Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > 5 October: Protest against Govt harrassment of the unemployed and solo-mums

5 October: Protest against Govt harrassment of the unemployed and solo-mums

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NZ, Wellington, 5 October 2012 -  Today marked a National Day Of Action Against Welfare “Reforms” around the country against National’s ongoing harassment and demonisation of unemployed, solo-mothers (but never solo-dads), and others receiving welfare assistance.

Dunedin: ODT – 150 protest welfare reforms in Dunedin

Christchurch: The Press – Protesters angry at benefit moves

Auckland: NZ Herald – Welfare protestors march on MP’s office

Hamilton: Waikato Times – Solutions sought to poverty

Wellington: Dominion Post – nil coverage

Radio NZ: Welfare reform protests held throughout country

The protest in Wellington was held outside the WINZ offices in Upper Willis St, on a cold, blustery day, and was attended by around  100 people,

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The protest was joined by members of the CTU, who had been at a Conference, nearby,

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The crowd swelled from around thirty, up to about 100,

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Radio NZ and TV1 media were present to cover the event, and several folk were interviewed by the RNZ journalist (not in picture),

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Heleyni and Michelle, voluntary advocate-at-large, addressed the gathering. Michelle  had come from Napier on business, and had been keen to join the picket in support of beneficiaries.

Michelle was particularly scathing about National singling out welfare recipients with demands to undertake various “social obligations”,

They should be reaching out to every parent. If they [National] want to interfere in our  lives it should be across the board and be fair about it. So I’m here to support any beneficiary that’s having a headache with this department. But it’s the politicians that need to get a clear message in their heads.”

Bennett has never answered a simple question; if social obligations (such as compulsory early childhood education; school participation; enrollment at a doctor’s clinic) is such an excellent idea for beneficiaries  – why has this policy not been rolled out for all New Zealand families? Why not have  compulsion for everyone?

The answer, I submit, is fairly obvious.

Michelle said that she had kept Jenny Shipley’s  “Code of Social Responsibility” booklet that National had mailed out to  every household in  the country in 1998. Michelle drew parallels with that taxpayer funded exercise  to smear welfare recipients as the cause of society’s social problems – with current policies to achieve similar ends.

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On a current case that I’m advocating for in my home town, is  a young guy  who was the top apprentice in the course;  was working; his boss laid him off, and it’s taken 13 weeks to get his unemployment benefit on. In the meantime he’s had no money; he’s absolutely depressed , he did all that training, he did everything right, and he ended up in the dole queue where he’d never been before actually.

And he is absolutely distraught because there are not enough jobs, let alone qualified ones around.

It’s jobs that the government need to be held to account to create. That’s the problem. It’s not about fault with WINZ. I did eleven years on DPB, worked part time, took me that bloody long to get of my benefit . I trained my way out of it and I’m really  lucky now that I never have to go back to it. Who’s to say that one day I might not have to though. And that’s why our government needs to hear that we need the safety net and we need to have everybody treated with respect.

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Michelle

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David shared his experiences with WINZ, with this blogger.  His  WINZ caseworker suggested that his mental disability was not a true disability, even though he “had been in and out of the mental health system since the age of 13″. He had been hospitalised four times for overdoses, and has self-harmed.

David showed me the angry-red scars on his wrists.

He described how the mental health system had let him down, and his subsequent contact with police and the justice system. (Unfortunately, David’s story is not that uncommon. See:  Radio NZ - Suicides amongst mental health callouts – police )

David said he was worried about being taken off his invalid’s benefit and not having his mental condition taken seriously,

” Basically, because I was able to bike down to the WINZ appointment, my mental health is not that severe

She saw me on one of my good days. She said because I’d been job hunting; because I do one paper a semester at University; which actually is part of my care-package to keep me going, and keep me engaged, instead of stagnating, then she looked at those two things and how I presented and wrote it all of.”

He added,

They are looking at taking me of my invalid’s benefit.”

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David

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This gentleman arrived at the protest well prepared. He carried  ‘urine’ samples to present to WINZ,

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If the contant tooting of passing traffic car horns was anything to go by, there was strong support from the public for the protestors. Perhaps the public are starting to weary of constant job redundancies, rising unemployment, lack of movement on job creation – and in the meantime, National blaming beneficiaries for poor economic performance and indicators.

A government can fool people for only so long…

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Green MP, Jan Logie, addressed the protest and cited National ‘s failure to create the jobs that unemployed needed to get of benefits,

Kia Ora katou, I’m Jan Logie, I’m the Green Party spokesperson for income support. And I’ve gotta say  it’s great to see the crowd out today, people who are in paid work, and those of you who are brave enough not to be in paid work and be out here today, because I know [wind noise].

I’m here because the Green Party believes in a society that we can all participate in. And this government is creating a society that is actively excluding many of our most important people; our parents, our thinkers, our artists, the soul of our society, which is you and every other person accepting income support. I’ve been on income support, most people in this country have been on income support at some stage in their life. And  this government which  is in deep denial, is creating a perception that it is only slackers and losers who are in need of any government support. Well, shame on them! [car honking background noise]

The chances are, the way they’re setting up the world, they’re going to have enough money to be able support their families for generations. Because they’re creating a divided country where the rich are getting so much wealthier and everyone else is just being bloody well left out. And that’s not a country I was brought up to believe I was part off. That’s a country that I looked at overseas and  thought, ‘you poor people, to have a government that treats people and excludes people like that’. That is not the country I know, and that’s not a country I want to be part of.

So I’m so glad that this is a start of a fightback, a start of a fightback for a society we can all be part of. Kia ora katou.”

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This woman had her own story to share with the crowd,

Due to circumstance in our lives – I’m partnered – we had to ask for benefits. Just for two months as it turned out, my partner go a job. But when I came to ask for benefits, we asked not for a free hand out, but for a loan . A loan of $200 to buy our brand new baby clothes. You know what I was told? – “No”.

D’you know why? Because they said my baby wasn’t born yet and just in case  something happens, that … what would the loan be for? [wind noise] They did not give me the loan. So this is the kind of system that is systematically telling us that our children aren’t worth anything, our lives are not worth anything. Anything can happen to you and fundamentally “we do not care”.

So this is what I’m standing against. I’m standing for human rights and against people who say “you don’t matter”, “your unborn child does not matter”… I’m standing against that; my child matters [car & wind noise] So thanks very much for nothing, Mr John Key.”

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Solo-mum and Parliamentarian, Jan Logie (green scarf). The contrast between Ms Logie and Welfare Minister Paula Bennett is stark.

Considering Bennett’s own background as an ex welfare beneficiary, when will she stand with the unemployed, powerless, and dispossessed, on protest lines like these?

Bennett enjoyed full access to state social services; DPB, free tertiary education paid with the Training Incentive Allowance (which Bennett closed down), and even bought a house using  WINZ assistance.

The people here today simply want what Bennett received, to get out of the poverty trap as she did,

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Others had the opportunity to express their feelings and thoughts on issues surrounding beneficiary-bashing, lack of jobs, and Paula Bennett’s behaviour,

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This protestor knew precisely where to sheet home responsibility for ongoing economic problems,

There’s a lot of talk right now about debt and financial burden… This is actually scapegoating. The bulk of debt in this country is private debt, it’s not government debt…. By attacking beneficiaries, the poorest people, it’s a way of actually  making people insecure and making people blame those who aren’t causing this problem. The people who are causing this problem are capitalists and  banks. .. and we should not blame beneficiaries for causing this problem.”

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A petition was passed around. It made a simple request,

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This woman demanded to know how she could meet Bennett’s  “obligations” to find  work when employers preferred to hire able-bodied people rather than someone with a disability.

She said she couldn’t even speak to some at WINZ’s reception, at eye-level, because her line of sight was blocked by the reception-counter,

I’ve been to this WINZ office.And I went up to the  Counter. And unfortunately it was the Counter I saw. Because it is so inaccessible. I couldn’t see the staff – I could see the counter. I think it is disgraceful that Work and  Income is so inaccessible … and that is discrimination. Do they not deal with disabled people? Perhaps some disabled people might be on a, I don’t know, an in-valid benefit. Perhaps they might be on a sickness benefit. Perhaps they might be receiving super. I don’t know… there may be the occassional disabled person coming to work at Work & Income  And yet, it is inaccessible!”

She added,

Social responsibility does go both ways. And this government must must get it’s act together.”

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Protestors enjoyed a  moment of spontaneous entertainment and humour  when a streaker from the nearby university hostel, ‘Ustay’, ran across the street; back again;  through the protestors; and back into the hostel-building.

He had guts (and lots of skin).  The wind that blew up and down the street was bitterly cold.

Unfortunately, he was too quick to catch on-camera (his streaking was suitable for the Olympic 100m dash), but the reaction from the crowd is plain to see,

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This particular sign perhaps says it all; whilst National demands that unemployed, solo-mums, etc meet certain “obligations” – where is National’s obligation to create the 170,000 new jobs they promised us during last year’s general elections?

Are obligations a one-way street?

Has National abrogated it’s obligations, and thrust responsibility for their job-creation policy-failures, onto the unemployed?

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And finally, this shot of WINZ’s interior says a lot. It is emptly, save for the security guard lucky enough to have a job,

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The reason that unemployed are not queuing up at WINZ offices is mind-numbingly simple; there are no jobs to be had at WINZ.

Instead, the unemployed, solo-mums, and other beneficiaries queue where the jobs are,

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See: Employment-Unemployment Fact Sheet #1: Queues for Vacancies

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Addendum 1

More images of  the Protest action here.

Addendum 2

Right wing blogger; ex ACT candidate; critic of solo-mothers; and self-proclaimed “expert” on New Zealand’s welfare system, Lindsay Mitchell, had this to to write about today’s day-of-action,

” WELFARE REFORM PROTESTS ALARM BENEFICIARIES

Friday, October 5, 2012

The language protesters are using to describe ongoing welfare reforms is unnecessarily frightening people on benefits, according to welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell.

“Welfare reforms are being described as ‘cruel’, ‘punitive’, ‘brutal’, ‘vicious’ and ‘violent’ prompting beneficiaries to fear the worst – that they will lose their income. “

See: Welfare reform protests alarm beneficiaries

Mitchell did not name the mysterious people being “unnecessarily frightened”. Of course not. Mitchell does not move in circles where she would come into contact with  the unemployed, solo-mums, and other such “riff-raff”.

She was merely interviewing her own keyboard. Making it up.

Mitchell went on to write,

The reforms are focussed on getting more people into work and on creating better outcomes for children.”

Mitchell is deluding herself. The reforms are not “ focussed on getting more people into work“.  The “reforms” will not create one single job. That is not the purpose of said “reforms” – which she well knows.

The actual purpose is to push people of welfare and make unemployment stats look better for National.

National has no policy on job creation and has stated on numerous occassions that it believes that only the private sector can create jobs – not government,

Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes better than business growth. For New Zealand to build a more productive and competitive economy, we need more innovative companies out there selling their products on the world stage.” – John Key, 24 August 2012

Now in her dotage, Mitchell is little more than an apologist for  National’s nasty beneficiary-bashing agenda. Her views on social welfare are stated with crystal clarity on her blog,

” This blog intends to debunk the myths surrounding the welfare state. The government is not caring and compassionate. It cannot replace families and community. The welfare state is unsustainable economically, socially and morally. “

Yeah, far better to let people sleep  in alleyways and die in gutters. If it’s good enough for the slum-dwellers of Mumbai and Soweto…

Interestingly, the one response she had on her blogpost was an Invalid Beneficiary who was unashamedly honest in demolishing Mitchell’s bullshit.

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Other blogs

Leftwing

The Standard: National Day of action against Bennett’s welfare reforms

Rightwing

Lindsay Mitchell: Welfare reform protests alarm beneficiaries

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     For non-commercial use, images may be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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= fs =

  1. stonerwgtnpalmy
    6 October 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Awesome coverage as usual Frank.. You rock

  2. 6 October 2012 at 10:36 pm

    the welfare reforms are nothing compared to the TPPA, if this admin can get the TPPA through we are all screwed, any benefit reforms can be overturned under the next administration, benefit reforms are small change….

  3. workersadvocate
    19 December 2012 at 6:16 pm

    What are Paula Bennetts credentials to run an entire country’s Social Development Ministry? A few jobs in H R is not enough and surely she would not be qualified in any other country to be the head of such a Large MInistry. It is absurd.

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