Beating a dead gift horse

Dr Rachel Hodder
Insights newsletter
19 May, 2017

You should never look a gift horse in the mouth. Nor should you publicly bag the gift horse and accuse it of causing misery across the country.

Surely everyone would agree to that. If someone is giving you money, you don’t insult them, you get on your knees and lick their boots.

It is therefore baffling that there has been such a hubbub when Associate Housing Minister Alfred Ngaro said something to that effect.

Ngaro threatened NGOs to not play politics with the Government. “We are not happy about people taking with one hand and throwing with the other... If you get up on the campaign trail and start bagging us, then all the things you are doing are off the table. They will not happen”

He, like many good Government faithful, are sick of people talking endlessly about this make-believe housing crisis.

If all these homeless people really want somewhere to live, they should build the darned house themselves. It is not like there are any regulatory barriers stopping ordinary Kiwis getting into an appropriately zoned, resource consented, building code compliant, council approved house of their own.  

But really, what is so wrong with refusing to give money to someone who bags you? You would not return to a supermarket if the cashier called you mean names. You would not give money to beggars who hurl abusive slurs at you. Is it so much for the Government to ask that the organisations they give money to also toe the party line?

Ngaro later backtracked from his earlier stance. He clarified that he only meant that NGOs should be “mindful” of how criticism of the Government might affect their working relationship.

See? Totally reasonable. If Government is giving you something, it is only reasonable that you are mindful not to criticise it.

Indeed, everyone should be a bit more mindful of criticising Government. How will that affect our working relationship when we use the roads, schools, hospitals, and all other myriad services it charitably bestows upon us? It would certainly make it easier for IRD if their ‘customers’ were more appreciative.

There is no reason for Ngaro to apologise. If anything, the public owed the Government an apology for how ungrateful it has been. We will be sure to be mindful of what we owe them come election day. 

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