Gift of praise for birthday

April 10, 2014

Yesterday was Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s birthday and Trans Tasman gives her the gift of praise:

. . .Is Paula Bennett the most effective Minister to have held the Social Development portfolio? There’s little doubt her welfare reforms are hitting the mark, judging by the fierce reaction to the news at least 21,000 beneficiaries have travelled overseas in the past nine months. Of those, nearly 5000 have had their benefits cancelled once eight weeks had elapsed since their departure. It makes it hard for Opposition politicians to pitch the case of growing inequality. Bennett has also been equally effective on issues like family violence, when lobbyists (who would normally be critical of a National Minister holding the portfolio) praise her work and say they want her to keep on with it…………

Having lobbyists on social matters, who are almost on the left of the spectrum, want her to stay on is high praise and well deserved.


April 9 in history

April 9, 2014

32 Jesus Christ ascended into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday.

193 Septimius Severus was proclaimed Roman Emperor by the army in Illyricum.

475 Byzantine Emperor Basiliscus issued a circular letter (Enkyklikon) to the bishops of his empire, supporting the Monophysite christological position.

1241  Battle of Liegnitz: Mongol forces defeated the Polish and German armies.

1413  Henry V was crowned King of England.

1440 Christopher of Bavaria was appointed King of Denmark.

1682 Robert Cavelier de La Salle discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River, claimed it for France and namesdit Louisiana.

1860 The oldest audible sound recording of a human voice was made.

1865 American Civil War: Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia (26,765 troops) to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, effectively ending the war.

1865 Birth of Charles Proteus Steinmetz, German-American mathematician and electrical engineer (d. 1923).

1867 Chris Watson, third Prime Minister of Australia, was born (d. 1941).

1867  Alaska purchase: Passing by a single vote, the United States Senate ratified a treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska.

1898 Paul Robeson, American singer and activist, was born  (d. 1976).

1909 The U.S. Congress passed the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act.

1916  World War I: The Battle of Verdun – German forces launched their third offensive of the battle.

1917 World War I: The Battle of Arras  started with Canadian Corps executing a massive assault on Vimy Ridge.

1918 World War I: The Battle of the Lys – the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps was crushed by the German forces during the Spring Offensive on the Belgian region of Flanders.

1926 Hugh Hefner, American entrepreneur and publisher, was born.

1932 Unemployed workers in Dunedin reacted angrily to the refusal of the Hospital Board to offer assistance, protesters stoned the mayor’s relief depot and tried to storm the Hospital Board’s offices, before being dispersed by police batons.

Unemployed disturbances in Dunedin

1934 – Bill Birch, New Zealand politician, was born.

-

1937 The Kamikaze arrived at Croydon Airport – the first Japanese-built aircraft to fly to Europe.

1939 Marian Anderson sang at the Lincoln Memorial, after being denied the right to sing at the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall.

1940 World War II: Germany invaded Denmark and Norway.

1942 World War II: The Battle of Bataan/Bataan Death March – United States forces surrendered on the Bataan Peninsula. The Japanese Navy launched an air raid on Trincomalee; Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Hermes and Royal Australian Navy Destroyer HMAS Vampire were sunk off the island’s east coast.

1945 World War II: The German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer was sunk.

1945 – World War II: The Battle of Königsberg, in East Prussia, ended.

1945 – The United States Atomic Energy Commission was formed.

1947 The Glazier-Higgins-Woodward tornadoes killed 181 and injured970 in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

1947 – The Journey of Reconciliation, the first interracial Freedom Ride  started through the upper South in violation of Jim Crow laws. The riders wanted enforcement of the United States Supreme Court’s 1946 Irene Morgan decision that banned racial segregation in interstate travel.

1948 Jorge Eliécer Gaitán’s assassination provoked a violent riot (El Bogotazo) in Bogotá, and a further ten years of violence in Colombia known as La violencia.

1948 – Massacre at Deir Yassin.

1952 Hugo Ballivian’s government was overthrown by the Bolivian National Revolution, starting a period of agrarian reform, universal suffrage and the nationalisation of tin mines.

1957 The Suez Canal in Egypt was cleared and opened to shipping.

1959 Mercury program: NASA announced the selection of the United States’ first seven astronauts,-  the “Mercury Seven“.

1965 Astrodome opened and the first indoor baseball game was played.

1967 The first Boeing 737 (a 100 series) made its maiden flight.

1968 Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral.

1969 – Paula Bennett, National Party Cabinet Minister and Waitakere MP, was born.

1969 The “Chicago Eight” pled not guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

1969 The first British-built Concorde 002 makes its maiden flight from Filton to RAF Fairford.

1975 The first game of the Philippine Basketball Association, the second oldest professional basketball league in the world.

1978  Rachel Stevens, English singer (S Club), was born.

1989  The April 9 tragedy in Tbilisi, Georgian SSR an anti-Soviet peaceful demonstration and hunger strikes, demanding restoration of Georgian independence was dispersed by the Soviet army, resulting in 20 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

1991 Georgia declared its independence from the Soviet Union.

1992 A U.S. Federal Court found former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega guilty of drug and racketeering charges. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

1992 John Major‘s Conservative Party won an unprecedented fourth general election victory.

1999  Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara, President of Niger, was assassinated.

2002 The funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother at Westminster Abbey.

2003 2003 invasion of Iraq: Baghdad fell to American forces.

2005 Charles, Prince of Wales married Camilla Parker Bowles.

2009 In Tbilisi, Georgia, up to 60,000 people protested against the government of Mikheil Saakashvili.

2011 – A gunman murdered five people, injured eleven, and committed suicide in a mall in the Netherlands.

2013 – – A gunman murdered 13 people in a spree shooting in the village of Velika Ivanča, Serbia.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


Political playground

April 8, 2014

Trans Tasman takes politicians back to school:

Hone Harawira, one suspects, used to specialise in Chinese burns and other playground tortures when he was at school. The Mana Party leader has the kind of air about him redolent of such schoolyard antics. John Key was probably the cheeky kid who cracked enough jokes to be popular with the other kids but who nevertheless did his homework assiduously and kept on authority’s good side. David Cunliffe was the greasy goody two shoes, bright, geeky and probably a bit of a sneak. Peter Dunne – swotty pants. Russel Norman – ditto, but a more argumentative version of the same. Metiria Turei: the slightly flaky party girl (a bit like Paula Bennett, in fact).

We had classic playground diversion stuff this week when it was suggested Harawira is the lone electorate MP Kim Dotcom has signed up to his party. It’s not me, sir, Harawira protested – pointing indignantly to the class swot Peter Dunne sitting quietly in the corner. Key of course has rubbished the idea his support partner might be in talks with the Internet pirate who has promised to bring the Prime Minister down. “Not a dog show,” the PM laughed, which prompted a few to remember the Country Calender spoof about the remote controlled sheep dogs, and to ponder Dunne’s resemblance to a slightly affronted Scottish Rough Collie.

Former Labour leader David Shearer – the decent kid  everyone used to pick on – is the other candidate who has been suggested, but this looks even less likely than Dunne. Dotcom has historically held a somewhat awkward relationship with the truth which has occasionally brought him to the attention of the authorities. This looks like another of those occasions. . .

An awkward relationship with the truth, may or may not apply to the 2000 members his Internet Party claims to have.

It’s applied to register as a political party.

. . . Following registration the Internet Party will need to submit its rules providing for the democratic participation of members and candidate selection within the time period specified by law. . .

It’s constitution is here but Russell Brown raises questions on whether they allow for democratic participation by members:

1. There is a special role called ‘party visionary.’ This is defined as Kim Dotcom, or a person selected by Kim Dotcom. THis visionary has the automatic right to sit and vote on the party’s executive and policy committee and cannot be kicked out by the membership.
2. To stand for election to the party’s executive, in addition to being nominated by current members of the party you’ve got to be nominated by a current member of the National Executive. This locks in the incumbents.
3. The party’s executive has nearly unfettered control over the list: they put together an initial list, send it out to the membership to vote on, and then they ultimately decide what the final list should be having regard to the member’s choices.
4. The national executive chooses who stands in what electorate. No local member input at all.
5. The party secretary has a very important role (eg they get to solely arbitrate over disputes; they set out the process for amending the constitution, they decide the process for electing office holders; they’re a voting member of the National Executive). The only problem is they’re legally an employee of the party’s shell company, meaning that it is very hard for the members to exercise democratic control over the secretary (you can’t just fire an employee).
6. On a related note: the way the Internet Party is structured is so all its assets are kept in a shell company (Internet Party Assets Inc), away from the party itself. I don’t know what the purpose of this one was TBH. (the rules of this company were meant to be attached to the constitution in a schedule, but as far as I can see they’re not there)
7. They’re using the old ‘vote in Parliamentary caucus’ decides leader method. To be fair, most parties use this though. There is a bit of a quirk though that until we know their list we don’t know who their party leader is, because if they’re outside of Parliament their party leader is just whoever is at number 1 of the list. (I also note there’s no way to remove a leader if they don’t have representation in Parliament).”

Not so much of, for and by the members as of, for and by Dotcom.

But the silver lining to the Dotcom cloud is that every bit of media attention he’s getting – and he’s getting a lot – is less for the rest of the opposition.


$10.5m saved cutting benefits for travellers

April 5, 2014

When the left accuse National of benefit bashing they show they have no affinity for hard working people on low incomes.

How galling it must be for them to know that their taxes help support people who could work but don’t and that some on benefits are able to enjoy luxuries like overseas travel which they can’t afford themselves.

Helping those in genuine need is the duty of a compassionate society, that help doesn’t mean indulging those who could be helping themselves. That is why initiatives like benefits cuts for overseas travellers are necessary.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says more than 21,000 people have had their benefit cut for travelling overseas since July last year.

“We tightened the overseas travel rules as part of welfare reform and have saved New Zealand more than $10.5 million in suspended payments for beneficiaries who still chose to travel.

“That’s a staggering number of people. More than 1,750 people have had their benefit suspended for multiple overseas trips.  This includes 191 people who travelled three times and 1,555 who have travelled twice since last July.

“These figures don’t include those on Superannuation. 

“The largest group of suspensions applied to nearly 11,200 people on job seeker benefits, followed by more than 4,800 sole parents.

“The new rules recognise that beneficiaries should be ready and available for work not prioritising travel.

“Since the changes 4,880 peoples’ benefits were cancelled because they failed to reconnect with Work and Income eight weeks after their departure from New Zealand.

“The rules, while tighter, still allow for overseas travel on compassionate or health grounds in certain cases for job seekers.  People without work obligations may in most cases travel overseas for up to 28 days. 

“These figures are the number of people who chose to travel knowing their benefit would be suspended.  Every day we hear stories of how people cannot live on the benefit.  Today you’re hearing that literally thousands can not only live on it but can afford to travel overseas as well,” said Mrs Bennett.

I don’t think the original architects of the welfare system intended support to extend to such luxuries and it’s not what the modern system should be covering either.

Photo: Under National’s welfare reforms, beneficiaries are expected to be ready and available for work, not travelling overseas - www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?articleId=43536


1st for social progress

April 5, 2014

New Zealand has topped the world in a survey on social progress:

People around the globe are learning this week what Kiwis know – New Zealand is one of the best countries in the world, says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

Commenting on the 2014 Social Progress Index which ranks New Zealand in first place Mrs Bennett urged New Zealanders to take a moment and reflect on just how lucky we are to live here

“We are an ambitious people and we want the best for our families.  Sometimes in our focus on always trying to be better we fail to count our blessings and acknowledge just how much progress we have made as a nation.

“We are ranked first in the world for being a safe, honest, and tolerant country with a good environment.

“The most pleasing part of the report was our winning scores on Opportunity – this confirms that every Kiwi can have aspirations and that in this country it is possible to achieve those dreams.

“To the naysayers – yes we can do much better in a lot of areas and every day we are all working hard to improve our health, welfare and education services with strong backing from the government.

“We’re investing particularly heavily in new policies and services for children and families.  The Children’s Action Plan, more social workers in schools and hospitals, greater support for parents, and welfare reforms to get more people in work to name just a few.

“It’s great to live in New Zealand and it’s nice the rest of the world know it as well,” says Mrs Bennett.

 

Photo: There’s a lot more to be done, but New Zealanders have every reason to be proud of what we are achieving by working together.

Being first overall and first for being a safe, honest, and tolerant country with a good environment and topping the score for opportunity are something to celebrate.

The full Social Progress report here.
 

 


Respect’s the key

March 22, 2014

ACC Minister Judith Collins says respect is the key to tackling sexual violence.

She was announcing a new school-based pilot project funded by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) as part of its new focus on preventing sexual violence.

“Sexual violence has a significant effect on victims and families, resulting in substantial physical and mental health issues as well as social problems like poverty, addiction and suicide,” Ms Collins says.

“Encouraging a culture of respect is one of the most effective ways we can help to prevent sexual and dating violence. This pilot programme will teach young people the value of having healthy relationships based on respect, negotiation and consent.”

Recently ACC has made sexual violence prevention part of its core business focus and its first initiative in this area is a school-based pilot programme focussed on fostering healthy and respectful relationships.

In 2012/13, ACC spent $44 million on services for about 15,000 sensitive claims – the majority of which are related to sexual violence.

“There is some great work already being done by the sexual violence sector in schools but there is also recognition that we need to ensure these programmes have better national coordination, are consistent in content and ensure the best coverage possible,” Ms Collins says.

The school based programme is being developed with an Advisory Group made up of sexual violence sector representatives, interested community groups, government agencies and specialist academics, with input from students, parents and teachers. The programme will be a part of a wider programme of work led by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

The programme is still in its early stages of development and there will be further announcements on the specific content, providers, and schools that will be piloted in the third school term this year.

This programme will have to work hard to combat the many media messages which teach people to neither respect themselves nor others.

It is designed to help prevent violence. Legislation is also underway to protect people after a crime has been committed with a Bill creating a new order to protect victims of serious violent and sexual offences passing its second reading in Parliament this week.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says the Victims’ Orders Against Violent Offenders Bill creates a new non-contact order to help reduce the likelihood of serious violent and sexual offenders coming into contact with their victims.

“This Government has made perfectly clear its commitment to putting victims at the heart of our criminal justice system. This Bill is one more way to ensure victims feel safe and protected from further offending,” Ms Collins says. 

The order would prohibit the offender from contacting the victim in any way and could ban the offender from living, or working in a particular area.

“This Bill recognises that victims are forced to relive these serious ordeals and suffer on-going effects when they come into contact with their offenders. The proposed new order will help to safeguard and give peace of mind to victims and where necessary, place more restrictive conditions on an offender.”

The provisions added to the Bill today include:

  • orders can be applied to a person who has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for a specified violent or sexual offence (rather than the five year threshold proposed in the original Bill)
  • non-contact orders can be extended to cover an offender’s associates, where the offender encourages the associate to engage in prohibited behaviour that would harm the victim’s recovery
  • victims can apply for an order at any time after sentencing.

Ms Collins acknowledges the Law and Order Committee and thanked those who made submissions on the Bill.

The Government expects to pass the Victims’ Orders Against Violent Offenders Bill by the end of 2014.

Photo: National is delivering on its promise to put victims at the heart of our justice system - www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?articleId=43384


For Children’s Day

March 2, 2014

Photo: Celebrating Children's Day 2014. Like or share if you agree with Paula.  #childrensday

 

The Minister of Social Development has a role in ensuring those in need get help.

But giving children the best possible start and ensuring they thrive and achieve requires more than benefits and is first and foremost the responsibility and duty of their families.


TVNZ reviewing programmes for bias

February 19, 2014

Using facilities at a state-owned broadcaster for Labour Party meetings and communications was a serious lapse of judgement.

But the bigger concern is whether there was political influence in editorial and programming decisions and interviews.

TVNZ’s Chief Executive Kevin Kenrick says:

. . . TVNZ will now launch an investigation into staff use of TVNZ resources to support political party activities. It will also review the editorial independence of the Maori and Pacific Programming division during Shane Taurima’s time as manager (February 2013 to February 2014).

The investigation will be led by Brent McAnulty, TVNZ’s Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs and report to me, as TVNZ’s Editor in Chief. Brent will head up a review team that has access to all TVNZ internal resources, and a search has begun to identify a suitably qualified external person to provide an objective and independent critique of our editorial performance. 

This investigation will be conducted as a matter of priority but it won’t be a rush job – we’re focussed on carrying out a robust and comprehensive investigation that looks into this matter thoroughly. 

The review findings and recommendations will be made publicly available.

Given our position as New Zealand’s most watched news provider we hold ourselves to the highest standards of editorial independence and balance. Clearly a line has been crossed here – it’s unacceptable and we make no excuses for what’s happened.

Our focus now is to clearly and fully understand what has happened; how this happened; and what we need to do to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said she was treated unfairly by Taurima.

. . . Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says she was treated unfairly by TVNZ interviewer Shane Taurima.

The TVNZ unit manager resigned from the state broadcaster yesterday after it was revealed he took part in a Labour Party hui, and that TVNZ property was used to hold party meetings.

Bennett was grilled by Taurima on youth unemployment, in April 2012 on Sunday morning current affairs show Q+A.

“I felt that it was actually really biased,” Bennett told reporters this morning.

“I came out of there and couldn’t work out whether it was anti-National, anti-me, I don’t know what it was.

“It was one of the worst and the least-informative [interviews] for viewers, to be honest, that I’ve ever done in my career … I always felt that he was much tougher on National Maori women … but you have got to be careful that you don’t start over-thinking things, as well.” . .

Good interviewers don’t badger and interrupt.

They ask intelligent questions, listen to the answers and ask more questions.

They are firm, they can be tough, but they must be fair.

Taurima isn’t the only broadcaster who’s had political allegiances, but John Armstrong explains why they are different:

What about Paul Henry? Inevitably questions are being asked – especially by some in a smarting Labour Party – as to what difference in political terms there is between Shane Taurima, who has been forced to resign his management position at TVNZ, and Henry, who unsuccessfully stood for Parliament for National in 1999 but yet has been given his own late-night programme on TV3.

Well, quite a lot actually.

For starters, Henry is but one example of someone starting or resuming a career in broadcasting after a dalliance with politics. You can go back to Brian Edwards who stood for Labour in 1972 but lost narrowly, and Pam Corkery who also briefly hosted a late night TV show, in her case after leaving Parliament.

Labour’s John Tamihere became a talkback jock after losing his seat. John Banks has regularly interchanged political and broadcasting roles, even to the point of holding both at once.

However, all were hired because of their larger-than-life personalities rather than their politics which they were anyway totally upfront about.

Along with Corkery, Henry has shown no inclination to return to politics.

Taurima stood down from his TVNZ role while he sought nomination as the Labour candidate in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection last year. After failing to win selection, he returned to work at TVNZ where he was head of the Maori and Pacific unit.

Given his management role in news and current affairs, TVNZ’s senior management should have sought assurances he had no intentions of standing for Parliament again.

TVNZ was aware, however, that Taurima was considering standing in another Maori seat at this year’s election. At that point, Taurima should have been confronted with two choices: either sever your political affiliations or quit TVNZ. . .

Act MP John Banks has used the issue to ask a very good question – why do we have state television?

TV3’s revelation that Shane Taurima, TVNZ’s former manager of the Maori and Pacific Programmes unit, hosted a Labour Party meeting last year on the broadcaster’s property and involving other TVNZ staff, shows another good reason why TVNZ should be sold, said ACT MP John Banks.

“This issue is not Mr Taurima’s politics. It is the fact that he and some of his staff wrongly used taxpayer’s property to further his political objectives” said Mr Banks.

“The easiest fix is for the taxpayer to get out of the television business. TVNZ should be sold.

“There is no reason for the State to be in the risky television business. We should sell now because TVNZ will soon be worthless as a result of technology changes.

“In private media if a journalist pursues a political agenda using company resources that is solely a matter for the management, shareholders and advertisers.

“If TVNZ were in private ownership no one would care about Mr Taurima’s Labour Party activities on the premises” said Mr Banks.


The heart of the issue

February 13, 2014

Answer of the day:

Hon PAULA BENNETT: For me this gets to the heart of the actual issue. So the member thinks that it is only the Government’s throwing money around and getting into every household and giving them 60 bucks a week for a newborn baby that is going to make the difference. I actually think it is not about just the Government; it is about the Government, community, and parents themselves actually putting their children first in many instances. It is about what is happening in the streets. It is about what organisations like the Salvation Army do. So I do not think it is a D for the Government. In fact, what the Salvation Army did say was that “as a national community,”— and I quote—“we have made credible and worthwhile social progress. It is important to acknowledge and celebrate this because, for the most part, it is intentional and hard won. The Government should be applauded for its contribution to this progress.” Paula Bennett

She was responding to a question on child poverty and she’s right.

Children are living in poverty for several reasons and there is no single or simple solution.

The government is helping with no assistance from the opposition who have resisted every measure to reform welfare which is one of the most effective ways to lift families from poverty.

However, government can’t replace parents who don’t put children first.

But it can make matters worse as Lindsay Mitchell observes on similarities between Maori and African American families on welfare:

. . . Both ethnicities had large families. So payments per child could mount up. The sums may have seemed relatively small to middle class families, but for people coming from a paltry income base – Maori from subsistence and African Americans from the abiding legacy of slavery – the sums were meaningful.

From there it is all too easy to understand how the male of these two cultures became increasingly dispensable. The state would provide a steady and guaranteed income if he disappeared. His absence might sometimes be  ‘manufactured’  but in the final analysis, his financial utility was deeply degraded. He had a heavy weight competitor in the government.

(And still some politicians want to continue and even increase these types of ‘needy’ children policies ignoring the damage that visits on the family structure which best supports those kids financially and emotionally.)

One of the reasons for children in poverty is the breakdown of families and the replacement of a wage earner by a benefit.

The solution to that isn’t more welfare.


National’s plan is working

February 12, 2014

National’s plan for a brighter future is working – and as a consequence so are more young people:

The latest HLFS employment figures show the Government’s focus on young people is paying off, Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett say.

“An increase of 28,500 (9.3 per cent) 15 to 24 year-olds in work over the past year and the lowest number of young people not being in employment, education, or training since 2008 is promising news for them and their families,” Mr Joyce says.

“Through our Business Growth Agenda the Government has been investing heavily in education and training to lift the skills and qualifications of our young people while matching the needs of employers.

“Initiatives such as Youth Guarantee, the Apprenticeship Reboot and Maori and Pasifika Trades Training are proving very successful in providing young people with important skills they will have for life.”

Mrs Bennett says the Government’s investment in youth services as part of the welfare reforms was also having a big impact in reducing the number of NEETs.

“Government funded youth providers are actively supporting 9,602 NEETs to get enrolled and remain in education, training or work based learning,” Mrs Bennett says.

“The Government’s Job Streams subsidies are encouraging more employers to give young people a go in good jobs with training. Thanks to these subsidies 2,578 young people got jobs.

“The Government is proud of what we are achieving in making a real difference for young people to get work and to get on with a bright future ahead of them.”

Employment has been lagging other positive indicators so this improvement is very encouraging.

Youth who go from school to a benefit are likely to stay on it for longer at a huge cost to them and the country financially and in terms of social outcomes like poorer health and a greater likelihood of committing crimes.

Keeping young people in education or getting them into training or work has both social and economic benefits for them and the rest of us.
>National’s focus on young people is paying off and making a real difference: www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?articleId=43060


Helping forward vs holding back

February 1, 2014

The contrast between policies of left and right have been well illustrated in the past week.

National’s education policy announced by Prime Minister John Key is designed to help people go forward.

The Green Party then released its education policy which had very little to do with improving educational achievement and addressing the long tail of under achievers and a lot to do with welfare.

Labour’s policy was also mostly about welfare, whether or not the recipients are in need of it.

Like most policies from the left they didn’t address the causes of any problems and Labour’s policy would remove the incentive for beneficiaries to seek work.

For all the pious words about caring for the poor, the opposition has fought tooth and nail against every move National has made in the area which will do the most to reduce poverty in the long term and that’s get people off welfare and into work.

In spite of the trenchant opposition to its reforms, National has implemented them and they’re working:

Comprehensive welfare reforms introduced over the past year are delivering strong results, says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

“We’re seeing positive developments as we implement welfare reforms to help more New Zealanders move from welfare into independence.”

“Our first priority has always been to either divert young people from entering the welfare system at all, or supporting them off benefit quickly,” says Mrs Bennett.

There are currently around 3,000 teen parents and 16 and 17 year olds on benefits, almost every single one is now under money management.

That means a specialist youth provider works with them to ensure their bills are paid directly, before grocery money goes on a payment card, with up to $50 in the hand. They can’t use the card to buy cigarettes or alcohol.

“Evidence clearly tells us young people who go on benefit, are at the greatest risk of staying there long term over their lives.

“Under the old welfare system, a fistful of cash was essentially handed to teenagers – hundreds of dollars – and they were just left to get on with it,” says Mrs Bennett.

Around the world, countries are grappling with the issues of young people who are Not in Education, Employment or Training and this Government is focused on solutions that work for New Zealand.

This Government has reached out and managed to re-engage with 9,000 young people classed as NEET and connected them to Youth Services even if they don’t go on a benefit.

“I’m proud to say we now have 63% of those 9,000 young people actually in education.

“The best possible outcome for these young people is to re-engage in education because without that, their job prospects are seriously limited,” says Mrs Bennett.

Other changes to the welfare system include stopping benefits to those on the run from police. Beneficiaries are given fair warning to clear outstanding warrants for their arrest or their benefit will be suspended.

So far more than 1,000 warrants have been cleared as a result of this policy.

A change that was introduced as part of Future Focus reforms in 2010, and continued under the new system, is a requirement to reapply for the Jobseeker Support (formerly Unemployment) Benefit after one year.

Since Jobseeker Support was established in July last year, around 4,500 Jobseeker benefits have been cancelled during the reapplication process.

More than a third of those cancellations were due to the fact individuals had already found work and a further 37% didn’t bother to fill in the form.

Another new policy was designed to incentivise people making the decision to proactively move from welfare to work before they are required to.

The Work Bonus allows people to keep some of the benefit for the first few weeks in a new job.

So far, more than 2,500 people have received the Work Bonus, the vast majority of whom were sole parents moving into work.

“Every week more than 1,500 people move off welfare into work and we’re backing every one of them,” says Mrs Bennett.

Via @[12635800428:274:John Key] - Our welfare reforms are working: www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?articleId=43009

Many of these people have needed a lot of support and have overcome significant challenges to get and keep a job:

“Twenty-four year old James has battled brain cancer and is legally blind, but none of that has dented his incredible determination to work,” says Mrs Bennett.

James has received a Supported Living Payment (previously called Invalid’s Benefit), since he was diagnosed with a brain tumour at age 18.

People on this benefit are not required to work.

“With the help of his family and friends, James found a removal company prepared to offer him 20 hours of work a week, working in the storeroom.

“After a referral from a specialist health and disability provider, Work and Income negotiated a wage subsidy with James’ employer to allow them to stretch to providing more hours.

“This determined young man is now working 30 hours a week.  I’m in awe of his motivation to work despite his many challenges and the fact that there is no requirement for him to do so.

‘I’m told his boss is really impressed with James’ attitude and motivation and plans to keep him on long-term,” says Mrs Bennett.

This employer indicated that the job subsidy has made a big difference with meeting the costs of training and support to help James on the job.

The Government supports around 7,000 people a year through wage subsidies which allow employers to take on staff who may require extra support.

There are currently more than 3,300 people on Supported Living Payment who are working part time.

Under new welfare reforms, the name of this benefit was changed and while there is a new streamlined process for new applications, the entitlement and qualification rules remained the same.

“Without question, the welfare system is there to support those in genuine need and New Zealanders with serious disabilities and terminal illnesses should be provided support without onerous paperwork.

“We also have a responsibility to support anyone on this benefit who wants to work; it is a basic right to be able to participate in work like anyone else,” says Mrs Bennett. 

Notes: People assessed as legally blind may continue to receive a benefit while working.

Benefit dependence is one of the biggest pointers to poor social, educational, health and financial outcomes.

Opposition policies don’t recognise this and would keep holding people back.

National’s policies do recognise this and are helping people move forward.

 

 


Minor ministerial changes

January 21, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has announced some minor changes to his ministerial line-up which includes the reinstatement of Peter Dunne as a Minister outside Cabinet.

Internal Affairs and Local Government Minister Chris Tremain, who has announced his intention to retire from Parliament at the upcoming general election, will be resigning from the Ministry.

Peter Dunne will be appointed Minister of Internal Affairs, Associate Minister of Health and Associate Minister of Conservation. Mr Dunne will be a Minister outside Cabinet as he was prior to his resignation in June last year.

Michael Woodhouse will be promoted to the vacancy in Cabinet, and will retain all of his current responsibilities.

Paula Bennett picks up the role of Minister of Local Government, in addition to her current portfolio responsibilities.

The new Minister outside Cabinet will be Peseta Sam Lotu-liga, who will be appointed Minister of Pacific Island Affairs and Associate Minister of Local Government. Mr Lotu-liga is the MP for Maungakiekie and was first elected to Parliament 2008.

“I want to thank Chris Tremain for his work as a Minister, and previously as Senior Government Whip,” Mr Key says.

“Chris will be a real loss to the National caucus when he retires at the election and I wish him well for the future.

“I am pleased to welcome Peter Dunne back as a Minister. We have worked together well in the past, and United Future continues to be a valued partner in government.

“While 2013 brought its challenges, both Peter and I start this election year looking forward, not back.”

Mr Key also congratulated Mr Lotu-liga on his elevation to the Ministry.

“Sam has very strong ties with the Pasifika community and has represented their interests in caucus well.

“He is well placed to build on the work that Hekia Parata has done in this portfolio this past term.”

In other changes, Todd McClay will take up the role of Associate Tourism.

The Governor-General will swear in the new Ministers on Tuesday 28 January, prior to Parliament getting underway for the new year.

“The National-led Government’s strong Ministerial team will continue to take New Zealand forward and deliver on what we have promised,” Mr Key says.

Chris Tremain has done good work as a Minister but his decision to not contest this year’s election has provided an opportunity for promotion and re-jigging of some roles.


Welfare reforms reduce lifetime liability

January 16, 2014

Welfare reforms have already reduced the lifetime liability by $10.3 billion.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has welcomed the latest valuation of the welfare system showing a significant reduction in the liability.

The June 2013 valuation shows the current lifetime liability[i] is $76.5 billion.

“Of the $10.3 billion reduction in liability[ii], $4.4 billion is due to Work and Income actively exceeding expectations by getting more people off benefit for longer, and less people coming onto benefit,” says Mrs Bennett.

“This translates to benefit payments being $180 million lower than expected for the year.”

Just over $1 billion of the $10.3 billion liability decrease is due to more sole parents going off benefit and fewer going on during the year.

“I hear from sole parents every week who say they’re really grateful for the support from Work and Income case managers; who are often the first to ask them what they want to do with their lives and then help them find work.”

“We provide childcare assistance, training, assistance with CVs, handling job interviews and help with the actual work search,” says Mrs Bennett.

The value in investing close to half a billion dollars in welfare reforms over the last two Budgets is evident in the results.

The two most significant work programmes led by the Minister of Social Development are welfare reform and the White Paper for Vulnerable Children.

“These work programmes are interlinked, if we don’t get things right for those vulnerable children, the chances are extremely high they will end up trapped on welfare later in life.”

The June 2013 valuation shows 62% of 30-39 year olds currently receiving benefits; first went on welfare as young people and constitute almost 80% of the total liability for this group because they’re long-term dependent.

“What’s really interesting; is that two thirds of people who went on benefit aged 16 or 17 also came to the attention of Child, Youth and Family as children and 90% lived in benefit dependent homes as children.”

While most people are supported by welfare for a short period of time, the long-term liability approach allows us to focus support clearly on those who are likely to be long-term dependent.

“Breaking the cycle of intergenerational welfare dependence is hard. Some children have grown up with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins all relying on benefits.”

“Reliance on welfare is ingrained for many and we have to turn that around, but the good news is we can and we are doing just that.”

I spoke to a sole mum who got herself a job after more than twenty years on the DPB. Her grown up children were so inspired they went out and got work too and now they all earn more and have pride in themselves and each other.”

A third of the total liability is attributable to those who entered the welfare system as young people under the age of 18 or as teen parents.

A further 40 per cent is attributable to those who first went on welfare between 18 and 20 years.

Youth Services introduced in 2012 allows specialist providers to help young people meet clear obligations, manage their money and gain independence.

Early results in the valuation are showing higher rates of these young people going off and staying off benefit. Over the year, projected costs of supporting young people dropped by 21%.

The June 2012 total liability was $86.8 billion, compared with the June 2013 liability of $76.5 billion.

Of the reduction in the liability, $3.8 billion was due to changes to forecast inflation and discount rates.

The savings a significant. Already  $10.3 billion is available for other people in need, funding other public services or projects and/or reducing what’s needed in taxes.

But the personal savings are at least as important. The money has been saved because people have gone from welfare to work where they and their families are far more likely to have better health and social outcomes than if they stayed dependent on benefits.

The left has fought these reforms tooth and nail, describing them as beneficiary bashing. Keeping people dependent is beneficiary bashing, helping those who can work to do so is saving people and money.

[i] Lifetime liability: All future lifetime costs of benefit payments and associated expenses for those receiving benefits in the 12 months up to and including the effective date of the valuation.
 

[ii] The starting liability at 30 June 2012 was reduced to $85.3 billion due to methodology correction.


All I want for Christmas

November 27, 2013

This photo begs a caption.

Wit is preferable, politics is fine, personal abuse is not.


Work beats welfare

November 25, 2013

Figures released by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett illustrate the benefits of going from welfare to work, factoring in tax credits for families.

“On average around 1,500 people a week, move off welfare into work which brings pride to individuals and families and is financially beneficial.”

An average sole parent with two children under thirteen, living in South Auckland would receive around $642 on benefit, including accommodation supplement and a minimal extra allowance for costs.

“If that sole parent works just 15 hours while receiving benefit, they would be $107 better off, taking home $750 a week.”

“If they are able to go off benefit and by working just 20 hours a week on a minimum wage, they would be $171 better off each week at $814.”

Going off benefit and working 40 hours a week on a minimum wage, that same sole parent would be $190 better off at $833 a week with the Family Tax Credit, Accommodation Supplement and In-Work tax credit.

“I get how hard it can be to make the move from welfare to work, but it makes such a difference to your state of mind, not to mention financially.”

Lisa, a sole parent in West Auckland wanted to work and earn her own money and found a part time job with 20 hours work a week.

Her work focused case manager did a Better Off Assessment and Lisa was able to see how much better off she’d be doing 30 hours a week, without a benefit but picking up the In-Work tax Credit.

Lisa said her case manager showed her, “there is light at the end of the tunnel”.

The benefits of work for a single person are also clear.

The average single person on Jobseeker Support with Accommodation Supplement and minimal additional allowances earns $320 a week.

“If they work 10 hours a week while on benefit, they’re $57 a week better off.”

“If they work 40 hours a week, on a minimum wage and go off benefit altogether, they will be around $200 better off, earning $520 a week.”

“No one says it’s easy; it can be hard to find a job and it can be tough putting yourself out there time and time again,” says Mrs Bennett.

“The first job may not always be the best job, but it’s a doorway to the next one and the feeling of standing on your own two feet is worth it.”

There are currently 2,900 job vacancies with Work and Income around the country, SEEK has 15,600 jobs and Trade Me has 12,800 jobs listed.

In an ideal world the taxpayer wouldn’t be subsidising low wages and working out how to improve wage levels in a sustainable way, which rules out the so-called living wage, ought to be a priority.

In the meantime, the only justification for Working for Families and other wage subsidies it that it makes lower-paid work more financially rewarding than being on a benefit.

That’s better for the people involved, any dependent and the economy and society.


The yeah nah party

November 9, 2013

Paula Bennett was in her element in Wednesday’s general debate:

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development) : I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business. What we have is the “Yeah, Nah Labour Party”. We have a wishy-washy party with a wishy-washy leader that does not know what it stands for or what it really means. What we have is the “Yeah, Nah Labour Party”. It cannot decide where it stands and cannot decide what it means. Labour wants to be the “Assure Party”. What it is actually is the “Unsure Party”. Labour does not know what it stands for. You have got to say that at least the Greens know what they stand for, and that is against anything that will actually mean jobs and growth. David Shearer may have been the “Yeah, um” leader but now we have the “Yeah, nah” leader. There is no doubt about that.

Let us take the man ban—take the man ban as one example. Labour turned around and said “Yes, yes, we want a man ban. We want a man ban.”, and then “No, no, no—yeah, yeah, no, no, no, we don’t want a man ban.” Then, of course, we have just had the weekend where it came back again and said: “Yeah, yeah, yeah, we will.” So it is the “Yeah, nah, yeah.” We have got one for that.

Let us take Cunliffe, who does the “Yeah” to one audience and then “Nah” to another audience. Inside the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions conference we had “Yeah” to the living wage and “Yeah” to paid parental leave. Then, quite frankly, he stepped outside and went “Oh, nah. Oh, nah—yeah, nah. Yeah, nah. Yeah, we kind of want them, but we’ll just back-pedal here faster than Shane Jones does with a remote. Yeah, nah, we actually didn’t mean it or maybe at some stage if we can get to it.” Cunliffe is telling one audience “Yeah”—but then again, he does owe the unions, remember. So one message to the unions—in fact, David Cunliffe might be at the Meat and Related Trades Workers Union now instead of in Parliament, and showing it that he actually owes it something and that that is where he should be.

Labour’s position on big, big projects is “Yeah, nah. Yeah, we sort of want jobs and that rhetoric sounds good, so yeah, we’ll go on about jobs. But nah, nah, we won’t actually support anything or vote for anything that means growth and that means jobs for real families.” In fact, let us take the classic example of that, which is the New Zealand International Convention Centre. It is the topic of the week; let us take the convention centre. Labour said: “Yeah, nah, yeah, nah, we won’t be voting for the convention centre. Yeah, nah, we don’t support jobs. We don’t want $400 million dollars that taxpayers don’t want to have to pay. Yeah, nah, we don’t want more tourism. Yeah, nah, we don’t want to see those jobs coming in.”

Unless, of course, Labour is speaking to Skycity itself, then it is “Oh, yeah, yeah. Actually, if we’re in, we won’t roll back the contract. Actually, if we’re in, the word on the side is yeah, nah.” Cunliffe says: “We didn’t mean what we actually said.” Let us just quote from him here, when he said to Skycity: “Do you want it straight from the shoulder? Here it is. We will not rip up the contract. We will not throw out the terms of Skycity’s gaming licence.” He says: “Yeah, nah. Yeah, nah.”

His rhetoric this week, the “Yeah, no” on what he is doing—in one breath on that convention centre he has most certainly done the “Yeah, nah”. His response to the unions right now—and let us remember who he is responsible to. Let us take trade. Trade is a goody, is it not? When he was in Government, he said: “Oh, yeah, we need more trade. Yeah, we’ll support trade. Free trade is good for the country. Free trade is good for jobs for Kiwis.” But now that the unions have got him wrapped around their little finger, it is: “Nah, nah—well, maybe. Yeah, nah, yeah, nah, maybe we’ll support free trade. No, we don’t think we do now.” Because the unions are actually pulling the strings, not the “Yeah, nah” leader who, quite frankly, is so wishy-washy.

Let us take superannuation. David Cunliffe says “Yeah, we want people to work harder. Yeah, we want people to work longer. Nah, nah—not now the unions are actually running things. Nah, doesn’t sit quite as well, so we’ll just backtrack hugely on that one as well.”, as he is kind of moving along. Take national standards. In 2012—2012, just last year—we had it quite emphatically from the Labour Party: “No, we will not cancel national standards.” Now that the unions are pulling the strings, it is: “Yeah, nah. Yeah, nah.” Just last weekend we had the leader saying that he will scrap national standards. “Yeah, nah. Yeah, nah. We’re not really sure exactly where we stand on those things as well.” So, let us contrast that to the National Party, which stands for something. What will the public be saying next year to Labour? “Yeah, nah!”

#gigatownoamaru is saying yeah, yeah to being the first gigatown in the Southern Hemisphere.


Is this a high horse?

November 6, 2013

Paula Bennett posted a photo on Facebook of her and a friend at Melbourne Cup celebrations yesterday.

Celebrating Melbourne cup, have u met my friend?

Is this the high horse mentioned in this exchange in Question time?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member can get on her high horse as much as she likes, but the reality is—

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: A point of order—[Interruption] Let the member finish.

Grant Robertson: The point I want to raise is that the Minister, having been asked a straight question, began her answer in a way that attacked the member. That has previously been ruled by Speakers to be unacceptable.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I accept that point of order. The member should not have been so derogatory. Just let us answer the question.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Getting on your high horse is now derogatory, so that is all right then, particularly on Melbourne Cup day. [Interruption]

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Oh, this is ridiculous! To the member, right? I think that what we are doing here is fundamentally making a difference. I do not have the numbers in front of me, as the member says. She asked for those measures. I think that what the kids need most is action. That side of the House is more interested in counting it. We are interested in making a difference on the ground, and that is what those children need.

Captions are welcome, but please make them witty not nasty.

#gigatownoamaru is keen for action.


Welfare facts and figures

September 29, 2013

The latest actuarial valuation of the welfare system contains some big figures and sobering facts:

* the current lifetime liability1 is $86.8 billion.

* sole parents spend an average 15.8 years on benefit with a lifetime cost2 of $234,000.

* Youth spend an average 18.9 years on benefit, costing $239,000.

* The average young beneficiary has a 43 per cent chance of being on benefit in 15 years’ time.

* 25 per cent of youth are expected to be on a benefit 40 years after the valuation date.

 The total liability for benefit types includes:

*$21 billion for Sole Parent Support

* $20.5 billion for Jobseeker Support

* $18 billion for Supported Living Payment

*$705 million for youth and $18 billion for non-beneficiary support.

The figures support the government’s determination to get those who can work into work.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennet said:

“. . . The valuation includes the future lifetime costs of those on a benefit at any time in the twelve months up to June 2012.

This detailed valuation says, 30-34 year olds first going on benefit aged 16-19 will cost four times as much as those who first go on benefit aged 30-34.”

Sixty per cent of those now aged 30-39, came onto benefit aged 16-19 and contribute 77 per cent to the liability for the current 30-39 year old age group.”

“That’s deeply concerning but totally justifies our focus on youth.”

It’s difficult to argue with that.

Helping young people get work-ready and then getting them into jobs offers them a much brighter future than benefit dependency would and means they are contributing tax rather than consuming it.

In Budget 2011 an extra $287 million was targeted to young people on benefits, including childcare assistance for teen parents.

Budget 2012 included another $188m for reforms providing more support.

The investment approach has changed the entire focus of the welfare system so that support is invested where it will make the biggest difference.”

“Welfare reforms actively target support to those who can work, but are at risk of becoming long-term welfare dependent without help,” says Mrs Bennett.

An investment approach takes a long-term view of each individual given their needs, challenges and prospects of a quick return to work.

“This approach and the detailed valuations allow the Government to spend taxpayers’ money where it will have the biggest impact,” says Mrs Bennett.

Until National was in government nobody took responsibility for reducing benefit dependency. Most money went to those it was easiest to help and the difficult cases were left to linger on benefits at a huge cost to them and us.

The positive impacts from helping young people stay off benefits and get into work are both financial and social.

Young people in work not only earn more than those on benefits, they are less likely to commit crimes and abuse alcohol and drugs.

1Lifetime liability: All future lifetime costs of benefit payments and associated expenses for those receiving benefits in the 12 months up to and including the effective date of the valuation.

2Lifetime cost: All expected future benefit payments to age 65 discounted to the valuation date.

3The Discount Rate: The time value of money. In other words – in today’s money – how much money we would need to put aside now to pay that liability, assuming that amount would earn interest. e.g. $10 in today’s money is worth more now, than $10 five years later.


Unanimity for children

September 19, 2013

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett was delighted to get unanimous support from Parliament for the Vulnerable Children Bill at first reading.

“This legislation is part of the wider Children’s Action Plan, with more than 30 initiatives to prevent child abuse and improve the lives of our most vulnerable children,” says Mrs Bennett.

“I’ve deliberately kept politics out of this and I’m delighted Opposition parties have found a way to support this work in exactly the same vein.”

This cross-party support is hugely significant for communities and individuals across New Zealand who’ve passionately adopted the Children’s Action Plan.

“It’s absolutely fair that parties have supported this legislation to Select Committee but reserve the right to debate and discuss the detail further before committing to the next step, I welcome that debate.”

“We are making major changes affecting thousands of New Zealanders.”

The Vulnerable Children Bill starts with leadership; making the heads of Health, Education, Police, Justice and Social Development accountable for a vulnerable children’s plan.

“This will have a direct impact on frontline workers in every one of those departments because policies will change,” says Mrs Bennett.

There will be new child protection policies for the five agencies as well as also Te Puni Kokiri, Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation, District Health Boards and school Boards of Trustees.

New standardised screening and vetting checks of the Government Children’s Workforce and restrictions to stop people with serious convictions from working closely with children, will provide greater frontline protections.

Judges will be able to place Child Harm Prevention Orders on adults who pose a serious risk to children.

Only three people will be able to apply for such an order; the Chief Executives of Corrections or Ministry of Social Development or the Police Commissioner.

“The process of determining risk will be robust and the threshold high.”

“This Government has weighed up individual freedoms against the protection of children; Cabinet thought about this long and hard.”

“We have a responsibility to protect children from those who pose a serious risk to their safety, so we are putting children ahead of adults.”

“I look forward to Select Committee wrestling with this one,” says Mrs Bennett.

Courts will be able to curtail and define guardianship rights of birth parents in who risk stability for a child with Home for Life carers.

Parents who seriously abuse or even kill children will have to prove they are safe to parent again; if they go on to have another child.

Mrs Bennett says all of these changes are about a better life for the most vulnerable children in New Zealand.

“New Zealanders asked us to take action and make a difference to our appalling child abuse record. That’s what we’re doing,” says Mrs Bennett.

The Vulnerable Children omnibus Bill proposes two new Acts: the Vulnerable Children Act, and the Child Harm Prevention Orders Act.

It also amends the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 and the KiwiSaver Act 2006 and makes consequential amendments to a number of other Acts.

Our record on child abuse is shameful.

It is encouraging that all parties in parliament were willing to set politics aside to support this Bill which aims to protect those who need it most.

There is more information on the Children’s Action Plan here.

Photo: Yesterday, National’s Vulnerable Children Bill passed its first reading in Parliament with the unanimous support of all MPs. It’s another step as part of our Children’s Action Plan, which includes more than 30 initiatives to prevent child abuse and improve the lives of our most vulnerable children. Learn more: http://www.childrensactionplan.govt.nz


NZ needs more mothertruckers

August 27, 2013

Facebook post of the day:

Paula Bennett MP
I made it into the truck and driver magazine arguing women are great drivers and good workers – NZ needs more mother truckers!
I made it into the truck and driver magazine arguing women are great drivers and good workers - NZ needs more mother truckers!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,162 other followers

%d bloggers like this: