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Paula Benefit Distractions

Written By: - Date published: 10:50 pm, July 21st, 2012 - 51 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags: , ,

Today’s big announcement from Paula Bennett at the National Party Conference was that those on the run from police will have their benefits stopped.

But the question needs to be asked: how many people on the run are collecting the benefit?  (Even if they’re on the benefit, are they collecting it?  Isn’t that giving the police clues as to where they are?)

How much will this policy change save compared to the amount we spent on Paula & her advisors to come up with it?  The amount it will cost for parliament to spend time passing the law?

So is this really about a serious problem, or is this just another beneficiary-bashing dog-whistle from the Queen of them?  Part of the continued demonisation of beneficiaries, of reducing the moral worth of those unfortunate enough to end up bottom of the heap.

A distraction to give us someone to hate, rather than focus on what National’s doing to our economy, our assets, our country, as they ramp up inequality and the privilege of the few over the many.


51 comments on “Paula Benefit Distractions”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    I heard on the TV news that they were going to unveil a plan for beneficiaries.

    This is it? Seriously? Really, really weak.

    I can’t imagine that the convention attendees would be particularly enthused by this move, compared to the much-touted payment card for groceries etc that they unveiled at their previous convention which at least made some modicum of sense.

    • gnomic 1.1

      The assembled members of the nasty party applauded as the minister tittered after announcing this masterstroke. She appears to be a simpleton with a nasty streak; what the puppeteers needed for their vicious agenda no doubt. Pretty soon there will be no alternative to removing all those cumbersome ‘entitlements’ altogether. The gloomy prognostications from English the wolf spell it out.

    • David H 1.2

      No as usual with Pudding benefit, the devil will be in the details, hidden in the small print.

      • Jim Nald 1.2.1

        She should spare NZ of any rubbish and nastiness she brought back from her six weeks overseas holiday.

    • Vicky32 1.3

      which at least made some modicum of sense.

      What sense would that be then?

    • xtasy 1.4

      Yes, Lanthanide, but more will come soon, in August. That will be their big plan to introduce the new benefit regime, putting sickness beneficiaries into the same category as fit and health “job seekers”.

      Another benefit will replace the present invalid’s benefit.

      Watch out for the detail of those new policies. There is bound to be some pretty nasty stuff.

      They also did get a “message” at MSD, which was the result of a legal challenge. It appears to have been resolved in the form of a “settlement”, but there was some serious concerns that they had about past treatment of sickness and invalid beneficiaries facing medical examinations under the Act.

      As WINZ and MSD have been “training” “designated doctors” since 2008, they appear to have been doing the same as at ACC recently, resorting to at least in some cases “biased” doctors to make the decisions they would prefer, as it saved them costs.

      So it pays to keep an eye on what Bennett will announce next. It seems to have been too early to announce at this conference. Another major upset at the Ministry of Social Development was the sudden departure of the new Chief Executive Grossman, who was hired from the UK, and who left barely a year after taking up her position.

      Rumours have it that she was upsed about Bennett appointing a Social Welfare Board to oversee the implementation of reforms, headed by Rebstock.

  2. Richard Christie 2

    I would have thought a trail of ATM withdrawals would have been helpful to police.

  3. fender 3

    So a single-parent with long forgotten unpaid fines may have had a warrant for arrest issued against them, but because they have moved to another town and couldn’t be found will have their DPB cut when police and Winz records get scrutinised alongside each other ?

    Great work Paula, fine way to create some further disadvantaged children.

    Why didn’t National tell all 400 of their redneck followers that all beneficiaries are criminals, that’s what they want to hear.

    • Dr Terry 3.1

      Fender, that is what was heavily implied, and in effect that is exactly what the rednecks did hear.

    • Carol 3.2

      And a similar thing is happening in the UK (and the US, I think)….all working from the same right wing playbook:


      I believe the ulterior motive is the demonisation of the poor, with the aim, in the long run, of simply slicing off these families at the bottom of what we think of as “society”. Thereafter, terms like “fairness” and “empathy” and “all in this together” can be bandied around pretty freely, because the evidence of their extinction will no longer exist. The problem families won’t count – because they severed the social contract with their criminality and un-neighbourliness.
      There is plenty of existing evidence that if you want to intervene with families, you do so in a voluntary, unstigmatising way, with a local hub providing many different services, from parenting advice to English lessons.

    • aerobubble 3.3

      It costs mre to put people in prison. So either the cost of capturing will be brought forward, or the individuals will get home detention, and nothing will really change. The jobs aren’t there.

  4. Carol 4

    Bennett shows which party is truly the nasty one. When she says that she plans to “wrap services around” certain beneficiaries, does anyone else cringe? I just feel like running for the door gasping for breath.

    So parents who aren’t doing the best for their kids health and education are going to have their benefits halved? So how is this going to improve things for the children? This will be punishing the parents as well as the children. And then how are they supposed to survive?

    Meanwhile, the real criminals are given free rein – those bludgers who are ripping off tax payers, benefiting from crony capitalism, destroying the environment we depend on for survival, plundering the resources we need to conserve, and siphoning money from the least well-off and channeling it to the already well-off.


    National is starting to flesh out its second round of changes in welfare to come into law next year, called social obligations.

    “We will be introducing social obligations, so they will have to enrol their child in early childhood education and get well checks at the doctor by enrolling the local PHO,” says Paula Bennett.

    So if you’re on the DPB not only will you be expected to go back to work, but from next year you must fulfil these new obligations or you will be punished.

    “If you have kids, then you will lose 50 percent of your benefit,” says Ms Bennett. “That’s the worst case scenario. We hope it doesn’t get to that.”

    And without jobs paying a living wage, the Nats are planning to make survival even harder for the people who are struggling the most.

    Not only the most vicious of nasty parties, but the most cynically punitive, demonising the least powerful, while letting the elite plunder the state and its resources.

    • Agreed Carol.  Every time Bennett says “wrap around” I get the vision of a fist …

    • Dr Terry 4.2

      Carol, why are we not hearing your comments from the mouth of Shearer? I so wish you were there instead of him, but with Labour’s hard to follow new policies on their leadership we can no longer so much as hope that Shearer will be replaced before 2014. We will just have to go on admiring all his self-professed heroics from the distant past.
      As a side-line, notice how in McCarten’s Utopian comments in the Sunday Herald, Norman is yet again featured as ipso facto leader of the Green Party, being the male co-leader of course.

      • Carol 4.2.1

        Thanks, Dr T. Well I certainly wouldn’t make a very good MP, and would be a terrible leader. But I agree that we all have a role in spreading alternative narratives to the dominant “neoliberal” or neocon one.

        I also think Metira Turei is a better leader and has more ideas I can agree with than norman.

    • Vicky32 4.3

      so they will have to enrol their child in early childhood education

      This is what I said to a friend who emailed me about this earlier today “What if the  DPB mum doesn’t enrol her kids in a pre-school because the
      only one in her neighbourhood is a very expensive warehousing ‘child
      care centre’, that she can’t afford? After all, I see 100s of jobs for
      ‘teachers’ at ‘early childhood centres’ which in previous years would
      be honest about just being ‘day care centres’. Now they all claim to
      be pre-schools. Meanwhile, kindergartens are being shut in order for
      the Min of Ed to save money..”

  5. David H 5

    And the rank ‘n’ file love it. Makes me wonder what sort of utopia the Nats want. And where’s Labours response to this, and everything else coming out of the Sky shitty Sewer Rats meeting ?? NOTHING, NIX, NADA. Patetic. And the way things are going I should imagine that NZ will only be for the rich ‘n’ shameless.

    • starlight 5.2

      I agree wholeheartedly with you,i too am frustrated and angry that labour are
      in a ‘cone of silence’ over many issues affecting their constituents,this is abdicating
      responsibility for being a party that stands up for and protects the rights of their
      I pesonally feel that cunliffe and adhern should be leaders and labour need to rid
      themselves of the ‘old guard’ to make any sort of difference in the next election.
      I heard adhern in parliament standing up for beneficiaries and arguing the affects
      of the policy decisions,but yet are still waiting for shearer to stand up for anyone.

      • Carol 5.2.1

        Jacinda Ardern gave a very good response to Bennett on social welfare in parliament (last week?) – recently. But she seems to have got in with the wrong crowd.

    • Anne 5.3

      Watch parliament next week David H. That’s about the only place where the Opposition can actually be heard. Unless they accuse some Nat pollie of an unspeakable crime – not always a wise thing to do even if it is true – then the MSM have been ‘advised’ to ignore them. You only have to read little blue boy’s piece “For dignity’s sake Key won’t budge on sales” in yesterday’s Herald to figure out what’s going on.

      • Descendant Of Smith 5.3.1

        Only place they can be heard – first they have to have something to say?

        Mouthing the ocassional platitude and saying National have got it wrong isn’t much chop.

        Their policies to increase taxation, to stop profit drifting off shore, their intent to increase benefit rates, their intent to increase the minimum wage etc are all non existant.

        Muldoon was more left than this current crop.

        What about getting off their backsides and saying that New Zealanders as a whole are decent, honest and fairminded, that benefit fraud is only a small problem, that the vast majority of people on benefit are there for a short time and that we shouldn’t castigate the many for the behaviour of a few.

        What about saying that the governments role is to help people and that every nit-picking thing that the government gives a public servant to do takes them away from actually helping someone.

        I said when this government was elected that daddy state would be much much worse than nanny state and it is.

        Daddy chooses which of his kids to favour, which ones to punish, which ones will get the presents and which get to eat bread and water.

        Be good for daddy and you’ll get a little treat.

        We got rid of moralistic charity for good reason. Why oh why are we allowing it to come back?

        Why oh why can’t Labour even articulate some form of approach that has simple common decency and fairness in it.

        The language isn’t that difficult – but I guess you have to believe in it first.

        • Ben Clark

          Your point on the Daddy state being far worse than the Nanny one is certainly true, but you’re somewhat misled on Labour.

          increase in tax – CGT would be the most progressive tax in over a generation.
          stop profit drifting offshore – the changes to the Reserve Bank Act, the stopping of asset sales are among the policies there
          increase benefit rates – the plan was to extend the WFF tax credit to beneficiaries – now Labour are looking at different way to achieve the same goal of reducing child poverty of beneficiaries
          Minimum wage would already be $15 if Labour had got in at the last election.

          There’s belief there in all those policies, if you’re willing to listen.

          • Descendant Of Smith

            increase in tax – CGT would be the most progressive tax in over a generation.

            Yet wouldn’t raise enough revenue to offset the taxes that have gone over the years – not only reduction in rates but gifting, death duties, GST shifting more taxation to the bottom, taxation of the banking sector who shift massive amounts off shore and have the temerity to rip us off as well – although IRD have got some of that back.

            Stop profit drifting offshore – the changes to the Reserve Bank Act

            I’ll have to look for that one but last I looked there was an absence of policies on the Labour Party website

            The stopping of asset sales

            Yep but no policy around what you will do once they are sold

            increase benefit rates – the plan was to extend the WFF tax credit to beneficiaries

            Yeah but what about single people and the cynical putting back of the $20-00 per week on NZS. Cost wasn’t the issue cause there was less people on benefit and super was already higher – care for the poorest – not likely

            Minimum wage would already be $15 if Labour had got in at the last election.

            Yep though it still doesn’t address the employer rort of putting people on salaries that means they earn less than the minimum wage for the hours worked, or the fact that many contracts have no mechanism for wage reviews. Legislate that a minimum salary should be 120% of the minimum wage and that all workers must get a minimum wage increase of 2% per year. That at least will ensure the least empowered at least stop some of the inflationary inroads.

            And your policies on:
            building state housing
            letting people stay in them
            funding schools
            the state employing people to care for the elderly
            industry wage bargaining so firms have to compete on service and quality not low wages
            8 hour working day
            40 hour working week – maybe a 32 hour working week to share the work around
            union access to workplaces
            free dental treatment for people on benefit through health system
            access to contraception va health not welfare

            and so on and so on

            I’m listening just not hearing that much of substance.

            And on your own website you state these things with a supposed sense of pride but with no willingness to put them back in place.

            “For the first time access to health care became affordable for all. The State assumed a major responsibility to provide low cost housing to those in need. A comprehensive social welfare system gave support and security to the elderly, the sick, and those without employment.

            Access was opened to secondary and tertiary education. The New Zealand economy was transformed and unemployment was reduced dramatically. Workers also benefited from the introduction of the 40 hour week, and legislation making it easier for unions to negotiate on their behalf.”

  6. Foreign Waka 6

    If this wouldn’t be so sad I would laugh. Cutting benefit for people on the run from police? Seriously? Does she really think a criminal on the run cares? A break in at the nearest dairy is all they need to top up their need of the day. What innovation, what great thinking. Fantastic.

  7. I am sure the OIAs have been drafted as we read this.

    To the MSD

    Has any work been performed on the likely effects of the proposed policy of suspending benefit payments for beneficiaries who have a warrant for their arrest issued?

    If so:

    1.  How will the data matching be handled?
    2.  What anticipated number of beneficiaries will be affected?
    3.  What arrangements for the children of affected beneficiaries will be put into place?

    • Uturn 7.1

      Dear M Savage,

      No preliminary investigations of this policy have been conducted. There is no record of an official draft being lodged and so your request for information is refused on the basis that it does not exist. Thank you for using MSD helpline.

      All Us at MSD.

    • xtasy 7.2

      OIA requests are these days treated in a manner resembling comtempt, that is by MSD, health and other authorities.

      I requested OIA info from MSD last year and the year before. They were last year over a month late to respond and did not disclose much of what I requested, and they did not apologise either for the late reply. A further request was not even replied to, although having been made reasonably and within the required form.

      Fact is:
      If an applicant requests info under the OIA and does not get the response expected, the only way to address this is by making a complaint to the Office of Ombudsmen.

      That office has been so short funded for a long time now (since National came to power), they are about 6 months behind processing complaints. A recent email sent to them had the automated response, which informed me that they will endeavour to respond to any email within ONE MONTH!

      Info requested from Auckland District Health Board in January was refused, leading to a complaint to the Ombudsman. I have been waiting about half a year for a response.

      Also is the Health and Disability Commissioner’s office over-burdoned, so that many complaints to them now take about a year to a year and a half to process and decide upon.

      The government is intentionally capping funding and saving costs in those and other areas, leading to the situation just described. The idea is clearly to also discourage people from making complaints for a start. That is one way of dealing with problems, and Housing NZ introduced the 0800 customer phone line for exactly the same purpose – not so much to “help”, but to “fob off”.

  8. David 8

    You have to wonder how many of these nasty little clampdowns they have up their sleeve, and are going to drop on us one at a time. Clearly their polling is telling them they are on a roll with this, possibly among some Labour voters, who are not always the most empathetic towards the people just behind them. It’s the inevitable slathering of all people who need social security support with the same brush that really turns my stomach. Do they know the damage they are doing to people who really need support? They are giving everyone a false excuse to hate them, to delete them, to harrass them. When people are down and struggling, that is not what they need. When the whole economy is flat and going nowhere, and the haves turn on the have nots out of their own minor insecurities, and start their shrill awful moralising and howling for Hooverite austerity. God Labour need some leadership calling NZers to be better than this!!

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 8.1

      “Labour need some leadership calling NZers to be better than this!!”

      Ditto the Greens.

  9. ’20 hrs’ the NEW full time hours folks, how is this going to work?
    Creation of a new lower level of poverty in nz.
    The old 30hrs full time was a poverty level.
    Paula Bene is now costing tax payers more by including her
    new husband in air fares,accomodation allowance,holidays
    etc,so who is the beneficiary of the tax payers?
    Also the injustice is that she only has to serve 2yrs, (which she
    has done) and she is entitled to a life long benefit provided by
    the tax payer,also free air travel for life and if she leaves this
    earth her new husband will be entitled for all of the above for
    the rest of his life.
    Fair,absolutely not,so who are the real beneficiaries in nz?
    The nats could’nt give a monkey’s about the desperate poverty
    they are prepared to create and their party faithfull and key
    himself ignore the perils of such policies, any resistance is
    taken by key as disent and he says ‘bring it on’

  10. Kay 10

    Bennett’s bombshells are classic scapegoating, and nothing innovative whatsoever. This is what New Zealand was like in the 19th Century, when charitable aid had a punitive, moralistic character (well documented in Margaret Tennant’s 1989 book, Paupers and Providers: Charitable Aid in New Zealand). The current government’s welfare reforms are simply reheated versions of Ruth Richardson’s and Jenny Shipley’s social welfare policies of the 1990s.

    Internationally, both neoliberals and neoconservatives have been banging the same drum since Charles Murray published his 1984 tract, Losing Ground,which asserted a causal link between welfare receipt and crime by selective use of statistics. What gets me is that these ideas are often simply regurgitated by the mainstream media, with no reference to the vast amount of research or debate on such topics in other countries. It’s great that there are still a few critical New Zealand journalists writing on the internet, people who link to the experiences of other countries from which we could learn, but the majority of New Zealanders don’t see this and are poorly informed.

  11. aj 11

    Paula Bennett and the Nats are espousing exactly the same agenda that has been featured and satirised perfectly in the last two episodes of Shameless on UK TV.

  12. Tigger 12

    This is all well and good but how can the police catch anyone when they’re all guarding that nice Mr Key from those evil protestors?

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    The notice of strike action issued by the junior doctors today is the result of years of National’s cuts to the health system, says Labour’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr David Clark. ...
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