Greens concede on benefit sanctions

The Greens have conceded their policy on abolishing sanctions and obligations on beneficiaries won’t be supported by Labour or NZ First so have backed off.

The Green Party has scrapped one of its core election promises championed by former co-leader Metiria Turei.

The party no longer believes in immediately abolishing all financial sanctions and obligations on beneficiaries.

I suspect some Greens at least still believe in no sanctions.

The original policy was announced at the Green Party’s AGM earlier this year, during a keynote speech by Ms Turei.

Right up until her resignation, Turei advocated for the rights of those on welfare, saying on July 16 that “no beneficiary should have to live with the threat of losing the money they need for the rent” – which is exactly the kind of threat Jones wants to make to those who refuse to plant trees.

Jan Logie said on July 20 that her party in Government will “immediately end benefit sanctions”.

Marama Davidson said on September 6 that benefit sanctions are “expensive to administer and push people further into poverty”.

But they are learning the pragmatism necessary for negotiating to be a part of a multi-party government.

It was forced to back down on the policy during coalition negotiations with Labour, which adjusted the wording so only “excessive” sanctions will be removed.

“Our policy is what the Government’s policy is. So now we’re in Government, we need to do what Government policy says,” says co-leader James Shaw.

“We only want to get rid of the most excessive sanctions,” he added.

I suspect that stance will dismay quite a few supporters. It’s an odd way to put it.

I’d have thought it would be better to say something like ‘we will work to reduce sanctions as much as possible but accept conmpromise may be necessary during this term’.

The policy u-turn means the Greens will be able to support Shane Jones’ plan to sanction beneficiaries who refuse to work on the Government’s ‘Plant a Billion Trees’ project.

There’s been a lot of pragmatism necessary in forming and being a part of this government, and this is just the beginning.

Given the number of policy compromises, back tracks and ditching there is something to remember for next election – there are no promises and no bottom lines, only wish lists.

Mission Metiria continued

Metiria Turei has been in interviewed on RNZ this morning, and was pressed on a number of questions about her past benefit and electoral frauds.

This interview will get some scrutiny.

One comment that stood out was when Turei was pushed on her own circumstances where she wasn’t exactly unsupported by family and in extreme poverty.

She said something like ‘I made a decision to have as much financial stability as possible’.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has hit out at opponents outside the party, after the party reached a compromise with two dissenting MPs.

Kennedy Graham and David Clendon had threatened to resign unless she stepped down as co-leader, saying they objected to her stance on benefit fraud.

Mrs Turei has admitted lying to Work and Income as a solo mother in the 1990s and, while acknowledging what she did was wrong, she has refused to condemn others forced into the same position.

Dr Graham and Mr Clendon have withdrawn from the party’s caucus and, while they will stay as MPs for now, they will not seek re-election in September.

Metiria Turei joined Morning Report‘s Susie Ferguson in the Wellington studio:

VIDEO: Metiria Turei on Morning Report

It is legitimate to question how ‘forced to lie to feed her child’ Turei was, or whether it was more if a lifestyle choice at the expense of taxpayers.

 

Ex-Green Tava on Turei

Vernon Tava stood for Green co-leadership in 2015 when Russel Norman stood down from Green co-leadership and resigned from Parliament. The position was won by James Shaw.

In February this year Tava resigned from the Green Party – Top Green resigns and says party has become socialist:

A former top Green official .and leadership contender in 2015 has resigned from the party because he believes it has lost its way and  he is now working with National.

As for the Greens, he said he began to part ways with them because he began to doubt whether the environment was seriously at the top of their agenda.

He also began to doubt that there was any genuine will on the part of the party to work with the Government whoever they were.

That was a central theme of his campaign for the party co-leadership in 2015.

He said the charter’s values of ecological wisdom and social responsibility were neither left nor right.

And he went on to suggest he would be happy in Government with National.

Metiria Turei strongly opposes supporting a National led government returning.

“The Green Party should be the sustainable axis around which every government turns, he said.

But he didn’t win the leadership, and he watched as the party signed its Memorandum of Understanding with Labour, and that was enough.

“When I stood for co-leader one of the great things about that was that we travelled around the country and I was contacted by a lot of the older, founder members who thought it was no longer the party of Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald.

Greens tend to claim that the environment and social issues are inextricably linked and you can’t promote one without the other.

Tava disagrees, and has come out and said Metiria Turei’s attitude proves the Greens aren’t 100 percent pure:

We are now entering the third week of Metiria Turei’s welfare fraud scandal with less than eight weeks until the election, and it is still a story.

Labour have distanced themselves, understandably concerned that her stance is anathema to the political centre; her welfare policy announcement has been eclipsed, and it seems that she has done irreparable damage to both her personal integrity and the Green brand.

Turei’s lack of contrition is irksome. Her evasion of any sense of personal responsibility in saying that the Government “made me poor and it made me lie” have infuriated both law-abiding beneficiaries and those of us who get up and go to work each day.

While there is probably wide sympathy for the difficulties faced by beneficiaries who struggle financially, there are probably many people who are troubled by Turei’s no fault, no blame attitude to rorting the system.

Saying, as Turei does, that the solution to poverty is “simply to give them more money”, without conditions or obligations to seek work, and that fraud is an acceptable means of obtaining whatever money one feels they need, makes a very poor case for redistributive justice through taxation and does little to end dependency.

More money and less punitive conditions for beneficiaries is a very worthy issue to campaign for, but Turei and her supporters seem to fail to see that there are potential with a no questions asked taxpayer handouts alongside approving of fraud if you think your need warrants it, on a moral basis, and on a state dependency basis.

The cost is another factor not thought through – if being a beneficiary provided a comfortable income and a comfortable home with no requirement to work or to be honest then the number of people wanting a free lunch as well as a free breakfast, tea and everything else they felt they ‘deserved’ could surge.

Lawmakers cannot credibly advocate breaking the law. Turei has been in Parliament since 2002 and seeks the position of Minister of Social Development, but has been unable to answer questions about how she could pursue prosecutions against those who would defraud even the more generous entitlements she advocates.

Politicians from other parties, including Andrew little and Jacinda Ardern, have said that MPs cannot condone breaking the law.

Turei’s defenders wax lyrical about the “privilege” of her critics. Ironically, she is indulging in another, more insidious, form of privilege in inciting fraud and attempting to argue some kind of moral justification. Others who follow her example will not be able to evade the consequences that someone on her considerable taxpayer-funded income is able to.

This is deeply irresponsible. Benefit fraud is not civil disobedience, nor is it a noble protest against a supposedly unjust system. It is cheating.

There is another privilege being pushed – the privilege of being something other than white and male. It has become common to see the opinions of white males being rubbished and discounted on Twitter.

It seems that benefit fraud is acceptable to Turei and her supporters as long as you are female, brown and have children.

The tension between being a protesters’ collective or a parliamentary party has always been an issue for the Greens, but Turei has gone a lot further than merely admitting legal wrong-doing – she has condoned it.

Metiria Turei may have secured a hard-left segment of the Green base and appealed to demographics who tend not to turn out on election day, but it will be at the cost of a far larger group of voters disappointed to discover the party that earlier this year claimed that “honest politics is what we stand for” is not 100 percent pure after all.

What Turei seems to want looks like 100% pure socialism. I’m not sure whether all her supporters see that.

But Tava looks male and looks white-ish so his views may mean 0% to the Green Party he has left. Same as mine.

Labour’s winter handout offer

This looks as much like an election bribe as any campaign policy.

Labour helps older New Zealanders and low income families with winter heating bills

Labour will further boost its commitment to warm, healthy housing with a Winter Energy Payment for superannuitants and people receiving main benefits, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.

“Everyone deserves a warm, healthy home to live in. But that’s not the reality for many people today. Too many of our houses are poorly insulated, damp, draughty, and unheated. Around 1600 New Zealanders die each year because of cold housing – that’s four times the road toll. It’s time for a fresh approach to fix this.

“Labour will set standards to ensure rentals are fit to live in; we’ll use the savings from abolishing the speculators’ tax loophole to fund grants for families to install insulation and heating; and we’ll help older New Zealanders and low income families heat their homes in winter with the Winter Energy Payment.

“I have met retirees and solo mums who have told me that they can’t afford the power bills they face in winter, so they’re forced to leave heaters off. That makes them cold; it makes them sick. It puts people in hospital and costs lives.

“The AUT/HRV survey showing four out of 10 New Zealanders are turning off heaters to avoid high winter power bills shows there’s a real need for help.

“The Winter Energy Payment will be $700 for couples and parents with kids at home, and $450 for single people. Around one million people will benefit. The payment will be made in monthly instalments from May to September. With Labour’s fresh approach, our homes will be warmer, healthier places to live.

“The Winter Energy Payment forms part of Labour’s Families Package that we will unveil on Tuesday. Our plan shows how Labour will target low and middle income families and people in need, and tackle the crises in health and housing. In contrast, National would rather splurge on an election year tax bribe that goes disproportionately to the well-off.

“After nine years, now is the time to deal with the challenges we face in housing, health and education and help those in real need. Labour will get the balance right,” says Andrew Little.

This seems to be targeting voter demographics more than people in need, especially the superannuitants – Winston Peters and Annette King would appear to qualify.

Answering weka’s questions

Amongst a lot of discussion at The Standard there have been requests that I answer weka’s questions. There’s been many questions and comments on various threads but I’ll respond to what seems to be the most requested questions here. My comments are in parentheses.

“Not sure how it can be avoided setting benefit levels statistically lower then people who are employed.”

Benefits were cut by $20/wk in 1990. In the mid 80s the unemployment benefit was around the same rate as what school leavers were earning going into office jobs. We used to have relatively higher benefit rates then, why can’t we now?

Cost. I presume there’s many more people on benefits now. At the end of March 2014: 295,320 working-age* people were receiving a main benefit. (MSD).

And wanting to encourage people into paid employment.

“I’m not sure than any of the larger parties are suggesting that should be substantially changed.”

The GP want a UBI.

Their Income Support Policy states “The Green Party supports a full and wide-ranging public debate on the nature of UBI and the details of a UBI system, and government funding for detailed studies of the impacts of UBI. The Green Party will: Investigate the implementation of a Universal Basic Income for every New Zealander”. They are interested in the concept (as I am) but don’t say they want one.

“The aim is to raise people’s income by getting them into employment.”

That disqualifies you from having any opinion on beneficiaries until you answer the question: how many beneficiaries are not required to seek/gain employment?

It doesn’t disqualify me from anything. I have already said that some people on benefits cannot seek employment. Both Labour and National governments want to encourage those who can seek employment to do so.

I’ve also already said that if the number of people on benefits is substantially reduced then those who have to remain on benefits should be able to be provided for better.

Then you will have to answer how many people are now required to see work, despite previously being exempt.

I don’t have to do anything. I don’t know what point you are trying to make with this.

Some current details are here at MSD.

I think it’s reasonable to expect that those who are capable of working should be seeking paid employment and taking responsibility for their own welfare.

I acknowledge that it can be very difficult finding work that people want with the pay they want. Some are more motivated than others. Some people have unrealistic expectations but for many there simply aren’t enough jobs.

Then come back and explain how those people are supposed to live. 

They live how they live. It’s very tough for many. Others find a way manage.

And why those people aren’t entitled to a livable income.

You tell me why you think they should be entitled to a ‘livable income’.

Ideally everyone should have an income that makes living not too much of a struggle. But expecting everyone should have comfortable style of living without having any money problems is fanciful and idealistic.

Life can be hard work and bills can be difficult to manage, especially if you have children. We should strive for better and easier but it can never always be guaranteed or provided,

Then explain why you think that beneficiaries are all unemployed.

They’re not, some are partly employed. There’s a range of reasons why beneficiaries could be unemployed, including circumstance, health, choice, lack of alternatives and a shortage of jobs.

And then explain how unemployed beneficiaries are supposed to raise their income via employment when there aren’t enough jobs.

Some can supplement their benefit. Some could be more flexible in what work they seek and where they seek it (that’s difficult for many). And there are not enough jobs for many. That’s one thing benefits are designed to assist with.

Then, when youve done all that, retract your statement that NACT don’t keep people poor.

You’ll have to be more specific, I’ve made a number of comments related to that.

I don’t believe that in general National (or Act) want to “keep people poor”. The effect of Government policies (Labour and National) may be that some people stay poor, but I question whether any MP wants to ‘keep people poor’.

All parties propose economic growth with the intention of improving incomes and increasing the number of jobs.

“I presume you know that if the minimum wage was raised by 50% and work was provided for anyone who wants it then we’d still have the same number of people under the statistical poverty line.”

What everyone else just said. Plus, you’re a dick. If the people at the bottom end of the scale have enough to live on, then poverty stops being an issue irrespective of the statistics.

But waving a money wand and waving a job wand aren’t realistic options.

Can you show any country in the world where giving everyone “enough to live on” has succeeded over a period of years or decades.

Poverty is a problem that needs to be addressed as well as possible, but Government giving substantially more money to people with productive work being an unpressured option is unlikely to succeed if history and current world conditions are anything to go on.

But perhaps weka can outline how he thinks an entitlement to a livable income could work, with examples of how similar policies have worked elsewhere.

Response to ‘WAR ON THE POOR’

A comment worth repeating from Kiwiblog “Helping kids in need”:

  • RRM  Says:
    September 12th, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    How the hell does it help vulnerable children – if their (vulnerable) parents have their benefits cut?

    DUH?

    All this WAR ON THE POOR…

    Penny Bright – I have to ask – do you have to work at being such a complete fucking moron? Or are you just naturally gifted?

    It helps vulnerable children by compelling their parents to get them to ECE where they learn to become socialised in a class of other kids, which helps get them ready for learning at school.
    It helps them by compelling their parents to take them to get seen by a Doctor or a Plunket Nurse occasionally.

    No-one is going to cut the supply of free taxpayer money to ANY parents, UNLESS the parents choose not to meet a few basic obligations to care for their child, that any sensible parent would be doing anyway.

    This is not “war on the poor”… this is “war on crap parents who suck at what they do and need a kick up the arse.” I wish it well.

    ;-) Regards;

    RRM

    Attendee: “Slutwalk” Wellington 2011
    Vehement supporter of gay marriage rights
    Party Vote 1999: Labour
    Party vote 2002: Labour
    Party Vote 2005: Green
    Party Vote 2008: Green
    Voted: “Yes” in the “should a smack be illegal?” Referendum, 2009

Mixed feelings on beneficiary “crackdown”

Government is trying the stick approach to beneficiary parents:

From next July, parents on a benefit will have to ensure their children meet four health and education requirements, otherwise their benefit could be cut by up to half.

Children must also be enrolled with a GP and have core health checks.

Parents will get three chances to fall into line before having their benefit cut by up to half.

I’ve got no problem with pushing parent’s to ensure their children have adequate health care and education. And three chances seems fair enough, as long as what parents are required to do is reasonable.

But I do have doubts about the final stick of halving benefits, as Labour says in Govt warned that crackdown could hurt children

… if a benefit is cut, the children the Government says it’s trying to help could end up worse off.

It may depend on how quickly the benefit can be reinstated if the parents comply – but  it would be odd if any parent relying on a benefit would get themselves in the position of having their benefit cut in the first place, as long as the requirements are reasonable.

Greens, who always seem to prefer handing out carrots, don’t see it this way…

Party co-leader Metiria Turei said it’s unfair that the financial penalty would apply solely to beneficiaries and not other parents.

That’s an odd statement, you can’t half a benefit that you aren’t paying. And…

RadioLIVE Newsroom@LIVENewsDesk

The Greens outraged by government plans to halve benefits for parents who don’t enrol their kids in early childhood education.

Presumably Greens support better health and education for children, and just don’t like any threats of repercussions for non-compliance.

Metiria Turei has just launched a campaign against poverty – how will she ensure kids get better healthcare and education?

It really should only be a theoretical threat anyway, surely parents will do what’s best for their kids anyway.

But United Future leader Peter Dunne says it’s a fundamentally good idea for people receiving a benefit to have to meet certain obligations for their children.

However, he hopes it won’t be a repeat of the Shipley Government’s code of social responsibility.

Mr Dunne said that failed by imposing obligations on people without the Government providing services to hold up its end of the bargain.

It’s up to Government to ensure the services are available. And hopefully parent’s won’t even require a first warning, they should make sure their kids get education and healthcare.

Josie Pagani on Labour’s welfare issues

Josie Pagani has posted views on Facebook about how she thinks Labour need to handle the welfare issue that’s caused a lot of duiscussion at The Standard.

I want to deal with the welfare issue.

I’ll tell you what beneficiary bashing is: Paula Bennett removing the ladder she used herself to get off a benefit.

Ruth Richardson and Jenny Shipley cutting the benefit out of a spiteful ideology that believes life on a benefit is too easy.

Act radicals who would say you should buy social insurance instead of having an entitlement to welfare in times of misfortune.

That’s what benefit bashing looks like. What isn’t benefit bashing is stating the bleeding obvious that some people work the system and make claims they should not. Pointing that out is the opposite of benefit bashing. It is not the same as saying everyone on a benefit (or even most) doesn’t deserve to be there.

This matters because Labour has to always earn the trust of New Zealanders to run the welfare system fairly. We don’t get it automatically. Many Labour voters – people who support a decent welfare system – want to be reassured that we won’t ignore problems.

David Shearer’s story about the guy who saw his neighbour up on a roof while on a sickness benefit spoke to them.

Reading some of the reaction to his story, it’s clear that a lot of people think his re-telling of the story legitimises a right wing theme about welfare. People say that we should ignore or refute any negative story about benefit fraud because it undermines the whole system.

Quite a few people have said, ‘yes but the individual might have been mentally ill or had some other condition preventing them from holding a steady job.’ This certainly might be true and yet it is certainly not true in all cases.

There are genuine cases where people claim benefits they shouldn’t. It’s intellectually and morally indefensible to defend those cases. Voters know that.

If we on the left can’t talk about that without deflecting onto another issue – ‘never mind benefit fraud, what about the rich bastards who fiddle the tax system to steal millions from the tax payer?’ – then we will lose the battle on welfare.

We should and do single out the bludgers at the top who don’t pay their fair share of tax.

But we must also talk about the responsibilities that people have when they claim a benefit (to work if they can), if we’re to win the debate on rights.

I want to win the argument that a solo mum who can’t work has a right to a decent amount of money on a benefit so she can pay the bills, get a grant to up-skill herself, and access subsidised child care.

We’re not winning that argument.

We invented the welfare system, we believe in it. The right doesn’t. But they own the debate on welfare reform.

That’s the irony. If we lose the argument and the trust of New Zealanders, the welfare system as we know it will be eroded over the next ten years by the right.

All those people on The Standard who attack me anonymously are playing into the hands of those who want to see us lose the welfare debate, by avoiding talking about responsibilities.

We cannot say we must never talk about these issues. We must. We must have decent answers.

The reason for Labour getting into government is not to defend welfare – or anything else – against reform. It’s so that reform can be done our way – fairly, and in a way that produces a decent outcome that provides a fulfilling future for everyone. The welfare system doesn’t do that today. Everyone knows that, and that’s why it needs to be reformed.

Voters won’t trust us to reform it if the only part of reform is to argue that we should just hand over more money and ignore ways to make the system work better.

Shearer’s roofer case is easy.

What’s much harder for the left to deal with is the attitude in this week’s Dominion Post editorial, that somehow draws a connection between beneficiaries and the family of the Kahui twins.

That really is beneficiary bashing.

Yet this is a harder issue for the left. Being on a benefit does not imply horrific child abuse, as the Dom Post appeared to imply. Yet there is a widespread belief the two are linked – not because of a successful right wing propaganda machine, but because a lot of people do believe the link exists.

The left has no choice but to challenge that view because it is demeaning to all beneficiaries, and because it actually diverts attention from where it needs to be – which is intervening wherever child abuse is occurring, in middle class homes too.

We can only hope to do so if we are not being seen to defend the indefensible.

A related Standard post.

I want to deal with the welfare issue.

I’ll tell you what beneficiary bashing is: Paula Bennett removing the ladder she used herself to get off a benefit.

Ruth Richardson and Jenny Shipley cutting the benefit out of a spiteful ideology that believes life on a benefit is too easy.

Act radicals who would say you should buy social insurance instead of having an entitlement to welfare in times of misfortune.

That’s what benefit bashing looks like. What isn’t benefit bashing is stating the bleeding obvious that some people work the system and make claims they should not. Pointing that out is the opposite of benefit bashing. It is not the same as saying everyone on a benefit (or even most) doesn’t deserve to be there.

This matters because Labour has to always earn the trust of New Zealanders to run the welfare system fairly. We don’t get it automatically. Many Labour voters – people who support a decent welfare system – want to be reassured that we won’t ignore problems.

David Shearer’s story about the guy who saw his neighbour up on a roof while on a sickness benefit spoke to them.

Reading some of the reaction to his story, it’s clear that a lot of people think his re-telling of the story legitimises a right wing theme about welfare. People say that we should ignore or refute any negative story about benefit fraud because it undermines the whole system.

Quite a few people have said, ‘yes but the individual might have been mentally ill or had some other condition preventing them from holding a steady job.’ This certainly might be true and yet it is certainly not true in all cases.

There are genuine cases where people claim benefits they shouldn’t. It’s intellectually and morally indefensible to defend those cases. Voters know that.

If we on the left can’t talk about that without deflecting onto another issue – ‘never mind benefit fraud, what about the rich bastards who fiddle the tax system to steal millions from the tax payer?’ – then we will lose the battle on welfare.

We should and do single out the bludgers at the top who don’t pay their fair share of tax.

But we must also talk about the responsibilities that people have when they claim a benefit (to work if they can), if we’re to win the debate on rights.

I want to win the argument that a solo mum who can’t work has a right to a decent amount of money on a benefit so she can pay the bills, get a grant to up-skill herself, and access subsidised child care.

We’re not winning that argument.

We invented the welfare system, we believe in it. The right doesn’t. But they own the debate on welfare reform.

That’s the irony. If we lose the argument and the trust of New Zealanders, the welfare system as we know it will be eroded over the next ten years by the right.

All those people on The Standard who attack me anonymously are playing into the hands of those who want to see us lose the welfare debate, by avoiding talking about responsibilities.

We cannot say we must never talk about these issues. We must. We must have decent answers.

The reason for Labour getting into government is not to defend welfare – or anything else – against reform. It’s so that reform can be done our way – fairly, and in a way that produces a decent outcome that provides a fulfilling future for everyone. The welfare system doesn’t do that today. Everyone knows that, and that’s why it needs to be reformed.

Voters won’t trust us to reform it if the only part of reform is to argue that we should just hand over more money and ignore ways to make the system work better.

Shearer’s roofer case is easy.

What’s much harder for the left to deal with is the attitude in this week’s Dominion Post editorial, that somehow draws a connection between beneficiaries and the family of the Kahui twins.

That really is beneficiary bashing.

Yet this is a harder issue for the left. Being on a benefit does not imply horrific child abuse, as the Dom Post appeared to imply. Yet there is a widespread belief the two are linked – not because of a successful right wing propaganda machine, but because a lot of people do believe the link exists.

The left has no choice but to challenge that view because it is demeaning to all beneficiaries, and because it actually diverts attention from where it needs to be – which is intervening wherever child abuse is occurring, in middle class homes too.

We can only hope to do so if we are not being seen to defend the indefensible.

A related post at The Standard: Dog whistling