Garner on welfare reforms


Who really thinks National’s welfare reforms are that scary?

They’re not.

Forcing people to be work-tested should be a basic contractual agreement between the Government and its “clients” when money changes hands.

Indeed much of that happens already – and has been occurring for years.

Paying the rent and power bills of teenagers directly before they spend their benefit money on booze and cigarettes is hardly radical.

No one will lose their benefits if they can’t find a job. All the Government is asking is that they get work tested sooner and that they become more aggressive in their search for work. They will lose the right to turn down work – they must take a job if it’s offered. If they continue to thumb their nose at work, they will start to lose their benefits.

And Duncan addresses the issue of the job snobs who say you should be able to choose what job you take up:

People need meaningful sustainable jobs. Flipping burgers is a job; it’s a start, we’ve all done this sort of work.

But it’s true for those entering the workforce for the first time in a long time that they need to start somewhere but they also need a pathway to show them the way out of those jobs too.

I often get accused by some who say I’m a media hack and what would I know about low-paid work?

Well I know something. I know I cleaned the Whitcoulls Queen Street store at 16 in my school holidays for youth rates – about $4.50 an hour at the time. I powder-coated curtain rails for $6.00 an hour in a Glenfield factory a year later. I put lids on toothpaste at the Avondale Redseal factory at the same time to help me pay for my first year at university.

My first job at TVNZ in 1995 was as an intern and I was paid $15,400 a year – about $250 a week from memory. A year later they put me on $21,000. By year three it was $30,000.

I worked like a slave for $250 a week. Try living on that in Auckland – it was impossible.

They were part-time crappy jobs (not the TVNZ one) – and they sure as hell encouraged me to take my studies seriously by year three!

Like Duncan I cleaned a store while at school. But I was 14 and got $1.99 an hour for cleaning at Woolworths. I was so proud to be in regular employment, working every day after school plus Friday nights and Saturday mornings. And my first job after university was $22,000 a year only and at one point I was working part-time for $18,000 a year.

But back to Bennett and her handling of these changes so far.

She’s tough. She’s been there. She’s been a solo mum. She’s had it hard. She’s come out the other end. Labour hates her. And she hates them more. It’s a perfect rematch of the Rumble in the Jungle – except these guys might be tougher. Labour regards her as a traitor in my opinion – and they’re going after her. Problem is – nothing is sticking yet. …

But Bennett has started the year with a spring in her step. She looks determined to front foot these welfare changes that she believes in.

Yesterday in response to questioning by Hone Harawira, I thought she nailed him by telling him to sort out his patch and his voters – who she claimed would rather smoke drugs than get jobs. Not every minister would try that one – but it silenced Harawira, which isn’t easy.

The Hansard records the exchange:

Hone Harawira: When the Minister talks about young mums going out to look for jobs, does she think young mums should be allowed to go to the front of the queue of the 150,000 people who are already unemployed, or does she think that the young mums should be made to wait until the 150,000 get jobs first, and can she please tell us where the jobs are for the 150,000 who are already unemployed, so that young mums can then get in line for the next jobs?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member could look in his own patch, actually. I have a newspaper article here about the forestry industry that is saying they cannot get enough workers because of the drug taking that is going on, and some of those workers are not stepping up and do not actually want the jobs. I was in Kawakawa just a few weeks ago, when I heard about someone who had 19 jobs and could not fill them. Two young women had gone into a job in hospitality in his own patch. Within 3 days their boyfriends came along and told them they did not want to see them working, because they did not want to see them getting ahead of themselves. We are going to back those young women. We are going to back them into work and try to get them off benefits. That member may not think that they are worth it, but we do.


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