercise in frustration. More than once in the past 20 years, the country has elected relatively liberal figures as President – Mohammed Khatami in 1997, Hassan Rouhani a couple of years ago – only to see their tentative attempts at reform being stymied by the conservatives who control all the key levers of government.
Presumably, Barack Obama and Rouhani could vent to each other for hours about that situation. Alas, there are consequences. Ultimately, it was the public disillusionment with Khatami’s political impotence that opened the door to the election of a genuine conservative, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in 2005.
So that’s the lesson. When governments are ineffectual and the public gets turned off by a political process that fails to deliver for them, the conservatives still get to treat that as a win – both here, and in Iran.
Jordan Lee is a nomadic American musician who records under the name Mutual Benefit. There’s an informative interview with him on the Stereogum site here.
What Lee does is make floatingly beautiful music, much of it shot through with the ambient natural sounds he records on his travels. Both these great tracks – “Advanced Falconry” and “Golden Wake” – are from the 2013 Mutual Benefit album Love’s Crushing Diamond. Incidentally, the “Falconry” video was shot by Lance Bangs, the husband of Sleater-Kinney vocalist Corin Tucker.