Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Turia on the welfare reforms

Interviewed on Radio NZ this morning Associate Social Development Minister Tariana Turia made it clear she does not support National's DPB reforms but has to vote for them as minister. So does Sharples. But the rest of the caucus is another matter.

Initially she says she does support benefit reform (makes some interesting comments about people not understanding where benefit money comes from) but then makes it clear (as in the past) that she is only talking about the unemployment benefit. Her problems;

1/ The timing - where are the jobs?
2/ Single parents should be allowed to stay home until their children have "completed schooling."

Regarding the timing, I have blogged before about where the existing and looming shortages lie and demand will come as the baby boomers age. But as well manufacturing is picking up. Plus there is a lag in introducing reforms. If we put them off because of present circumstances, when circumstances change the new rules aren't in place.

Paying single parents to stay home until their children complete school - and if she had been asked to clarify that I am sure it would have been high school - is absurd, although, in law, what currently happens.

So how is this going to pan out? Tariana would not guarantee all her caucus will vote for the reforms. Have we heard anything from ACT about the reforms? Is their support guaranteed, bearing in mind the reforms (depending on which is under the spotlight) are a rehash, a continuation of current practice or could arguably make intergenerational dependency worse? What are the numbers needed?

If 3 Maori Party MPs and ACT didn't support the legislation, even with Peter Dunne's 'aye' the vote will be tied. Can legislation be passed under a tied vote? I don't know the answer to that.

Then again the ACT ministers of government may also be obliged to support the government in which case it is a done deal. But perhaps they should be holding out for change with more teeth - like limiting benefit eligibility to the number of children dependent when the benefit was granted. Or basing work-testing on a set period of time from when the benefit was granted, rather than on the age of the youngest child. In effect, time-limiting it. After all, ACT always claimed to be the campaigners for welfare reform and time-limits were very much part of their earlier policy.

The legislation has its first reading in parliament this afternoon.

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