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.