Who will you vote for?

It’s the all important date that determines the fate of so much and so many. Election day. This week Prime Minister Bill English announced that New Zealanders will select the future direction of their nation on September 23, and already the electioneering gears of every political party will be whizzing into action.

Which policies and platforms will resonate with people most? What are the issues that Kiwis care about? How best to market party leaders and messages?

Is it immigration and jobs, as Americans and Britons believe? Or perhaps law and order? Maybe the issue that sits under the skin of most Kiwis is education or the economy?

Whatever the case I would like to suggest that all of those issues hinge on one thing: the thing that every election should really be about.

It is a six letter word that has greater influence in a justice system than a Judge or law maker. It’s the tiny word that has greater sway over your chances of entering a life of crime or unemployment than rehabilitation funding or the amount paid out for the dole. It is the simple little word that underlines the findings of almost every aspect of our very own Dunedin study when it comes to the outcomes of individuals in our society.

It’s the word that speaks more strongly than teachers or their pay systems regarding the educational outcomes of children, according to international research. Its syllables have more to say about your future financial security and contribution to the economy than your socio-economic status or social engagement levels.

It is the sound that echoes longest about your likelihood of maintaining safe, stable and nurturing relationships.

That humble little word is family.

It is family that we really need to talk about if we sincerely want to make the world a better place. Good laws, great wages, and fantastic jobs are wonderful things, but more important are good dads, great mums and fantastic marriages.

That is because good laws don’t make for law-abiding citizens, good parents do. Great wages don’t make for wealthy people, children who have learned to manage money wisely do. Fantastic jobs don’t make for a stunning economy, young people who can stick in them long-term and work hard do.

Strong and stable families are the institution that underpins and strong and stable country.

That’s why every child in New Zealand both needs and deserves the right to know both their parents wherever possible.

That is why we need schools that stick to the job of teaching kids facts and figures and that let parents do the job of teaching children about sex, life, identity and how to think.

That is why we need a justice system that recognizes children have an inherent right to know who made them and why. One complimented by social services that encourage mums and dads, as far as is possible, to grow happy, healthy marriages and one that benefits them for choosing to stick together.

That is why we need an economy and jobs that push parents out the door at day’s end to be back home with their families, and support systems in place not for early childhood education but for parents to spend more time with their kids.

We need a society where strong, stable relationships produce strong, stable individuals who have the time, energy and finances to look around their neighbourhood and see its needs – whether it is the single mother who just needs a meal made after a big day, or the immigrant kid struggling to learn English.

Yes, we need to vote for family this election.

This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz

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