- Date published:
11:27 am, June 1st, 2019 - 101 comments
Categories: babies, benefits, Carmel Sepuloni, child welfare, class, families, greens, human rights, labour, national, nick smith, Politics, same old national, Simon Bridges, Social issues, welfare - Tags: agnes loheni, crosby textor, jo hayes, louise upston, maureen pugh, simon o'connor
The Government’s proposals for welfare reform has National licking its lips thinking of ways to attack beneficiaries for political advantage.
Simon Bridges kicked things off with this tweet:
It is funny but as pointed out by David McCormick on twitter the phrasing looks it has come straight out of Crosby Textor.
And onto the debate concerning the Social Assistance Legislation (Budget 2019 Welfare Package) Amendment Bill.
The bill is designed to implement three things:
The provisions are hardly radical. The first two have been talked about for years.
Carmel Sepuloni set out the justification for the third in her speech when she said this:
The repealing of section 192 of the Social Security Act 2018 will ensure the removal of a discriminatory sanction that has been allowed to exist in legislation for far too long. Section 192 of the Social Security Act 2018—formerly section 70A—reduces the benefits of sole parents if they do not name the other parent of their child and apply for child support. This sanction does not apply to any other parents receiving other benefits who might choose not to apply for child support, such as those receiving benefits who have found new partners.
In 2016, the National Government was advised that there was insufficient evidence to support that the then section 70A sanction was fulfilling its purpose of collecting child support from unnamed parents. That briefing also said that section 70A sanctions were associated with poverty and long-term benefit dependence. The sanction is discriminatory and creates undue hardship for children. This Government wants to ensure New Zealand is the best place to be a child and the best place to raise a child. This means reducing child poverty, and it also means improving the well-being of New Zealand families. By repealing section 192 of the Social Security Act 2018, we are also removing the stigma and judgment on the women and children who have had this sanction imposed on them.
National indicated they agreed to the first two proposals. But the chance to bash beneficiaries over the third was too hard to resist.
First up Louise Upston said this:
This is a tax cut for deadbeat dads, who aren’t going to be held financially responsible for their children. That’s the end of the day—$115 million. That’s the price tag: $115 million. The deadbeat dads are let off the hook. They are let off the hook.
Nick Smith chipped this in:
Why does this member support—why do you support deadbeat dads?
Maureen Pugh repeated the phrase:
The purpose of having the safety net of a benefit is well understood, but in terms of letting—as they’ve been called—deadbeat fathers off the hook and keeping them out of their children’s lives, we actually end up disadvantaging the children who the safety net is designed to protect. I think it’s a sad day when we make it easy for people to abdicate from their responsibilities. Let’s face it, a woman does not accidentally get pregnant; there is a father and he should be named.
Guess what phrase was highlighted in their riding instructions?
Agnes Loheni gave this rather confused argument against the change:
This is not the Government—this is about other hard-working New Zealanders who are contributing to this, who are paying for this. And they’ve got their own children to pay for, and at the moment now, these other hardworking New Zealanders have also got increased costs of living under this Government. So this is another burden on taxpayers.
It got worse:
This bill gives the message that we don’t value personal responsibility. No, it’s not rubbish. That is actually the message that comes through in this bill. This bill gives the message to the children that “Your dads don’t matter. In fact, your dads don’t exist.”
Then Jo Hayes took a turn:
Why on earth can’t the dad pay? If he wants to play, he’s got to pay. Every other parent—that is, couples in this country, married or not—that take that responsibility do that with a blink of an eyelid, and yet we have a small group that sit back and say, “No, you don’t have to pay. That’s OK, we understand.”—everyone except those that come in under those exemptions that my colleagues have already alluded to in this House.
She also said this:
No, all that does is just breed more and more beneficiaries, and we will see a lift in the rates of those young women—and it will be young women—that will end up being on that benefit, and for what reason? For what reason? Because their dad—the father of those kids—won’t cough up. He won’t cough up, and it is a shame.
Simon O’Connor was the worst:
I think that speech was rather symbolic—short and indicative of how much time they want fathers to spend with their children, which is, basically, very little.
The later stages of the bill contained the same levels of toxicity:
Thankfully the bill was eventually passed.
Michael Wood summed up their contributions quite well:
And Carmel Sepuloni summarised why the change to the law is the correct decision in this passage:
Mr Speaker, we heard some nasty things in the debate today, and I wanted to point that out because that really indicates where that side of the House is at. What the bill actually does is ensure that some of our poorest mothers and their children are not punished and thrust into further poverty because of a discriminatory policy that has proven not to work. Contrary to accusations that this bill is purely ideologically driven, it is, in fact, evidence based—evidence that the previous Government chose to ignore. And if there is a message that we want to send it is that this Government is committed to a fairer, more accessible welfare system, and that’s what this bill supports us to do.
The debate on welfare legislation in the House today has at times been nasty. It really does bring out the worst in right-wing ideology. I genuinely feel sad for those who have to bear the brunt of such misinformed, judgmental, and mean-spirited attitudes. Attitudes like this have never helped any individual family or us as a county to get ahead. There is no place for discrimination of people based on income, beneficiary or family status in a modern New Zealand, especially if we want to be an inclusive country where everyone can reach their potential and thrive.
What uplifts me is that the vast majority of New Zealanders do not share the National Party’s views on our poorest people, beneficiaries, and solo mums and their children any more. New Zealand has moved on, and can I suggest that the National Party get over their archaic thinking and also move with the times.
Well said Carmel.
Update: I missed this clanger from Maureen Pugh form the third reading debate:
One of the concerns that I’ve also got about not naming a father through this process, is that we then run the risk of losing track of the siblings of that child. So, for instance, if the parents were living in a close community, then chances are they would remain in that community, they may go on to have separate relationships, they may go on to have further children of their own. What are the chances, then, of those children finding themselves in relationships with siblings that they are unaware of? I think this is a terrible risk that we run by not keeping track—
I mean really?