Beneficiary bashing in this country is definitely becoming uglier by the day. It seems that Paula Bennett’s attacks on beneficiaries seemingly condoned by the Prime Minister has given prejudice free reign in the country. It is now permissible to demonize a vulnerable group in society based on the pretext of ‘ending bludging’.
The SUNDAY STAR TIMES article ‘Solo mum racks up 36 years on benefit’ (28 March), was a grubby piece of pseudo-journalism. The article was critical in it’s tone of an un-named woman who has cared for children for 36 years. The article failed on every level of professional journalism to ask the basic questions; What, How, Why, and Who.
For all we know, that woman has dedicated herself to raising unwanted children from broken families children who might otherwise have ended up like Nia Glassie or James Whakaruru.
But we don’t know.
Because the SST took a few facts and figures (provided no doubt by a compliant Minister of Social Welfare) and presented them in a way to guarantee a moral outrage response.
This is not journalism. This is propaganda. And though Dr Goebbels would have been pleased with it, I found it vile.
As for the Q & A last night; we sat and watched with a mixture of horror and amusement (if the two can ever be mixed). Bennett’s statements became more outrageous every time she opened her mouth and god knows what Guyon Espiner must have thought of that grinning idiot.
The most telling moment came when Espiner suggested that sickness beneficiaries would probably end up working for the equivalent of $1 an hour. Bennett blithely replied that it’s not all about money, it’s about other â€˜benefits’ to working.
I have three responses to that.
You might ask why I use the word ‘welfare’ when the vogue nowadays is to talk about ‘social development’. I unashamedly use the word welfare because I believe in the welfare state. I have a personal commitment to it. My father died when I was seven years old. My mother, my two older sisters, and I had no other family in New Zealand. For a period of time after my father died, my mother relied on the safety net provided by the Widows Benefit.
My family was poor, and we knew it, but the benefit gave my mother enough security to keep us together and keep us focused on a time when things would improve. By having our most basic needs covered as a family, we were able to hold on to that most precious human emotion hope.
Over time, my mother moved off the benefit and into work. The welfare system continued to support us, however, by providing us with a state house. It wasn’t flash, but it was home.
I think almost all New Zealanders believe in the desirability of the welfare state. In particular, I think New Zealanders take it on trust that there will always be a safety net of social welfare benefits. We’re a compassionate and fair people whose instinct is to give a person a helping hand when they need it.
National is committed to a benefit system that is a genuine safety net in times of need. We’re committed to a comprehensive system of benefits that provides temporary support to people as they return to independence, and also provides indefinite, compassionate support to people who are physically or mentally unable to support themselves.