With Public Service Association members in the health sector, customs, immigration and elsewhere ready to tackle the coronavirus threat, the union says this crisis illustrates the need for properly funded public and community services.
The National Party this week attempted to draw a tenuous link between the economic impact of coronavirus and their perennial advocacy of tax cuts, but the PSA says this is a dangerous mistake.
"Whatever day of the week it is and whatever the question might be, you can bet good money the National Party will say the answer is tax cuts," says PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay.
"Most New Zealanders want to feel confident that if they end up in hospital, the health system will have enough money to hire enough staff, provide enough medicine, and put enough beds on the ward. Most New Zealanders want to feel confident our borders are protected from the spread of disease and dangerous substances. This is what our taxes pay for, and it’s worth it."
The virus has yet to establish a significant foothold in New Zealand and its effects are difficult to predict.
The PSA says the public should be reassured to know thousands of government workers around the country are painstakingly preparing for all possible scenarios.
"It’s interesting to compare this situation with the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. Our region dodged the worst of that, as we have so far avoided the worst of the coronavirus, but when capitalism entered its crisis a decade ago it wasn’t tax cuts that got us through," says Mr Barclay.
"Investment in public wellbeing, infrastructure spending and the maintenance of a strong welfare state is the best way to keep our economy strong and New Zealanders safe. In Australia following the GFC they used tax revenue to provide special payments to pensioners and low-income families, and it made a difference helping them weather the storm. We should be prepared to take a similar approach here."
The union believes knee-jerk advocacy of tax cuts will provide minimal or no benefit to working people, relative to the costs they could incur dealing with public services starved of funding.
National’s tax cuts in previous years overwhelmingly benefited high earners, and have contributed to a legacy of housing unaffordability and growing inequality.
"We have a growing population and there is already chronic underfunding in health, education and infrastructure. DHBs around New Zealand are cash strapped, and we don’t yet have funding in place to ensure all women and Māori people receive equal pay to their male counterparts," says Mr Barclay.
"It is reckless and short-sighted to propose draining more money from the public coffers as we head into increasingly uncertain times. New Zealand deserves better."