In Tauranga in 2021, Secretary of Education Chris Hipkins announced the extension of the school lunch plan. Photo / NZME
With a pandemic, climate change, deep inequality and a bleak picture on the international scene, it’s all too easy to feel cynical about our ability to make the world a better place at this time.
It seems that the task of our political leaders today is to run from crisis to crisis to fight fires. As the Prime Minister bluntly put it this week, “The world is bloody chaotic.”
This has been the trend for a while, but I would argue that it’s only getting worse.
And as we’re seeing in Sydney right now, climate change means we’ll live in a world where natural disasters – from floods to droughts to fires – are much more common.
The task of any government will quickly become that of disaster management and response.
Being pessimistic, being so overwhelmed by major catastrophes in the world, turning off the news and checking that you forget all the good that governments can do to change people’s lives.
I think that would be a big mistake.
Because the modern world is beset with great problems, our collective choices still matter to them. Government can still be an instrument for truly positive change.
A few examples have come to my mind lately.
See what happened to the new school food policy. More than 220,000 children are guaranteed healthy meals every day; To date, more than 45 million meals have been provided to hungry children.
And principals and teachers rave about how this affects students’ ability to learn and focus in the classroom.
It was reported this week that one headmaster said it was “a real game changer” for his children, while another said: “Of all the years of educational initiatives, this has made the biggest difference. “
Or here’s one of my favorites: Remember the dreaded “UT tax”? If you listen to the cynical and talkative hosts, that would be the end of the Kiwi-Ute. Merchants had to take the bus with the tools on their backs.
Of course, it all turned out to be bullshit.
With lots of people still buying Utes, it’s just that the extra money went into cleaner car rebates, and it’s worked exceptionally well.
Last year, before the rebate was introduced, hybrids and electric vehicles accounted for just 8 per cent of new car purchases in New Zealand. Today it is 20 percent. It has more than doubled in less than a year.
That means thousands more people are saving money on gas and reducing their carbon emissions.
Or what about mental health? It’s not talked about enough, but in 2019 more than 330,000 people received psychological support from their GP after major investments in mental health.
For people in such situations, this intervention can prevent small mental health problems from growing into something bigger – it could literally be life-saving for some of those 330,000 people.
Similarly, look at the huge difference made by wage subsidies. It is likely that hundreds of thousands of Kiwis would have lost their jobs during the lockdown, without it tens of thousands of businesses would surely have collapsed.
Imagine if we increased our current Covid inflation while large numbers of Kiwis were out of work? Instead, we have the lowest unemployment on record.
I would argue that all this cynicism and desperation should be countered.
Yes, the world is a darker and scarier place than it was 20 years ago. But if you’re one of hundreds of thousands of kids who are learning better because they’re full, or one of hundreds of thousands who got psychological support when they needed it, then these changes are all for you. can make a difference. ,
Indifference or despair doesn’t really solve a problem. Pessimism doesn’t make anyone better.
And when we look around, we see that when we join forces, things get better. Good ideas still make a big difference.
Hayden Munro was the campaign manager for Labor’s successful 2020 election victory. He now works in corporate PR for Wellington-based firm Capital Communications & Government Relations.