Greens slam Labour for ‘breaking core promise’ about welfare reform

The Greens have accused Labour of breaking a core promise to overhaul the welfare system, made in the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the New Zealand Labour Party and the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Yesterday Green Party unveils its candidate list for the 2020 election

The Green Party is pleased to reveal its candidate list for the upcoming election. With a mix of familiar faces and fresh new talent, this exceptional group of candidates are ready to lead the Greens back into Government.

“We are a force to be reckoned with and are entering this critically important race more united and determined than ever.”

So that has launched the greens into campaign mode, four months out from the election.

Also yesterday two Labour ministers announced New payment to support Kiwis through COVID

This was criticised as benefiting a few people while ignoring all those who were already unemployed before Covid struck, and also criticised for being more tweaking without fundamental change to how the social welfare system works.

From the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the New Zealand Labour Party and the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand (2017):

Fair Society

10. Overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working For Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities, and lifts children and their families out of poverty.

Today the Greens seem to have jumped into campaign mode over this – Green Party ‘won’t give up’ pushing for benefits increase (RNZ):

The Greens have accused Labour of breaking a core promise to overhaul the welfare system, a commitment made in 2017 during negotiations to form a government.

The gripe comes after a chorus of frustration from those on the left who say the government has entrenched a cruel and dehumanising two-tier welfare system in its latest response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson yesterday unveiled a special 12-week relief payment for people who have lost their jobs due to the economic impact of Covid-19. Full-time workers can apply for $490 a week – roughly double the regular Jobseeker Support.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson told RNZ the new offering was a “very clear” admission that base benefit rates were not enough to live on.

“Everybody should be able to access the support, regardless of whether they are recently unemployed or longer-term unemployed.”

Davidson said she had heard the frustration of beneficiaries who felt they had been deemed the “undeserving poor” by the latest move.

The Greens had pushed for all benefits to be increased to the new Covid-19 level, she said, but had so far been unsuccessful in getting that over the line.

“We’ve been consistently clear that this needs to happen urgently and desperately. It hasn’t happened yet, but we won’t give up,” Davidson said.

“Both New Zealand First and Labour need to come to the table on this.”

NZ First have been a problem for the Greens trying to promote their policies, but Labour has also seemed reluctant to make major structural changes, even after Covid allowed them to commit to tens of billions of extra spending.

Asked whether Labour had adequately delivered on its commitment, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government had made “significant changes”.

She cited the $5.5 billion Families Package in 2018 which established the Winter Energy and Best Start payments, as well as boosting Working for Families tax credits.

The government also began indexing main benefits to wage growth from April 2020, meaning benefit payments rise in line with wages – rather than inflation.

In its initial Covid-19 economic rescue package, Finance Minister Grant Robertson increased most benefits by $25 a week and doubled this year’s Winter Energy Payment.

However, the vast majority of the 120 recommendations by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group have not been acted on.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni yesterday told media the government could not implement all the recommendations immediately.

Immediately was in 2017, or at least in 2018. The Welfare Expert Advisory Group reported in 2019 and disappointed many. See Government response to welfare expert advisory group ‘more rhetoric than action’ – Poverty group

The government’s initial response to the welfare expert advisory group’s 200-page report is “pathetic”, National says, with interest groups and the Green Party also saying more needs to be done.

The government has said it would start by implementing two of the group’s 42 recommendations, with Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni saying major change would take years.

National’s social development spokesperson Louise Upston said Labour voters should be underwhelmed.

She said the government’s response was another example of it not delivering in its ‘year of delivery’.

Greens are now also effectively saying that the Government has not delivered, and specifically that Labour has not delivered on their agreement with the Greens.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out through the campaign.

Now at the top of the Green Party list it would seem expected that Davidson would become a minister if Labour and Greens get to form the next Government. She could lead the fight from there perhaps.

Metiria Turei: ‘system broken’

At a modest ‘poverty’ rally yesterday Metiria Turei said that the welfare system was broken. But before the Greens fix it do they have to fix themselves? The Green bubble appears to be broken.

A fairly green Standard posted Rally Against Poverty – join Metiria Turei and Marama Davidson yesterday morning…

Saturday 16 Sept 2.30pm, Otara Town Centre, South Auckland. Let’s all come together to rally for our communities that have been at the forefront on the fight to end poverty.

…that prompted a very lukewarm 11 comments (to date).

Carolyn_nth commented after the event:

It was great to be at the rally, and hear from people dealing with those who are homeless and on benefits.

A tweet from a guy I don’t know with some images from the event.

And the event was a corrective for anyone still thinking the Green Party is solely of and for white middle class folk.

When I arrived at Otara Town Centre, there was a group of young brown women with Green Party, and “I stand with Metiria” placards, out on the corner of the main road.

There was an array of speakers, poets and a singer or two.

Metiria sounded like she hasn’t missed a beat since standing down from GP leadership. She got a strong positive and loud response. And talks like she will be keeping up the struggle to end poverty for a very long time.

RNZ reports: Turei tells Green’s poverty rally welfare system broken

About 150 people gathered at the Otara Town Centre to hear from the Green Party about eliminating poverty in the country.

That’s a very modest number at a rally.

Green Party list candidate Marama Davidson said the party would raise benefits by 20 percent – including student allowances and all core living payments – if elected.

Ms Davidson said that alone would raise every family above the poverty line within a year.

“We are sending a clear, clear message that we will not accept poverty anymore and that we will do everything we can to end it,” she said.

“The voices of people who are on the front line and experiencing poverty need to be heard and need to be supported.”

The opportunity of being heard at a Green political rally doesn’t seem to have inspired many people.

Metiria Turei, who resigned as co-leader of the Green Party last month after admitting she committed benefit fraud, also spoke.

She thanked supporters for their compassion and kindness towards her when she confessed to lying to WINZ about her circumstances so she could receive more money for herself and her young daughter.

“We have a welfare system in this country that is broken … and it punishes people simply because they need some help,” Mrs Turei said.

And she said the Green Party was the only party which was taking poverty seriously.

Unfortunately for the Greens, far less seriously since Turei tried to justify her benefit fraud.

There’s certainly flaws with our welfare system, and there are significant problems with ‘poverty’, with people struggling, with people living in genuine deprivation, with kids getting a poor start to life.

But ‘eliminating poverty’ is a vague ideal. Simply giving a lot of people a lot more money, and giving them a nice house for life – and probably increasing the country’s debt levels significantly – are not solutions to complex societal problems.

There isn’t a magic bullet for ‘fixing’ our welfare system, nor is there green bullet for eliminating financial hardship.

The collapse in Green support in the polls, and the very modest amount of support for a political rally featuring Marama Davidson and Metiria Turei, suggests that the Greens have to do some soul searching to find a way of promoting their reforms.

Davidson became an MP only two years ago (November 2015), and has been lauded as a social justice warrior, and has been fast tracked up the Green pecking order to number 2 on their current list.

She looks like replacing Turei as their social policy champion, as Turei seems destined to drop out of Parliament after her poverty power play turned to custard.

Remember that a genuine battler for the battlers in our society, Sue Bradford, resigned from Parliament when Turei beat her in a leadership contest in 2009.

Turei managed the transition from Jeannette Fitzsimon’s leadership very well, and should be credited with playing a part in Green growth for the 2011 election.

But there were warning signs when Green optimism in 2014 was dashed by a slight drop in their percentage support.

The following year a jaded and disillusioned Russel Norman, a strong advocate for environmental issues and financial credibility, gave up his parliamentary fight, to be replaced by Davidson.

In July Turei led a major gamble in revealing her benefit fraud. This initially seemed to be successful, with a surge in Green support evident in the polls. But the story fell apart, as did Green support, with a double whammy when a Jacinda Ardern led resurgence of Labour (precipitated by the Green rise before they fell).

Turei has been noticeably knocked by what happened, and what will happen to her political career. She promised to continue her fight against poverty and against am awful welfare system. Davidson was promoted to number 2 and given a senior role as anti poverty advocate.

That both Davidson and Turei could only attract a modest crowd a week before the election suggest that the Green welfare campaign system is broken.

They have allowed themselves to be fooled in their self made self righteous bubble.

Before the Greens can fix the welfare system and before they can fix poverty – if either are actually possible – they need to fix their own systems of understanding.

They effectively want a socialist society where the state equalises everyone’s money. This is supposed to equalise standards of living. It has never been a successful political approach for a country in the modern world.

They say that to fix the environment you first have to fix poverty, fix society. That’s bollocks.

Rising standards of living tends to lead to rising levels of consumption and rising urbanisation and rising consumerisation. This has raised the problems with pollution, not reduced them.

Turei may come back into politics, but when she has a break maybe she can reassess what is required to transform our society so that most people do have a decent chance of having a decent life.

In the 21st century socialist revolution has been sidelined on the fanatical fringe. If the Greens continue to put too much emphasis on state imposed equality they risk becoming a fanatical fringe party.

It appears that Turei may have always been too tinged with fanatical fringe to lead them to their first real election victory.

It appears that the Green system is breaking apart.

Can Turei change? Can the Greens change? Or are they destined to never actually change our society much?

Time to review our welfare system?

It is very difficult in practice to operate an affordable welfare system that helps those in genuine need adequately without being demeaning, but discourages abuse and free loaders who want a funded lifestyle, and is fair to those who work and pay taxes.

There are obvious problems with our current system, some highlighted by Metiria Turei. Can it be ‘fixed’ with a few tweaks? Or is a major revamp needed?

Budget adviser Michael Barnett at Stuff:  Punitive welfare system is failing those in need

The welfare reforms of the 1930s and 1940s helped to establish the kind of society where the benefits of economic growth were more equitably distributed. However, subsequent welfare measures have been introduced ad hoc and today we have a mish-mash of policy that is inefficient in its delivery and favours some sectors of society at the expense of others.

There is a drastic need to review and reform how welfare is delivered in the 21st century. It is time to acknowledge the loss of traditional manufacturing jobs overseas, the expansion of a low-wage economy and a growing reliance on the unpaid voluntary sector to provide essential social services.

The time is ripe for the provision of a social dividend through the introduction of a Universal Basic Income for all in society. This would lead to a simplification in the delivery of welfare and recognise the contribution of all, both potential and real, toward a fair and equitable society.

Simplification would help, but getting the balance right would be challenging.

A major problem with a Universal Basic Income is the level it would have to be at to provide adequately for those in real need, but that doesn’t encourage non-productive lifestyles as a choice, and doesn’t bankrupt the country.

A welfare system needs to be ‘fair and equitable’ to those in genuine need, but it also needs to be fair and equitable to those who work and pay taxes.