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.