Eye to Eye with Willie Jackson tackles Poverty

Published: Fri 1 Jun 2007 04:52 PM
Eye to Eye with Willie Jackson tackles Poverty,
“We’ve all had trouble paying our bills and received final notices and threats about the phone being cut off, but you don’t expect other people to pay for it - hell no. You don’t get electricity, water and all these utilities by right.”
That’s the reaction of Radio Live talk back host James Coleman, to the media furore over Folole Muliaga’s tragic death following the switching off of her power by a Mercury Energy contractor. Coleman, reprimanded by Radio Live management this week for his inflammatory statements on the issue, is a guest on Eye to Eye with Willie Jackson this week to debate whether or not electricity is a right or a luxury.
“Should people just have the right to use as much power or utility for as long as they like without paying for it? We should be mindful that energy is a scarce and precious resource,” said Coleman.
Coleman says Green MP Sue Bradford’s suggestion that legislation is needed to stop power companies pulling the power plug on needy families is nonsense.
“Sue is suggesting we let people churn through the power and not make payment for it … people, if you use some sort of commodity you need to consider how you are going to pay it back or pay for it,” he said.
But Bradford, former unionist and advocate for the underpaid and impoverished, says poverty is rife, particularly among the Maori and Pacific Island communities. She says they should not have pulled the plug.
“Is there no social responsibility requirement? No code of conduct? What happened to this woman could happen anywhere to anybody at any time. I would like to see parliament look again at water and power and where the bar is set at making sure these necessities are provided to all citizens. These are necessities of life – and yet everyday there are people living in poverty,” said Bradford.
The Greens have called for a public inquiry and Bradford says it’s an ethical and fairness issue.
“It’s absolutely shocking that a small country could come to this – we are an international disgrace over it … that we could do this to one of our citizens? – surely we can do better,” she said.
Mrs Muliaga’s death is currently being investigated by the Police however James Coleman doubts that any New Zealander would flick the switch knowing it would cause somebody to die.
“Who would cut the power to oxygen? I don’t think we have such a monster in our community. But the question is, did the contractor know? I don’t think he did, I don’t think anyone would do that? He’s got a ghastly job, what he has to do is akin to a debt collector or repossession agent. He’s got to go to families, where for whatever reason, he has to face people saying please don’t cut the power off. He’s got to make a call,” said Coleman.
Coleman says Mercury and Mighty River Power shouldn’t shoulder all the blame. Folole’s family, he says, could have done more.
“What sort of culture will sit by and let something like this happen rather than being proactive and saying bloody hell what’s going on, get a generator, plug a machine in, throw a blanket over her, make something happen because she’s going to die. The two hour period between this event developing and the power being cut off - that’s the crux. Where were her family, her carers, her husband? Why hadn’t the children done something? It’s a miserable state of affairs.”
Bradford says it’s far too easy to point the finger at the victims, rather than the profit-driven companies she says have gone too far at the expense of people who are struggling to pay for basic human necessities like power and water.
"Things are looking very bleak for this country when companies will literally allow someone to die in the pursuit of profits," she said.
Also joining Coleman and Bradford on the Eye to Eye panel this week are political commentator and Union man Matt McCarten and Libertarian Lindsay Perigo.
Tune in to Eye to Eye with Willie Jackson, TV1, Saturday 0930am for another scintillating half hour of current affairs from a Maori perspective.
This week’s episode ‘Poverty’ will be accessible on our website at from this Sunday – if you miss it. Please feel free to email your comments and feedback to Willie and his production team.

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