|Marama Davidson : Declined to support an increase in benefit levels.|
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's claim that her government would be 'transformational' now lies in tatters.
WAS IT JUST a coincidence that Jacinda Ardern's engagement to Clarke Gayford was announced on the very same day that the Labour-led government announced its shocking response to the Whakamana Tangata: Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand report? If the motive really was to deflect attention that Jacinda Ardern and her government have shafted ordinary people once again, it kinda worked. The engagement news was the leading item on one of the six o'clock news bulletins (TV3's Newshub) while it was trending number one on Twitter for most of the day, with the welfare report nowhere to be seen.
While both the Government and its Green Party coalition partner agree with the report that the welfare system is broken, they aren't prepared to fix it.
It's going to hire a few more staff and while it might be scrapping the discriminatory sanctions against women and their children if the woman does not declare the father's name to authorities, the sanctions regime will remain largely intact - even though the report says that sanctions do more harm than good.
And while evidence of poverty is all around us, from increasing demand on food bank services to homelessness to child poverty, the Government is not going to take up the report's recommendation that core benefits be increased by 47 percent. It makes a mockery of Jacinda Ardern's election campaign promise that wiping out child poverty was one of her central priorities.
While the Government was happy to help out property developers and financiers and not introduce a capital gains tax, its not willing to help people struggling at the bottom of the economic pyramid. How little, in dollar terms, is this Government prepared to do? Its been estimated that the total cost of the welfare report proposals is approximately $5 billion. The Government has responded with a mere $290 million worth of policy spread over four years.That's about 1.3 percent of the total package. It doesn't demonstrate any commitment whatsoever from Labour to really help the people it claims to represent
Once again there is substantial anger and dissatisfaction abroad in the community. Former Green Party MP Sue Bradford tweeted : "Govt response to WEAG report virtually useless apart from 70a sanction removal which should have gone as soon as Lab/Gr/NZF took power. Good on the WEAG for your mahi but I strongly suspect it'll take a way more progressive govt than this lot to enact serious welfare reform."
|Sue Bradford: Government response to welfare report 'virtually useless'.|
In another time the Green Party would of been giving voice to the anger out in the community but it has so thoroughly embraced neoliberalism and so thoroughly has it been co-opted by the Government, it doesn't deserve to be voted back into Parliament in 2020.
RNZ's Tim Watkin has observed:
'Welfare Minister Carmel Sepuloni agrees the welfare system is not working. Marama Davidson agrees the welfare system is not working. And then they commit to ignore the report's big recommendations.
They say no to up to 47 percent benefit increases, preferring "a staged implementation". The call for "urgent change" is rejected. Remarkably, Ms Davidson has put her quotes into the same press release, tying the Greens to this approach, when they could have been dissenting from the rafters.'
The Government's response to the welfare report displays a chilling indifference toward the considerable social distress now evident in this country. Once again beneficiaries and the poor have been told there's nothing for them. Yet it was only just a few months ago that Finance Minister Grant Robertson was telling the Labour Party conference that he was 'proud that we are delivering for Kiwis a sense of shared prosperity'.