Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, July 25th, 2018 - 76 comments
Categories: benefits, Economy, employment, jacinda ardern, making shit up, Media, national, Politics, same old national, Simon Bridges, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, welfare, winston peters, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:
I am almost starting to feel sorry for Simon Bridges. Almost …
He is struggling for relevance. He has had a month of clear air where he has not had to deal with the might of Jacinda and has blown it.
Polling is now starting to catch on to this idea of Jacinda as a phenom. She damn near single handedly dragged Labour off the opposition benches after inheriting a dispirited and damaged group seven weeks before a General Election. But our Prime Minister has been on parental leave for a month and in that time we’ve had a sort of political vacuum.
Usually if such a vacuum occurs the opposition might use it to get some cut-through, let the country know what it stands for. But National seems to stand for nothing except an empty jar of hair gel.
I was talking to a Labour front-bencher and they said to me “If you asked me what National’s policy on just about anything was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you, and I sit opposite them.” Which is not a reflection on their listening skills, but rather that National is bereft. Bereft of ideas. Personality. Communication skills. Anything really.Ask yourself, what is a National Party policy? All I can think of is MORE TAX CUTS, and maybe FEWER ABORTIONS. But the anti-abortion policy is more Simon Bridges’ than National’s, and the tax cuts policy seems to have flown out the door because National keeps complaining that the Government isn’t spending enough money.
And it appears the polling is starting to hurt National. Again from Cormack’s post:
Labour’s internal polling has Labour three points ahead of National. A fairly big baby bump considering where they have been. But it’s their support parties’ result that is the more startling. Both the Greens and NZ First are at seven per cent each. This gives the Coalition plus Greens a seventeen point lead over the opposition.
So what is a good tory to do? Well bash beneficiaries, what else?
Two days ago Bridges decided to make beneficiary sanctions an issue. This is Newshub’s take on the issue:
Simon Bridges says National is committed to bringing back sanctions on beneficiaries to give them “more esteem and more of a purpose”.
The Labour-NZ First coalition has removed, or is in the process of removing, many of the punishments introduced by the previous National-led Government after winning last year’s election – such as docking payments to solo mothers who don’t name the father of their baby.
The number of beneficiaries being sanctioned fell 22 percent in the last year, figures released to NZME last week showed. The biggest falls came in sanctions for failing to show for appointments and failing to prepare or participate in work. Work and Income staff have reportedly been encouraged to explore other options first, and any sanction now has to be signed off by a second person.
Mr Bridges told The AM Show on Monday National would “absolutely” reinstate sanctions if they win the next election.
“We need to be fair to taxpayers, hard-working taxpayers who deserve actually their money to be spent well, but also the beneficiaries who in terms of getting into a job, have a better life quality actually have more esteem and more of a purpose.”
He said the aim wasn’t to be “tough”.
“It was about making sure we had expectations on beneficiaries that would lead to better lives for them. This Government’s going soft in this area – it’s a bit like crime, it won’t work. It’ll mean more beneficiaries, more people languishing on the dole queue, when we’ve actually got low unemployment in this country. It’s a tragedy.”
So according to Bridges sanctions give people more esteem and more of a purpose.
There is however the small matter that all the studies into the subject disagree. Lisa Owen at Newshub last year discovered that the Government had no evidence that benefit sanctions on solo parents do anything to encourage wayward fathers to pay their share of child support and that it actually put families at higher risk of hardship and long term welfare dependency.
And a UK study’s conclusions were even more pessimistic. From the Guardian:
Benefit sanctions are ineffective at getting jobless people into work and are more likely to reduce those affected to poverty, ill-health or even survival crime, the UK’s most extensive study of welfare conditionality has found.
The five-year exercise tracking hundreds of claimants concludes that the controversial policy of docking benefits as punishment for alleged failures to comply with jobcentre rules has been little short of disastrous.
“Benefit sanctions do little to enhance people’s motivation to prepare for, seek or enter paid work. They routinely trigger profoundly negative personal, financial, health and behavioural outcomes,” the study concludes.
Let me say this again. Sanctions do not work. All they do is make the situation worse for poor people. But they make some slightly less poor people feel superior. In political terms this makes them worthwhile.
It is not the only example of poor people bashing that Bridges has recently engaged in. He also this week lashed out against Tauranga City Council and the homeless. Win win, lash out at Local Government and really poor people who will never vote for you at the same time. Talk about right wing nirvana.
And the proposal, which Bridges endorses, is that we should change the behaviour of really poor people by fining them if they sleep too close to retail outlets! That will work. Make really poor people even poorer is bound to have a beneficial effect.
Bridges’ problem is that he is totally incapable of delivering the message with any sort of authority. If you want to bash beneficiaries and poor people for political advantage you have to at least be able to sound convincing.
To show how utterly unconvincing he is, this is the video from Parliament yesterday when he chose to use benefit sanctions as the core of his Parliamentary question.
This was the worst display by an Opposition Leader I have ever seen in our Parliament.
Peters was toying with Bridges. This part of the exchange shows the degree that this occurred:
Hon Simon Bridges: Does he agree with Jan Logie that eight out of 277,000 beneficiaries being suspended each day for breaches of obligation is too many?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: In an ideal world, of course I’d agree with that member. The reality is we haven’t given up. We haven’t given up on the kind of economic and social utopia that we’re organising at this point in time. We don’t take that dismal puritanical view of the roadshow that went around the country filling up telephone booths and calling it a worldwide campaign.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does he agree with Jan Logie, who said that applying obligations to beneficiaries are “not the actions of a decent and compassionate government”, or does he actually believe that obligations are a compassionate tool to help people into work, which will improve their life outcomes?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I could say that it’s been a long time since I’ve heard the neoliberal experiment being described as a compassionate tool to help the poor. This is a new one for us.
Hon Simon Bridges: So it’s quite clear, is it, that he does not support sanctions, that he thinks beneficiaries should be able to languish on the dole queue?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Which of the two questions would the member like me to answer?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I couldn’t find one amongst that.
Hon Simon Bridges: How can he stand here and defend the policies of Labour and the Greens to soften obligations, remove sanctions, and put more people on welfare, when he clearly doesn’t believe in it himself and his colleagues have actively advocated getting the “nephs” off the couch with sanctions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Because the programme that we have advocated, as a Government” about getting the “nephs” off the couch is about providing the work for them in the first place. You can’t get them off the couch if there’s no place to go and work at—that’s the difference. And I’m going to be concerned about Jacinda Ardern calling me shortly and saying I’d better stay here—this job looks too easy.
I suspect that despite the wintery weather it is barbecue time for National.
Perhaps sanctions should be applied to Simon Bridges, to give him more esteem and more of a purpose. Nothing else seems to be working.