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Jobless, Homeless, Clueless

Written By: - Date published: 1:40 pm, August 17th, 2010 - 25 comments
Categories: Economy, housing, jobs - Tags:

In the last seven days a triple-conjunction of political portents has publicly demonstrated just how bankrupt of imagination and policy this current government truly is. The lack of direction and paucity of creative ideas is breath-taking. A “caretaker-government” would be a polite euphemism in this context.


Unemployment  rose 19,000 during the June quarter to 159,000 – a rise from 6% to 6.8%. There are over quarter of a million jobless Kiwis (the unemployed plus those who have given up actively looking for a job) and another 100,000 who want more hours than they can get. The effects of the Recession are still being felt, and is taking its toll amongst workers and their families.

Social Welfare Minister Paula Bennett’s response?

”No-one wants to see a jump in unemployment. And I think that we have got to put it in perspective – where it’s 7.1 per cent in December last year and now it’s 6.8…We’d sort of see it as an evening out now.”

This government’s response thus far to our growing unemployment? That would be… the cycleway.

Total number employed under this project: a staggering… 70.

Instead of addressing this worsening situation, this government has spent tax dollars on a “working group”, led by former Commerce Commission head Paula Rebstock.

It’s conclusion? “Most people on a benefit have little or no focus on paid work, with a growing number “locked into” the system for years. ”  And, according to Ms Rebstock, “we have concluded the current benefit system ignores the importance of paid work to the well-being of New Zealanders,”

When in doubt; when there’s nowhere left to turn; and when embarrassed by lengthening dole queues – reset  National Government Default Setting #1: blame it  on the “dole bludging beneficiaries and solo-mums”.

In the last twenty years, National has found iself taking office during two full-blown recessions; 1990 and 2008. Their knee-jerk reaction on both occasions was/is attack the beneficiaries. (Most of us remember the cruelty of Ruth Richardson’s “Mother of all budgets”.) True to form, this government attacks those New Zealanders who – until a couple of years ago – were employed in enterprises from Kaitaia to Bluff; earning money to feed their families; and not foreseeing that, because of events in Wall Street, they would soon be losing their jobs. I struggle to understand how workers in New Zealand were able to effect the collapse of Lehmann Bros on September 15, 2008, thereby sparking the worst recession since the Depression of the 1930s. And by causing that Recession, destroying their own jobs in some Lemming-like pursuit of a dole-funded Nirvana.

The Rebstock report is not a re-analysis of how social welfare works in this country. Instead it is little more than a none-too-subtle attempt at blaming beneficiaries for this current government’s laziness and ineptitude in addressing increasing growing  numbers of unemployed.

Remember that prior to the Recession, our unemployment rate was a mere 3.9%. And while no one is blaming National for the Recession that nearly doubled that figure over two years – they are responsible for their abysmal response to it.

Remember: we  have 357,000 people who are looking for work.

This government is sitting on it’s collective, well-padded backside; on equally well-padded ministerial seats; fiddling with dubious reports whilst our economy burns to the ground.

Which brings us to…


Yet another government quango, established by Housing Minister Phil  Heatley, has complained that “22,000, or 32 per cent of Housing New Zealand tenants, had been in the same state houses for at least 10 years.” They were evidently portrayed as taking up room – room required by just over 10,000 people on Housing NZ’s waiting lists;

Current Housing NZ waiting list:

As at 31 July 2010 there were 10,153 people on the waiting list. Of this:

* 334 were A priority (severe housing need)
* 4,160 were B priority (significant housing need)
* 3,093 were C priority (moderate housing need)
* 2,566 were D priority (lower level housing need)

Ten thousand-plus people on a waiting list. What does the government do? What policy does it embark on? The following is a multi-choice option:

A. Build more houses?

B. Criticise New Zealanders for daring to  live long-term in their homes?

It is with considerable unease that I note that  Housing Minister Phil Heatley (who has his accommodation paid for by the taxpayer) said, “We want to ensure this significant asset is utilised to the best effect. We also want the system to be fairer and to work better for those families most in need.”

This government’s idea of “fairness” seems predicated on the suggestion that one family is booted out, to allow another to take up residence.

By no stretch of the imagination can such a policy be even remotely seen as imaginative or creative. Or fair.

It is an undeniable fact that there are many families in dire need of decent, affordable, accommodation. But rather than evicting families, and uprooting them from their communities (which in itself would create even more dire social problems), it strikes me that this government has alternatives it has not bothered to consider…


Fact #1: we have 255,000 jobless fellow New Zealanders, looking for work and a further 100,000 needing more work.

Fact #2: we require several thousand new NZ Housing units (commonly referred to as “homes”) for people in need.

Fact #3: the economic recovery has been uneven, and has mainly benefited exports such as dairying and unprocessed logs. The rest of the economy has not picked up – evidenced by the sharp rise in unemployment. Indeed, ANZ New Zealand chief executive officer Jenny Fagg said that “the New Zealand economy has stabilised in a number of areas although the recovery is somewhat uneven at this early stage. There are signs of a lift in business conditions although growth remains subdued.”

Taken in conjunction, the three facts above would seem to point to an obvious conclusion.  The answer is not to bash beneficiaries for daring to accept tax-payer support in feeding themselves and their families. The answer is not to evict families from their state homes. Nor is the answer to guilt-trip solo-mothers or those with disabilities who haven’t a hope in hell in competing with 159,000 other unemployed people to scramble for non-existent jobs.

The answer is to utilise the resources we have and by doing so, give people the opportunity to find work.

In case I need to spell it out to this clueless government: build more bloody houses!

The flow-on effects of a crash building-programme to build five thousand new state houses would create thousands of new jobs – not just 70. There would be a demand for architects; builders; electricians; plasterers; roofers; drainlayers; glaziers; tilers; apprentices; and other tradespeople;  raw materials purchased from building retailers; additional staff at each retail outlet; transport operators; increased demand from the timber industry, creating new jobs in forestry; and support businesses every step of the way. Each tradesperson; truckie; forestry worker would take home a wage. That wage would be spent at local supermarkets, which would then have to hire one or two extra staff-members as well as  purchase more stock. Even the companies that rent out jumbo-bins to cart away the detritus from building sites would find their turn-over increasing. Or the local pie-shop that would sell food to nearby building-sites.  That is what flow-on is.

The government would recoup much of the outlay for the building programme by way of GST, PAYE, ACC,  and provisional tax receipts; rent collected from the new homes; and less spent on unemployment benefits.

This is the sort of bold initiative we require from a  government with any claim to having a vision.

Instead, we are seeing a cruel bullying and calculated persecution of those at the bottom of the heap.

If this is the best that  National can offer us, then it is simply not good enough. We deserve better than a caretaker government.

Frank Macskasy

25 comments on “Jobless, Homeless, Clueless ”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    Right time, right place for Phil Goff: http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/4032012/2700-applicants-for-150-jobs

    “2700 applicants for 150 jobs

    When a new supermarket opened today in Auckland it created 150 new jobs, but that was a small comfort for the 2550 people who applied for jobs there and missed out.

    Labour leader Phil Goff arrived in Wellington mid-morning today because he had been opening a New World supermarket in his Mt Roskill electorate.

    The owner operator told Mr Goff 2700 people had applied for the 150 positions created in the new store.

    “I had to ask the question – where is John Key’s recovery for the ordinary people in my electorate?” “

  2. tc 2

    The evidence is growing like a nasty infection and can’t be fobbed off or ignored anymore.

    Especially with such personas as Holmes whining about soft demand for his Olive oils (aww diddums)/Armstrong getting tetchy with his idols and the shonky tax cuts for the rich/GST rise about to hammer home.

    On top of unecessary manufactured increases in ACC/power prices/ETS etc due to comical handling by the likes of Smith/Browncoal.

    Time for the big guns like Basher/Trolley/Crusher to save the day….haven’t they all been quiet lately.

  3. Bill 3

    In the last seven days a triple-conjunction of political portents has publicly demonstrated just how bankrupt of imagination and policy this current government truly is. The lack of direction and paucity of creative ideas is breath-taking. A “caretaker-government’ would be a polite euphemism in this context.

    This is true.

    But only from the perspective of an expectation that government initiates policies that are somehow connected to or concerned with the well being of society. But this government isn’t coming from that perspective. And it’s displayed ample imagination in areas connected to pulling the wool over our eyes and in transferring wealth from the poorer to the richer and also in running down state provisioning in order to introduce profit driven private provisioning.

    And from being highly critical and even caustic of the ‘no show’ Labour Party, I’m starting to wonder whether silence on their part was a deliberate strategy designed to deny this government the opportunity of appearing reasonable.

    If Labour suggest a policy, all National need do is echo it. And if National get to be perceived as reasonable in relation to Labour, ie not much different, then they will get back in on the back of policies that they don’t have to think about or actually give a toss about.

    And if that happens and they are able to keep on rolling out their pro-corporate, anti-society and anti-state policies, then those core policies will, over time have a deleterious effect on the ‘feel good’ – “Look how moderate we are!” – pesky policies they have initiated as mere echo responses in their bid to hold on to power.

    So maybe Labour should say little or nothing. Which means that the government will be saying and doing nothing and probably continuing quite high in the polls. Until the election period when labour starts saying a lot and the government has no time to construct ‘echo chamber’ popularity.

    And then there is the possibility that I’m just way over thinking matters.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 3.1

      Labour’s job is to champion causes it believes in. If it is too chicken to talk about equality, fairness and human rights they are failing in their job. When was the last time these issues were part of the public discourse?

      You can’t just believe people will somehow self-educate in these matters and suddenly see the light the day before the election. Instead of advocating and taking the flak, Labour are so scared of being called PC they simply run away and hide in the corner whilst talkback radio, Laws, Hide at all spew out their views.

  4. Rex Widerstrom 4

    Building more homes is an obvious (to everyone but the government) solution. But it will take time.

    And Heatley is right – there are people living in state houses who don’t need them. Either because the size of their families have shrunk over the years as children have left home, or because their circumstances have changed, they’re now earning a good income and they’re paying market rents.

    Given the 10,000 people in need it becomes a question of balancing conflicting needs and rights and I’d argue those on the waiting list have a need which outweighs the right to keep a home you no longer need.

    I’m not sure what the relative proportions of housing stock in NZ are, but I know that in WA there is a sizeable problem of mostly elderly people living in 3 or 4 bedroom homes as singles or couples while one bedroom apartments remain unfilled. They understandably don’t want to move because they’ve lived in the same home for perhaps decades, but meanwhile mothers with children are sleeping in cars and garages.

    Yes, there need to be a long term solution (building more houses). But while the situation remains that anyone doesn’t have a roof over their head, a pragmatic reallocation of resources might be harsh, but it’s also necessary.

    • bbfloyd 4.1

      rex.. have you seen any figures on the number of people living thus?
      there was a concerted campaign in the ninties by housing nz to weed out just that kind of tenant. added to the thousands of houses sold in that period(mostly older 3_4 bedroom). how many do you think were left in oversized homes after that?
      add to that the fact that market rents are charged. and yes i know there are subsidies, but when you apply for them you have to supply all relevant info. such as, how many bedrooms,how many family members are residing there, and whether they are earning enough to qualify for subsidy.
      after all that, how many can there really be? considering that hnz won’t hesitate to downsize their tenants the minute they can. this has been standard practice for a little while now.

    • Frank Macskasy 4.2

      “Yes, there need to be a long term solution (building more houses). But while the situation remains that anyone doesn’t have a roof over their head, a pragmatic reallocation of resources might be harsh, but it’s also necessary.”

      Being evicted from your home is somewhat more than just “harsh”, Rex. It is downright abhorrent.

      I think we have the resources; the nous; the determination to do something more positive than simply “a pragmatic reallocation of resources”.

      It might not be quite so “pragmatic” if it was you or a family member who were evicted from their home.

      • Rex Widerstrom 4.2.1

        I’ve been evicted before Frank, so I kow what it’s like. In fact I’m effectively being evicted as we speak, since my lease ends in a fortnight and the lanlords are moving in themselves. So I do appreciate what it’s like to be uprooted… but if I was being moved so that a mother and kids could move out of their car and into my home (as long as I was getting housed too) I’d do so happily.

  5. Tanz 5

    The camera loves him though, and he it, or maybe not. Superficial? Yep, he comes across as a little bit plastic.

  6. Great post Frank! I can’t say I’m surprised at National’s actions, or the lack of them. The problems go back to the 1990’s and the inane policies to sell off well over 10,000 housing units and the even more inane policy to let anybody who wanted to, rent state houses; that is the reason there are many people renting state houses who shouldn’t qualify – those who have sufficient income to rent privately. National cannot turn around change the rules mid game. Those on income related rents pay the same for three, two or one bedroom homes, units or flats. Many two bedroomed units were sold; these are the type that many older tenants with grown-up children could downsize to, if they were available.

    Yes, Labour would be well advised to keep quiet about the state of the nation.

    http://peter-petterson.blogspot.com DOWN BY THE HUTTRIVER


    • Frank Macskasy 6.1

      Thanks, Peter.

      It is becoming more apparent that the Emporer has No Clothes – and this Guvmint Has No Policies. When the gst increase hits, the middle class is going to have a real shock. Especially when gst-liable imposts such as rates, ACC, and other government charges are affected.

      Interesting comments about state housing.

      Regarding the Jobless, and WINZ benefits, the “Dominion Post” recently published this letter from me…

      “Welfare Minister Paula Bennet has announced the support package for parents to provide a ”home for life” for a child in care. Foster parents will recieve various packages including $130 p/w to assist in costs to foster a child. She is quite enthusiastic about the programme, saying,

      ” ‘We have more than 5000 children in Child Youth and Family custody and every one of those kids deserves a secure home. ‘There are over 2000 foster carers currently, many of who may be able to offer a child permanency, this package supports them to do that.”

      This is a great idea. Anything that gets children into caring, loving, supportive homes is definitely the right step to take.

      But one thing niggles me…

      This government has hardly been supportive of solo-mothers and beneficiaries. In fact, Bennet has been vociferous in her condemnation of people on welfare,

      [“If we don’t do something in MSD you know in the best of times, and you know in the mid 2000s we saw still sort of quarter of a million New Zealanders reliant on welfare.” – editted out.]

      So why would anyone want to foster a child; becoming a recipient of a WINZ benefit; and become a target for bene-bashing ignoramuses and politicians???”

  7. Frank Macskasy 7

    We can add another 100 unemployed to the growing numbers…

    “Jobs to go at Education Ministry: union ”

  8. When will babies be taken off mothers after birth?

  9. Deborah Kean 9

    @Rex Widerstrom : “And Heatley is right there are people living in state houses who don’t need them. Either because the size of their families have shrunk over the years as children have left home, or because their circumstances have changed, they’re now earning a good income and they’re paying market rents.”
    I am in that position – sort of! I was ready to move out from the State house where I’d raised my son when he left home – and then the company I worked for went under and I lost my job. Now, I can’t afford to move out! I’d happily give this house over to a family, but I can’t afford to rent privately on a single UB.
    People on UB are automatically barred from working for the Public service, we unemployed were informed at a ‘job hunting’ seminar. That was actually good news, as it explained why every application I’d make to any government department was never even acknowledged. (How many unemployed people are aware of that, that every time they apply for a government job, the HR person checks their benefit status and bins their application?)
    Yet I would be a better call centre person at HCNZ than the dimwits I talk to because I live in an uninsulated hell hole that needs constant repair.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      People on UB are automatically barred from working for the Public service, we unemployed were informed at a ‘job hunting’ seminar. That was actually good news, as it explained why every application I’d make to any government department was never even acknowledged. (How many unemployed people are aware of that, that every time they apply for a government job, the HR person checks their benefit status and bins their application?)

      I’m pretty sure that would be discrimination and against the law. Is there any proof of that?

      • Vicky32 9.1.1

        Proof? No, inasmuch as she said to about 40 of us, but none of us, being ‘long-term unemployed’ would be considered credible witnesses…
        Apparently, if anyone applies to any government department for any job, the receiever of the application immediately enters their name into the WINZ site and checks their benefit history, then excludes them on that basis…
        I am sure it is discrimination – but as I have discovered by going to the HRC about another instance of clear and obvious discrimiation, the HRC actually has no powers, unless the person discriminated against is already employed. So if you want to discriminate whilst hiring, knock yourself out!

    • What do you mean people on the Unemployed Benefit are automatically excluded from the Public Service? Who said so?

      • Vicky32 9.2.1

        A WINZ employee conducting a compulsory job seminar that I attended in June. She informed us of that fact and advised us not to waste our time applying…

  10. Deborah Kean 10

    “A home for life” – does she mean that kids will be forcibly adopted away from solo mothers who can’t afford to care for them, and then given to the middle-class married foster carers? That’s sick!
    I read on another thread (sadly comments were closed or I’d have made one) the assertion that solo mothers on benefits neglect their kids so the kids become criminals. What utter rubbish! Michael Moore (the NZ former PM, not the American doco maker) showed that most solo mothers on DPB are not teen never-marrieds, but 30 something former-married, so taking children away from “bennies” and giving them for a adoption to the middle class foster carers is a solution to a non-existent problem.

  11. There is no crisis in welfare. The National government is delivering the same old crap it did in vast quantities back in the 90’s.

  12. Visit my blog and see how I feel about things.

  13. The Jobless Claims report from last week will likely be revised. 9 state governments were closed for the holiday, so the reports are not accurate. Don’t get your hopes up.

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