Media and National’s social services paper and 58 propositions

It has been described as “Labour lite” by ACT and “punitive” by some media.

I find it hard to believe that any fair minded person, who has actually read the long, detailed and slightly tedious discussion document, could possibly regard it overall as punitive.

The knee jerk comments of some journalists reinforces the views that mainstream media so often cannot be relied on to present the facts in an easy to read or absorb format.  Comment or extreme partisan reaction far too often comes ahead of the facts.

All up there are 58 propositions in the questionnaire which invites the reader to agree or disagree and some provide space for comments.  I ploughed my way through and answered most of the questions.   Not sure how many people will have the energy or inclination to do do this, as some require significant knowledge of the existing system.

I think 90% of the population would agree with the vast majority of propositions and questions contained in this paper.  They are so plain sensible and vanilla like, to become almost boring to read.

Even the slightly controversial propositions are hardly radical.  What rational person would disagree with P 12.  “National will ensure gang members and associates cannot exploit taxpayer support?”  Or, P 13 “National proposes to improve the way agencies work together to support people exiting prisons to ensure they have a best chance at independence and lower the risk of them reoffending?”

There are dozens of propositions like this.

While there are some overarching statements about the purpose of the social welfare system it lacks clarity on the obligations of citizens and parents, to do their best to minimise the costs they create for their fellow citizen taxpayers.  As, for instance, we don’t require a licence to produce children the state needs to reinforce a community expectation that people will be self sufficient wherever practicable.   The so called “right” should not be shy about stating this clearly.

It has also got to be practical.  Proposition 7 says National will return the sanction for sole parents who don’t name the liable parent, usually the father.   I agree with the sentiment but many of us know fathers who pay for children outside the social welfare system, because any other payment ends up in the consolidated fund.  And who wants the child to suffer because either the mother doesn’t know for sure who the father is or because he simply doesn’t want to pay?

Unless they are criminal or generally thuggish it is good for fathers to have a role in the upbringing of their children, even where they don’t live with the mother.  I think some truly fresh thinking is required here to create a benefit/tax system that encourages two parent responsibility in a workable manner.

P 39  “National proposes to extend money management to all beneficiaries under the age of 20, and those up to the age of 25 who don’t fulfil their obligations”.  Can this really be called punitive?  Some people are hopeless at financial management and as it is the taxpayers money, why shouldn’t they be managed and held accountable?   if their parents were giving them money they certainly would make sure it wasn’t wasted.

I give the 58 propositions and comments 7 out of 10, but just 4 out of 10 for the media’s response.  As with so many complex public policy issues, there is no substitute for reading the original proposition.




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