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Planet Key, Planet Paula, and the War on the Poor

Written By: - Date published: 3:00 pm, September 19th, 2012 - 66 comments
Categories: brand key, child welfare, Economy, jobs, john key, Metiria Turei, national, national/act government, paula bennett, same old national - Tags:

Over the last week, the government’s off-world set of distorted realities has come to the foreground: those of “Planet John Key” and “Planet Paula”. This is a reversal of National’s spin lines of attack against (so-called) “Planet Labour”, most noticeably in Question Time in Parliament. They use this term to paint Labour as being out of touch with reality, especially in relation to the government’s idea of economic and financial realities. This has been an attempt to deflect the opposition’s criticisms of the government’s lack of policies to deal with New Zealand’s increasing problems lack of jobs paying a living wage, and with extensive and destructive wealth and income inequalities.

In contrast, the focus on Planet John Key and Planet Paula Bennett refocus the debate on the real problems NZ faces: these Planets are inter-related worlds designed to increase divisions and inequalities, and undermine democracy;. They are worlds based in myth and distortion, and that re-cast Dickensian separations of the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor . Here Bennett’s latest welfare reforms are spun as much needed and thoroughly “modern” ones. However, apart from anything else, what they really do is recast the social contract in such a way as to undermine previous attempts to make it fair and democratic, by waging a war on the poor.

Bennett has attempted to spin her reforms as “modern” and necessary to deal with current realities. For instance, back in June, she introduced the second reading of Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Bill in these terms:

This Government is transforming the welfare system into one that is modern, active, and responsible, because currently it is passive, out of date, and, quite frankly, it is failing too many.

In Bennett’s focus on “responsibility” and “social obligations”, pre-existing conceptions of social contract are reworked, so that the roles of state and individual become less equal. The original idea of a social contract is between the state and the individual. The individual gives up some rights so that they can get some protection by the state, against lawless and destructive behaviour by others. The result of the Bennett-type of shift is that the greatest weight of social responsibilities are heaped on the poor, while the powerful elites, those on Planet Key, have a greater share of “rights” and privileges.

This is not that thoroughly modern and Kiwi, but something that can be seen in the policies and rhetoric of Britain’s New Labour in the late 1990s, and that was picked up by the current British coalition government. Ruth Lister outlines the reconstruction of the “welfare contract” in the UK, in “The Age of Responsibility: social policy and citizenship in the early 21st century”, pp63-80, in “Social Policy Review 23: Analysis and Debate in Social Policy, 2011” (extracts available on google books).

Lister shows how the shift to a focus on “social obligations” is one-sided, and rather than a mutually beneficial contract between the individual and the state, the balance of power is tipped towards state dominance and control. Furthermore, some of the responsibilities of the state are contracted out to private entities, creating less accountability. This can be seen in Part One of Bennett’s Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill, where beneficiaries are obligated to “work with contracted service providers”.

The welfare is no longer a protection against loss of employment/income, but becomes an obligation on citizens to work. At a time when it’s becoming increasingly hard to find jobs, these “obligations’ are all focused on the poor, the requirement to work, and regulation and control of their behaviour. It is creating fear and hardship amongst those with least power to resist.

Good on the Auckland Action against Poverty group for their well-timed and well-focused protest yesterday.

As Sue Bradford said at the protest:

“Just in the last 24 hours I have heard so many stories from beneficiaries who are just overwhelmed by the next onslaught.
The fear is huge of what is going to happen.

Contrast this with Planet Key, where it’s all about irresponsible and unaccountable fun, golf and holidays.


66 comments on “Planet Key, Planet Paula, and the War on the Poor”

  1. r0b 1

    Furthermore, some of the responsibilities of the state are contracted out to private entities, creating less accountability.

    Private prisons, charter schools. privatise ACC, etc etc.

    Its one thing I have never understood about right wing voters – they are always voting to diminish the power of their vote, by turning over more and more control to unelected, unaccountable, private institutions. Surrendering yourself to other people’s profit motive is a good idea how?

  2. ak 3

    r0b: Private prisons, charter schools. privatise ACC, etc etc.

    Total private welfare provision with pecuniary incentives to cut numbers is the end game, coming to a town near you very soon.

    Thin end of wedge already up and running, contracts signed and making profits right now.

  3. Hayden 4

    Maybe they’ve heard of “The War on Poverty” and got confused?

  4. Lightly 5

    I can’t believe that, in Key’s idea of paradise, there are no toilets. That would very rapidly become a hell.

    • Carol 5.1

      Ah, yes, heard that in Question Time today. Presumably that’s all to do with saving it for “trickle down” .


      • gobsmacked 5.1.1

        When the Prime Minister says “there are no toilets on Planet Key”, he is inviting ridicule.

        What a bunch of dimwits they are on the Labour benches. Not one was sharp enough to make any of the dozens of jokes that Key had fed them …

        “If there are no toilets, what is the planet full of?”
        “If there are no toilets, does this Nirvana smell like teen spirit, or something much worse?”
        “Does Planet Key have nowhere the PM can wash his hands, as he did with Richard Worth, but won’t do with John Banks?”
        “If there are no toilets on Planet Key, what is the economy going down?”
        etc, etc, etc …

        Leaders of the Opposition … Kim DotCom, the Greens, Twitter, bloggers, anybody except the people paid to do it. But they shouted a lot, and that achieved … fuck all. As always. Idiots.

        • Colonial Viper

          Dear Labour, please use as appropriate.

          1) There are no toilets on planet Key, so you shit in the streams just like dairy cows do.

          2) You don’t need toilets on planet Key, because rich pricks believe their shit doesn’t stink.

          3) There ARE toilets on planet Key, but you have to pay his blind trust per use. Keeps the riff raff out, the poor don’t need toilets.

          Yeah that took me all of 4 minutes to think up, go the Opposition!

        • Jokerman

          to paraphrase; he’s on a plain, he can’t remain…
          Come as you are John, not on yourself, or Br.

          just another Dick!

  5. Dr Terry 6

    This protest led by the courageous Bradford demonstrates all too clearly the passivity of the people, where she had only four others to lend support. By this time, in many places, there would be a huge uprising given such evils perpetrated on the poor and beneficiaries. But there are “more important” things to focus our attention upon, of course, like rugby and other sports. There is nothing wrong with sport, so long as it is not serving as a gigantic distraction from our responsibilities as citizens in a repressive country. Then sport serves well a virtual dictatorship.

    • Carol 6.1

      I agree that not enough people are protesting about this Dr Terry. But that partly has to do with the amount of publicity, and it being during most people’s working hours.

      But, also, Bradford explained that some people feel too oppressed/disempowered and negatively-targeted to protest. She was quoted as saying this in the Herald article that I linked to above. She repeated it in a blog post she put up this afternoon (to answer some questions she received about the protest).


      Many people on income support are in too vulnerable a position to speak up or protest, especially in the climate of fear generated by the Natasha Fuller case.

    • Murray Olsen 6.2

      There are a number of events being organised via Facebook for October the 5th and beyond. Feel free to participate.

      • Carol 6.2.1

        Thank, Murray – it’s in my area of Auckland and I don’t have anything in my diary for then – added it to my calendar.

  6. marsman 7

    Great post Carol! Have put it on my Facebook page, I want lots of people to read it.

  7. weka 8

    Thanks Carol, good post.

    Following on from Bradford’s blog, here’s her article on the need for Leftwing Think Tanks.

    I was much taken with Brian Easton’s article “Rogernomics And The Left”inForeign Control Watchdog 129 (April 2012,http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/29/10.htm). Among other things, Brian contrasts the power and influence which the business community and its think tanks have exerted on Governments in this country with the scarcity of institutions capable of fostering debate and policy renewal on the Left side of the political spectrum. The lack of any substantial Leftwing think tank in Aotearoa is something which has nagged at me since around 1990 when I first recall conversations with friends and colleagues lamenting the absence of any organisation with the wherewithal to counter the influence the New Zealand Business Round Table (NZBRT) was then having on successive Labour and National governments.

    The issue which was very much on my mind back then, after ten years in Parliament, was the lack of genuine depth and vision in policy development on the Left – and overall, the absence of time and space for us to simply ‘think’ together – to debate, discuss and even dissent from each other in the way Brian talks about in his article. This reflection then lead me in a natural progression back to my earlier questioning about why we don’t  have a major Leftwing think tank in New Zealand anyway, and what it might take to set one up. 


    • Carol 8.1

      Thanks, weka.

      I can’t find the article of Bradford’s that you refer to, but it seems to be the topic of her PhD, and there is a n article by her reporting on her research so far.


      Curiously, Bomber linked to that Easton article today, and I have it sitting on my browser, not fully read. (Tomorrow – got a bit of a headache, and possible mild cold tonight).

      We do need a new direction for the left in NZ, and it’s something I’ve been looking for – away from left wing party’s adoption of a soft version of “neoliberalism”. There are some parts of such a new direction available on blogs like TS and other places on and offline.

      One of my motivations for the post above was thinking about Bennett’s use of the term “social obligation” and also her labeling of her social reforms as “modern”.

      Unfortunately New Labour in the UK also went down that individualistic, approach to dumping on the poor with the focus on “responsibilities” and “social obligations”. And the Labour Party in NZ has gone a bit in that direction too.

      I’m pretty sure a Nat (maybe John Key?) commented on Jacinda Ardern mentioning in her Bill that she favours focusing on “social obligations”. Ah, here it is:


      Jacinda Ardern: When he said that he would not support Labour’s Child Poverty Bill because “it needed a range of measures of poverty”, had he actually read it, given it includes four measures of poverty, or is it in the same reading pile as John Banks’ police file?

      Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It certainly deserves to be, but no, I have actually, funnily enough, read a little bit of it. What the member, I think, actually goes on to say is that there should be social obligations in it—something she was bagging National for when it was doing it.

      I really think the left should be looking towards moving away from this kind of language of the “neoliberals” and the “New Labour third way.”

      But to do that, we need to develop a more coherent, reality-based conceptual framework.

      • weka 8.1.1

        For some reason when I cut and paste links in Safari onto TS, extra characters get added at the end.
        Am trying again from Firefox…
        Bradford’s article buoyed me up in a way I haven’t felt for a long time re politics.

        [lprent: seems to be a thing with safari. try chrome. ]

      • weka 8.1.2

        I really think the left should be looking towards moving away from this kind of language of the “neoliberals” and the “New Labour third way.”
        But to do that, we need to develop a more coherent, reality-based conceptual framework.

        I completely agree. Do you think that is about reclaiming the concept of the social contract and redefining it (or reasserting it)? Or something else entirely?

        • Carol

          weka, yes, I think redefining the “social contract” is needed, as in my answer to js below.

          Thanks for the link to Bradford’s article. Will read it later today.

          • Carol

            Have read the Bradford article – which has some interesting content. It also had a link to this earlier article by Bradford in December 2010, in which she is contemplating what fundamental changes Bennett is going to bring in, with a great deal of concern. Her brief history of welfare in NZ is relevant to this thread:


            During the Great Depression of the 1930s capitalism came under extreme threat, internationally, and here in Aotearoa. Traditional social contracts almost completely broke down under the pressure of very high unemployment and extreme poverty. Economic and social dislocation affected a large proportion of the population, in both urban and rural New Zealand. In response, the first Labour government laid the foundations of the Welfare State as we know it today. Through the 1938 Social Security Act Labour cemented in the notion that everyone has a right to a reasonable standard of living, and that society has a shared responsibility to look after those who cannot fend for themselves.

            In 1964 a new Social Security Act “amended and consolidated” the 1938 legislation, but kept the principle of the safety net intact.(2) This Act is still the one in use today, although it has to be one of the most amended and difficult pieces of legislation to use, a constant nightmare for Work & Income staff and beneficiary advocates alike.

            My bold added.

  8. just saying 9

    Ordinarily I think the left needs to steer right away from neoliberal framing, but in this case I think it might provide an opening for the left, if the left really hammered away at the government’s obligations in the social contract. Which is a much, much bigger issue (and has been for at least 30 years) than minority individual breaches. What exactly are the government’s responsibilities, and how far has it diverged from meeting its end of the bargain? Because originally, the social contract was a left-wing concept. We’ve already given up significant freedom in the sense that we can’t opt out of capitalism and meet our own needs independently of the system. And it is a system where the power is necessarily concentrated in the hands of capital.

    This goes beyond meeting the physical needs of those unable to work, to ensuring there is decent work available, and also protecting the dignity, privacy, and democratic freedoms of the most vulnerable.

    Great post Carol. I’ve been hoping for a while now that you might join the Standard’s official team of writers. Of course it’s none of my business, but I’m aware that you already put considerable time, effort and expertise into the work you do on this site.

    • Carol 9.1

      Thanks, js. (I am thinking to spend more time on some other stuff, and less on posting…. but I get sucked in by wanting to know more about the issues and the need for change).

      Yes, I can see there could be a benefit in reframing the terms. With the notion of concepts such as “social obligation” it’s important it’s done knowingly, with a clear idea of how it is being reframed. it shouldn’t be done to pander to the right wing and MSM’s dominant understanding of the term.

      It’s interesting that Bennett has gone for the term “obligation” rather than the neoliberals’ old favourite “responsibility”. “Obligation” involves some (authoritarian) compulsion, “responsibility” leaves the individual with more free will.

      However, the main issue is the shift of the more mutually beneficial idea of the social contract, to a more authoritarian and one-sided compulsion, I think any framing from the left should focus on a mutually beneficial contract between parties that have more equal power. It should focus the framing on the “social contract”.

      Of course, for ordinary people to have more power, they need to stick together. The Third Way and neoliberal focus on beneficiary obligations treats everyone as isolated and competitive individuals, and undermines social solidarity. Also, the contracting out of welfare services, makes the state less accountable for the provision of welfare.

      So, the left framing should focus on including notions of social solidarity, sharing and state provisions not privatisation or PPPs of such essential services.

  9. Welfare … becomes an obligation on citizens to work.

    There’s no “becomes” about it. I’m not aware of any time during the history of NZ’s social welfare system when social welfare wasn’t predicated on the obligation of able-bodied citizens to work for a living. If you’d like the system of the last 70+ years replaced with one that doesn’t expect citizens to work if they can, you’ve many disappointments in store.

    • Descendant Of Smith 10.1

      You’re completely wrong.

      No obligation existed on NZS to work
      No obligation existed on IB to work
      No obligation existed on SB to work
      No obligation existed on DPB to work
      No obligation exited on Handicapped Child Allowance to work
      No obligation existed on Family Benefit to work
      No obligation existed on Widows Benefit to work

      Obligation existed on Unemployed to work

      That doesn’t mean that many of those with no obligation didn’t work – many did and many complained about the lack of support by the government in helping them find work. The Rehab League for instance was successful at helping injured returned serviceman back to employment – the modern day equivalent workbridge is as useless as tits and in the 80’s the labour department wouldn’t even register people looking for work who were over 55, or soleparents, or unwell.

      And therein lies the problem – for years the ill, the sole parents, the older workers were neglected by successive governments.

      It was all about unemployment.

      Now rather than offer them, and employers, the support and help and encouragement they need to move back into employment we’ll just kick the shit out of them and at a time where there is a shortage of jobs.

      If any government was serious about helping the sole-parents and unwell into work they would be increasing the support for this to happen, they’d be putting in trained staff, they be providing support to employers where needed, they might even pass legislation bringing back a 40 hgour week and god forbid they might even employ some disabled people themselves – you know like they used to.

      • Carol 10.1.1

        Very good response DoS.

        Apart from the “obligation” to work, Bennett has added in additional “social” obligations. These go beyond that of looking for work. From the Part One overview to Bennett’s bill (linked to in my post above).

        providing for new obligations (obligations to work with contracted service providers, social obligations of certain beneficiaries with dependent children, and, for work-tested beneficiaries, new work test obligations that are drug test obligations);

        And, as just saying comments @6.31am, these obligations are all one sided, and heaped on the beneficiaries, while there is no obligation for the government/state to ensure there are enough jobs that pay a living wage. But, the original social contract was meant to be more mutually beneficial, and social security was meant to be protection against loss of work/income. It was assumed people would work if they had a choice. And this preference is usually the case.

        Neither is there an obligation for the government to ensure there is affordable early childhood education available, even though beneficiaries with young children will be obligated to put them in ECE.

      • just saying 10.1.2

        If any government was serious about helping the sole-parents and unwell into work they would be increasing the support for this to happen, they’d be putting in trained staff, they be providing support to employers where needed, they might even pass legislation bringing back a 40 hgour week and god forbid they might even employ some disabled people themselves – you know like they used to.

        Yes, gone are the days when government departments, councils, public services, and even some businesses routinely made room for people with disablities, often even allowing for the fact that some disabled workers would not be able to be as productive the rest of the staff. You could almost call it a kind of moral obligation to a “social contract”.

        There was much more that could and should have been done back then, but at least there was some awareness in our communities of our various collective responsibilities to look after our own, and that “our own” extends beyond our personal whanau.

    • lprent 10.2

      I’m not aware of any time during the history of NZ’s social welfare system when social welfare wasn’t predicated on the obligation of able-bodied citizens to work for a living.

      Wow… That is one silly statement. What about the obvious – superannuation. Many of the people on it are capable of working. I wasn’t aware that there has been any obligation on superannuiants to work.

      Most of the benefits in our social welfare system had no obligation to look for work apart from unemployment. They were put in place for people who were unable to work for reasons from raising kids to having few useful work skills after raising kids.

      It was usually a struggle to afford the training on most benefits so it was possible to get off and find employment and more money. The state wasn’t that noticeable in their struggle to help traditional widows find work for instance (from the raise kids as a profession era).

      You are talking complete crap…

    • Descendant of Smith: the context of the word “obligation” in this post is explicitly stated as being the social contract, not New Zealand law. Your legal obligations aren’t necessarily the same thing as your obligation to society – if you struggle to understand the difference, consider a wealthy person who structures their finances to avoid paying taxes or their creditors. Their legal obligations are met, their obligation to contribute to the society that supports them is not.

      In this case, our society’s provision of social welfare assumes an obligation on recipients not to be a recipient unless they have to be. Obligations the law codifies are irrelevant to that.

      Lprent: Superannuation’s a special case. Thanks to Muldoon, we do indeed have one social welfare benefit for which the only preconditions are that you’re over 65 and breathing. This doesn’t make the fact that the rest of the welfare system assumes an obligation on citizens to arrange their own means of support where possible “complete crap.” It’s actually a basic assumption of the system, and the main reason why you can’t just nip down to WINZ and opt to receive the benefit of your choice.

      • Descendant Of Smith 10.3.1

        You’re being disingenuous at best because of your qualifier of able bodied and your ignoring of welfare program’s that for instance were not income and asset tested.

        Widows and sole parents were predominantly able bodied but were clearly expected to raise their children not go to work.

        You also ignore that most and by far the majority of those on benefit go in and out of the benefit system and consequently in the main the social contract is still met.

        • Psycho Milt

          I ignore it because it’s irrelevant to the subject under discussion, which is the social obligation of beneficiaries. It can be taken as read that an individual social welfare beneficiary most likely wasn’t always one and won’t always be one, this debate isn’t affected by it one way or the other.

          “Able-bodied” isn’t disingenuous, it’s a statement of the obvious. Yes, Bennett is apparently delusional or just plain evil enough to imagine that “Invalid’s Benefit” ought to have been more correctly named “Malingerer’s Benefit,” but most people are able to figure out what the actual social obligation involved in social welfare is. You have a social obligation not to be on an Invalid’s Benefit unless you are an invalid, but that’s as far as it goes.

          • Descendant Of Smith

            The equivalency therefore is that you have an obligation to not be on a sole parent benefit if you are not a sole parent – nothing about able bodied or work.

            You have an obligation to not be on Widows Benefit unless you are a widow, on Family Benefit unless you have children.

            In none of these does work play a part.

            These are new obligations being put in place and even if as you argue there was a social obligation for work what’s the need to legislate – is this government so inept at articulating it – yeah well actually they are – they resort to name-calling and denigrating their own citizens.

  10. Carol 11

    PM: Descendant of Smith: the context of the word “obligation” in this post is explicitly stated as being the social contract, not New Zealand law. Your legal obligations aren’t necessarily the same thing as your obligation to society – if you struggle to understand the difference,

    Actually my post at the top of this thread explicitly refers to obligations in Bennett’s proposed amendments to the law. Furthermore, my quote of Bradford above @9.26am, indicates that a social contract was inscribed in the 1938 social security act.

    When I checked on the dictionary definitions of “responsibility” compared with “obligation”, I discovered that a legal element is most usually included with the meaning of “obligation” whereas it’s totally absent from the definition of “responsibility”.



    ob·li·ga·tion (bl-gshn)
    1. The act of binding oneself by a social, legal, or moral tie.
    a. A social, legal, or moral requirement, such as a duty, contract, or promise that compels one to follow or avoid a particular course of action.
    b. A course of action imposed by society, law, or conscience by which one is bound or restricted.
    3. The constraining power of a promise, contract, law, or sense of duty.
    4. Law
    a. A legal agreement stipulating a specified payment or action, especially if the agreement also specifies a penalty for failure to comply.
    b. The document containing the terms of such an agreement.
    a. Something owed as payment or in return for a special service or favor.
    b. The service or favor for which one is indebted to another.
    6. The state, fact, or feeling of being indebted to another for a special service or favor received.

    And the problem with Bennett’s amendments and welfare reform is that the contract and law is unequal, giving powers to the state, while shifting much of the obligation from them.

    Meanwhile, the obligations on the beneficiaries are being extended to those towards, (relatively unaccountable) private enterprises, and to include “social obligations – i repeat the quote from the amendment in the bill:

    providing for new obligations (obligations to work with contracted service providers, social obligations of certain beneficiaries with dependent children, and, for work-tested beneficiaries, new work test obligations that are drug test obligations);

    • Bennett’s view that invalids are shirkers and the govt gets to issue orders to parents if they’re beneficiaries is certainly pretty fucked up and presumably is only being acted on because the govt needs to distract attention from its poor performance on just about every measure you can think of.

      However, my comments on your post address your implication that there isn’t an obligation on citizens to work. There is a social obligation on every one of us to work for a living – if we can.

      • Carol 11.1.1

        Well some people don’t need to work, if they inherit enough money.

        Also, it wasn’t so long ago that married women were expected to stay at home, doing (largely unpaid) housework. They were especially meant to stay at home when their children were young. Now the government is saying they have to go out to work while their children are still quite young. Providing adequate child care is an investment for the future of the country, and many parents are quite willing to do this.

        But the social contract on which the social security act was based, was a mutual one between the state and the citizens – actually, not so much individuals, as households. The expectation was that the breadwinner in a household would usually work to earn a living, and that social security would be an insurance against unavoidable loss off income.

        The government is throwing in this “social obligation” concept, without acknowledging their part of the bargain – to do everything possible to ensure people can earn a reasonable living. The government is abdicating its responsibilities by using this “social obligation” ruse, at a time when jobs, especially jobs that pay a reasonable wage are scarce. It it’s being very punitive in the way it enforces the “obligation”.

      • Descendant Of Smith 11.1.2

        And my point is that “if you can” is much wider than being able-bodied and in fact for most people on benefit over the years being able-bodied was not the primary consideration.

        In fact if you can is also much wider than work in the sense of what you are trying to convey in that it also encompasses your financial resources hence income testing, derivation of income provisions, etc.

        Your narrowing of “if you can” to equal work is simply wrong.

        People with substantial income and assets who move these to trusts for example are expected to use those resources – not simply work.

        You also of course are narrowing work to paid work – I would certainly argue that raising kids is work and also would remind you that the state does not meet all the cost of sole parent benefits – the father pays a portion as well. The state shouldn’t have total say anyway.

        • Descendant Of Smith

          BTW here’s the purpose of the SSA in 1977 – shortly after DPB was introduced:

          The objectives of the policy for benefits and pensions are:

          To safeguard individuals in the community against loss of income or reduction in income brought about by age, incapacity, widowhood, orphanhood, unemployment or other circumstances by providing income security at a level which will enable them to belong and participate in the community; and benefits for children as a contribution towards their maintenance.

          To provide assistance towards housing finance for families of moderate means by way of an advance of family benefit.

          To provide additional benefits for those whose income and financial resources are insufficient to meet their living costs and other commitments.

          To provide pensions on the death or disablement of members of the forces as recompense for physical loss, at a level reviewed and set each year at 1 April in accordance with movements in the Consumers Price Index; and to provide other allowances and concessions according to the nature and extent of disablement.

          To provide and maintain a service to ensure the rehabilitation and resettlement in civil life of former members of the forces.

          • BernyD

            Well said, it should be A single person on a benefit should be able to pay a mortgage.
            Everyone can afford their own home.

          • Descendant Of Smith

            Explicit too was the right of some people not to work:

            Beneficiaries are given incentives to self-help and to work. From the start, amounts payable from standard benefits have been set below the average wages of low-earner groups; and small incomes, and most property, have been disregarded in assessing an individual’s benefit.

            Conversely the income-tested age benefit for men over 60 years and some women over 55 years, superannuation for people over 65 years, and the benefits for widows with dependent children or over a prescribed age recognise these people’s right to stop working if they want to.


            • BernyD

              Civilised, scary really the growth and prosperity those old ones created.
              Simple well thought through, with an open perspective, worthy of respect, ground they stood on, context they lived by.
              All for one M8!

              • So, the point seems to be that because the independently wealthy and the geriatric aren’t obliged to work for a living, there’s no reason to imagine an able-bodied person on a main benefit should be. Good luck selling that one to the electorate.

                There are plenty of good reasons why Bennett’s misnamed “reforms” are crap, but “beneficiaries have no social obligation to work for a living if possible” isn’t one of them.

                • McFlock

                  Actually, I disagree.
                  I believe that everyone has a right to life and a standard of living that doesn’t kill them, albeit slowly.
                  A right is a right. There is no accompanying “obligation”. Obligations/duties exist independently of rights, and vice versa.

                  • This “right” to have the state provide a comfortable lifestyle for you if you don’t feel like working for a living is a new one. Again, good luck selling it to the electorate.

                    • Carol

                      Oh, so PM, you think some people should be left to die (sooner or later), rather than live in a community where all lives are valued?

                      BTW, there is a difference between your comfortable lifestyle and McFlock’s right to life and a standard of living that doesn’t kill . You’ve overblown the amount of support McFlock was implying here.

                      Also, as has been said on TS many times before, most of the population want to work.

                      Unfortunately, the way our neoliberalised society is going, many people struggle to survive, even when they do work. Wages going down in real terms, while some parasites at the top of the income/wealth hierarchy suck more and more out of the system for themselves.

                      It wouldn’t be surprising if some of those waiting around for the opportunity to graft for some crumbs off the high table, are becoming increasingly dis-incentivised to work.

                    • McFlock

                      wot Carol dun sed.

                    • Wot Carol dun sed is one of Millsy’s “When did you stop beating your wife?” questions, followed by various irrelevancies. There is no “right” not to have to work for a living if you’re capable of it.

                    • McFlock

                      1: don’t conflate “comfortable standard of living” with “standard of living that doesn’t kill you by inches”. I know it makes you feel better to pretend that poor people live in the lap of luxury, but they don’t. We have a social welfare system because people were starving to death.
                      2: I’m sure that there are some people who can live legally and perfectly happily on a couple of hundred dollars a week in NZ. Frankly, good luck to them. Because they are the “err on the side of caution” that has an alternative of some people “living” on benefits that are at a level to cause and/or fail to treat malnourishment, depression and other mental disorders, respiratory infections, and so on. So they die 20 years before their time.
                      You might be happy to go the other way so that people die, just because you can’t stand the thought of someone living happily on little. I, on the other hand, get irked at the thought of such small-minded viciousness.

                    • If you think about it real hard, I’m sure you’re capable of figuring out that believing people have an obligation to earn their own living if they’re capable of it != believing we should just let the poor starve to death. If nothing else, it ought to be clear enough that the overwhelming majority of people do recognise a social obligation to earn their own living if they can, and yet somehow, inexplicably for you and Carol perhaps, that very same overwhelming majority maintains a social welfare system in recognition of the fact that not everyone’s in a position to earn their own living.

                    • McFlock

                      Actually, if you say “if you don’t make an effort to work, you get no income”, that does equal refusing to feed those poor whom one regards as undeserving of assistance.
                      If you think about it even a little bit, you’d realise that the benefit “reforms” tie an obligation (jump through hoops for WINZ) to whether someone gets income assistance. 
                      If someone manages to live “comfortably” on a few hundred a week or less, they should be given a medal. Not bullied by small-minded tories. 

                • BernyD

                  Your missing the point PM, it’s a direction, one that made this country grow so fast, none of it’s children knew why.

  11. Carol 12

    Welll… Grant Robertson, just now, in the House speaking on Bennett’s bill, 1st reading:

    Impassioned – slams government for smearing and scapegoating beneficiaries and scaremongering, as a diversion from the economic failings of the government.

    But… he has said pretty much what I said about social obligations: he said Labour agrees with social obligations but the government has social obligations that it is failing to meet… re jobs etc. He made specific reference to the social contract including state-beneficiary mutual obligations, and as embraced by the 1938 Social Security Act – great speech – hope Labour measures up to it with policies to match.

    Really good speech, Mr Robertson.

    • Carol 12.1

      I thought Barbara Stewart made one or two good points about Bennett’s latest reform bill yesterday in the debate, especially questioning (though not totally condemning) the accountability of contracted out welfare services.

      But NZ First, is still a conservative party and voted for the bill on first reading.

      Sue Bradford, in a comment below her latest blog post, sees this as an ominous sign of things to come:


      The new Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment bill has just sped through its first reading in Parliament with the shameful backing of NZ First. Makes it look even more likely that Winston & co are readying themselves to prop up a National Govt next time around in 2014, while joining in the chorus of self righteous right wingers who just love any legislation which punishes, condemns and harasses unemployed people and beneficiaries.

    • just saying 12.2

      This is heartening.

      Are parliamentary debates recorded and accessible to the public? Or is it mostly just live with bits and pieces recorded by interested parties?
      I’d like to see or hear that debate.

      I’ve been meaning to start tuning into parliament when I can.

      edit – the “heartening” bit was in reference to comment 12

      • Carol 12.2.1

        Yes, js. I was hoping to get Robertson’s speech vid posted up here in a separate post for discussion.

        Lately I have been critical of Robertson’s neoliberal baggage, and would like some reassurance in his future comments and actions that he is going to move away from that. However, his speech on this bill made many of the right noises, and his delivery was energising.


        You can click under the bottom of the vids to forward and back through the different parts

        The Green MPs also made some value points in their speeches: Jan Logie:

        It’s with a degree of suppressed rage that I’m standing now to speak to this first reading

        [The Green Party] know that if we guarantee the essentials, we guarantee the opportunities.

        For me, people on income support are not problems to be solved. They are not nameless, shapeless bludgers.

        I’m currently looking at part 10 as I didn’t see all the speeches live yesterday.


        • Colonial Viper

          I’m a bit over what these guys say in their speeches. A bit more left one month, a bit more right the next.

          But what do any of them really BELIEVE in their hearts and ADVOCATE for in caucus. Who the hell knows because I sure don’t, and I sorta follow this stuff.

          • Carol

            I agree, CV, that I will only truly believe Labour (and other so-called ‘left’ parties) when there is consistency in their narrative, principles and actions.

            But, also, when they do make some noises that sound like they are heading in a positively left direction, I think it’s worth commending them. And it’s worth continuing to express how we would like that rhetoric matched in practice.

            • Olwyn

              I agree CV and Carol. I do not like having to resort to some form of entrail reading to guess what the Labour Party is thinking. I do not expect clarity from National, but I do expect it from Labour, and get suspicious when it is lacking. But when you hear a good speech without equivocation, you cannot help but hope that they are at last waking up, and applaud the person who made it.

              You can not just slip into centrism when the centre is rapidly disappearing, and you cannot assume the moral high ground when you baulk at defending people who are almost casually being robbed of their civil liberties. Elections may be won or lost in the centre most of the time, but there are also times when you must step up to the mark or lose your relevance altogether. I think that this is one of those times.

        • just saying

          Many thanks Carol. I’ve bookmarked the link.

        • lprent

          Coming.. Got home late and heading to work late…

  12. Johnm 13

    It’s persecution of the poor. There are’nt the jobs available to employ them. Getting a job can be like breaking into fort knox. We have 270,000 children living in poverty. NZ is one of the most unequal societies in the OECD equivalent to the UK. We’ve given tax cuts to the rich and upped GST which hits low income people. We’re building more Prisons to house those who fall off the wagon or who get done for dope to get more money. We’re copying the suicidal Banana republic of the U$$$ which has 50,000,000 people getting food stamp assistance- The home of the Plutocratuc, Kleptocratic NeoLiberal greed scam now falling apart socially and economically propped up by the petrodollar. Shonkey and Paula with few brain cells to rub together sitting at their keyboards want to copy the U$$$ moron system run by corporate morons Jeeezus! This government are a pack 4th rate nobodies, and now they want to copy the harassment techniques of the UK Tory bastards.

    Instead of helping and working with people it’s the punitive approach which will finally imbed in unbreakable concrete the underclass! Don’t forget Paula went to the U$$$ to learn corporate responsibility at the knee of war criminal Colin Powell at an institute with a fancy name which I can’t remember at the moment!

    As the concretised underclass gets more permanent it’ll justify more harassment and persecution of the undeserving. Also this bunch want to privatise everything in sight ‘cos they haven’t a clue themselves on how to run a country! 🙁 🙁 🙁

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