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Security: social, financial, personal, digital

Written By: - Date published: 9:05 am, April 10th, 2013 - 17 comments
Categories: accountability, benefits, child welfare, class war, david cunliffe, democracy under attack, families, jobs, Judith Collins, labour, paula bennett, poverty, public services, unemployment - Tags: ,

Yesterday more planks in the NAct raft of small changes, were before the House.  These small changes add up to major changes that whittle away the rights of individuals, undermine democracy, and increase hardship and insecurity for those on low incomes.  Meanwhile the government is failing to fulfill it’s responsibilities, and gaining more dubious powers over people’s lives.

In the debate on the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill, Third Reading,* Jacinda Adern began by saying that this year was the 75th anniversary of NZ Social Security.  Ardern’s speech highlights the main problems with Bennett’s punitive investment approach, in which all the responsibility is on the claimant.  Ardern then goes on to outline Labour’s vision for the re-instating of Social Security as it was originally intended; a system that does not divide people into the deserving and undeserving poor; a system based on the social contract, in which the state also has responsibilities.

She said that the Social Security system needs to be changed, but not in the way this Bill is doing.  Ardern argued, that if we want to rebuild it so that it is,

… one that acts as a dignified transition for those who need it for a short time; and a dignified support system for those, for reasons of terminal illness or significant disability, will need it for a longer period of time, we no longer need to have the political games that are ocurring around welfare.  It is Labour’s vision that we rebuild the foundations of what we built 35 years ago.  We first must start by remembering the social contract and that is that the state has a responsibility too.

Ardern goes on to identify ways in which the current government is failing to meet it’s responsibilities for instant by not ensuring there are sufficient jobs available.  She argues that this government have produced “these punitive welfare reforms” at a time of high unemployment, and “massive job losses”.  Ardern then outlines all the hurdles of appointments people need to go through to get some support, all without limited individual support from a case manager.

“This  is the investment approach that the minister speaks of.  This Bill tears up the idea of a social contract.

… The government’s job is simply to sanction you when to fail.

Then Ardern outlines Labour’s vision of a proactive system for the 76th year of social security.  It is one that will recognise the major and tough job of case managers, who must be supported.  Labour’s vision will incorporate returning dignity to the system.  Labour will take a long term view, for instance through provision of genuine investments in decent training and employment opportunities.

It may not be glamorous or something the minister can stick a ribbon on and sell to the media. But these are the families that need long term intervention, and not just by a work broker.

This is a significant and important promise on the part of Labour, and many of us will be watching to see that they do not deviate from such a vision.

Another Bill before the House yesterday was Peter Dunne’s Child Support Amendment Bill Third Reading.  In this Cunliffe explained why Labour would not be supporting it.  he describes it as a missed opportunity, by (Dunne) “the little engine that couldn’t”.  He asks why the minister didn’t write into the Bill that the interests of the child come first. This is also the best for society, because it is more likely to produce people that grow up to be productive members of society.

Around the time the government changed, in 2008,

… there was $1.3 Billion of uncollected child support debt and penalties. 4 years later, under this ministers watch, this has doubled to $2.7 Bilion of  unpaid child – it’s doubled in 4 years.

Cunliffe quotes Judith Collins who said, “Writing off debts gives the worst possible message to absent parents.” However, in contrast, this Bill rightly writes down penalties. But why did it take the government 4 years to do it?  There is an inflexible, non-transparent “formula change”, with limited range at the heart of the Bill.  It is likely that it will result in less money going to the mothers, who are usually the main carers.  Meanwhile, the costs of administering these provisions will rise “$1000 million of red tape, to wrap a bow around a debt mountain that’s doubled on its watch.” This is fiddling with the system, not fixing it.  This Bill needs to go back to the drawing board.

Labour is also concerned that the strengthening of IRD’s ability to make automatic deductions without consent.  Cunliffe notes that today, on the same day as this reading, Dunne has “issued a press release suggesting that IRD should be able to share for the first time, personal and private taxpayer information with other government agencies, for the purposes of crime fighting.”  This when there is a poor record of emailing private information to the wrong individuals.

And Cunliffe concludes his speech by needling the government benches on issues of privacy, PM shoulder tapping, and general lack of trust.

These Bills are all part of the way that our current government is whittling away democracy, government responsibility and trust, and increasingly taking away people’s rights to privacy, social security, and access to fair and transparent systems.

* I have previously posted about the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill – here, and here.

17 comments on “Security: social, financial, personal, digital”

  1. dpalenski 1

    Arden speech brought tears of hope to my eyes is Labour fighting for history now that Thatcher is dead I hope so

    • Colonial Weka 1.1

      Here’s the problem though. Adern sounds good, until you start listening for the detail. The feeling and intent is good, but Labour still haven’t fronted up with policy that will make much of a difference to welfare recipients.

      eg

      It is one that will recognise the major and tough job of case managers, who must be supported.

      Nice, but WINZ doesn’t use a case management system at the moment. If a beneficiary wants to talk with someone about their benefit etc, they make an appointment, and then they see the first available staff. ie someone who may never have met the beneficiary before, and probably doesn’t know anything about their situation or benefit entitlements. This is an incredibly inefficient way of working, and it is demeaning to beneficiaries because it puts them in the position of having to fight for their entitlements every time they engage with WINZ. It is such a poor way for WINZ to be working (and it’s been done before this way), that I can’t believe that NACT are doing this for any other reason than to undermine beneficiaries and the system in general (most likely to prepare it for privatisation).

      Even before this round of fucking with case management, back when beneficiaries did have an actual case manager, the system was pretty dysfunctional. Including under Labour.

      What I want to see from Labour is a statement that outlines how they will expect WINZ to run case management effectively, including how the new case management system will support beneficiaries and frontline staff, and the ways in which frontline staff will be trained in different benefit areas (eg Medical, DPB etc) so that staff understand the specific issues involved.

      Until Labour start putting policy detail on the table, it’s all just emotionally satisfying rhetoric. Sorry, but given Labour’s history, they just can’t be trusted until they say what they will actually do.

      • karol 1.1.1

        The context of Ardern’s quoted statement was that she was critical of the way, at the moment, people are put through loads of hurdles without any contact with a case manager – they are just sent through processes with a large group of others (eg job training workshops).

        I am pleased that Ardern has shifted away from a Shearer type focus on the “undeserving” poor. She is no longer just focusing on work readiness, but the importance of supporting those who need long term support for whom paid work may be inappropriate.

        However, I agree, weka, that pressure needs to be kept up on Labour to honour, and flesh out the vision Ardern outlined yesterday.

        • Olwyn 1.1.1.1

          I agree Karol, that speech did have a tone of commitment. Adrern did call National to account for vilifying the people one social welfare while at the same time asking people to employ them. She also made the distinction between welfare and social security.And I agree that the pressure needs to remain on Labour not to renege in this area, especially while it remains under Shearer’s leadership.

      • NickS 1.1.2

        Until Labour start putting policy detail on the table, it’s all just emotionally satisfying rhetoric. Sorry, but given Labour’s history, they just can’t be trusted until they say what they will actually do.

        And under Shearer I get the feeling that it will not happen :/

        Mainly because PR hacks will claim it wont attract “the centre” away while Labour bleeds support from it grass roots.

  2. Dr Terry 2

    God for Ardern! Cunliffe may not in fact be the Leader, but he sure acts as the Leader should!

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    there was $1.3 Billion of uncollected child support debt and penalties. 4 years later, under this ministers watch, this has doubled to $2.7 Bilion of unpaid child – it’s doubled in 4 years.

    Yeah and there’s probably a good reason for that and it’s probably the legislation. Anecdotal story:

    My nephew is a building contractor (otherwise known as a carpenter) and before the GFC was on good money. After the GFC he wasn’t with his gross income dropping from 130k+ to less than 30k. In the first year after the GFC he got a large bill from ACC – something like $5k. After some discussions with ACC it turns out that ACC base a contractors present ACC levy on what the persons income was two years ago.

    I suspect that child support payments from absent parents is the same – and we’ve had a lot of people become unemployed over the last few years and then getting charged with child support payments far in excess of what they can pay due to the system being far out of date.

    • Rogue Trooper 3.1

      when I was paying support for my daughter (in addition to informal contributions),the same approach applied; liability assessments based on previous years earnings and for a review to be permitted the change in income had to be greater than a certain %; anyway, when one goes from 70K to part-time gardening, or has time off for illness or study mid financial year, on and on it goes and the penalties were certainly cumulative back then.

    • RedBaronCV 3.2

      Er No. Wage and salary earners have their income based on the 10 months ending Dec 12 for the assessments that go out in Mar 13. The self employed have their’s based on the last tax return filed plus I think a CPI %. Self employed can file up to 12 mths later if they have a tax agent. Mar 12 has to be filed by Mar 13 so if they hurry up and file their income is more recent.

      At $130,000 your nephew had about $40,000 that was not included in any calculation so he would have been paying for say 2 kids, around $17,000, about 10% of his gross salary and for that he gets the free childcare and all the kid’s bills paid. She’s probably using all her income.

      The taxpayer stumps up the rest by way of DPB and WFF even though he could afford more.
      Catastrophic drops are catered for – a current earning level can be used.

      With that income why wasn’t he saving for a rainy day and why was he not paying more to let the taxpayer off the hook?

      • Draco T Bastard 3.2.1

        You did see the bit where I mentioned that my nephew was dealing with ACC didn’t you?

        With that income why wasn’t he saving for a rainy day…

        He was – it was wiped out pretty quickly after the GFC hit. Several months without an income will do that to people.

  4. RedBaronCV 4

    Yes, no income does wipe people out like – umm women on benefits and their kids that live in poverty but somehow we have systems that do not cut them any slack. Like the Legislation passed today.

    So yes I feel for anybody who takes a large hit in their income but is it permanent, or somewhat temporary as there was quite a lot of slack given by IRD etc around the GFC and Child support can be brought down quickly. Also are these people pulling there weight in good times? $130000 is about um $75000 in the hand for a single male after tax and child support.

    • felix 4.1

      How are you calculating that, RB?

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      So yes I feel for anybody who takes a large hit in their income but is it permanent, or somewhat temporary as there was quite a lot of slack given by IRD etc around the GFC and Child support can be brought down quickly.

      Would you please read what I’m writing?

      I said that my nephew was dealing with ACC. It had nothing to do with child support as my nephew doesn’t have any children.

      I was using it as a story to show how legislation could be the cause of the blowout in unpaid child support.

    • Dr Dan 4.3

      You have obviously never been involved with child support. Draco is right, the IRD are usually intransigent and will not usually allow re-estimation if they can help it, The excuses are things like there is no proof (although there are penalties to catch out false estimates) and the old crock of “potential earnings” (even if you have no income you could potentially earn $200k).
      Why do you feel it is fine for men paying child support to be wiped out, what effect do you think it has on their children when they top themselves as hundreds do?
      This is a vile piece of legislation and it’s about time it was rewritten with an eye to fairness and achieving the best outcomes for all parties. Dunne Nothing unfortunately is not the man for the job.

  5. Michael 5

    I think Ardern’s speech was empty window dressing – designed to pander to middle class sensitivities about increasing poverty (and growing risk of downward social mobility) but without actually telling them they will have to pay more tax to restore the welfare state. With Labour, the devil is always in the details, compared to NACT, which is upfront about its desire to shaft the poor. There was a noticeable lack of support for Ardern from Labour’s heavies, with supporting speeches left to the backbenchers. I see no commitment from Labour to repeal the provisions in this Bill, if it ever forms a government again; neither do I see a commitment to enact decent social welfare legislation appropriate for the needs of New Zealanders in the 21st century. This should be an absolute priority of any “Labour” party worth the name, IMHO.

    • karol 5.1

      I agree that Ardern’s statements seem out of step with the basic values of Team Shearer. However, I think it’s interesting that Ardern has moved from Shearer apologist and implicitly supporting his undeserving poor line, to explicit support for a full reinstatement of social security as it was intended in the 1930s.

      This is a bit of Kremlinology on my part. But I will be watching with interest to see where it (and Ardern’s politics, lead.

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