Notes from down under by Trevor Plumbly

New Zealand: the safest place on earth!

But that of course carries a cost: sometimes it’s a bit like living in a single room, with the smallest things providing distractions.

We don’t have a Donald Trump to keep us amused or an Angela Merkel to keep us focussed, so our pressmen tend to leap at headlines rather than newsworthy comment, such as: rugby player Sonny Bill Williams deciding to tape over a bank logo on his shirt for religious reasons and an academic in Otago seeking funding to run DNA research in Scotland in the hope that the Loch Ness Monster myth can be laid to rest. You have to question the mental health of a country that accepts these sorts of inanities as a staple news diet.

Kristine Bartlett centre with some of her colleagues

Gainful employment?

But we do have worthwhile stories: Kristine Bartlett is a care worker for the aged, and a fighter for her 50 odd thousand counterparts, mainly women. Such workers do the job most of us don’t have the stomach for and don’t really want to spend too much thought on. Having someone needing rest home care is enough of a guilt trip, so we tend to avoid thoughts of soiled clothing and bedding, assisted toileting and so on; we prefer the finished product with our elderly neatly groomed, well fed and above all dignified and fresh smelling.

The trough overflows

With very little support, Ms Bartlett took the case for pay equity to the High Court and won! Those previously absent from the firing line emerged as long term supporters and finally, sensing the prospect of spilled electoral blood, the politicians awarded meaningful pay increases.

Bill English prime minister of NZ

A somewhat smug prime minister Bill English announced the successful outcome stressing the ‘goodwill’ that prevailed during negotiations, constantly using the word goodwill like a papal blessing. God bless him, he’s a true-blue dollar-each-way politico. The euphoria spread like wildfire and even the petticoat feminists in the party found good things to say about Ms Bartlett. Apart from a few company executives and their shareholders, it’s all win-win. All we need now is to see her named in the honours list, hopefully above aged pop stars, embryonic and elderly sportspeople or, more tellingly, those who performed ‘services to commerce’. As a direct result of her commitment, previously underpaid workers will now receive pay rises ranging from 8 to 40%. Go on Bill, give her a gong! A lot of us reckon she deserves it.

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