Key's youth policy trumped by Clark
In response to what my co-blogger describes as Key's "law and order policy disguised as youth policy" Clark has taken what must be a final step in the scale of compulsory education - as the NZPA headlined - "Government to raise school leaving age to 18." It has been greeted coldly in the usual corners.
In practice it will be the extension of the apprenticeship scheme that will have the most impact as school-age students can already exempt themselves for many reasons from formal education. The last thing anyone would want is to keep failing students unsuited to the academic environment bottled up inside the uniformity and petty injustices of the state school system. One hopes the policy is not interpreted in this way - and it must be stated clearly: she did not say the age would be lifted to 18 explicitly.
The speech today will confuse more than clarify the respective parties positions. Clark offers a constructive angle whereas Key's play towards the conservatives and elderly is tinged with the punitive. That's not to say her actual speech was not negative either: her comments about "the politics of deception of the 1980s and ‘90s – the politics New Zealand banished eight years ago" is increasingly irrelevant. John Key wasn't even in parliament back then.
So too the tired and trite mantra the electorate have been ear-bashed with since Labour won in 1999:
"The truth is that New Zealand is still paying the price of past years of economic failure and harsh social policy.
Broken families and shattered lives were the product of long term, intergenerational high unemployment and deprivation. [...] Today’s young violent criminals are the children of the “Mother of All Budgets” in 1991."
What she never says is the cut-backs on benefits in '91 were kept by her government - she continued them, and last year made it even harsher by refusing to reinstate special benefits to people who have come back on to the benefit - all while the cost of living has escalated. What she says is quite misleading. Yes she gave back a free ride to those lucky enough to be in a state house and thus secured their votes for Labour in perpetuity, but what of the vast majority of the low-income families living in private accommodation with increasing rents? Working for Families only goes so far and targets the lower-middle class rather than the working class which Labour so obviously takes for granted.
The speech was upbeat, she appeared very positive, and in style at least Key still does not have the commanding voice and certainty that being PM for 8 years brings. Key has a lot of personal presentation work to do to convince the electorate he is the PM in waiting.