Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Truth column October 26 - Tamihere vs Bennett

Recent Truth columns haven't been posted here because the relevant website section isn't updated yet. Here's my column from October 26, John Tamihere versus Paula Bennett, newly topical because this weekend Tamihere (and company) will be at the Labour Party conference  trying to stake a claim:

Rodney Hide isn't returning to parliament. There's something a bit tired and sad about returned  MPs like Winston Peters and John Banks. He advises, "Move on" and make way for new blood. But will John Tamihere listen? Labour's lukewarm reaction to his publicly-announced ambition to take Waitakere for them hasn't put him off yet.

Tamihere's musings may be motivated by his unresolved court battle with the Ministry of Social Development. It's convenient that the Minister, Paula 'Benefit' as JT calls her, is the MP for Waitakere.  Is this plan some sort of utu should the court find against his organisation, the Waipareira Trust? He's a smart operator and will have considered all outcomes.

Even if Tamihere won Waitakere, but National retained power; if Bennett returned as Minister via the list and JT was appointed shadow welfare minister (easily out-qualifying the current amateur) it would be game on. Undoubtedly they are both scrappers and while Bennett might have looked the feebler party a couple of years back, the interim experience can only have toughened her markedly.

It's the points of difference I can't envisage because Tamihere is actually a better fit with National. Paula Bennett has been implementing the kind of reforms JT has pushed for years. Whanau ora, devolving WINZ money to mentoring organisations, free contraception, etc. Unlike most on the left, he isn't sympathetic to bigger state handouts and is dead-set against encouraging more dependency.

Which brings me back to why? Is he simply slightly jealous of Bennett's achievements? For instance, the law change that kicked-in on October 15. Women who add a child to their benefit will only get one years reprieve from work-testing. Labour couldn't even admit this was a real problem, let alone try and sort it.

Paula's tough. Tough as in 'tough love'. And a tough love Mum is amongst the most disciplined, formidable, fierce types. Too tough for Tamihere I think.

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