Later today I will link to the media release the Child Poverty Action Group issues in reaction to Tariana Turia being made Associate Minister of Social Development. They will be delighted. Their first pick might have been Sue Bradford in a Labour-led government but given their major issue over the past few years has been opposing Labour's In Work payment going solely to working parents, a Labour government may not have been their choice.
The Maori Party and the Greens were the only parties to publicly back the CPAG's court action. Tariana's solution to the relative poverty that many Maori children experience is to increase benefits. John Key has given her a role in which she can promote that solution. (This is a perfect example of what Rodney Hide means when he says Key, on some issues, is to the left of Clark and there was no need for him to apologise).
The point of the In Work payment is in its name. It was introduced by Labour to encourage mainly sole mums to move into part-time work or increase their existing hours. That is because they believed that work was the best way out of poverty.
The Maori Party have fostered a strong impression that they agree with that. But when push comes to shove you will find they do not. Remember Tariana's words during the campaign. Working for welfare did not include Maori women.
Campbell: You’re saying welfare is bad for Maori, so we have to break the cycle by introducing a compulsory element -
Turia : We’re talking Maori unemployed. We’re not talking about Maori women on benefits.
Sharples has also insisted that single parents are to be supported.
Dr Sharples said he was not promoting a crackdown on the domestic purpose benefit, for "we have a culture of accepting solo parents, [and] we have to take care of them".
The Maori Party falls into the trap of putting the short term interests of children ahead of their long term. All the evidence points to raising benefits drawing more people onto them.
Will National do the same? Writing in The Press earlier this year John Minto commented;
Interestingly, the CPAG report launch was attended by the National Party's flinty social welfare spokeswoman, Judith Collins, who listened silently through the presentations. It could be that National, in its attempts to brand itself as compassionate and caring, will develop some policies to outflank Labour on the Left.
The 'flinty' Judith Collins isn't going to get welfare though because it seems Key considers her too 'hard line'. That in itself could signal a softening on this particular policy.
It will be a strange business when we have the Labour opposition calling for National not to make benefits more generous. But I think that is what we are in for.