The Dom Post editorial:
As new Labour leader David Shearer embarks on the daunting task of reconnecting his party with the people who used to vote for it, he could do worse than take note of recent developments in Britain.
There, Liam Byrne, the British Labour Party’s spokesman on work and pensions, has written an extraordinary article calling for a radical rethink of the welfare policy his party first introduced almost seven decades ago. …
Byrne lauds him for his vision, but says he would be worried by the way his system has “skewed social behaviour” by creating long-term dependency. “For him ‘idleness’ was an evil every bit as insidious as disease or squalor,” writes Byrne. “He wanted a responsible government taking determined action to create work, but a responsible workforce too.”
Michael Joseph Savage, the architect of New Zealand’s welfare state, believed everybody, as a right of citizenship, was entitled to “a reasonable standard of living in the days when they are unable to look after themselves, whether it be because of old age or physical infirmity”. However, he also believed in the dignity of the working man.
It is inconceivable that Savage and his colleagues ever viewed welfare as a valid alternative to work, as some of their successors appear to do.
Labour campaigned at the last election that working poor with children will get an extra $10/week and those not working with children will get an extra $70/week. What an awful incentive and message they were sending out.
In New Zealand, as in Britain, the challenge for Labour is to reconnect the party with the working man, and woman.
A good start would be for David Shearer to announce the scrapping of their 2011 policy to pay beneficiaries $70/week more to not be in employment.