Thursday, May 20, 2010

Farting at the dinner table and fast-tracked legislation

Yesterday I went to parliament to submit on the Social Assistance (Future Focus) Bill which covers National's latest round of potentially ineffectual welfare reforms. I was there for 2 hours including my own slot of 10 minutes so was witness to many other submissions and the reactions of the committee members. Every submitter I heard was negative about the reforms, most, in a pro-welfare capacity eg there is too much focus on paid work. Before me came the Women's Refuge, The Human Rights Commission, The Christian Council of Social Services, the Presbyterian equivalent, a couple of bodies representing the legal fraternity (Geoffrey Palmer was searingly critical of the complexity of the current social security legislation and further degeneration under this bill), and the Wellington People's Centre. So in the main the usual brothers-in-arms socialists and sold-out-to-the-state religionists. Most stayed on after submitting. So when I eventually spoke the response from in front and behind me was akin to someone farting at the dinner table.

I began by reminding the members that the stated aim of the Future Focus Bill is to "break the cycle of welfare dependency" - it was not a response to the recession which a previous submitter had claimed (the Wellington People's Centre, though I don't think I named them). And as the DPB is critical to that cycle I was going to focus on the proposed changes in that area. I had prepared new material for my submission and that was circulated.

In brief I urged them to focus their attention where it is needed - young, unskilled, uneducated women entering and remaining in the benefit system for years. I cautioned that the proposed work-testing will not deter this group and could see even more children added to existing benefits as an avoidance tactic. Then I presented MSD information that showed the work-testing regime was less effective than the enhanced case management approach anyway, plus graphic evidence that governments have been fiddling with the DPB since the early 90s to little avail, and urged them to get serious and return welfare to being what was intended - temporary assistance only, except for the most disabled. I finished using the example of Norway where the DPB equivalent is limited to three years after the birth of the youngest child.

It wasn't a particularly radical submission. But in the context - all the previous submissions had the left members ( Annette King, Carmel Sepuloni, Rajen Prasad and Catherine Delahunty) falling over themselves to reinforce the sentiments expressed - made it seem extreme.

I have submitted to select committees a number of times. But always under the Labour government. Quite often someone would get slightly out of their tree in their reaction. Philip Taito Field for instance (although he was probably under a great deal of stress at the time). Or Alliance's Liz Gordon (now standing for Mayor of Christchurch against her former boss). Did I expect the process to be any different under a centre right government? As I was criticising their bill, no. But I was surprised that whilst I was in attendance for the 2 hours, two of National's members never spoke. Another spoke once. And obviously the Chair, Hekia Parata spoke frequently, but not by way of questioning. The show was being completely dominated by the other side so naturally I was expecting a real grilling. And I wasn't wrong.

The thrust of their response to me (excepting Annette King) was welfare dependence is an unfounded and unuseful construct. Rajen Prasad used the term a couple of times in a sneering sort of a way. Where is the work? What about women in violent relationships? Would you go back to the seventies or earlier? Hadn't I been listening to all the other submitters?

I told them all I had heard was 'can't do'. And I get tired of hearing 'can't do'. There are existing shortages and looming crises in aged care, disabled care, pre-school care all of which people on the DPB could be filling if they applied some foresight. There were disapproving murmurs behind me which confirmed my suspicion that some advocates for the poor aren't actually looking for work answers but more welfare.

Then I began to tackle the escaping from violence objection. Paying people to escape from violence is a double-edged sword. "The DPB is a magnet..." I got no further. Sepuloni and Prasad immediately jumped in wrongly anticipating what I was going to say the DPB is a magnet for young women. And they wouldn't let me continue. I said, you are not listening to me. At which point the chair stepped in and asked Dr Prasad to show me some courtesy and let me finish. The point I was trying to make is that a young woman with a secure income and roof over her head is a magnet for a man who doesn't want to support a partner or a child or a household. These young women are very vulnerable to being preyed on by men with a propensity for violence. (I later emailed each member the documented evidence of this).

There was probably more which has become a bit of a blur but I can best describe the episode as a derisive drubbing. And the National members may as well have not been there.

But there was something highly unusual about this episode. The submissions were due last Friday. Ordinarily one then expects to wait a few weeks to get a call about a time for oral presentations. Imagine my surprise when it came on Monday. In fact the surface-mailed acknowledgement of my written submission arrived in the letterbox after I had presented my oral submission.

That is extraordinary.

Finally one other thing that amused me was Sir Geoffrey Palmer saying that NZ didn't want to go down the same pathway as the US with silly names for legislation. He compared Future Focus to No Child Left Behind. I would very much have liked to chime in that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the name of America's Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act. What could be wrong with legislating for people to take some individual responsibility for themselves and their children?


Manolo said...

Do-gooder and wowser supreme Palmer needs to be told to bugger off smoewhere else!

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness for you Lindsay.

On another of your threads a wee while back you made a good post about John Key's 'major project' to look into what has gone wrong with NZ's youth.Instead of another expensive report, he could have got the answer simply by sitting in on this select committee.

I've taken the opinion of late that there is little hope left for the taxpayer, for a peaceful society, for a free [what's that word? Palmer would say) society. I can't think when I've ever been more depressed about our prospects.

[By the way, you could have added last nights 16 year old on Close Up being paid a youth benefit to leave a perfectly good home, and whose parents were angry about the State splitting up their family. I wonder if Key was watching that item also.]

Keep up the good work.

Cheers Mark Hubbard


I totally agree on your point on those on D.P.B whom have another child to dodge getting off the benefit. I have witnessed this myself when a few years back they were bringing in the 7 year old child return to work scheme.

A young woman I had known for years who had multiple issues her youngest was turning eight, so she purposelessly went out and got pregnant to a guy she had dated for less than a month.

The warning bells were when she started asking me questions around ovulation etc. I warned her not to be so stupid. She couldn't feed the kids she had, was hitting them (which I was horrified and spoke to someone) and C.Y.P s had become involved.

She got pregnant, the guy dumped her and she was 'financially' safe for another seven years.....

It does happen, I didn't offer her anymore support and withdrew my friendship.
There are some people who won't change, I believe in change and moving forward, however for a woman to be able to go out to work full time she must have supportive family and friends, a good self esteem and sense of worth, confidence and a knowledge that her kids wont be home alone after school etc.

If the working option was made more affordable i.e childcare, and allowances for her to take time off work for sick kids etc (without being fired) then and only then will getting rid of the D.P.B be successful.

Craig D said...

Good onya Lindsay!

baxter said...

I also say Well Done.......As for that bloody PALMER why haven't the National Government got rid of him. He is the problem on almost everything he touches not the solution.

Anonymous said...

If the working option was made more affordable i.e childcare, and allowances for her to take time off work for sick kids etc (without being fired) then and only then will getting rid of the D.P.B be successful.

More fucking socialism. Which part of 198 BILLION net debt don't you understand? There is no more money left for ANY DPB. None.

All DBP benefits should just be stopped. That will end welfare dependency - nothing else will

for a woman to be able to go out to work full time - she will if she needs to buy food. But in bludger-haven NZ she never needs to go to work

Cancel the benefits. That's the only real step-change


Anonymous, wow your perspective is quite sad, I am truly happy for you that you have had such a fruitful, fortunate and easy existence.
However I don't mind the bitterness and hater attitude, as I have seen and always hope those who condemn so harshly get a taste of true hardship themselves.

One day you may not be able to work, get a terminal illness and find that like other people I have known cant even get a sickness benefit.

I have found people who think the way you do are the bigots and ill educated, whom are one eyed who only see people on the D.P.B as young single unwed mothers.....

There is a huge reality out there also from men whom don't take any responsibility and rely on the state to fund their indiscretions. They even tell and force women onto the benefit. But I'm wasting my breath here.
I suppose you support the millions of $$ our country wastes on sports stadiums and sport in general, when that money could be funded into people having the surgeries they need so they can ACTUALLY go back to work and be productive, paying taxes rather than sponging. Education and (not the rubbish that teachers are being taught from the British system that has failed)health are the priorities, healthy, educated people get jobs and that includes solo mums... Even famous academics overseas disagree with how our country focus's on sport more than anything else and our wasted resources and money.....
Now tootle off with your beer and watch a game and tell yourself how great and self righteous you are.

Anonymous said...

Admirable work Lindsay. Good on you. The system is inhumane.

Anonymous said...

You know what really bugs me about this indiscriminate incentisised breeding. I'ts not the money, it's the fact that innocent babies are born into environments where they will never know the happiness, care, and love, that as far as I am concerned is a childs right. It is this fact that should be rammed down the throats of the pinko liberals that support the status quo. But then they would just accuse you of stereotyping, and quite possibly of being racist.
Murray M


Wow anon so you believe that if a child isn't born within a certain wage bracket that it isn't loved and cared for??? Does that mean that all the babies born in Africa are abused and unloved because they live in tents and don't have a job?

Once upon a time before people were overly materialistic the mum stayed at home and looked after the kids (which is our job). Kids were born post war, their fathers dead yet there was a golden era...

What about people like myself whom have had their children in wedlock, owned a home yet had to leave because the husband couldn't keep fists or abusive mouth to himself? I think my kids would argue that they aren't unloved...

Yes there are bad people out there, as there are in any society, rich, poor, judges, lawyers, doctors. You are ignorant to stereotype all beneficiaries as young mothers whom don't love their kids. I have seen many women in their late 30's and 40's whom have had no choice through a death of a spouse/marriage breakdown through abuse and due to their kids being to young to work full time have to ask for assistance. Believe me none of us want to live hand to mouth week after week, struggling on the benefit, its humiliating and degrading.

I pity your lack of moral fibre and education.

PK said...

Good on you Lindsay. It is unfortunate that these issues are dominated by far left ideologues.