The living wage campaign

May 23rd, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A campaign has been launched for a “” in New Zealand, inspired by policies in United States cities and London.

In New Zealand, Labour Department research shows that 103,800 workers under 25, and 161,000 aged 25 to 64, earned less than $15 an hour in the year to last June.

I have no issue with the campaign. But I caution that not all employees and not all employers are the same. I don’t think a 16 year old earning $14 an hour in an after school job is an issue. I think it is more of an issue if someone is earning that 10 years later. But also wages can only be paid if a company is earning enough income to employ people. An increase in costs can make a company unprofitable. This is why in the main individual employers negotiate agreements with individual employees – because that reflects the position of both of them.

Low wages for the Kaufisis mean the children don’t go to school when there is no money for lunch.

Leo Kaufisi, of New Lynn, earns $14 an hour as a dispatcher for Pacific Inks in Avondale. His wife Lopaini earns the legal minimum of $13.50 an hour as a cleaner.

Four adults and eight children live in the three-bedroom house which they rent for $350 a week – Mr and Mrs Kaufisi, their six children aged between four and 12 , Mrs Kaufisi’s unemployed mother, her mother’s partner, her 12-year-old sister and 10-year-old brother.

Six children sleep in one cramped bedroom.- The other children sleep with their parents.

Mr and Mrs Kaufisi are both working hard to care for their family. I have no problem with taxpayers helping them make ends meet. Sadly the article doesn’t detail what this support is.

I presume the two other adults receive the unemployment benefit. So my estimate of the weekly net income is:

  • Mr Kaufisi $471
  • Mrs Kaufisi $455
  • Family Tax Credit $598
  • UEB (couple) $342
  • Accom Supplement $32

This is a total net income of $1,898. The equivalent gross before tax income (if it was a single earner) is $2,627 a week. That is a gross annual equivalent of $136,604. Now that is for a large family, but it gives a more complete picture than just talking about $13.50 an hour.

Even with family tax credits, Mr and Mrs Kaufisi say almost all their income goes on the rent and on payments to finance companies. These total about $500 a week for furniture and other items including two cars, which were both repossessed recently when Mr Kaufisi’s work permit expired.

Actually the rent is under 20% of the net income, according to my calculations. The problem is the finance company payments.

Having 12 people in a three bedroom house is massively over-crowded. It is not clear if they are in a state house, but it seems to me they would easily qualify.

Mrs Kaufisi said their combined wages now were not enough to live on and she supported the call for a “living wage”.

“With a living wage, maybe we can afford to rent our own place or buy healthy food for my kids,” she said.

I’m not sure higher wages will make a huge difference to their household. I think the biggest issue is only two out of 12 people are earning. Let’s assume that both the Kaufisi’s get paid $17.50 an hour, or $35,000 a year. What would this do to their income:

  • Mr Kaufisi $584
  • Mrs Kaufisi $584
  • Family Tax Credit $524
  • UEB (couple) $342
  • Accom Supplement $0

This is a total of $2,034 a week. That is an extra $136 a week, but only a 7% increase in net income despite it being a 30% increase in wages for Mrs Kaufisi and 25% for Mr Kaufifi.

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50 Responses to “The living wage campaign”

  1. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    No ‘living wage’ will be high enough for anyone who believes they are entitled to one

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  2. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Yesh, if they simply kicked out the unemployed mum and partner and the two siblings, they would be in clover.

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  3. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    Good analysis.

    The story is designed to make us all feel bad. f the facts.

    You can imagine the crippling finance payments.

    This is terrible BUT when I was selling cars back in the new day (new cars), the used car guys would refer to people like this as “pointers”. They would take em to finance and the finance people would get them approved for the biggest loan possible at the fattest interest rate possible and then bring em downstairs and the salesman would point and go – that car is yours!

    Some people just cant handle their money. Hell I know single dudes on 100k a year who struggle

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  4. Fairfacts Media (372 comments) says:

    Do they really need to have six kids?
    It is high time that payments were capped at 2 or 3.
    The message should be, if you cannot afford to have kids, don’t have them.
    I am sure most sensible people follow this policy anyway.
    It is time everyone did.

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  5. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    This is a total of $2,034 a week. That is an extra $136 a week, but only a 7% increase in net income despite it being a 30% increase in wages for Mrs Kaufisi and 25% for Mr Kaufifi.

    This last paragraph is key. Welfare distorts the value of additional work, or additional skills. The result is a perfectly rational assessment that increasing either is more diffucuilt than coping with the status quo.

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  6. Neil (586 comments) says:

    Talking about low wages can I highlight an area which receives little wage reward. I am talking about Caregivers for the elderly and inform.
    My friend, a very fit 75year old has been doing this job for a number of years for the princely hourly wage of $14.63. She has to travel to a neighbouring town 11km away and gets paid petrol for only one way.
    The people she is helping are those that have had strokes,blind,geriatrics and others. She is helping them stay in their own homes, thus avoiding the govt paying $800 a week for rest home respite. Many of these people receive Meals on Wheels as well, which in most cases depend on volunteers.
    Now some people will say that these caregivers are not highly skilled, not having a degree or technical qualification. How would you like to have to bath and toilet people in this situation?
    Caregivers are special people, they must relate to their clients . In many cases they are one of the few people these people have contact with in a day. The caregivers become very attached to their clients. They go beyond the call of duty, something many in our “gimme” society wouldn’t do so.
    Expect some increased spending on parents with dependent children in tomorrows budget but nothing for the many caregivers looking after the care of the aged and infirm.
    There is a Human Rights report coming out at the end of the month which will be asking some difficult questions to our politicians. The question I see is -When you get old would you rather be home or in a rest home ?

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  7. hemihua (31 comments) says:

    How about getting a better flippn job instead of expecting to make a comfortable living on the bottom rung?

    So we put minimum wages up… Businesses put their prices up… and we’re back to square one. Sorry but you can’t legislate your way to wealth by taking from productive sectors of the economy via taxation whilst not ever bothering to progress past a minimum wage job. Economics FAIL.

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  8. St Hubbins (26 comments) says:

    These people need to stop having children they can’t afford to support.

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  9. cows4me (248 comments) says:

    It’s all leftist horseshit, fuck what planet do these fucktards inhabit?. We work 7 days a week, 2 adults 3 kids and we live on half of Kaufisi families income but we live comfortably. Yeah bring in a living wage, I want mine indexed to the CEO of Telecom. Another mental brain fart brought to you by the mindless cretins on the left.

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  10. immigant (950 comments) says:

    How about we have the “Stop Fucking” campaign instead. Maybe people should stop at 1-2 children not 8?

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  11. La Grand Fromage (145 comments) says:

    If the Kaufisi’s dont like the level of handouts they are getting from New Zealanders then perhaps they could move back to Samoa and see how they get on.

    You want a living wage then earn it fucktards

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  12. George Patton (349 comments) says:

    Hard not to agree with other commenters. Does this family have an income problem or a family planning problem?

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  13. Alan Johnstone (1,087 comments) says:

    “but only a 7% increase in net income despite it being a 30% increase in wages for Mrs Kaufisi and 25% for Mr Kaufifi.”

    and this shows everything that is wrong with the welfare system, there is no incentive for these people to upskill and get a job that earns more money. Maybe they could go to night school and get some qualifications, get better jobs? But to what end? All their additional income is balanced out by reduced benefits.

    The rational decision in this situation, unless you feel it’s a stepping stone to a $40+ an hour wage, is to chill out and watch some TV.

    Living wage is irrelevant, in fact it’s a smokescreen. no one lives on the minimum wage just now.

    The people on Campbell live last night moaning about the minimum wage got 45% of their income in benefits. Raising the minimum wage doesn’t give them an extra dollar. It just transfer the cost from taxpayer to private business. That may be good or bad, I haven’t thought about it, but it’s not important to this discussion.

    Unless the welfare system is redesigned to make working and earning more money a rational choice, then people will not do it. It can’t all be stick, there needs to be some carrot in there too.

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  14. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,903 comments) says:

    They have a finance company problem and they are being used as political pawns by those lying socialists who infest St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Ponsonby.

    No bloody wonder the church is in decline.

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  15. Brian Smaller (4,023 comments) says:

    Their family income is higher than most of the people who are paying the taxes to support them with family tax credits.

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  16. kowtow (8,428 comments) says:

    If we want living wages then our economy has to get going.

    No more marches and campaigns by the left against agriculture and industry.

    Let’s get mining,drilling,digging ,fracking,burning fossil fuels and selling what we have to an eager, hungry world.

    Do whatever is necessary and take the brakes off. Tell the environmentalists and warm mongers to fuck off.

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  17. wikiriwhis business (3,996 comments) says:

    There is no growth anywhere in the world. Growth has completely stopped. Wages are replaced by contracts.

    Try getting a large amount of cash from the bank. Impossible. They haven’t got it. The international system is collapsing.

    Bill of rights being taking away from Americans. Military rule coming into America. Posse Comatatus revoked. Military will soon run America. The constitution will be over run.

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  18. Paulus (2,626 comments) says:

    Madam Whiplash Turei has just announced her spiel on a living wage for everybody so that they can feed their families and cloth them and have enough to pay their bills.

    Well my mortgage alone needs $2,000 a week, my chardonnay is running low, and my crayish stock is out. And I want a holiday in the Bahamas too.

    Pathetic crap, but par for the Greens and the unsuspecting public.

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  19. dubya (235 comments) says:

    “Family Tax Credit $598″

    Bloody hell, I had no idea they were this generous. And the left call minor top rate tax cuts unaffordable!

    Afraid I do have a problem with taxpayers ‘helping them make ends meet’. By that logic, I should also go and get a high interest loan for a car, and expect the taxpayer to foot the bill.

    Strange that we’re expected to feel sorry for them because they’re a family, as if it’s some kind of excuse for gross financial mismanagement.

    Don’t get me started on the mismanagement of her womb, either.

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  20. Northland Wahine (667 comments) says:

    It’s neither a wage or family planning issue. It’s about budgeting abd prioritsibg. It’s about having loans you can not service, cars, appliances being repossessed. And then getting credit for more… And so the downward spiral begins…

    Does every bedroom need a tv? Do families plan their meals? Check out any bakery situated close to schools. Plenty of kids buying junk…barefoot and sweatshirt less…

    Simple and basic budgeting could cure a lot of these woes.

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  21. trout (939 comments) says:

    How much goes to the church (or back to the Islands)?

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  22. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    Northland Wahine is right, its a budgeting issue, or an expectation to live within your means and prioritise.

    i do financial counselling and the number one reason people are in financial strife is choice. they choose to borrow more than they should, they choose to buy now what they cannot afford, they choose lotto and ciggies over saving for a house.

    when you start looking at the details its evident that no thought has gone into what they spend. was helping someone who was renting for $300 a week, and for a family of 4 (two adults, two kids) could not ‘live’ on $3000 a fortnight.

    So i start asking questions: $400 a week on groceries, $100 a week on takeaways, $100 a week on lotto, $100 a week on ciggies, unknown amounts on work lunches and coffees as she sleeps in and ‘does not have time’ to make lunches, an unknown amount on taxis to work as she sleeps in and does not want to be late.

    from the outside these people could have been the face of a ‘woe is me’ campaign run by the unions or the left parties. but look at the facts and you realise that they are usually in their situation becuase of choice.

    look at the couple in the article, why two cars? maybe they work in different areas, but do they need two cars? maybe one could get a scooter? and are they basic, cheap cars or bloody SUVs?

    people in this economic situation will almost always buy a car in the 10K plus range, often 15k if they can get it.

    and its easy to see why, when my car got totalled by a blind driver, i happened to be in a financial gap, and had to finance the new one. the difference between the 5K car i got and the 10K cars were not a lot in terms of weekly payments, but of course i would be paying for it for ages and be in negative equity for a while as well. i chose the cheaper car and am glad i did. most of these people will never choose the cheap car.

    this is a pointless campaign, borne of envy and a desire for socialism.

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  23. CJPhoto (221 comments) says:

    They aren’t even NZ citizens and the husband doesn’t even have a work permit – I struggle to understand why the Taxpayer would be supporting them.

    And how many children does the Grandmother have. It must get confusing for the kids/grandkids who is a cousin, nephew, auntie and uncle.

    There doesn’t appear to be any personal responsibility so they came to NZ to bail them out.

    When Groups run campaigns like this, they should try to pick an average family – 2 kiwi adults with 2.2 children. That would have eliminated most of the negative comments here.

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  24. tas (625 comments) says:

    An annual household income of $136,604 puts the household in question in the top 15% of the country. Admittedly 12 people is more than most households, but it was their choice to have 8 kids that they knew they couldn’t afford.

    Rights and responsibilities are inseparable. And I am sick of people claiming the right to have children, but demanding that the government bears the responsibility for feeding them.

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  25. Griff (7,675 comments) says:

    PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
    Six kids
    not my fault
    Why should nett taxpayers have to support others personal stupidities

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  26. tas (625 comments) says:

    CJPhoto, I totally agree. Is this really the best example family the living wage campaign can find? Is every household that uses contraception and stays away from loan sharks doing fine?

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  27. Alan Johnstone (1,087 comments) says:

    I’m going to point out that as at least some of these people appear to be on non resident visas, they have no entitlement under law to social welfare provision.

    Mr Kaufisi $471
    Mrs Kaufisi $455
    Family Tax Credit $598
    UEB (couple) $342
    Accom Supplement $32

    These figures are therefore very probably vastly inflated. Without knowing the immigration status of the four adults, we can’t be sure.

    We have no idea what these people are living on, but we can be sure it’s less than the article suggests, because at least one persons has no entitlement to benefits. The law requires two years on a resident class visa before there is any entitlement to social welfare.

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  28. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,903 comments) says:

    Ya gotta larrrf.

    The coot who is running this campaign is a left wing activist, one Obed Unasa, the current Minister at St Stephens. He was a candidate for Len Bown’s socialists in the local body elections where he is listed as – waaaaaaaait for it…

    a COMMUNITY ORGANISER! ! !

    The wold has room for only one black community organise at a time.

    These fellers sure know how to drive the people who actually generate wealth out of the church. Next thing you know they’ll be complaining they can’t afford to pay a full time minister.

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  29. swan (665 comments) says:

    What I cant understand is why neither the Herald, nor Campbell live last night, even mentioned the issue of reduced employment with higher minimum wages. Why cant we have a reasoned debate in this country, and at least acknowledge the mainstream economic understanding in this area?

    Its like having a drought and the media soberly reporting a campaign for more blood sacrifices to the gods.

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  30. la la land (6 comments) says:

    We have 4 children – both work and live on way less than these guys – and we are not complaining – wonder what the grocery bill is? They obviously can’t manage their money if they are making large weekly payments to a finance company.

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  31. KH (695 comments) says:

    Good analysis from Mr Farrar. !!!!!
    We see too many stories like this that don’t analyse at all. People who write those little uninformative articles should be ashamed. For dumbing down the nation.
    Good point at 1.37 above. But that also should have been covered, or at least eliminated in the original article. Slack work again.
    If indeed these are non – residents (and why don’t we know that already) then I see no problem. If they don’t get a benefit and they cannot support themselves in this country they are visiting. Then they should not be here.

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  32. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    So let’s see what the KB crowd advised Mr and Mrs Kaufisi:
    Le Grand Fromage – “perhaps they could move back to Samoa”
    St Hubbins – “These people need to stop having children they can’t afford to support”
    Griff – “Not my fault”
    Grendel – “they choose lotto and ciggies over saving”
    George Patton – “Does this family have an income problem or a family planning problem?”
    Fairfacts Media – “Do they really need to have six kids?”

    Wow, I trust the Kaufisi’s find that advice to be helpful.

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  33. KevinH (1,227 comments) says:

    Northland Wahine is correct, the Kaufisi whanau have been reckless with their income and have not budgeted. No doubt as mentioned by @dime, this family have fallen for the trap of easy credit on their cars, and have gone into arrears resulting in repossession and now a poor credit record.
    More effort is required from community leaders in the Pacific Island community, the church, to educate new arrivals from the island’s of the pitfalls of easy credit from loan sharks as well as the implications of running up large hire purchase agreements.

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  34. Alan Johnstone (1,087 comments) says:

    “Campbell live last night, even mentioned the issue of reduced employment with higher minimum wages.”

    Don’t know about the Herald, but it was mentioned on Campbell Live last night, all be briefly.

    Isn’t it blindly obvious that what we have is a skills crisis ? People are not generating enough economic output to cover the cost of living. This short fall between economic out generated and cost of living is being “socialized” by the benefits system. There is no solution to this that involves beating these people with a big stick.

    As i said before, raising minimum wage simply transfers cost from taxpayer to business. It’s a zero sum game. Some of those on the far right would like John Key to throw them a raw steak and to vastly decrease the standard of living of the poor, it may make them feeling smugly good, but it’s a recipe for social anarchy and violence.

    There is no solution to this problem that doesn’t involve increasing the productivity and economic output of the unskilled and semi skilled to a level where they can live a decent life. Our GDP per person growth has been pitiful at best (and probably even negative when increased population is factored in) over the past decade.

    Sorry to be all grown up about this.

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  35. Martin Gibson (246 comments) says:

    Good points well made. It always amazes me that there is no backlash toward people like Stacy Jones for doing those — “Car broken down? Instant Finance! Need money? Instant Finance!” ads which are targeted at families like this, obviously pretty successfully. He had so much social capital . . . was that his best option?

    It seems almost worth having a temporary bankruptcy process where you can give people the option to surrender the keys for a while and have their shit sorted for them rather than throwing good money after bad via the welfare system that disconnected them from reality in the first place.

    A lot of caked on grease to get through but.

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  36. immigant (950 comments) says:

    @mikenmild

    You forgot my recommendation – Stop Fucking

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  37. Bevan (3,924 comments) says:

    Yesh, if they simply kicked out the unemployed mum and partner and the two siblings, they would be in clover.

    No, more likely its the debt owed to the finance companies that is holding them back. Just think what that $500/wk could be doing for them now? Nothing wrong with 2nd hand furniture and a couple ex lease Daewoo Nubira’s – bet if they went that path their repayments would have beena hell of a lot less.

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  38. dubya (235 comments) says:

    Giving this lot a ‘living wage’ would be like robbing Peter to pay John Frum.

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  39. berend (1,708 comments) says:

    DPF: I think the biggest issue is only two out of 12 people are earning.

    Indeed. How many in NZ are earning money versus those that don’t and are supported by those that are? That’s why we are a low wage and poor economy because 50% of everyone’s wages go to the government to support those that don’t work.

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  40. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    Nice try Mik you idiot. i never advised them that they spend their money on lotto and ciggies.

    what i did was point out that they are in their situation by choice, and gave an example of a couple who could have also been used as the poster child for this campaign, who are mostly in financial straits becuase of the choice to overspend on lotto and ciggies.

    but other than just snipe from teh sides like a wanker Mik, tell us, since you clearly support this campaign: how much should we pay them to feel better? how much to make them feel like they are on a ‘living wage’? $40K each, 50K, 100K?

    and for a second question, once we pay them this much, tell us how motivated they will be to upskill themselves so they can earn more themselves? or will they just sit on the free money becuase its easier?

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  41. sifty (23 comments) says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how many of those that are supposedly too poor to afford food are so fucken obese! and don’t give me the bullshit about healthy food being expensive because that is yet another myth expounded by those too thick or lazy to learn to cook.

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  42. Carlos (683 comments) says:

    I bet you a pound to a pinch of dog shit they don’t believe in contraception for religious reasons.

    What’s the local Pacific Island church or even just any local church doing to help this family?

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  43. tom hunter (4,805 comments) says:

    Isn’t it blindly obvious that what we have is a skills crisis ?

    Shhh. You keep talking like that and people might start asking questions about the education system that’s responsible for giving people skills, and we could not have that because international results show that we have one of the best education systems in the world and shut up.

    No, no. It’s better to turn the equation around and claim that income inequality is what leads to poor education results. That way we can focus on things like the living wage and fix a whole lot of problems that way – including educating people so that they gain valuable skills.

    It’s all interconnected, possibly circular, and it just depends on where you want to start.

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  44. rg (214 comments) says:

    People who chose to have 6 children should make sure they are earning enough to pay for them. Parents who have more children than they can afford are iresponsible. I don’t see why as a tax payer I should be made to suffer because of their lack of responsibility.

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  45. Rick Rowling (813 comments) says:

    NOOOOOOOO – DPF you forgot the golden rule

    It’s okay for Labour to trot these people out & give selected details of their living arrangements, income & expenditure, but as soon as anyone else mentions them it’s a gross invasion of privacy!

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  46. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    People who chose to have 6 children should make sure they are earning enough to pay for them

    The problem is, rg, that far too many NZers regard money given to them by the government as earnings. If they have more kids their earnings increase.

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  47. scrubone (3,099 comments) says:

    “People who chose to have 6 children should make sure they are earning enough to pay for them”

    Most do, or at least make their income stretch. Believe it or not, there are many large families around who just get on with the job without complaining.

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  48. scrubone (3,099 comments) says:

    I still recall the time Labour was trotting out unemployed builders who just couldn’t wait to get the government to insulate their home for them… ah, good times.

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  49. kowtow (8,428 comments) says:

    TV3 resident leftist Campbell was pushing this bullshit tonight as well.

    Red head woman,2 kids, Dad gone off somewhere, not much money,how sad.

    Campbell and TV3 is part of the campaign too then.

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  50. big bruv (13,880 comments) says:

    Remember folks, given this policy is being pushed by the duplicitous Greens you have to read between the lines when it comes to what they are really driving at.

    The Greens want a living wage for EVERYBODY, yes, that means that wankers like Philip Ure would be paid the minimum livable wage for sitting on their arse all day long.

    Those on the benefit (and remember, the Greens do not want anybody to be questioned about why they are on the dole, nor do they want these people “forced” into work) would have no incentive to work as they could “earn” the livable wage (the same as what they could earn working 40 hours a week)

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