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Bennett’s fantasy world breaks down

Written By: - Date published: 7:15 am, September 24th, 2012 - 45 comments
Categories: benefits, class war - Tags:

Paula Bennett on Q+A: “I don’t think that every child actually needs to be in early-childhood education” says Bennett. There will be cases where parents can do just as good or better job for their child (especially if they’re not working anyway) Yet, her policy is to take away half the incomes of parents and children on benefits who don’t go to ECE. The gap between Bennett’s spin and what she is actually doing has never before been so clearly revealed.

Nicky Hager, who was a panellist said that Bennett sounded like she was in the wrong party, she talked the talk of reducing inequality but only had the punitive tools of the Right to work with. Hager insightfully pointed out that National has no poverty policy But he was wrong on where Bennett ought to be. She’s Nat to the core, she’s just using the language of caring to mask a punitive (and as ex-National minister Paul East reminded us immediately), cost-saving/tax-cut-for-the-rich-creating agenda.

Eventually, when your rhetoric is a million miles in the opposite direction to your actions, it causes you trouble. That’s what National, and Bennett in particular, has run into with the ‘compulsory ECE or we cut your meager income in half’ policy. Forcing one class of child to go to ECE, when you yourself admit that ECE isn’t the best option in every situation, is not caring – it’s not even logical. Budgeting to cut over 2,000 families’ benefits in half because they don’t satisfy the government’s demands on how they raise their kids isn’t kind and caring to those kinds, it’s massively cruel to those children – and the adults, for that matter.

What’s worse – Bennett has admitted she doesn’t even have the resources to check all the families that will be subject to these requirements. That means enforcement will be arbitrary – the heart of injustice. And it tells you, also, that all this talk about ‘helping families’ and ‘getting in behind them’ is bullshit. If they don’t even have the resources to test all the families’ compliance, they certainly don’t have the resources to offer geniune help – only the stick of making children and parents who are already living in poverty even poorer.


45 comments on “Bennett’s fantasy world breaks down”

  1. Carol 1

    She’s Nat to the core, she’s just using the language of caring to mask a punitive (and as ex-National minister Paul East reminded us immediately), cost-saving/tax-cut-for-the-rich-creating agenda.

    Yes. I thought her lines about caring for the children and struggling with the need to get interventionist and tough rang quite false. I guess Hager couldn’t really call her the “l” word without having solid evidence of it. But, identifying her contradictory statements points in that direction.

    I also wanted the interviewer to ask her for details of the sound evidence Bennett said she had based her decisions on.

    • Dr Terry 1.1

      Probably her “evidence” is what flows from the mouth and mind of the Great Master (need I name him?)

  2. The language of caring is a carefully weighted attempt to have the best of both worlds.  

    The dog whistle is being blown for all that it is worth.  At the same time the pseudo compassionate language is designed to reach out to the left and swinging voters and is an attempt to persuade them that this Government is different.  It is not a bunch of bene bashing buffoons.  It is a party of compassionate conservatives whose bashing is incidental to its desire to make things better for them.

    The attempt falls apart when you realise that these proposals do nothing, absolutely nothing, to address poverty.

    But that was never National’s intention. 

  3. ak 3

    So yet again government-by-talkback-soundbite hits reality.

    And even the combined blitzkreig of Teacher-bash, Benny bash, Maori bash and lefty blogger-bash hasn’t wanked that sad old poll up this time.

    So what now Mr Joyce?

    Put the lot on the Conservatives in one final toss?

    Make our day.

    • Tom Gould 3.1

      Even more galling is that the brain dead media report both contradictory positions from Bennett and the other Tories in complete isolation from each other ensuring they indeed get the best of both worlds. It must be deliberate editorial policy, There’s no other explanation.

  4. vto 4

    Do families not on welfare and who don’t send their kids to early childhood education get slapped with something similar? They could similarly get punished by having their taxes increased by 50%.

    Why not the same approach?

  5. Dylan 5

    And what about the well-off, middle-class parents who take their school age kids out of school **to go skiing**?

    My mates who are (badly paid) ski instructors see this all the time when they give lessons, and if they ask why the kids aren’t in school they get complaints made against them to their employer or, when they ask the kids themselves, they get told things like “I was sick for three days this week, so Mum thought I might as well be off today and tomorrow too”, or “It’s only one day, and Dad couldn’t get any other day off”.

    As one said “put an enforcement officer at the bottom of the lifts, and you’d get hundreds of ‘kids off school’ per day”.

    A trivial example, perhaps, but it certain counters the lie that only the poor behave badly.

    These are well-off people who keep their kids off school for fun.

    • fabregas4 5.1

      Most folk at my school are pretty good at getting their kids to school but this happens far too often and annoyingly most by parents who then feign concern when their child doesn’t then meet their expectations. A week off for the Gold Coast Theme Parks a week at the snow a week for a tangi add a week actually sick and 10% of the school year is lost. I would love a dollar for every time I’ve heard “but they learn so much” at Dreamworld!

    • weka 5.2

      I know people who consider school to be part of their child’s education, not its entirety. I don’t think all kids have to be at school all the time. For some kids school is too hard and I’m not talking about the learning (eg making some kids sit still at a desk all day and focus on academics stresses them).

      Taking time off school to go to a tangi or funeral is normal.

      btw I think you will find that in towns that have ski fields, the local kids go skiing with knowledge of their school and not just on weekends. It’s how we train world class athletes. 

      • Tazirev 5.2.1

        So its ok to have kids skip school if the town has a rugby field, snooker parlour, swimming pool etc

        • weka

          If the child is keeping up with their school work/learning, I don’t see the problem with taking time off from schools occasionally.

          As for rugby and swimming, like with skiing, schools already support children in those areas. Not sure about snooker, but I’m sure the case could be made for the right child.

    • tracey 5.3

      or a week in fiji swimming…

    • tracey 5.4

      So weka this wld be the same for beneficiaries, so its a non issue not needed policy

  6. In my considered opinion – fightback against this ‘WAR ON THE POOR’ should focus on the immediate review and abolition of long-term dependency on CORPORATE WELFARE.

    I’ll say it again.

    Potentially there a billion$ of public monies – taxes and rates – at both central and local government level which could be freed up for the public majority by ‘CUTTING OUT THE CONTRACTORS AND CONSULTANTS’.

    Social welfare -= not corporate welfare!

    Take back public monies from the private greedy and give it back to the public needy!


    I’m unclear why no political party appears to be taking up this demand?

    Seems to be a ‘no-brainer’ to me!

    Penny Bright

    ‘Anti-corruption / anti-privatisation’ campaigner


    • Wychbych 6.1

      Our Council (Kapiti Coast) has spent $24 million (yes, $24 million) on consultants in the last four years.

      We have emphatically said NO to water meters being introduced, our mayor and her minions have ignored the people and they’re being installed (badly, it’s been reported) as we speak.

      I wonder at the links between these ‘consultants’ and our Council members. Just another sign of corporate fatcats getting the cream of other people’s labours.

      • Glg 6.1.1

        And now the Australilans are selling the data mined from the smart meters. bet that wasn’t listed as a selling point.

      • muzza 6.1.2

        In what way did the locals emphatically say NO?

        Remember that when these ideas come down, the current administration are only passing on the orders they have been given, and if they get voted out because of it next time around, then the next lot will continue on the same direction.

        • wychbych

          A record number of submissions against the installation of water meters.

          We raised a petition with the requisite number of signatures to ask for a referendum, and were ignored.

          The water meters were brought before the decision (apparently) was made, and have been installed as a fait accompli. Be assured they will be paying next vote!

  7. Tiger Mountain 7

    Bennett has attracted the most derogatory monikers in years for a minister (ahead just, of even the Prime Mincer, er Minister). Brawla, Pullya Benefit, Puller Benefit, Paula Benefat, Paula Benefit, etc. For good reason too. Bag features Bennett is not liked.

    She personally and National were well and truly exposed again on Q&A. It is acknowleged by many (citizens themselves and educationalists, academics and some businesses) that life long learning is now necessary to enable people to adapt and maintain an income during rapid societal change.

    So what do the Natz do? Slash ACE which was an entry point for some adults, do 10 one nighters on a subject before committing to 3 years tertiary. Gone. Slash and burn education opportunities for beneficiaries and other adults via the student loan criteria. Standard readers probably know the cuts chapter and verse so what…

    So, more of us need to demonstrate the courage of Sam Kuha in Kaikohe who is on hunger strike fer crissakes because WINZ have bailed on assisting him. How low do we have to go before more people get organised, Sam rode his mobility scooter down to smash WINZ front windows with a hammer and hates dealing with them anyway “it takes away my Wairua” he told the Northern Advocate newspaper.

  8. xtasy 8

    Well, what an embarrassing appearance of Bennett on Q+A.

    It proves that she is just the useful “puppet” and “mercenary” that National wanted to lead and front this truly ideological attack on welfare dependent in NZ.

    Bennett’s partly almost apologetic explanations, her bending and justifying all these punitive measures and sanctions show, that this is all going to be introduced to serve ideological purposes, and to also given WINZ staff some “tools” to hammer down on selected clients, who may for whatever reason cause them “difficulties”, which surely will include any behaviour, that may challenge WINZ’s policies.

    Reading through this mad, complex bill over last week, I asked myself again and again, how the hell would they implement and enforce all these new measures?

    It became clear to me, that it would never be possible to make the whole set of new provisions and measures work by applying them to all clients across the board. They are only going to pick on a per centage of clients, who come to their attention.

    WINZ and MSD would probably have to double their staff numbers to apply sanctions and checks on all, which would totally defeat the purpose of these poorly thought out “reforms”, which will hardly help anyone dependent on WINZ.

    Hence also some new sections that will provide for more outsourcing of “services”. That though will mean, that MSD pays service providers for delivering their “support”. Naturally they will try to get the “most competitive” (cheapest) providers, which would also spell a disaster for clients, as the service will most likely be very poor or non existent.

    So let us see what the National Day of Action will bring on 05 October (Henderson, West Auckland, outside the Mall on Great South Rd at 12 midday, I heard), and let us see how Bennett will handle the picking apart of this shoddy, insane, mean spirited piece of legislation.

    • Richard Down South 8.1

      “WINZ and MSD would probably have to double their staff numbers to apply sanctions and checks on all, which would totally defeat the purpose of these poorly thought out “reforms”, which will hardly help anyone dependent on WINZ.”

      Well that’s one way to create jobs i guess lol

      • Carol 8.1.1

        Well, no, RDS.

        Paula said in the qu & a interview, that they won’t be able to check up that all beneficiaries are complying, so they will just kinda do some random checks. This, then leaves it all open to the selection decisions and whims of WINZ staff – UGLY!


        SHANE Can I just stop you there? Can you explain or break it down what you mean by vulnerable? So are you saying that not all children of beneficiaries will be subjected to these obligations?

        PAULA There is an expectation that they will be, but we won’t be testing that many of them, so we will only be looking for compliance for a certain population of that. The Cabinet papers say that we’ll be looking at around 20,000 to 25,000 children in a year, and we’ve got, you know, 220,000 children on benefits, so that’s a very very small subset of that.

        SHANE So just so that I’ve got it clear, we’re just talking about a certain section of these kids?

        PAULA That will be tested on whether or not they’re complying. The others – we expect them to, but we won’t be checking up to see if they have.

        SHANE What’s the point of these obligations if some don’t have to meet them?

        PAULA Well, it’s the same with work testing, to be honest. We have a work-test obligation across, you know, most of those that are on benefit. However, we do not test everyone to check that they’re complying. We don’t have the resources, and, in fact, some of them will comply without us checking on them and we don’t need to, so we take a subset. In this case, we’re going to take a subset of who we consider to be most vulnerable.

        • Dr Terry

          We can expect to see selected “scapegoats” for all the rest, and these scapegoats will be treated with venom (by Government and, tragically, the general public).

  9. bennett shows, by the distance between what she says she thinks and what she does, that she is the most dangerous of the useless ministers of this government. She always seems like an order-taker rather than an order-giver to me.

  10. North 10

    For Key and the darkly greedy ideologues of National/Act Bennett performs the same role politically as the judas sheep, once maybe still used at the freezing works, performed aughterwise.

    The judas sheep looking and sounding like a sheep was used by the meat companies to encourage all the other sheep to follow it up the race to their slaughter.

    Bennett with her over-vaunted status as a former beneficiary is used by Key et al to persuade the public that National/Act really knows what it is doing re welfare and that their way, no matter how pejorative and cruel, is the best and only way – thus deserving of their vote.

    Bennett really is a despicable one.

    • North 10.1

      For “aughterwise” read “slaughterwise”.

    • Chris 10.2

      I totally agree.pb is nothing but a mouthpiece and dog whistle for the little trader and she is PROUD to be so.He plays her like a double bass.I can’t wait for her to be ousted so I can say “the dream is over’ and watch her sink into oblivion.I don’t think any of her mates will be around to catch her when she falls and I don’t think she has the smarts to make anything of herself without the machine behind her driving her every thought and movement.

  11. Mary 11

    Interesting to see on that hideous advertisement for Countdown supermarket how the family are facing redundancy so talk about taking the youngest child out of daycare to reduce costs. They’ll have to add a scene where they lose half their benefit (but still get by because Countdown is so cheap, no doubt).

  12. Carol 12

    And today, Gordon Campbell is up to his usual high standard with his article analysing the arbitrariness of Bennett’s reforms and her related statistics:


    So much then, for using the reforms as a means to catch the vulnerable children in this country who are at risk. In effect….Bennett’s entire edifice of “welfare reform” turns out to little more than WINZ picking on a few of its most troublesome clients and dealing with them arbitrarily, as and when its already stretched resources will allow. What does the government’s silent partner (aka the Maori Party) have to say about this, given that those targeted by WINZ are disproportionately likely to be from among the tangata whenua?

    At the end of the day, cutting benefits to families by 50% among whoever – and for whatever reason – will only put those vulnerable children further at risk and punish them for the sins of their parents.

    Still….if you remain willing to believe anything that Bennett has to say on the subject of welfare reform then she has some big, big savings coming your way, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer. A whole $1.6 billion, she promised, less than a week ago.

    Maybe you could use that money to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.

    • Draco T Bastard 12.1

      Gareth Morgan as well:

      The facts show that most people on benefits return to work and get on with their lives. Long term benefit dependency is not the norm. National’s reactionary populism is a giant step backwards in policy sophistication and is depressing. Lowest common denominator thinking is one step from chaos. Can’t these finance sector cowboys-turned-politicians see that the growth in income and wealth disparities that New Zealand has experienced since the financial deregulation of the mid-1980s is the villain of the piece? At least as much as the economic downturn is.

      Emphasis mine.

  13. You have to look behind the bullshit to see what workfare is all about.
    Its not a ‘policy’ fraught with contradictions, but a survival mechanism of capitalism facing extinction.
    Welfare only works when it is profitable. This works when growth creates full employment and state provision reproduces wage workers more cheaply than than private provision.
    When profits fall due to the inherent decline of capitalism, taxes on profits that do not raise profits are a drain on profits. The cost of reproducing workers who are not needed is a dead loss.
    Thus for 30 years we have had the mantra, state out of business.
    We are in the last throes of the destruction of the welfare state.
    The logic behind the current ‘reforms’ were clear 40 years ago with the end of the post-war boom. The whole point is to force workers to fight over jobs to drive down wages and conditions in the competitive race to the bottom.
    But none of this will stop the decline of capitalism, the only question is do we want to go down with it.
    If we don’t want to go down with it we have to build an alternative. We can do that by rejecting the logic of capitalism as production for private profit, and decide to produce collectively to meet out social needs. 
    Fortunately for us capitalism can only survive by exploiting our labour. We have to find ways of refusing to sell our labour on their terms and use it collectively as our survival mechanism.
    For the working class to live, capitalism must die.

  14. BernyD 14

    Hows this ,
    All us GoodCivilisedPeople that have been around the block drive at 100km/hr so our kids’ll have a good example and not kill themselves on the road.

    What’s Bennets example?
    It’s ok to ignore starving people until they die , go crazy, goto prison
    What speed is she driving @ and how many lives are @ risk?

    PS If your teenagers’ are driving a car with slimed down direction tyres i’d like to point out some fatcs
    (as I think they are falling off the road in my area) …

    When you accelerate they spin and spin and spin ……
    They have less contact area on the road.
    They have less grip.
    They drive like a skate board on ice the second it’s damp
    They cost you 2km/litre in gas
    Why the hell would ya pay $200 for that M8!
    Do yourselves a favour and tell them to get some rocktreads M8!
    Those things stick like glue M8!.

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