Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Sue Bradford says Labour betrays its traditions

If Sue Bradford writes something I generally read it. Because Sue has political conviction. She shunned Kim Dotcom's money and has stayed true to her roots. I respect that she engages with opponents in a  thoughtful and non-combative manner. That was my experience anyway.

Here she addresses the rift created by the Jobseeker Premium benefit introduced from June 8:

For over three decades, we've had governments who politically and through the administration of a flawed, punitive welfare system have blamed unemployed people and beneficiaries for their situation, rather than treating "them" as "us".

Yesterday, Labour brought this two-class system into stark focus once again, as it did when it introduced the discriminatory "In Work" payment as part of Working for Families back in the mid-2000s.

During his Budget speech on 14 May, Grant Robertson evoked the "great traditions of the First Labour Government who rebuilt New Zealand after the Great Depression".

I reckon the employed and unemployed workers and their families who brought the first Labour government to power in 1935 would be scandalised by Robertson's evocation of that era at a time when his government is entrenching a brutal divide between the worthy and unworthy poor.

No. I doubt they would. A 'brutal divide between the worthy and unworthy poor' was a stark feature of early Social Security. Unmarried mothers couldn't access a benefit. Criminals couldn't. And sorry to go on about it but anyone who was considered the author of their own misfortune certainly would not have been able to drawn on the pooled social security funds paid into a specific account and recorded individually in a passbook weekly.

What the "employed and unemployed workers" of 1935 would be scandalised by is being forced to support other people's children whose father's pay nothing. They would be outraged that someone who has committed a crime can come out of a prison and get immediate recourse to welfare - repeatedly! They would be angry that  entire isolated rural communities could turn their local economies on welfare.

What I think Sue overlooks is the strong socially conservative streak that existed in Labour (and in most people) back at the outset of social security. The left today is rather revisionist in recalling the sentiments of their forebears.

No comments: