Marama Davidson : Nothing to say about the inadequate benefit increase.
Even as the country plunges into an economic and social crisis, the Green Party is still putting its cosy relationship with the Labour-led government ahead of people's lives.

THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT has effectively doubled its Jobseeker welfare benefit. Although it is only for the next six months, it still represents a $550 increase in the fortnightly benefit. The most recent demand from welfare activist groups has been for a permanent $95 increase which would cost approximately $4 billion a year. The Australian government has committed itself to spending $14 billion over the next six months on what it is calling a temporary “coronavirus supplement”. The increase was part of a $66 billion stimulus package announced by the Scott Morrison-led government on Sunday.

The increase stands in stark contrast to the mere $25 increase announced by the Labour-led Government on March 17 as part of its $12 billion 'business continuity' package. With the unemployment queues about to lengthen considerably and the country heading into a deep recession, $25 simply isn't enough to cushion people from the coming economic shocks.

On March 11 Green Party co-leader and welfare spokesperson Marama Davidson was calling for a benefit increase that applied the recommendations made by the government's own Welfare Expert Advisory Group. Its report recommended a minimum $70 increase in main benefits. Even this call from Davidson let the government off lightly because the recommendations were made in May last year and obviously don't take recent economic developments into account.

But since the Labour-led government announced the $25 benefit increase on March 17 both the Green Party and Marama Davidson have gone silent. It would not be unreasonable to assume that they would protest that the increase is woefully inadequate and demand that more be done. Instead Davidson, judging from her Twitter account, seems more concerned that the new 'social distance' conventions are preventing her from hugging anyone.

But although he's not in Parliament and only a Green Party election candidate, at least Ricardo Menendez of Auckland Action Against Poverty has spoken out. He's tweeted:

'The conservative Australian Govt just announced it’ll double benefits (Newstart). It’s time for NZ to follow suit and immediately lift benefits to liveable levels. It’s a matter of political will. We can’t afford to leave low-income communities behind in our response to COVID-19.'.......'It goes without saying that increasing benefits is one (critical, essential!) element of welfare reform. We also need to increase eligibility to benefits so workers qualify too and do wider reforms at WINZ so everybody can access income support and live with dignity.'

Unfortunately the parliamentary Green Party, even in the midst of this deep economic and social crisis, is still putting its cosy relationship with the Labour-led government ahead of people's lives. It has well and truly been seduced by 'the baubles of office'.


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