Our future is...finding a renewed social contract
February 12 2:00 PM
AUTHOR: Robin Gunston
From time to time NZ has entered into social dialogue and "contracted" arrangements between the Crown and the people (or sometimes a distinct group of the people). There remain varying views as to the degree to which the Treaty of Waitangi was such a form of social contract and that discussion is likely to go beyond any further Constitution, if one ever gets enacted.
The last formal occasion on which such a social contract was mooted was in 1972, when the Royal Commission on Social Security reported on the principles which underpinned the New Zealand welfare state. The objectives were
(i) First, to enable everyone to sustain life and health;
(ii) Second, to ensure, within limitations which may be imposed by physical or other disability, that everyone is able to enjoy a standard of living much like the rest of the community, and is thus able to feel a sense of participation in and belonging to the community;
(iii) Third, where income maintenance alone is not sufficient, act to improve by other means the quality of life available.
Since that time the principles espoused and their enactment has been steadily undermined by successive Governments to a point where many social commentators believe we have the largest underclass in modern times and no longer have a safety net as envisaged above.
As Liberal Democrats we seek to ensure that no member of our society ends up with a quality of life that is plainly well below some agreed measure of sustaining life and health.
It is time we addressed this as a whole of society level and worked out collectively what is the minimum social contract we wish any neighbour of ours to have in today's NZ society. Inevitably that will raise the thorny issue of who pays and that is the debate that should ensue.e one
To be a New Zealander is to be one that does care about the degree of equitability in our country, if we leave it only to successive Governments to give leadership is to avoid our moral responsibility as human beings.