I have followed Paula Bennett’s political career with some interest.
Her attempts to become a Westie I thought were ridiculous but in John Key’s National his caucus had to look like all of us so the effort, misguided as it was, was worth it.
Since leaving Parliament she has augmented stints as a real estate with regular writing spots in the Herald, where former National MPs go to sacrifice the residue of any credibility left at the end of their career.
It is also where they go to forget things. Like in the case of Paula how she torched the ladder that allowed solo mums to get qualifications in an attempt to drag themselves out of state instituted poverty.
Her latest column involves a complaint about Pharmac and how it is not funding enough. In the article (paywalled) she says this:
I have said in my columns before how lucky we are to be New Zealanders and have access to our welfare and education system.
We are but she was the person who did her best to undermine the system which back in the day allowed people on the DPB to gain qualifications with the goal of getting themselves off the benefit.
This is something I wrote about her in 2013. I stand by every word.
She has been an important part of National’s senior line up. She was a teenage mother on the DPB who according to her pulled herself up by her bootstraps although thanks should really go to good old New Zealand Inc which supported her getting a tertiary qualification while on the Domestic Purposes Benefit. She then formed a friendship with Murray McCully, got herself on National’s list and rode the National wave in 2005 to enter Parliament.
She won the Waitakere seat in 2008 on the back of a strong surge of support for National although the margin over Lynne Pillay was not great. She was rewarded with a Ministerial position. One of her major roles as a Minister has been to pull the ladder up after her so that others in her former position would not enjoy the assistance that she did.
Her ministerial promotion was straight out of the Crosby Textor play book. Instead of being white, male, and rich she was of a mixed ethnic background, female, and not so rich. And she had been a teenage mum and on the DPB. It was a much better look if she, rather than her white rich male colleagues, bashed beneficiaries. It was presented as if she was trying to help the poor whereas the reality was that it was a cynically targeted dog whistle that caused a great amount of misery but let National supporters think that something useful was being done.
National’s confidence in Paula was overly optimistic. In the 2011 election despite Labour experiencing its worst result for a long time Paula was almost defeated. Carmel Sepuloni and her able team led by Enzo Giordani ran a superb campaign and almost won the seat. They created history by losing on election night, winning on the final count but then losing on a judicial recount by the slimmest of margins.
Yesterday Paula confirmed that she was no longer proud to be a westie but wanted to be a North Shore MP instead. She announced that she wanted to seek the nomination for the new Upper Harbour seat which contains no part of the former Waitakere seat which she represented.
It is good that all kiwis have access to our welfare and education systems. As far as I am concerned changes made by Bennett made this country worse.
The subject of her article, that Pharmac funding needs to be drastically improved, is laughable when it is considered that with an aging and increasing population and increasing need during the last National Government funding was essentially static but since then it has increased substantially. Check out this Pharmac graph to see what has actually been happening.
She says that Pharmac is underfunded in the vicinity of $500 million. This Government in 2011 dollar terms has increased funding by almost $200 million per annum and on a dollar basis the figure is over $1 billion. I can’t recall Bennett complaining about Pharmac funding when she was in power, even though at the time the funding was considerably smaller.
She then appears to suggest that funding goes directly to sick New Zealanders. I presume she thinks we should bypass Pharmac’s purchasing power and clinical expertise and just let kiwis decide what they are going to spend their share on?
Words are cheap. Behavior when in power is a much stronger indicator of what you can expect from a party. When National complains that not enough is being done to fix a problem check their record.