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Fight the ‘War on the Poor’: Opposing Bennett’s welfare reforms.

Written By: - Date published: 11:45 am, September 21st, 2012 - 52 comments
Categories: benefits, grant robertson, john key, paula bennett, welfare - Tags: , , ,

Grant Robertson, in the House speaking on Paula Bennett’s “Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill – First Reading”, gave an impassioned speech. He said many things that are similar to what I said here, about social obligations and a mutually beneficial social contract (as incorporated in the 1938 Social Security Act).

He laid into the government for smearing and scapegoating beneficiaries and scaremongering as a diversion from the economic failings of the government. This is taking the sort of approach I want to hear. My concern, however, is that these won’t turn out to be empty words, and that Labour policies will match up to the rhetoric.

Robertson’s speech can be viewed below

hat-tip: inthehouse.

The one thing I would question him about is the Labour Party’s recent record in government. They weren’t as punitive as Bennie Basher Bennett and her boss John Key, and the Labour led government did focus more on jobs and training. But, as Sue Bradford said in her December 2010 article on welfare reform, the Clark government’s record wasn’t so great:

Unfortunately, National in the 1990s and Labour in the 2000s started us on a slippery slope towards a dangerous reconfiguring of the whole purpose and nature of our welfare system. National has now picked up on this again with renewed vigour, and like many others, I fear what the near future holds.

Robertson said yesterday in the debate on Bennett’s social security amendments, that the last Labour government took an “active approach” by “investing in people” and providing skills and training, etc. I would like to be assured that a future Labour government would aim to totally undo all the damage done to the social contract by both the “neoliberal” approach of recent Labour and National governments.

Some other points about the speeches I saw so far on this Bill:

  • Paula Bennett is a very uninspiring speaker and her introduction of the Bill was dreary. Jacinda Ardern pointed out the difference between Bennett’s more measured tone in the House and the way she speaks to the media when smearing beneficiaries. Ardern calls it politicking, and says Labour is calling the government out on it. Like Robertson, she said government should fulfil their side of the contract, through making jobs available.
  • Green MP Jan Logie made some very good points about the individualistic approach of Bennett’s reforms, and the problems it makes for people with disabilities and terminal illnesses.
  • While I didn’t agree with everything coming from NZ First on the bill, I did like the way Barbara Stewart questioned the accountability of contracted out welfare services.

Carol

52 comments on “Fight the ‘War on the Poor’: Opposing Bennett’s welfare reforms. ”

  1. Unfortunately none of this gets to the root of the problem.
    Welfare was always designed to maintain the poor as a reserve army, prop up small farmers to keep production, rather then meeting some political or social ideal. It was sold as social democracy but that was the package not the substance.
    Welfarism worked in a semi-colonial protected economy to support dependent import-substitution capitalist production that could sustain relatively full employment. And that was possible only because of the defeats workers suffered in the Depression and WW2 and the post-war boom demand for agricultural commodities.
    What explains the erosion and destruction of welfarism since isnt any lapse in social democratic policy but the collapse of the post war boom and the material basis of economic nationalism. So when the crisis hit in the late 70s early 80s Muldoon proved that economic nationalism was dead. It was Labour under Douglas that deregulated the economy which was sold to us by Lange as the ‘pain for the gain’.
    The neoliberal period that began in 1984 in NZ is not compatible with welfarism. NZs global position cannot sustain domestic manufacturing or full employment. Capitalism will not pay to maintain a reserve army that is not needed. Instead it taxes workers to subsidise international finance capital. That’s why both parties cannot commit to a return to welfarism.
    No point trying to go back to a mythical utopian past. Much better to look forward to what it will take to create a genuine welfare state. For the working class to survive capitalism must die.
     

    • Carol 1.1

      dave, I do think the left needs a new direction for the future – something that will guide us into the long(ish) term future. But, right now, the screws keep being tightened on some of the poorest and most powerless in our community. I feel something needs to be done as soon as, to make lives a bit easier.

      The future direction needs urgent discussion and practice. But I’m not entirely sure of the most workable way to start turning this juggernaut around, and to get from here to there.

      • dave brownz 1.1.1

        Carol the biggest hurdle is isolation. United actions and mutual aid is the way to overcome isolation, reject the lies that beneficiaries are bludgers and get confidence and pride back. This will make us realise that we are all workers, and its the bosses who force us to compete for fewer shit jobs, dividing us into employed, unemployed and beneficiaries. Then comes the consciousness that this is deliberate and that capitalists must divide and rule us as a class because if we got organised and united they would be history! 
        For those who don’t know Waitemata Branch of Unite union is open to members who are unemployed or other beneficiaries believing that uniting all workers is necessary for our survival. 
        https://www.facebook.com/groups/105132832866402/?ref=ts
        We are organising in West Auckland for the National Day of Action against Welfare Reform. https://www.facebook.com/events/115323888618428/

        • Carol 1.1.1.1

          dave, in the light of the discussion below on the use of the concept of “work” and “worker” by politicians, I wonder if we need a more encompassing word to define the least powerful people, marginalised and oppressed within the capitalist structure? A term that would include the precariat:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precariat

          is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare as well as being a member of a Proletariat class of industrial workers who lack their own means of production and hence sell their labor to live . Specifically, it is applied to the condition of lack of job security, in other words intermittent or underemployment and the resultant precarious existence.

          There is a need for a term that would define all the ways people use their energy to contribute to society (parenting, caring for elders and people with disabilities, voluntary work, creative productions etc), and not just performing as wage-slaves for the benefit of capitalists.

          Unite has definitely taken a step in the right direction here by including the unemployed and other beneficiaries in the union. But theystill define people as employed/unemployed etc.

          Will be at the demo.

          • dave brownz 1.1.1.1.1

            Carol, in reply to your question about the working class:
            Its not just the bosses who define everyone in terms of wage work or not, but capitalism itself. I think we have to start there in defining who is a worker.
            Then we realise that capitalism cannot employ everyone and yet denies those out of paid work a meaningful existence other than in relation to production. The unemployed are forced to compete with employed for jobs. Unwaged housework has no recognition by capitalism, yet it subsidises the wages of workers.
            So the system is based on wage labour and all those dependent upon it, whether working for a wage, unwaged, or on social welfare benefits, are necessarily components of the working class exploited directly or indirectly by capital.
            Attempts to revise the concept of the working class as no longer industrial workers so as to include new forms of workers such as Hardt and Negri’s Multitude don’t really add anything in my opinion, if anything these subtract from reality. 
            The bosses recognise that reality when they define all forms of labour as ‘industries’ eg IT industry, education industry, entertainment industry, etc reflecting their view that they must run everything like a factory where workers add more value than their wage. This is what the ‘investment’ approach to social welfare means. The cost of welfare must not exceed the profits that accrue from workfare (i.e. disciplining the working class to be more productive = i.e. more exploited).
            This makes it clear that the working class is created by capitalism, because it has no means of subsisting apart from performing or reproducing wage labour, even as it isolates individual workers, labels them differently,  and presents them as not being members of a common social class defined by its relationship to production. 
            Its the consciousness of that class relation that will unite the working class, and as Marx said, recognise itself as a class able to act as the gravedigger of capitalism.
             
             

            • Carol 1.1.1.1.1.1

              Thanks for a clear explanation, dave.

              That highlights for me one of my problems with Marxism – generally a great analysis of society, but it still uses the terms of capitalism, and is thus defined by it.

              I hanker after something that goes beyond that, and defines the reality for most people (e.g. the kinds of non-capitalistic “work” that are beneficial to society.)

              • Colonial Viper

                One thing that dave is saying (IMO) is that in a capitalistic economy there is no such thing as “non-capitalistic” work. Just work that capitalism takes advantage of or otherwise relies upon, and profits off yet doesn’t pay for.

                • Carol

                  Just work that capitalism takes advantage of or otherwise relies upon, and profits off yet doesn’t pay for.

                  Yes, I agree that happens. Usually people who do unpaid labour that benefits capitalism, don’t usually get labelled as “workers”. So it creates a problem for challenging notions that separate the employed and unemployed (“workers” and unpaid “bludgers” (according to NAct) or unpaid “victims” (according to some of the current Labour Party).

                  Either their needs to be a concerted effort to re-define “work” – or, because it has been associated so strongly with capitalism & wage-slavery, there needs to be a new term to define all the human energy that contributes positively to society.

                  Some paid labour is destructive to society – to people’s health, poor transport options (RONS) etc. but the right wingers consider any labour that earns a wage is somehow “noble”.

                  • Workers have to challenge the right of capital to define the good society or lack of it.
                    Workers produce the wealth. If we can’t challenge the ‘ownership’ of words and concepts how can we challenge the ownership of the means of production?
                    Carol I agree that we need work that meets needs not profits, but I don’t see that happening under capitalism.
                    In fact almost all work is both productive and destructive; its productive in reproducing the capacity to work and produce use values, but destructive in destroying labour and nature by subordinating it to profit and not need.
                    Can anyone improve on “from each according to her/his ability, to each according to his/her need”?
                     

  2. Jokerman 2

    i believe Grant Robertson addressed this debate well

  3. fatty 3

    Labour’s record of training is very questionable. The student loan fiasco continued and wasn’t addressed in the way it should have been. Also the Modern Apprenticeship Scheme excluded both women and Pacific Islanders.
    So, even if we do accept a thirdway active approach which invests in people and provides ‘opportunities’…this never occurred. The same groups continued to be marginalised.
    (another quality post Carol!)

  4. Dr Terry 4

    Yes, fine impassioned speech. Problem is that it is so much easier to diagnose problems than it is to offer specific alternatives. I sincerely hope this is more than empty rhetoric.
    Let’s see and examine proposals from the Greens.

  5. I have to agree, Robertson did well in parliament yesterday,the frustration is that the
    folk out there seem to be ‘conditioned’ and have lost heart and the drive needed to
    object strongly ‘en mass to ‘the war on the poor’ and seem to have accepted ‘fate
    accompli’ the danger is that bennetts attacks on the beneficiaries will open up another
    lower level of poor and she knows it and couldn’t give a toss,how can she just
    ‘swipe and walk away’? i also heard that people with cancer are to be included
    with her ‘work focus’ how can she sleep at night? probably simple really,shes nact\
    through and through.

  6. Xtasy 6

    After having David Shearer as leader dodge questions re welfare and reform of the area, rather feeding into the biased public sentiment of too many (thank you “NZ Herald”, TVNZ and other media outlets for rather focusing on the trivial, on crime and brief press release based news bites) with his “sickness beneficiary roof painter” story, I was pleasantly surprised by the vigourous attack coming from Grant Robertson, but also Jacinda Ardern and a few other Labour MPs.

    Jan Logie also gave a good speech, raising serious issues that have over the years already arisen by the way the present welfare system is being applied.

    What Bennett presented is extremely harsh, punitive and unsympathetic of the true needs of beneficiaries, who cannot work due to lack of jobs, due to sickness and disability, and due to having to care for their children as sole parents.

    I strongly suggest to look at what the bill contains. It is a nightmarish piece of work, amending yet again an over-amended old statute, which will make it almost unworkable for those having to work under it.

    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2012/0067/latest/DLM4542304.html

    What has not been mentioned in any media, as far as I can see, is the fact that this bill also provides for further outsourcing of “services”, which includes medical assessments, work preparation and whatever “administrative services”.

    Also are there new provisions for making further regulations, which can add to the harsh measures proposed, to define the law, rules and processes to be followed by WINZ case managers and other staff.

    Read between the lines and compare it with the existing Act.

    • Mary 6.1

      Precisely Xtasy. As was said in the post, will these “turn out to be empty words” and fail to “match up to the rhetoric”?

      If Labour’s recent track record is anything to go by the news is bleak. Some things Labour did to the Social Security Act were pure evil and that even the Tories didn’t manage to do (not for a lack of trying or not wanting to, of course). When it comes to welfare Labour cannot be trusted.

  7. Brian 7

    A fine, impassioned speech. I wonder how quickly mainstream media will bury it.

  8. Bill 8

    Okay. I listened closely to that speech.

    And it seems Robertson still clings to the notion that only working people contribute to society …and so, obviously, doesn’t challenge the b/s idea that people claiming entitlements are a drain on society and contribute nothing. His focus…his whole focus…is on creating a job rich environment that would offer those on entitlements a ‘worthy’ path in life…that would make them ‘worthy’ citizens.

    Implication? Those claiming UB, SB or IB or whatever other entitlements just aren’t worthy. Not their fault right enough. It’s the fault of the governments economic policy. But they are unworthy nonetheless.

    Oh, and vulnerable.

    Have to say, I don’t know any ‘vulnerable’ people on entitlements. And I really do wish people would stop using such a misleading and fucked up term to encapsulate jobless people. No-one likes ‘vulnerable’. Outside of newborn babies, it denotes weakness and patheticness etc….negative attributes that are by and large despised. To my way of thinking, use of that term betrays a definate attitude residing beneath or behind whatever rhetoric it is that is playing on the surface.

    • Carol 8.1

      Well, Jacinda Ardern did say something about the Labour Party being the party of labour/workers. And that does seem to me to be a bit of a limited left wing perspective for the 21st century context. The relationship between (paid) work, production, living a valued life*, and community needs redefining – and policies developed in relation to that..

      Ardern had a line about social security should be a “springboard to a better life” (as I recall).

      I’m not so sure they were/are characterising beneficiaries as unworthy, though.

      And I guess “vulnerable” does have connotations of weakness – but its main meaning is to do with being in a position where they are likely to be attacked.

      They certainly are a section with relatively little political power, and are an “easy” target for the right.

      I’m more concerned about how Labour (and the left generally) plans to make things better – policies and practices. But this speech, and others from Labour yesterday seemed to be an improvement on some of their more recent speeches.

      • Bill 8.1.1

        The implication of unwothiness is clear enough. It flows naturally from extolling workers as being virtuous or whatever. Those who aren’t…aren’t.

        And people on welfare are ‘easy targets’ as opposed to ‘vulnerable’. Yes. Vulnerable to attack or financially vulnerable, perhaps. But not vulnerable in the general sense.

        And I agree the speech was certainly smarter than some recent efforts. But smarter ain’t necessarily better. Smarter can simply be devious. Why can’t they just say what they mean and mean what they say – be unequivocal as opposed to being a bit obtuse and seeming to rely on listeners’ assumptions?

        • Carol 8.1.1.1

          Well, I don’t see anything in Jacinda and Robertson’s speeches that extoll the working person as worthy and the non-working one as lacking virtue. But they do value work of itself, and the focus is on getting people back to work:

          http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Debates/Debates/Drafts/d/7/c/50HansY_20120920-Draft-transcript-Thursday-20-September-2012.htm

          From Ardern’s speech:

          Labour will not support this bill. It does not fulfil our values of an active social security system that supports people into work. It does not fulfil the Government’s end of the bargain around job creation. It does not treat social security as a dignified springboard into a better life. We are calling time on the politicking of this area, because the Government is doing nothing but disrespect a social security system that was built around dignity.

          Robertson also focuses on work as the main source of income, though he also talks about the importance of health, housing and education.

          However, as our society currently stands work is regarded as most people’s main source of income. So to alter this narrative, I think the left has a major task on their hands, and I think most MPs and their parties will be working with current discourses. Changes will need to come first from outside political parties.

          Neither Robertson nor Ardern see to me to be saying that people are made more worthy by working – not int he way ACC currently talk about people being better off emotionally, socially, healthwise etc when they are working.

          Green MP Jan Logie also focuses quite a lot on work-readiness in her speech. But she is very critical of the way Bennett and her bill really do characterise non-working people as less worthy than workers. And she is critical of the focus on work-readiness for terminally ill cancer patients, and people suffering depression as being inappropriate.

          I do see both some value in, and a problem with Ardern and Robertson trying to reconnect with Labour Party roots, by focusing on its origins as a workers’ party, and on Savage and the 1938 Social Security Act. It is important to revisit those values.

          But I can see your point about the worthiness of workers, when I contemplate the way workers’ parties in the early 20th century elevated the status of the industrial worker. I do think any 21st century left wing party needs to move on from such a characterisation of workers.

          • Bill 8.1.1.1.1

            Ah the good old ‘workerism’ of ye olde USSR. Fuck that. I don’t have a job…a wage. But I certainly do work.

            I’ll concede it’s possible I’m maybe being a wee bit harsh on Labour. Maybe time will tell. But I don’t know why they didn’t, as an example, trot out the increased suicide rates etc from the UK’s attempt to take this tact with welfare.

            I mean, it is a hienous piece of shit the NAts are pushing through and they could easily be called out on it. The fact Labour aren’t doing that…they could have a field day… makes me question where they sit.

          • weka 8.1.1.1.2

            However, as our society currently stands work is regarded as most people’s main source of income. So to alter this narrative, I think the left has a major task on their hands, and I think most MPs and their parties will be working with current discourses. Changes will need to
            come first from outside political parties.

            It’s pretty simple. Stop defining work as paid employment only*. Like Bill, I’m not employed, but I work. And being on a permanent benefit, I get nervous when I hear the left talking about getting people off benefits and into work (paid employment) as if that’s the only concern here. The test is what Labour thinks about the DPB. Women (and some men) work raising children. It’s unpaid in the sense of not being wages. Should these people be seen as a problem and the solution is to get them into paid work? Who will raise their children?

            The other place that work=paid employment falls down is with people on medical benefits. If you think the solution is paid work then people who can’t manage that but still can and want to ‘work’/contribute either get forced into unrealistic/fake and damaging rehab models (NACT) or get put on the scrap heap (Labour).

            Worse, the almost pathological focus on paid employment creates actual institutional barriers to many people having meaningful involvement in the communities they live in. 

            *Instead, define the social contract as being offering and supporting people in the opportunities to have meaningful lives as part of their communities and the wider society. That includes work, both paid and voluntary as well as the invisible work of raising children or doing housework or the myriad of ways that people contribute to society that aren’t acknowledged as such.

            Maybe you are right and this can’t be done by political parties at this time. Sue Bradford’s Left Wing Think Tank? But it’s a mistake to let Labour carry on down the road at this time of defining worth as paid employment only. 

             

            • fatty 8.1.1.1.2.1

              “Should these people be seen as a problem and the solution is to get them into paid work? Who will raise their children?”

              That issue there exemplifies how Labour (thirdway) is ideologically compromised.
              Labour see raising children as being worthwhile and so they provide cover for parents to do that job…yet Labour also define paid work as being essential for citizenship.
              In contrast, National are more neoliberal and think all parents should work, and raising children is a paid job to be done by other people.
              In this sense, National’s ideology is more coherent – but ignorant and full of problems. Labour’s ideology is confusing and is incoherent.
              Both cause too many problems and need to be thrown out.

            • Carol 8.1.1.1.2.2

              *Instead, define the social contract as being offering and supporting people in the opportunities to have meaningful lives as part of their communities and the wider society. That includes work, both paid and voluntary as well as the invisible work of raising children or doing housework or the myriad of ways that people contribute to society that aren’t acknowledged as such.

              Excellent point, weka.

              In the speech at the second reading of this bill, Jan Logie came closest to dealing with this. Her concern was the increasing marginalisation and demonisation of the sick and disabled:

              I have in front of me today, as I speak to this bill, the faces and the voices of hundreds of people who are struggling, stressed, and very worried about what it is to come.

              do not see people on income support as fundamentally any different form me. I am angry about the hardship they are subjected to now and the likelihood that this bill will make things even worse for them. I am angry and I am worried.

              The first problem is they are not treating people as capable. Focusing on capability is critically important. Unfortunately, the Government is not doing that. If it thought people were capable, it would not feel the need to incentivise job-seeking behaviours with sanctions. Sanctions are punishments for when people are not doing something right. The second problem is it individualises social problems. By focusing on the individual again, this whole model misses employer biases when it comes to employing people with mental health or physical illnesses, disabilities, or even people who have a name that is not European.

              She talks about some disabled people on very low wages who need income support; people making a contribution to society through unpaid, not-for-profit organisations, people who need to focus on their struggle with fighting cancer, not getting themselves “work-ready”.

              Logie still puts a lot of focus on paid work and “work-readiness”. However, she is making a start at looking beyond such terms to wider notions of “work”. She is looking beyond individualistic conceptions of working to create profits for capitalists, and towards notions of inclusiveness, community solidarity and collective responsibilities.

    • lefty 8.2

      Yes Bill!

      When is Labour going to start actually thinking about issues and analysing the failure of the present model rather than just giving us flowery rhetoric that basically promises to do the same as National only better.

      There is obviously little hope for the poor under a Robertson regime that makes no promise to undo National’s harm and, like National, still obsesses about obligation, investment and jobs, not a fair and just society run for the benefit of all regardless of their ability to go to work and make some other prick rich.

    • ak 8.3

      Have to say, I don’t know any ‘vulnerable’ people on entitlements

      ah – you had me up to there Bill. I know heaps, and there’s a mountain of research to demonstrate their vulnerability to poorer health and life expentancy. Even the Natz are using it. Just the other day the vile smile ryall-snake trotted out that long-term unemployment has the same health risk as smoking ten packets of cigarettes a day. Yep, ten. Packets. Day.

      But I know what you mean. And Rile’s – believe it or not – just trying the sickeningly simplistic and utterly intelligence-insulting-to-a-four-year-old gambit of claiming that receiving the benefit is what’s causing the damage. Ergo, on planet Natzi, remove the benefit (via Maula’s “caring” benny-bashing) and the health risk just disappears.

      Incredible I know, but yes he’s pushing it. On a par though, with “I didn’t read it before signing” and “I haven’t read it”.

      Back to the point but, yep they’re vulnerable, but what causes it? The idle rich, the elderley, billions of our ancestors, don’t now or never “had a job”. But were not “vulnerable”. So what’s the missing factor?

      The thing that’s killing our brothers and sisters after a long stretch of misery is none other than racism’s twin: the evil of incitement to benny-bashing. The prolonged and deliberate “pointing the bone” demonisation by the selfish and inhuman scum who seek to raise themselves by trampling on the weak. The constant twin terror of knowing that your and your children’s llife hangs on the mood of a spotty case manager with a month’s training, and the fact that the press and the country’s leaders think you are shit.

      The blood on your hands is real, tories. Assume all the airs and innocence you like, but it will scream from your miserable death-bed like a siren.

      • Bill 8.3.1

        The ten packs a day. Was in a WINZ presentation by Dr Whoever. Xtasy linked to it through the week sometime. Anyway. I honestly thought the ten packs a day was a typo. Apparently not! (All the b/s statements cited sources…giving the impression it was all ‘academic’. And so must be trues gov!) Makes you fckin’ wonder.

        edit. but the main point about ‘vulnerable’…yes, vulnerable to such and such and so on. But not vulnerable per se. Most I know are pretty fucking resilient and savvy. Have to be when an entitlement is all you get.

        • weka 8.3.1.1

          Vulnerable isn’t weak. It’s able to be wounded (Latin, vulnus = wound). Strong and resilient people can be wounded given the right circumstances and the right weapons, they’re just better at recovering or holding on in the face of the attack. 

          I would say beneficiaries are increasingly vulnerable as a group at the moment because of Bennett’s ability and willingness to use private information held by WINZ against them. I wouldn’t even trust her to not interfere in entitlement decisions.

          Sue Bradford spoke this week about the numbers of people not wanting to protest out of fear. Their incomes and wellbeing are at risk. NZ should to be ashamed of itself to let that go on. 

  9. mike 9

    Great speech. However it is easy to attack NAct when they cough up so much ammunition. As Carol says, the real test is in the policies Labour offers in response. They need to state specifically what they would undo, and what they would do better. Sadly, getting the next soundbite often takes precedence.

    • Bill 9.1

      I’d hazard a guess that Labour aren’t too averse to the legislation. And will continue to ‘excuse’ -or divert attention away from their broad acceptance of the heinous culture the legislation will impose on those claiming entitlements, by banging on about the lack of jobs and the governments economic failings.

  10. lefty 10

    I must admit to having heard Robertsons speech before, or something very like it anyway.

    I heard it from the likes of Richard Prebble, David Lange and Phil Goff during the early 80s when Muldoon was Prime Minister.

    I heard it again from the likes of Annette King, Helen Clark and Steve Mahary when Jim Bolger was Prime Minister and again when Jenny Shipley was in charge.

    It turns out they didn’t really mean it.

    Not much chance Robertson does either.

  11. blue leopard 11

    While the government and opposition continue to focus on welfare, no focus is placed on creating work in any way, shape or form.

    It might surprise both politicians and the public alike, that if there was more activity/investment on creating jobs, creating opportunities and ensuring working conditions are sound there would not be a big problem with unemployment.

    I think that the concept is so simple it eludes most people.

    • fatty 11.1

      So you’re suggesting that if we get people working, then they won’t be collecting a benefit?…don’t be stupid blue leopard, your utopian vision has no place in the real world. Next you’ll be suggesting we feed hungry children.

  12. xtasy 12

    Paula Bennett and National basically believe in the concept of “Arbeit macht Frei” (written above the entrance to Auschwitz concentration camp)!

    It is their “modern” and in comparison a “less inhumane” philosophy and concept to address supposed social and health related “ills” – in their eyes “caused” by “worklessness”.

    MSDs Principal Health Advisor, originally put into his job under the last Labour led government in 2007, must have been a “god send” for Bennett, Key and gang:

    http://www.gpcme.co.nz/pdf/2012/Fri_DaVinci_1400_Bratt_Medical Certificates are Clinical Instruments too – June 2012.pdf

    This focus by both National and Labour on “work” and “return to work” is basically also due to the Social Security Act having a stronger focus on work than on supporting sick, disabled and sole parents. Indeed the statute places a higher priority on work, and all else are follow up measures and assistance, only to be granted if work is really no option.

    This new bill takes it all to a higher level now, and it is indeed a “war on the poor”, as it will lead to re-enforced stigmatisation, a punitive and forceful approach, even leading to have WINZ staff given powers to overrule medical assessments by doctors, as work capacity assessments are now planned to increasingly being done separately by WINZ staff – or by contracted service providers outside of MSD (not just the designated doctors used so far, but more along the way it is now done in the UK).

    It will be interesting to see whether Labour MPs were just offering more rhetoric, or whether they will actually walk the talk.

  13. Johnm 13

    I’ve been on the UB for a time, what I’m sure of is: If there are enough jobs in the economy it’s easy for WINZ to push people into those jobs no bother! It’s because there ain’t the jobs out there that people remain on a benefit you can’t fit an unemployed person into a non existent job! Therefore the new regime is harassment!
    Just think of the unholy mess we’d be in if 160,000 kiwis hadn’t left for Aussie and other parts during Shonkey’s reign.

  14. xtasy 14

    Forget the nice, passionate speeches and hear the real talk, like for instance from Jacinda Ardern of Labour on RNZ National’s Focus on Politics this afternoon:

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2533338/focus-on-politics-for-21-september-2012

    “Labour can live with parts” of the proposed reforms. She talks about “removing barriers” to help people back into work, and the criticism is more about the approach taken by Bennett and National, not so much about the direction.

    Yes, it is clear once again, there is not much sympathy beneficiaries can expect from Labour. Well, they talk about providing support and services, of course, to get people “work ready” (after illness, raising kids and so), but the “resolute focus” simply is more kindly worded.

    So select committee hearings will likely result in a few moderate changes, but otherwise, this bill will go through not changed all that much, I fear.

    Thank you David Shearer.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      Wave the light blue flag.

    • Carol 14.2

      xtasy, that sounds just TOO disappointing! I will listen to it on another day – when I have more energy to deal with it.

      But when are we going to get a major (large-ish) left wing party with some SPINE!

      • xtasy 14.2.1

        Bennett comes and spells out:

        “Individualisation”, “flexibility”, “investment approach”, “targeted response”, “confidence building”, “wrap around support”, “simple sanction regime”, letting people “know where they stand”, “people’s last stop”, “level of obligations”, “need” for “repercussions”, can one believe this crap talk?

        “Outside agencies” will be contracted, “sanctions” are already being used regularly (40,000 cases over 2 years already where benefits were cut , 2,000 sole parents were already getting benefits cut over last 2 years). Bennett goes on about a “limit” of “sanctions”, “only up to 50 per cent” for parents!?

        “Drug tests”, “sanctions”, “arrest warrant”, “social responsibilities”, bla, bla, bla!

        It seems to me, only the Greens and Mana have sufficient understanding, sympathy and may support beneficiaries to defend their already largely minimised and marginalised “rights”.

        Ardern just acknowledges sanctions will be harsher, is concerned about effect of “sanctions” and “cuts” to parents. “Parts of the reforms” acceptable, like “simplification”, bla, bla, bla. She has some points, but is NOT convincing me and many others.

        Bennett claims all these measures will be handled in a “fair and reasonable” manner.

        We look at “what people can do”, rather than what they “cannot do” is the mantra!

        BS “soft Nazi” system!

        • Carol 14.2.1.1

          Ardern just acknowledges sanctions will be harsher, is concerned about effect of “sanctions” and “cuts” to parents. “Parts of the reforms” acceptable, like “simplification”, bla, bla, bla. She has some points, but is NOT convincing me and many others.

          Actually I didn’t feel that convinced by her speech debating the latest welfare reform bill (2nd reading) this week. Robertson sounded like he meant it (even if it’s just good acting. But, to me, Ardern just sounded like she was going through the motions, and trying to remember how the dots in her notes joined up..

          Why do people think she would be a future contender for leadership?

          The two Green MP speakers, were fairly low key, but they sounded like they meant what they were saying.

        • BernyD 14.2.1.2

          Far out, she’s finally shown all the cards, good on her, but …
          That’s welfare expressed through law enforcement.
          The observed fact is … n+1 people will be on welfare for them the system does not work.
          Handling systemic abuse is a function at the coal face … good qualified people.
          This system should/does already exist, why are we changing it?

          • xtasy 14.2.1.2.1

            Ardern is a wannabe “career polly”, for sure, just pay attention and look at her fancy large watch and occasional fashionable dress there.

            Sorry, that is a bit nasty and trivial, but I ask her integrity.

            If you want to represent the downtrodden, workers and so, maybe go and mix and mingle a bit with them, share the damp houses with the “unwashed”, cold and freezing poor?

            The bellwether is too comfy down there, I feel. I had enough of this. Get real please. My faith goes somewhere else, for sure. Thank you!

            • Carol 14.2.1.2.1.1

              The woman Labour MP I usually like to hear talking in the House is Sue Moroney:

              http://www.labour.org.nz/suemoroney

              She sounds sincere, and usually has a twinkle in her eye – gives it to the government benches…… and not even on the Labour front bench now? Wasted?

              • xtasy

                Being “sincere” is in politics not that much appreciated. I totally agree with you, and Sue is a decent sort, with integrity, but that goes under in the house of bull dogs, I am afraid.

                • Colonial Viper

                  the Right in Labour choose the order of battle at the moment. Her caucus position is simply a reflection of that.

                  Put another way: Labour is not deploying its personnel based on capability, talent and commitment to Left values. It is doing it based on internal politics.

              • felix

                Sue has been impressing me too Carol. She’s sharp as a whip and skilfully frames the debates with apparent ease.

                She demonstrates that rare combination in politics of being smart, being pointed, being entertaining, being clear and concise, and meaning it – all at the same time.

  15. xtasy 15

    Let me wonder, there may be some people in some suburbs of Wellington, who may feel a bit like having an “early” “Guy Fawke’s Celebration” this year???!

  16. xtasy 16

    Re-check:

    “Active system”, “treating every one fairly, but NOT the same”, “work readiness”, “social obligations” and “opportunities”, fair enough, Jacinda, but clarify your stand re “simplification”, “impacts” of them and so forth. I still wonder, what you are about. How are 58 thousand “sick” suddenly going to be “job seekers” and so? That is what Bennett expects, do you?

    You raise fairly the issues in the UK, Athos and failures there, get clear on this, please, accept that such a system is unfair and crap. Some of us have doubts about you, so stand up and take a firm stand against this bill, as it is total BS and unfair. This certainly cannot be a bill deserving any Labour support and spirit!

    You have to explain to us what you are on about, so get into the media, make clear statements, and get your facts right on “fairness”, “respect”, and legality how to treat sick and unemployed. Also please address the previous policy on sick and invalids being examined by designated doctors trained by Labour appointed Dr D. Bratt, who is biased as.

    As your party in last term of government introduced a Principal Health Advisor who is clearly so biased, he compares benefit dependency to drug dependency, your party must get some facts clear and cleanse itself from past mistakes. Previous health assessments by designated doctors are contestable. Once that is cleared and addressed some of us may have trust in you and Labour! This is “legal” stuff too, by the way! Some are waiting for an answer.

    Thank you Jacinda

  17. Johnm 17

    Here is an example of the “War on the Poor” from the UK. I’m convinced myself that this Government if they think they can get away with it will copy the Tory bastards in the UK 🙁 Link http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2206976/Job-Centre-Plus-Paralysed-teen-life-support-birth-told-prove-work-lose-benefits.html

    “Paralysed teenager who has been on life support since birth must be ‘interviewed’ to prove he is unable work or face losing all his benefits

    Liam Barker, 18, can only communicate by blinking
    A letter Job Centre Plus said he might have to attend an interview to carry on getting benefits”

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