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Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth… *** UP DATE ***

11 February 2014 1 comment

Continued from: Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth

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Unemployed under-employment

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Additional to my original blogpost on The Daily Blog on 6 February.

In up-coming unemployment stats, I’ll be focusing on the Jobless and under-employed numbers, as well as the narrower “unemployed” stats from the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS). It is evident from the numbers of under-employed and the extremely narrow defining on what constitutes an unemployed person, that we are not getting the full picture from the HLFS.

Coupled to that, the Census last year revealed unemployment to be at an astonishing 7.1% whilst Roy Morgan poll (5 December 2013) had the figure at 8.5%.

By comparison, the HLFS (at roughly the same time) had unemployment at 6.2%.

So unemployment stats ranged from 6.2% (HLFS) to 8.5% (Roy Morgan).

Coupled to that is the narrow definition of the HLFS used by Statistics NZ (see below), and we begin to see why the “official unemployment rate” appears more ‘benign’.

From the January 2014 Parliamentary report, Unemployment and employment statistics: the Household Labour Force Survey in context;

The Reserve Bank has expressed concern at its variance with other indicators. [2]   A commentator in the Westpac Bulletin, puzzled by the continued weakness of the HLFS in 2012 compared to the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) and other labour market indicators, described it as ‘confusion reigns’ and suggested that survey ‘volatility’ played a role. [3]   The ANZ commentator is cautious: ‘The HLFS has been very volatile in recent years, and we and the Reserve Bank will treat the result with a degree of scepticism, preferring to take note of a wide range of labour market indicators.’ [4]  

These broader labour market indicators include external ones such as business and consumer surveys and job advertisements. These are in addition to those derived from official statistics such as changes in the employment and labour force participation rates, full- and part-time work, and hours worked, together with fine-grained analysis of changes by region, industry and age.

Various reasons for the volatility of the unemployment rate and its variance with other labour market indicators have been discussed – the impact of the recession, the dynamic nature of the labour market, the survey nature of the HLFS, and differences in coverage of the statistics. It has been suggested that the HLFS is more volatile at a turning point – either going into or out of recession…

The latest Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) stats;

Officially unemployed stats;

The unemployment rate decreased over the quarter, down 0.2 percentage points to 6.0 percent. This decrease reflected 2,000 fewer people being unemployed [147,000]. The fall in unemployment was from fewer men unemployed.

Official unemployment: down

The  under-employment stats;

Over the year, the total number of under-employed people increased by 27,200 to 122,600. As a result, the under-employment rate increased 1.0 percentage points to 5.3 percent.

Official under-employment: up

The HLFS Jobless  stats;

In the year to December 2013, the number of people in the jobless category fell 27,400 to 257,100. Alongside the 15,000 fall in the number of people unemployed, there was also a 10,200 fall in the number of people without a job who were available for work but not actively seeking.

Official Jobless: down

Source

Observation #1: Under-employment is increasing, which brings into question how effective the “drop” in unemployment and Jobless actually is. As being “employed” is defined as working for one hour (or more) per week; with or without pay: the whole statistical reporting of true unemployment in New Zealand is now called into question. Especially with regards to the next point.

Observation  #2: “A 10,200 fall in the number of people without a job who were available for work but not actively seeking” signifies that the drop in Unemployment/Jobless can also be attributed to people giving up, as this Radio NZ report stated in February last year (2013).

Observation #3: As stated in the “Definitions” below, a person who is job seeking only through newspapers is not considered in the “Unemployed” category, but under the wider “Jobless” definition. Considering that a number of  households  cannot afford the internet, and do not qualify for WINZ registration, this makes a sizeable “chunk” of unemployed effectively invisible.

Observation #4: The above Observation suits successive governments, which are desperate to report lower unemployed so as to gain support from voters.

 

Definitions

Jobless: people who are either officially unemployed, available but not seeking work, or actively seeking but not available for work. The ‘available but not seeking work’ category is made up of the ‘seeking through newspaper only’, ‘discouraged’, and ‘other’ categories.

Under-employment: employed people who work part time (ie usually work less than 30 hours in all jobs) and are willing and available to work more hours than they usually do.

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment 

  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative 

  • had a job but were not at work due to: own illness or injury, personal or family responsibilities, bad weather or mechanical breakdown, direct involvement in an industrial dispute, or leave or holiday.

Source

Up-coming unemployment stats will focus  on  Jobless and under-employed numbers, as well as the more restrictive “unemployed” stats from the HLFS. Hopefully this will create a more comprehensive ‘snapshot’ of what is happening in the jobs ‘market’.

Further Information

“4 out of 5 New Zealand homes had access to the Internet, up 5 percent since 2009.”

- Statistics NZ

The corollary to that is that one in five households – a staggering 20%! – do not have internet access.

Which means that job seekers on little or no income (especially if they do not qualify for WINZ support) may rely solely on newspapers to look for jobs.

But as I’ve reported above, using a newspaper to be job-seeking does not quality you as “unemployed”.

20%.

That’s quite a number.

No wonder of official unemployment stats are dodgy as hell.

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References

NZ Parliament: Unemployment and employment statistics: the Household Labour Force Survey in context

Roy Morgan:  New Zealand real unemployment steady at 8.5% and a further 11.3% (up 2.7%) of workforce are under-employed

Roy Morgan:  Roy Morgan measures real unemployment in Australia not the “perception” of unemployment

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2013 quarter

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: December 2013 quarter

Statistics NZ: Definitions – About the Household Labour Force Survey

Statistics NZ: Household Use of Information and Communication Technology: 2012

Radio NZ: Unemployment rate falls as more give up job hunt

Previous related blogpost

The REAL level of unemployment

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

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18 percent of 18-24 year olds unemployed

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 February 2014.

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Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth…

11 February 2014 Leave a comment

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Continued from:    Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

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Unemployment logo

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This is the plain, unvarnished truth that most New Zealanders don’t know; don’t understand, and quite frankly, many do not want to know or understand. For many – especially National/Act supporters living in their own fantasyland – this is the reality that would shatter their comfortable upper-middle-class world-view.

First, read Mike Treen’s excellent analysis on The Daily Blog, on 30 January;

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EXCLUSIVE - Billions of dollars stolen from the unemployed

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(Note the pathetic and largely ineffectual attempts by right wing blogger; self-proclaimed “social welfare expert”; and ex-Act candidate, Lindsay Mitchell, and one or two other National Party supporters to undermine Mike’s analysis. They are unable to address or answer even the most simple points Mike and others have raised.)

Then, read Matt McCarten’s piece in the NZ Herald, a few days later;

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Matt McCarten - Rose-tinted view cruel fairy tales

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And now, here’s the ‘kicker‘;

According to Statistics New Zealand, which carries out both the five yearly Census as well as the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS), the definition of an employed person is so loose and wide-ranging as to make the term meaningless;

Definitions

About the Household Labour Force Survey

The Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) provides a regular, timely, and comprehensive portrayal of New Zealand’s labour force. Each quarter, Statistics NZ produces a range of statistics relating to employment, unemployment, and people not in the labour force.

The survey started in October 1985 and the first results published were for the March 1986 quarter.

More definitions

The labour force category to which a person is assigned depends on their actual activity during a survey reference week.

This section includes definitions used in the HLFS release. These conform closely to the international standard definitions specified by the International Labour Organization.

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment 

  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative 

  • had a job but were not at work due to: own illness or injury, personal or family responsibilities, bad weather or mechanical breakdown, direct involvement in an industrial dispute, or leave or holiday.

So, if youworked for one hour” – even without pay! ” – you are automatically classed as employed by this country’s statisticians.

No wonder that the Roy Morgan poll consistently reports that New Zealand has a higher unemployment rate than is generally reported by Statistic NZ’s HLFS or Census.

Quite simply,

  • It appears that our stats are horribly wrong and are under-stating the severity of unemployment in New Zealand by several degrees of magnitude,
  • Lower unemployment figures suit the agendas of successive governments (National, as well as Labour-led),
  • Community organisations are over-worked struggling to put  band-aids on the growing problem of hidden unemployment,
  • New Zealand as a whole suffers through loss of productivity; increasing costs due to poverty; and other socio-economic problems.

When a government agency purports to measure employment and unemployment, and defines being employed as “working for one hour or more”, either paid or unpaid, those are not statistics – they are a sick joke. In effect, we are fooling ourselves as a nation that we have “low unemployment”.

These are not facts – they are propaganda; half-truths; mis-information; lies-dressed-up-as-comforting-facts. The reality – unpalatable as it may be for many – is that our unemployment is much, much worse than we have been led to believe.

If New Zealanders want to keep up this pretense, they will eventually have to “pay the Piper”, as societal problems worsen. And then, the rioting begins.

Note: For future reference, any subsequent use of Statistics NZ data referring to unemployment, in any upcoming blogposts,  will carry the caveat;

Definition of Employed (by Statistics NZ) includes any person who is;

  • anyone working for only one hour (or more)
  • anyone not paid for their labour

Accordingly, Statistics NZ information may not present a fully accurate picture of this country’s unemployment/employment rates.”

*** Up-date ***

The HLFS results for the December 2013 Quarter reported a “drop” in unemployment from 6.2% to 6.0%.

Interestingly, as Radio NZ reported, “the fall in unemployment did not match the pick up in jobs, due to more people searching for work“.

This ties in with the fact that “employment” is defined as anyone working for one hour (or more).

If more people are looking for work, this suggests any number of factors,

  • The HLFS survey is failing to pick up accurate numbers of unemployment,
  • Statistics NZ’s definition for unemployed is too narrow,
  • The number of under-employed is (as Roy Morgan reveals) so high as to mask real unemployment.

Also interesting to note that the drop in the HLFS survey results mirror the fall in Roy Morgans polling, further lending credibility to the latter.

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References

NZ Parliament: Unemployment and employment statistics: the Household Labour Force Survey in context

Statistics NZ: Hours Worked in Employment

Scoop News:  New Zealand Real Unemployment at 9.1%

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: June 2012 quarter

The Daily Blog: EXCLUSIVE: Billions of dollars stolen from the unemployed

NZ Herald: Matt McCarten: Rose-tinted view cruel fairy tales

Roy Morgan: New Zealand real unemployment down 0.3% to 8.5% and a further 8.6% (down 1%) of workforce are under-employed

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2013 quarter

Scoop News: Inequality keeps rising, says UC social research expert

Statistics NZ:  Labour market statistics for the December 2013 quarter

Radio NZ: Unemployment falls to 6 percent

Previous related blogposts

The REAL level of unemployment

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

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unemployed welfare beneficiaries paula bennett

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 February 2014.

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The REAL reason for the drop in welfare numbers

22 December 2013 22 comments

There is an underlying reason for this headline,

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Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed - 16.7.2013

Source

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In the above July 2013 article, Social welfare Minister, Paula Bennett proudly asserted,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said today there are now 309,782 people on a benefit compared with 320,041 last year.

[...]

That’s a reduction of more than 10,000 on welfare over the past 12 months and I am particularly pleased that 5600 of them are sole parents.”

IBID

Nowhere in the article does it state where those 10,000 welfare beneficiaries ended up.

Was it in paid work?

Did they go back into full-time education or other courses?

Or were they simply dumped from WINZ’s books?  Like the recipient of these letters that were recently provided to me? (We will call him/her “Citizen X” – all identifying details have been redacted to respect his/her privacy and protect him/her from possible reprisals by Bennett, her office, or MSD official. Same for the WINZ officials whose names appear on the letters.)

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WINZ letter dec 2013 (1)WINZ letter dec 2013 (2)

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A few days later, “Citizen X” received this letter. Adding insult to injury, they were demanding that an outstanding amount (an amount between $200 to $300) be repaid;

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WINZ letter dec 2013 (3)

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This was despite that “Citizen X” had had her/his unemployment benefit cancelled – not because s/he had found paid employment (s/he hadn’t) – but because s/he had fallen foul of National’s harsh new welfare laws.

In part, the MSD website states,

On Jobseeker Support for more than 12 months

If you still require Jobseeker Support after 52 weeks you’ll have to re-apply for your benefit. We’ll let you know when you have to re-apply and tell you what you need to do.

When you re-apply, you’ll also need to complete a Comprehensive Work Assessment. This will identify what steps you’ve taken to find work and what help you might need from us to be more successful in getting a job.

Source

In effect, National has placed a one year time limit on all unemployment benefits. They haven’t advertised it as such – they refer to it as “re-applying”.

As Simon Collins reported in the NZ Herald back in January (2013),

The Council of Christian Social Services pointed yesterday to “a growing gap between those who receive a benefit and those in genuine need who are either losing or unable to obtain social welfare assistance”.

Unemployment increased in the two years to last September from 144,500 to 170,000, but those on unemployment benefit dropped by almost a quarter from 65,281 to 50,390.

Sole parents on the domestic purposes benefit have also dropped in the past year. Rules for both benefits were tightened in September 2010, when unemployment beneficiaries had their benefits cancelled if they failed to reapply after a year.

Sole parents were required to look for part-time work when their youngest child turned 6, an age reduced to 5 last October.

Christian Social Services executive officer Trevor McGlinchey said his members were reporting increases in demand for their services as people found benefits harder to get.

[...]

Ironically, the tighter welfare rules may also partly explain the rise in unemployment, as beneficiaries are counted as unemployed only if they are actively looking for work. Employment slipped only slightly from 63.6 per cent to 63.2 per cent of adults in the two years to last September, but the “jobless” rose from 7.1 per cent to 8.4 per cent because those not looking for work fell from 29.3 per cent to a record low of 28.4 per cent.

Source

What this  means is that eventually a significant number of people simply give up re-applying for the minimal amount that the dole pays ($206.21 per week).

Constant, repetitive, incessant demands for information and a less than helpful attitude created by MSD policy create an atmosphere of naked hostility.

The complexity of applying, with the multitude of 73 pages of WINZ  forms and other bits of paper, may also prove to be a dis-incentive for many – especially those for whom English, reading ability, and general low education is a real problem.

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73 pages of WINZ forms

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The massive number of WINZ forms and other documents handed out to applicants has been covered in this previous blogpost; WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers

These are some of the bureacratic barriers which National and MSD have created for the most vulnerable and dispossessed people in our country.

All done to “massage” beneficiary statistics.

As Bennett said, back in July,

That’s a reduction of more than 10,000 on welfare over the past 12 months and I am particularly pleased that 5600 of them are sole parents.”

No doubt, National will use this “success” at the next election and a sizeable portion of the voting population will be sufficiently uninformed and  gullible enough to accept this without question.

It will be up to those who oppose National and it’s virulent brand of right-wing politics to spread the truth; under this party, poverty and inequality will continue to worsen.

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Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Source

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Because even the Prime Minister has had to reluctantly concede the enormity of what we are facing,

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Key admits underclass still growing

Source

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Pushing people off welfare, regardless of whether or not they have jobs to go to, just to massage welfare statistics, is a vile obscenity.

This will not “lift people out of poverty”, as Key has promised.

It is increasing poverty.

How long will it be before this growing poverty, sense of hopelessness, and constant attacks by National and MSD results in the inevitable outbreak of violent civil disturbance? Desperate people tend not to care – especially for the empty promises of well-fed, well-housed, comfortable politicians.

Is this really what New Zealanders want for their country?

The clock is ticking…

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clock.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 December 2013.

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Sources

NZ Herald: Welfare rules force people to struggle on without benefits

Fairfax media:  Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

References

Work and Income:  Jobseeker Support

Additional

Gordon Campbell: Ten Myths About Welfare -The politics behind the government’s welfare reform process

Previous related blogposts

<p>. Source . National today announced that ” href=”http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/random-thoughts-on-random-things-4/?relatedposts_to=8882&relatedposts_order=1″ rel=”nofollow”>How Paula Bennett and National are wasting our taxdollars

Random Thoughts on Random Things #4…

OIA Request points to beneficiary beat-up by Minister Chester Borrows

The REAL level of unemployment

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Another “satisfied” WINZ client…

- Peter

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UNEMPLOYMENT-LINE-JOBS-SCHOOL-CEOS-CAI-021209-COLOR
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I ran a blog called Aotearoawolfing, but stopped posting after I ran out of things to say. Obviously I did it anonymously, as like everyone I have things to hide i.e. my life off the internet.

Basically have left New Zealand for good to the United States (where I also have citizenship – though my family live here). I got out while I still could.

In my case I was depressed and I could no longer could work at my job like I used to, and I couldn’t get a job again at a decent wage. By the time I got through the W&I process I had full-scale clinical depression. No support exists, and the whole experience made me think the sole focus of W&I right now is make young people homeless (which aren’t counted on unemployment statistics) or force the burden of care onto the family.

Hopefully National gets turfed out next election, but if it doesn’t then I am no longer in New Zealand – even if I have to pay off a big student loan with interest (no thanks to the cut to the student loan holiday while overseas). But on that story, most don’t pay it off as John Key has no jurisdiction in places like Canada or the US – only in Australia. In fact most never want to go back to New Zealand, John Key threatening them with prison if they return will only ensure that the best and brightest never return.

Really I don’t understand the government’s paranoid obsession about the unemployed, and student loan borrowers. As the reason there is a shortfall in the budget is due to stagnant wage growth, the richest 10% avoiding tax, and everyone with qualifications leaving the country as they can’t get work in New Zealand. It is the worst crisis since the 1980s-1990s and the government isn’t doing anything to fix it.

Hope I didn’t go on too long, hopefully I can find the time to start blogging again – even if it is from the other side of the world.

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Previous related blogpost

Student Defaulters – to be arrested on sight at all borders

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Benefit fraud? Is Chester Borrows being totally upfront with us?!

26 July 2013 8 comments

As I blogged five months ago, when National is attacked with bad publicity, it’s Party strategists retaliate;

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National under attack – defaults to Deflection 2 - chester borrows - welfare reforms - beneficiary bashing

See previous blogpost:  National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

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As I wrote in the above blogpost, when threatened with bad headlines or a scandal of some description, National’s automatic defense is to generally to default to one of three deflections;

  1. Blame previous the Labour government
  2. Release story on ‘welfare abuse’
  3. Blame Global Financial Crisis or similar overseas event

In February of this year,  the Auditor-General released a report into Key’s dealings with Skycity. The resulting  publicity became positively toxic for the Nats.

Toby Manhire, in a Listener  article dated 19 February, listed  ten quotes from the AG”s report, which were highly  damning of National. It was by no means the “vindication” that Key claimed (knowing full well that 99% of the public would never read the AG’s report).

On cue, Associate Social Development Minister, Chester Borrows, issued media releases on National’s latest “crack down” on “welfare abuse”;

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Government cracking down on benefit fraud

Source

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National is once again being hit by a slew of bad headlines;

Smith gives nod for open-cast coal mine on conservation land

NZ unprepared for a deep water oil spill,  Greens say

Consumers hard hit by hefty electricity price rises

National’s fix over GCSB draws a storm of protest

Loans door shutting on first-home buyers

High petrol prices hit struggling families

Job ad stall hints at unemployment rise

SkyCity deal doesn’t add up: Treasury

Housing plan ‘a weak compromise’

And again,  on cue, Chester Borrows has done his bit, by defaulting to Option #2,

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beneficiary bashing - chester borrows - paula bennett - social welfare - welfare abuse - bene bashing

Source: Radio NZ – Thousands stopped from getting benefits not entitled to

Checkpoint: Listen to Chester Borrows on Checkpoint

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However, Borrows is mis-leading the public in one respect. On 18 July, the Minister released a media statement where he said,

“Enhanced information sharing between Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has identified and stopped 3139 illegitimate benefits in just six months, says Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows…

[...]

… The enhanced information sharing started earlier this year, highlighting beneficiaries whose taxable income did not match what they had declared to MSD. MSD staff reviewed each case, and where the beneficiary was earning enough income that they were no longer eligible to receive a benefit, that benefit was stopped.”

Source: Beehive – Information sharing stops more welfare fraud

This is simply untrue.

WINZ announced this in May last year – over a year ago,

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IRD and MSD improve information sharing

Source: WINZ – IRD and MSD improve information sharing

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But even earlier than last year, MSD/WINZ were leeping track of their “clients”. The following two letters are from an acquaintance, who luckily keeps every piece of correspondence from government departments.

The first is from 2009,

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winz-letter-2009

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[Published with permission.]

The letter clearly states,

“We regularly compare our records with other government agencies…”

(Note; the over-lap that so concerned the MSD was a matter of two weeks, and centered more around confusion as to when the WINZ “client” was deemed to start work.)

The second letter is from 2001,

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WINZ letter 2001

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[Published with permission.]

Even in 2001 – twelve years ago – WINZ and the Immigration Dept were comparing information.

Accordingly, I have emailed Chester Borrows, seeking clarification of  his claim that information sharing is a “recent development”. I have also sought details of the alleged 3,139 cases of benefit “fraud” that Borrows has asserted;

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from:     Frank M <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Chester.Borrows@parliament.govt.nz
date:     Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 1:50 PM
subject:     OIA Request Please

Kia Ora Mr Borrows,

I am lodging  an OIA request with your office.

According to recent media releases from your office, 3,139 cases of alleged benefit fraud has been identified, including 1,948 people who were wrongly getting the unemployment benefit and 559 illegitimately on the sickness benefit. These cases all supposedly invloved working whilst receiving a WINZ Benefit.

My questions are;

1. Over what period of time were these 3,139 cases detected?

2. When did IRD and WINZ begin sharing information?

3. Does WINZ and the Dept of Immigrqation also share information on WINZ beneficiaries who travel overseas whilst in receipt of a benefit?

4. When did that WINZ/Immigration Dept arrangement, in respect to Q3,  begin?

5. What other government ministeries, departments, SOEs, and other bodies does WINZ share information with?

6. When did those arrangements, in respect in Q5, begin?

[and in a follow-up email shortly thereafter.]

7. Of the 3139 illegitimate benefits  found, what was the time period involved with people receiving a benefit and earning income from another source?

How many were within the following periods;

- 1 week

- 2 weeks

- 3 weeks

- 4 weeks

- 2 months

- 3 months

- 6 months

– Over 6 months – under one year

- Over one year

8. How many prosecutions have been undertaken of all nine cohorts listed above?
9. How many have been convicted?

10. How many were in actual employment whilst receiving a welfare benefit, as opposed to some other source of income?

I look forward to your response within the legislated time period.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

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If the rest of Minister Borrows’ claims are as dubious as his assertion that information sharing between government department “started earlier this year” – then all claims and comments from National ministers demand checking and confirmation.

Otherwise, claims of mass benefit fraud appear to be little more than a propaganda exercise designed to deceive the public and deflect criticism  from economic and social problems that National appears stymied to address.

At the very least, Borrows is taking credit for a policy – inter-departmental information sharing – that has been in place since 2001, at least. How many times can politicians take credit for policies they had little or no part in implementing?!

Wouldn’t that  be fraudulent on the part of the Minister?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 July 2013.

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National on Child Poverty?!

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Poverty among Budget targets

Acknowledgment: Dominion Post – Poverty among Budget targets

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At first glance, it appears that National has recognised that a crisis exists in our country; a crisis involving 275,000 children living in poverty.

Without doubt, this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) hit the public’s collective consciousness on 22 November 2011, when Bryan Bruce’s sobering documentary,”Inside Child Poverty” hit our television screens (see:  Strong reaction to damning TV child poverty doco).

Since then, the problem has become a major concern concern throughout the country.

More and more organisations, schools, political groups, etc, are adding their voice to a growing clamour for action. Most New Zealanders – those with eyes to see; ears to listen; and a mind to understand – want action. They want kids fed, so that they can attend their schools and learn and get a decent chance at life.

This is what Bryan Bruce, the documentary-maker of Inside Child Poverty wrote on his Facebook page;

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OK, let’s get some things straight about providing free healthy meals in schools.

1. First of all let’s decide on the principle before arguing about the detail.

Let’s admit there is a significant problem of children turning up to school hungry and that a lot of kids are eating low cost foods that contain a lot of sugar and fat , causing obesity , diabetes and long term health problems.

And at least get the Feed The Kids Bill to Parliamentary Select Committee. You can argue all you want about how it should be funded or what’s going to be on the menu there.

If you don’t think we have a community responsibility to feed children and/or educate their palates to healthy eating habits – then read no further it will only make you angry.

2. It doesn’t fill a hungry kids tummy to point at their parents and shout “Your problem is you have bad parents”. This page takes the view that kids don’t get to choose their parents and we have a community responsibility to ALL our kids to make sure they grow up healthy. And if that means feeding them for free- then that’s what we do.

3. No one is going to force feed any child food they don’t want to eat or is culturally inappropriate. If you watch the video below which I filmed in Sweden for the documentary you will see children from multi -cultural backgrounds CHOOSING their food. And Yes children with allergies are catered for and Yes children can still bring their own lunch prepared by the parents .

4.Free healthy school meals can be paid for without raising taxes. We just choose to re-distribute the existing pool of tax payer money and give up on some other things. Here are some suggestions, I’m sure you can think of other ways we could spend smarter.

(a) We could fund school meals out of the Health vote rather than the Education vote. In a document released under the Official Information Act I revealed that children under 14 receive 10% of the money set aside for health care. But children under 14 represent 20% of our population. So we could fund some of it – if not all of it – by giving kids their fair share.

(b )It is a well accepted health statistic that for every $1 we spend on preventing disease we save $4 in expensive hospital cure. So within a few years the scheme will fund itself out of what we save. If we DON’T do it, taxpayers will be spending much more than they are now on the Health budget in the future.

(c) We could make children a spending priority. National plans to spend a billion a year on Roads of National Significance over the next 10 years. What about Children? – aren’t they of National Signifcance? I’d much rather feed our kids than be able to by – pass small towns while driving to Auckland .

(d) We could pay the pension to people when they actually stop working and not just because they reach 65.

(e) We could spend more energy making sure people paid their taxes . Last year the IRD detected about a Billion dollars worth of tax evasion mostly by businesses. It’s estimated that the real tax evasion in NZ is between 4 and 5 Billion.
If you pay PAYE you can’t cheat your taxes. So we could easily pay for free school meals if more adults played fair.

Let’s impose greater penalties for tax evasion, and let’s stop thinking of tax as a bad thing. Tax is a good thing – it’s giving to ourselves. That’s how we can have schools and hospitals and yes even Roads Of National significance. Tax is the price of civilisation. Get over it.

Now whether you agree with some of the above, all of the above or none of the above , let’s at least agree that The Feed The Kids Bill should at least go to Select Committee after its First Reading so the issue can be properly debated.

Please contact your local MP today and urge them to support the Feed The Kids Bill.

You can find their contact details here, just click on their name :

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/MPP/MPs/MPs

Thank you
Bryan

Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

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(Please give Brian support by going to his Page and “liking” it. The bigger the numbers, the more ‘clout’ he has.)

It’s fairly obvious to all by the most stubborn-minded that a malnourished child is not well pre-desposed to learning well. A child who cannot focus on his or her lessons and falls behind, eventually becomes alienated and disenchanted. The cycle of poverty, hopelessness, and anger perpetuates.

The Mana Party introduced a “Feed The Kids” Bill – aka the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill – into Parliament last year, on 8 November 2012. The Bill is scheduled to come before Parliament for its first reading on 5 June this year.

With pressure coming hard and fast on Key and his increasingly shakey,  poll-driven,  ‘government’, their strategists are planning to end National’s destructive austerity Budgets and begin spending on essential social services that are critical to the well-being of our communities.

Part of this is Key’s stated intention;

Children who aren’t fed become victims and the Government has to deal with that, Prime Minister John Key says.

His comments come as action on child poverty is tipped to be the surprise package in Finance Minister Bill English’s fifth Budget on Thursday.

“The vast overwhelming bulk are [fed] in New Zealand, but if a child isn’t fed then actually they become a victim and whatever we think of that we need to try and deal with that issue.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

At his regular press conference,  Key was coy at whether National would  rule in or out a  food in schools programme – but was more candid in ruling out support for  Mana’s “Feed the Kids” member’s bill.

So. What we have is;

  1. A firm “no” by National to Mana’s initiative
  2. A firm “no” by Peter Dunne to Mana’s initiative  (Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”)
  3. A vague committment;  “The vast overwhelming bulk are [fed] in New Zealand, but if a child isn’t fed then actually they become a victim and whatever we think of that we need to try and deal with that issue.”

Now, call me a cynic if you like, but National has a fairly poor track record on dealing with social matters, whether it be unemployment, solo-mothers, worker’s rights and conditions, etc.

To give an example; our high unemployment.

Unemployment is high.

Jobs are scarce.

National’s ‘solution'; “reform” social welfare and make it harder for the unemployed to access welfare support, or to retain it. Additional ‘solution'; demonise the unemployed and infer that that are bludging. Ditto for solo-mothers.

That was National’s ‘solution'; force people off welfare and make the numbers look good. (see: Bennett trumpets 5000 fewer on DPB, see: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply, see: Welfare rules force people to struggle on without benefits)

I hope I’m wrong, but my gut feeling is that the Nats plan to pull a “swiftie”. We’re going to see something along these lines;

  1. A WINZ-based “targetted” approach where families that cannot afford to buy adequate food will have an increase in their food grants – but will probably have to re-pay it from their weekly welfare assistance.
  2. A reliance on some form of “PPP”-style programme, such as Fonterra’s milk-in-schools programme. There will be nothing concrete – just a “promise” to “investigate possible options”.
  3. A commision of enquiry of some description.
  4. An increase for school budgets to buy food, but which will be limited; capped; and money will be taken from elsewhere in Vote:Education to fund this.
  5. No increase in welfare assistance; no food in schools; but a form of food vouchers making up a portion of a beneficiaries overall entitlement.
  6. A limited “trial” food-in-schools programme – for a handful of schools only.

Far from addressing this crisis, National, ACT, and Peter Dunne will apply a band-aid “solution” and present it to the public of New Zealand as “Mission: Accomplished”.

It will be nothing of the sort.

Only one thing will begin to address this problem – a change of government.

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References

NZ Herald: Strong reaction to damning TV child poverty doco (23 Nov 2011)

Feed The Kids website

Previous related blogpost

Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

Other blogs

The Daily Blog: Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director

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A tale of contrasts…

19 February 2013 9 comments

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Once upon a time, there was a small nation at the bottom of the world, where the people were proud of their egalitarianism…

Then they f****d it all up.

To he, who has plenty, they gave $100,000. Not because he saved lives or raised families out of poverty. He got it because he was leaving a high-paid job after just nine months in employment,

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ACC pays $100,000 bonus to former chief executive

Source

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From he, who has very little, they took away $3.73 (per week). Not because he did something wrong, but because a government department – supported by aParty in power that looks down on the poor – could.

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Jobless battler takes on Winz for a $3 cause

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$3.73. That buys a ‘budget’ loaf of bread and maybe a small block of cheese or bottle of milk.

$100,000 – buys an upmarket sports car or a good deposit on a nice house.

Who needs the money the most; Mr Stewart or Mr Holmes?

Welcome to New Zealand, circa 2013AD.

Are we proud of what we’ve become?

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WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers

8 February 2013 41 comments

From previous blogpost,  Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around

… Paula Bennett has directed WINZ to make life more difficult for the unemployed, when registering with WINZ. As if losing one’s job wasn’t stressful enough, Bennet has forced the implementation of some draconian rules and requirements for beneficiaries. (The implication being that it’s the fault of  the unemployed for being unemployed?!)

One of the bureacratic bundles of red tape are the number of forms issued to WINZ applicants.

For those readers who have never had the “delight” of dealing with WINZ – these are the forms that are required to be filled out. Note: every single applicant is given these forms (in a little plastic carry-bag).

And if you have to reapply to WINZ for a benefit (if, say, you’ve lost your job again) you are required to fill out these forms all over again.

This is where taxpayer’s money is really going to waste in welfare.

All up, seventythree  pages of information and forms to  read, understand,  fill out, to collect information,

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73 pages of WINZ forms (1)

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73 pages of WINZ forms (2)

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(Blogger’s Note: for a comprehensive view of each page, please go to previous blogpost:  Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around)

This system becomes even more laughable when one considers that if an an applicant has been a WINZ “client” (ie, beneficiary) before, they remain on MSD’s computer files. Much of the information sought is already  on-file.

The cost of this must be horrendous, and it is ironic that at a time when National is cutting “back room” support staff to save money, that they are permitting taxpayer funding for this ‘Monty Pythonesque ‘ exercise in out-of-control form-filling. (More on that below.)

No wonder that this was reported in Fairfax media,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett this morning said latest figures showed 328,043 people were now on benefits, with 57,058 of those on an unemployment benefit.

Reforms passed by Parliament require people on an unemployment benefit to reapply for it after one year. Bennett said this change had led to 5000 people cancelling their benefit.

More than 1400 of those said they had found work, more than 2600 didn’t complete a reapplication and more than 1000 were no longer eligible. ”

See: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply

How many people with minimal education or poor command of the English language could hope to fill out so many forms of such complexity?

By contrast, applying for a bank mortage is vastly simpler – an irony considering the vastly greater sums of money involved.

In fact, an application for an ANZ Mortgage comprises of eight pages (four, double-sided),

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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Eight pages for a mortgage to borrow anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million and upward.

And 72 pages for an unemployment benefit of  $204.96 per week, net, for a single person over 25. (See:  Unemployment Benefit – current)

So how much does all this cost us?

Last year, this blogger emailed the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) with an Official Information Act (OIA) request, asking what the cost of all these pamphlets cost,

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Date: Tue, Wednesday, 14 November 2012 1:38 PM
From: Frank Macskasy
Subject: Information Request
To: Paula Bennett “Paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz”

Kia Ora Ms Bennett,

I would like to make an official Freedom of Information Request.

Please provide information as to the costings of the following forms and information leaflets produced by MSD/WINZ;

“Work and Income Employment-Earnings Verification” (VO6-mar 2011)

“Work and Income Find a job build a future Tools to help you find work” (JOBSW0007-nov 2010)

“Jobz4u Manual Jobseeker Enrolment” (-)

“Work and Income Unemployment Benefit Application” (M18-JUL 2011)

“Work and Income Unemployment Benefit Application – What to bring” (M18-JUL 2011)

“Work and Income How can we help you” (CM0001 – OCT 2010)

“Work and Income Online Services”  (-)

“Work and Income” plastic carrybag for above items.

Please provide total costings for EACH item printed, on an annual basis for the last four years, and a break-down of costings for usage per year and per WINZ client.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

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After seeking an extension, on 4 February this year,  the MSD replied with these costings,

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MSD 1 Feb 2013 OIA response (1)

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MSD 1 Feb 2013 OIA response (2)

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Firstly, it’s disappointing to note that of the eight items that I requested costings for, MSD could provide figures for only five. They admitted not have costings for two documents (“Jobz4u Manual Jobseeker Enrolment” and “Work and Income Online Services” ) and made no mention of another (“Work and Income Unemployment Benefit Application – What to bring” ).

However, based on figures provided for other documents, we can certainly make some rough guesses. If MSD’s  figures are correct,  over four years, the cost of printing these 72 pages is around $1 million. Not a hell of a lot, when considering that WINZ benefit’s will be approximate $4.9 billion for just this financial year alone (see:  Budget 2012 – Vote Social Development).

But if a Bank can offer mortgages from $1 to millions of dollars, using an eight page application form – then why would a government department be wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars – millions over decades – for a measely $204.96 (per week, net, for a single person over 25)?

The reason is fairly obvious.

A Bank welcomes a new client in the hope of offering a financial service – eg, a mortgage. Banks view clients as assets.

Under the current government, WINZ is actively discouraging people from signing up for welfare assistance,

Reforms passed by Parliament require people on an unemployment benefit to reapply for it after one year. Bennett said this change had led to 5000 people cancelling their benefit.

More than 1400 of those said they had found work, more than 2600 didn’t complete a reapplication and more than 1000 were no longer eligible. ”

See: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply

Yet, at a time when we have a critical shortage of skilled workers in this country – especially tradespeople for the Christchurch re-build – National views those seeking welfare assistance as a liability.

This is about as short-sighted as a conservative, market-oriented government can get. It shows a lot about the narrow-sightedness of National’s ministers when, like a bank, they don’t see that 170,000 unemployed is an asset waiting to be upskilled; trained and supported into new careers.

Just imagine; 170,000 new builders, computer technicians, doctors, electricians, nurses, quantity-surveyors,  scientists, teachers, vets, etc. Imagine the economic growth this country would have if National viewed an army of 170,000 unemployed as an asset waiting to be tapped – rather than discouraged.

I can imagine it.

National evidently can’t. Not when they prefer to spend millions on 72 pages of bureacratic rubbish, which would put of a lot of people.

I wonder how much business a bank would get if they demanded that new clients fill out 72 pages of forms?

Not much,  I’d wager.

So why does the government do it?

Addendum

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Unemployment rate falls as more give up job hunt

Source

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This is the predictable consequence when a hands-off government does nothing to grow the economy and generate new jobs.

This is the predictable consequence when a government treats unemployed workers as a liability to be discouraged and labelled as ‘bludgers’ – rather than recognising the asset that they really are.

This is the predictable consequence of a National government.

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WINZ Privacy for some – but not for others

28 November 2012 5 comments

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Most of us remember this apalling episode of Paula Bennett’s career as Social Welfare minister,

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Full Story

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In 2009, Bennett made public private details of two solo-mothers. She  handed over personal information to the media without the knowledge of the two women, Jennifer Johnston and Natasha Fuller.

The information included each woman’s weekly income from the State, including benefits and  allowances.

Her move was supported by misogynists;  right wing nutjobs; assorted beneficiary bashers; and National’s core constituency of conservative cranks.

Bennett’s actions were roundly condemned by fair-minded New Zealanders who recognised the Minister’s actions as a gross abuse of her power and invasion of their privacy.  No wonder that many who  remembered Rob Muldoon’s style of authoritarian governance likened Bennett’s behaviour to the late, former, Prime Minister.

But Bennett defended her mis-use of Ministerial powers,

If someone is deciding they’re happy to use their case to speak about or against something we are doing, I think it’s fair the full story be told.”

Three years later…

Deputy Chief Executive, Janet Grossman, who had been head-hunted from Britain and paid over $50,000 of taxpayer’s money to re-locate to New Zealand, resigned only eleven months after taking up her role with WINZ,

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Full story

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Despite quitting less than a year into her new job; and despite over $50,000 paid to relocate her to New Zealand;  it is reported that Grossman was paid out $97,000 as some sort of severance pay.

When Labour MP Jacinda Ardern questioned this extraordinary payment in Parliament, this exchange took place with National Minister, Jonathan Coleman,

Jacinda Ardern: Was the only reason she was given for Janet Grossman’s departure in that briefing or information that “her husband has had job opportunities in the UK and she wishes to return back there.”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Yes.

Jacinda Ardern: Was Janet Grossman paid a termination benefit?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: As you know, $97,000 was allocated across five people who left that year, and there will be no breakdown given, for privacy reasons, of the allocation to any of those five executives.

See: Social Development, Ministry—Resignation of Deputy Chief Executive

Really? Dr Colemnan cited “privacy reasons “?!

Chief executive of  Ministry of Social Development, Brendan Boyle, was reported by Radio New Zealand as stating,

Mr Boyle says there is nothing unusual in paying out someone their entitlements when they resign but he refuses to disclose just what payment Mrs Grossman got, saying to do so would breach her privacy.

See: MSD chief clashes with MP in committee

So let’s get this straight…

Two solo-parents who have done nothing wrong; and their only ‘misdemeanour’ was daring to criticise a politician; have their personal details of WINZ payments splashed all over the country’s media, inviting lunatics to attack and threaten them…

But the payout to a senior WINZ executive  who resigned/sacked/? is suddenly a matter of “privacy”?

The double standards set by National, and their cronies at highest MSD levels, beggars belief. However, it is unsurprising.

National’s reputation for One Rule For Everyone and One Rule For Themselves, is by now fairly well known in this country.

It demonstrates their  complete contempt they have for the rest of us.

This is the sort of arrogance that in other countries leads to authoritarian rule;  jails full of political prisoners; eventual uprisings by the populace; and a bullet through the head of despots.

Here in New Zealand, we do things differently. Here, despots get elected to two terms of government.

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Previous related blogposts

“One law for all” – except MPs

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Sources

NZ Herald: Bennett gets tough with outspoken solo mums

Fairfax Media: Paula Bennett accused of Muldoon-style bullying

NZ Herald: Work and Income boss quits

NZ Parliament: Social Development, Ministry—Resignation of Deputy Chief Executive

Fairfax Media: Social Development Ministry grilled over security

Radio NZ: MSD chief clashes with MP in committee

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Did this catch Dear Leader Key by surprise as well?

15 November 2012 8 comments

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Full story

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The sale of Hillside Workshops will affect it’s workers badly,

KiwiRail is making 80 to 90 workers at the Hillside railway workshop in Dunedin redundant after making only a partial sale of the site.”

See: Dozens of railway workshop jobs to go

I wonder – was John Key as surprised with this announcement today as he was a week ago,  when the HLFS   figures were recently  released, revealing that  unemployment was now at 7.3%?

I’m very surprised with the numbers I’ve seen this morning, goodness knows what the next one will look like.” – John Key, 8 November 2012

Perhaps he was. Perhaps, as Bryan Gould pointed out in the NZ Herald today,

In the wake of the grim news about factory closures and lay-offs over recent months, the figures were only to be expected. Indeed, the warnings about a crisis in manufacturing have been coming thick and fast, and from all quarters.

There was, though, one person, it seems, who was blindsided by the bad news. The Prime Minister, we were told by the television news, was “taken by surprise”. The only explanation for this is that John Key has paid little attention to the unemployment issue over the past four years, despite its destructive impact both on individuals and their families, and on society as a whole.”

See: Bryan Gould: Plight of jobless makes us all poorer

After four years of  Key’s “leadership”, what do we have?

  • High unemployment
  • A shortage of housing, and rising house prices
  • Exporters suffering under a high dollar
  • National policy designed to drive down wages (see: John Key’s track record on raising wages)
  • A stagnating economy

Adding to the above,  this report out today,

Continuing bad economic news is prompting forecasters to speculate the economy may have gone backwards for the first time in two years.

Retail figures for the September quarter showing a big fall in spending follow weak inflation and job numbers for the same period have been released in recent weeks.

Westpac economist Michael Gordon says there is a reasonable likelihood the economy contracted in the most recent quarter.

Deutsche Bank senior economist Darren Gibbs believes that at best, the economy failed to grow at all and possibly went backwards during the period.

He said a manufacturing survey for October due in the next fortnight will give the first indication of whether or not the economy’s loss of momentum is continuing in the current quarter.

Finance Minister Bill English told Morning Report that the numbers bounce from quarter to quarter and the latest figures are not of concern.

He said the economy is as uncertain as it has been for years, and the Government will continue to focus on straight forward objectives, like getting back to surplus and rebuilding Christchurch.”

See: Economy may be going backwards

No wonder New Zealanders are escaping to Australia faster than East Germans climbing The Wall, during the Soviet era,

A net loss of 39,500 people to Australia contributed to New Zealand’s net loss of migrants in
the September 2012 year. This is down from the record net loss of 40,000 in the August 2012
year. The September figure resulted from 53,700 departures to Australia, offset by 14,200
arrivals from Australia. In both directions, most migrants were New Zealand citizens.”

See: International Travel and Migration: September 2012

It’s not just the low pay (which is being driven lower by National policies); nor the cost of housing rising higher and higher as a minority speculate on  property for tax-free gains; nor rising unemployment; nor the growing wealth-divide.

What is driving New Zealanders to escape – and I use that word with precise deliberation – is that our society has a strong impulse for self-flagellation that manifests as constantly making wrong economic decisions. Instead of looking at the long term – sufficient numbers of New Zealand voters opt for short term benefits. The result is that few of our economic problems are actually  addressed in a meaningful way.

The joke is that so many New Zealanders still hold a quasi-religious faith in the National Party as “prudent managers” of the economy.

Which is sad, really.

National is the last political body to earn the reputation of “prudent manager”.

Any Prime Minister who reveals surprise at a worsening economic situation – despite data  screaming “Red Alert! Red Alert!” on every indicator, is one who is asleep at the wheel and hasn’t a clue what is going on around him.

How can a Prime Minister with an entire government department at his disposal, which spends $17,547,000 a year,  be oblivious to 13,000 people losing their jobs in the last three months?

See: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter

Does he not read a newspaper?

Or, as with the GCSB briefing in February, was Key simply not paying attention?

Or perhaps, as with the John Banks police file, did he wilfully choose not to look at the information?

Precisely why are we paying this man $411,510 each year?!

One other reason why so many New Zealand voters are so deluded into voting for National; the old ‘aspirational middle class‘ thing.

We all want to be affluent, succesful, and secure. The National Party is filled to the brim with millionaires, rich lawyers, businessmen and women, etc. Even Paula Bennett knew how to rort the welfare system when she was on the DPB, and bought a nice house with WINZ assistance.

Mowst of us want that. So by electing National,  some of that success will rub of onto us, right?

Right?

So f*****g wrong.

Who benefitted from National’s 2009 and 2010 tax cuts? Check out the data,

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2009 taxcuts

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2010 taxcuts

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As the numbers above show, the higher your earnings, the greater your tax cut. Conversely,  the lower your earnings, the less you got.

If you earned $40,000 p.a. your tax-cuts in 2009 and 2010 was – $9.94.

At the same time, GST went up. That meant you were now paying 15% on food, electricity, fuel (more actually), rates, etc.

High income earners have done very nicely out of the tax cuts.

By contrast, the Australian governments treated their low-middle income earners somewhat differently,

As part of the Government’s policy to spread the benefits of the mining boom, one million people will be freed from paying tax when the tax-free threshold is trebled from A$6000 to A$18,200.

More than seven million earning less than A$80,000 ($102,000) will receive tax cuts and parents with children at school will be paid A$410 a year for each primary school pupil and A$820 for each secondary student.”

See: Fed-up Kiwis head to Oz en masse

That is called re-distribution of wealth to those who need it.

As compared to National’s re-distribution of wealth to those who do not need it.

It takes a while for the Aspirationists to wake up and realise that they’ve been conned. In the meantime, Key smiles and waves and bats away serious economic problems; Paula Bennett targets and blames the unemployed for daring to be unemployed; Hekia Parata is busy undermining our education system; John Banks is throwing taxpayers money at private Charter schools; and the rest of the National Party are further dismantling our once egalitarian society, and doing dubious back-room deals with casinos, big business, foreign governments, and god-knows-who-else.

The only thing that would really, really, really piss me off is that National voters became disenchanted with their own “government” – a mess of their own making –  and headed off to Australia. To hell with that!

It’s a shame that Aussie Customs can’t made a small addition to their Immigration Declaration Form,

Have you ever,

[] been convicted of a drugs offence?

[] been a part of a terrorist group?

[] voted National?

Ticking the last box should be grounds for immediate repatriation to New Zealand.

The Aussies may already have started: I understand that Paul Henry is being sent back to New Zealand?

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Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around…

13 November 2012 13 comments

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Sign of the times: spotted on power pole in Stokes Valley.

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See previous blogpost: Job Hunting, Bennett-style

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As unemployment continues to rise and rise and rise and rise and rise and rise and…  National Ministers have apparently been making friends with Mr Walker, Mr Beam, or indulging in some other relaxing substances

There’s no other way to explain some of the weirdness emanating from Parliament.

Take, for example, Little Leader, Bill English, and his comments about the latest unemployment figures – now at 7.3%, or 175,000 in real people-numbers.

English responded with these curious comments,

What we have found through this recovery is that it has been a bit hard to predict and we’ve seen these sort of numbers jump around, they can be up one quarter and diown another quarter.”

Jumping numbers“,  huh?

Hmmm, maybe Paula Bennet might want to try some of that  work-place drug-testing on Little Leader?

Mind you, it didn’t help when English tried to suggest that the reality of unemployment didn’t match his reality,

These numbers don’t fit with some of the other indicators, just for this quarter. For instance, the number of people on the unemployment benefit continues to drop, including in Auckland where the survey shows a rise in the number of people unemployed.”

See: Jobless figures result of ‘grumpy’ recovery – English

It’s a bugger when “numbers just don’t fit”. Perhaps he needs a bigger shopping bag? Like, enough to hold 175,000 unemployed?!

However, it’s interesting that English sez that “the number of people on the unemployment benefit continues to drop”. He’s either telling fibs (unusual for a National Party politician), or is not aware of MSD unemployment figures which are easily available on the internet…

Registered unemployed on WINZ benefit

December 2011 – 59,964

March 2012 – 53,479

June 2012 – 49,622

September 2012 – 50,390

Source: MSD 2012

Source: MSD 2011

From June to September, there has been an increase in registered unemployed – not a a drop  as English claimed.

So registered unemloyed are rising.

But why are they not rising anywhere near the same numbers as Statistics New Zealand’s  Household Labour Force Survey?

The HLFS survey states that 13,000 more  people were unemployed in the September quarter.  Which is certainly indicated by the number of redundancies we see almost on a daily basis in media reports.

This blogger suggests that there are a number of factors why the number of registered unemnployed does not match the HLFS – though both are tracking upward, proving that unemployment is most certainly on the rise.

1. Married/Relationships

Quite simply; if you’ve lost your job and your spouse/partner is still working, you’re not eligible for WINZ assistance.

This is one of those quirks in our welfare system that a partnered couple can both be working and the State demands that they both pay taxes. Yet if one of them loses his/her job, s./he is not entitled to WINZ assistance. Both would have to be jobless before being eligible unemployment benefits.

Conversely, if two people are flatting together and not ina relationship, the situation is completely different. If both are working and one loses his/her job, s/he is eligible for the unemployment benefit.

Moral of this story; WINZ want to know who you’re in bed with. A quaint bit of 1950s-style moralising by the State?

This blogger suggests that a substantial number who have lost their jobs recently are in relationships will not bother to register with WINZ because it is pointless. They will not receive State assistance. (Despite having paid their taxes.)

2. Redundancy/Holiday Pay

It’s quite like that those made redundant recently still have holiday pay, savings, or redundancy pay to live on. WINZ will not offer an unemployment benefit if the applicant has money in his/her bank account.

3. Stand-down Period

After redundancy or holiday pay is used up, WINZ  can then put an applicant on a 13 week stand-down. (I’ve no idea why. Sadism? Just for the hell of it?)

This blogger suspects that the numbers on unemployment benefits will rise in the next few months, more closely mirroring the Household Labour Force Survey.

Another factor to consider is that Paula Bennett has directed WINZ to make life more difficult for the unemployed, when registering with WINZ. As if losing one’s job wasn’t stressful enough, Bennet has forced the implementation of some draconian rules and requirements for beneficiaries. (The implication being that it’s the fault of  the unemployed for being unemployed?!)

One of the bureacratic bundles of red tape are the number of forms given to WINZ applicants.

Forf those readers who have never had the “delight” of dealing with WINZ – these are the forms that are required to be filled out. Note: every single applicant is given these forms (in a little plastic carry-bag).

The cost of printing these things must be phenomenal.

And if you have to reapply to WINZ for a benefit (if, say, you’ve lost your job again) you are required to fill out these forms all over again.

This is where taxpayer’s money is really going to waste in welfare.

This is the  first booklet; the ‘Unemployment Benefit Application‘ – a thirty-page application form.

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A thirty page document – to apply for a sum of $201.96 a week (WINZ benefit, nett, for a person over 25).

By contrast, banks have a couple of pages for a mortgage application form where sums in excess of $200,000 are being lent, and repayments start at $400 a week.

Next form, something called ‘Find a job build a future Tools to help you find work’,

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And just because the initial 30-page WINZ application form may not have satisfied the Minister; her Ministry; and sundry bureacrats,  another application form was enclosed in the “pack”;  “Jobz4u Manual Jobseeker Enrolment“.

This one was ‘only’ nine pages,

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Another form, this time only four pages long, the ‘Employment-Earnings Verification‘  form,

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Bizarrely, the above form is replicated on page 4 of  the thirty-page ‘Unemployment Benefit Application‘.  One wonders if Bennett is aware of the duplication of these forms?

The next form (yes, there’s more!) was the ‘WINZ – How can we help you‘. When assisting the person fill out these forms, there was a strong urge within me to scribble across each of the following eight pages,

How can we help you?

By cutting down on these goddamn forms!! How many forests had to die for this crap???

I have a sneaking suspicion that might not have helped the person I was assisting in her application.

The ‘WINZ – How can we help you‘ form,

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And the last two, the ‘Unemploymen Benefit Application – What to Bring ‘ and the ‘WINZ Online Services ‘ (both one page),

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All up, seventythree  pages of information and forms to  read, understand,  fill out, collect information…

This system becomes even more laughable when one considers that if an an applicant has been a WINZ beneficiary before, they are still on MSD’s computer files. Much of the information sought would already be on-file.

The cost of this must be horrendous, and it is ironic that at a time when National is cutting “back room” support staff to save money, that they are permitting taxpayer funding for this ‘Monty Pythonesque ‘ exercise in out-of-control form-filling.

No wonder that this was reported in Fairfax media,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett this morning said latest figures showed 328,043 people were now on benefits, with 57,058 of those on an unemployment benefit.

Reforms passed by Parliament require people on an unemployment benefit to reapply for it after one year. Bennett said this change had led to 5000 people cancelling their benefit.

More than 1400 of those said they had found work, more than 2600 didn’t complete a reapplication and more than 1000 were no longer eligible.

See: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply

How many people with minimal education could hope to fill out so many forms of such complexity?

Applying for a bank mortage is vastly simpler – an irony considering the vastly greater sums of money involved.

Addendum

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Date: Tue, Wednesday, 14 November 2012 1:38 PM
From: Frank Macskasy
Subject: Information Request
To: Paula Bennett “Paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz”

Kia Ora Ms Bennett,

I would like to make an official Freedom of Information Request.

Please provide information as to the costings of the following forms and information leaflets produced by MSD/WINZ;

“Work and Income Employment-Earnings Verification” (VO6-mar 2011)

“Work and Income Find a job build a future Tools to help you find work” (JOBSW0007-nov 2010)

“Jobz4u Manual Jobseeker Enrolment” (-)

“Work and Income Unemployment Benefit Application” (M18-JUL 2011)

“Work and Income Unemployment Benefit Application – What to bring” (M18-JUL 2011)

“Work and Income How can we help you” (CM0001 – OCT 2010)

“Work and Income Online Services”  (-)

“Work and Income” plastic carrybag for above items.

Please provide total costings for EACH item printed, on an annual basis for the last four years, and a break-down of costings for usage per year and per WINZ client.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

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Guest Author: MSD. WINZ. IT. OMG!

- Alan Benton

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I wonder who is handling the hiring of staff for the IT side of MSD. I highly suspect it is a private firm, such as Addecco who I know have a concrete and firmly locked up contract for instance at StudyLink, and adminster all their temps and contractors. Some of those staff have been rolled over for years my flatmate tells me, one person he works with had been rolled over for more than 6 years.

That means, to me, there is possibly a whacking great sum of budgeting that is just used as straight out corporate subsidy. This simply means in turn that there is a whacking great some of money that is not and cannot every be put into operational budgets, it’s literally flying out the door in “costs” to have an outside private firm do the work that internal management ought to probably be handling themselves.

My last contract at MOH was handled by an outside firm. I worked out they made just short of $15K off me on one stint there, even though the only work they did was sourcing me, and that was it. Absolutely nothing more. I was interviewed by internal staff, my workload was set by internal staff, my performance was monitored by internal staff and payments came from within the MOH’s system, not the Agency, YET the Agency actually still made money off me every single hour I worked there.

I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if this sort of thing was dropped, and the budget that gets set aside for such “management” using these outside companies actually went into operational matters.

And I was just one of many there at the time who got brought in to help oversee the next iteration of one of one of the systems there … multiply that by more staff and more departments across the Government, and you’re probably looking easily at millions and millions going to these private companies instead of the systems themselves.

And in one of my older roles as mentioned, when staffing was cut, it was still a case of crank out even better and “more efficient” systems but with a steadily diminishing ability to do it properly to start with. It seemed complete madness to demand that sort of thing. Kind of like MSD demanding people get off their butts to work and berating them for not having the ability to cope when they’ve gone and cut the programs that were helping people in the past get OFF the bloody thing in the first place – including one Ms Paula Bennett of all people!!!

I was constantly told that we couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that, didn’t have the money. And yet it never seemed to stop pay rises for the CEO, never seemed to stop splashing out on decor, never seemed to stop demands for the latest and greatest flashing lights and gizmos … but if I as Manager tried arguing for server investment, security investment, it was uphill all the bloody time. Yes, there was capital outlay involved. But it was banging my head against a concrete wall to make them see that if they did right first time, we wouldn’t constantly be mired in patchup jobs, make do workarounds and the threat of chronic system failure dangling above our heads. And I just got very apprehensive when this was happening in the security area. “Can we get a student to do that?”, always looking for the cheapest solution to fix highly complex problems. I’ve nothing against students, but we were laying off some real gun workers. As I said, we just ended up with burnouts and layoffs. Including myself.

I guess being insistant and not afraid to get up the noses of people who had no clue on what they were managing didn’t make me appeal to the Managers, but I happened to view critical infrastructure as a bloody important investment, especially when we would have rural Dr’s going mental because we couldn’t give them the appropriate technology resources to help them get on with their jobs in difficult to reach areas and the like. And I always viewed people who didn’t have a clue about it as the last people to be making the critical decisions on the support thereof of such technology and systems.

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Paula Bennett shows NZ how to take responsibility

3 November 2012 32 comments

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Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett has been issuing edict after edict, demanding that welfare beneficiaries “take responsibility for their lives” and accept certain ‘obligations’ in return for receiving their welfare benefits,

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And not forgetting Dear Leader’s own 5 cents + 15% GST worth,

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It’s very ‘helpful’ when  a multi-millionaire explains to a person living in poverty, how to budget to buy food…

Bennett and Key expect a high degree of personal responsibility and expect obligations to be undertaken.

How does Paula Bennet, Minister for Social Welfare compare when it comes to taking personal responsibility and meeting her obligations to the public?

Let’s put it to the test, shall we?

When problems surrounding WINZ job-kiosks hit the headlines, and quickly became apparent to be the biggest leak of information in this country’s history, did Paula Bennet step up and take responsibility?

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“At the end of the day I have a level of responsibility and certainly accountability. What I can’t be held to is to blame for something I have no control over.
“I set high standards for the ministry. They have not lived up to them in this case and I want … to be sure it will never happen again.”

Source

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Short answer: no.

It’s someone elses’ responsibility.

Which begs two questions,

  1. Can welfare beneficiaries be  “held  to blame for something they  have no control over” ?
  2. Just why is Bennett collecting her ministerial salary of  $257,800 p.a. plus perks and allowances?

Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy and Double standards.

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Highly recommended

Gareth Morgan: Belt Tightening Won’t Reduce Unemployment

Sources

Parliament: Salaries payable under section 16 of Civil List Act 1979

NZ Herald: Bennett: Winz security process ‘atrocious’

TV3: Staff cuts blamed for WINZ computer woes

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Citizen A – 20 October 2012 – Online now!

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Citizen A

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- 20 October 2012 -

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- Chris Trotter & Selwyn Manning -

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Issue 1: Is a WINZ kiosk less leaky than a GCSB staff meeting? What to make of the security lapse at the Ministry of Social Development?

Issue 2: Where does the Kim Dotcom case end?

and Issue 3: Government tells Maoridom to get lost over the sale of Mighty River Power – what now for the Maori Party and asset sales?

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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

Tumeke

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= fs =

Paula Bennett – massive *facepalm*

24 October 2012 14 comments

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As Bennett laments,

People buy 10 cooked chickens and then go and sell them in the carpark.

I can’t stop what individuals do. All I can do is try and put the right security around it.”

And no one – not one person in Bennett’s office; the Ministry of Social Development; or WINZ – guessed that this might happen?!?!

Such a system was bound to be easily circumvented, and once again National has wasted millions of our tax-dollars on a pointless exercise, rather than getting to the nub of the problem: job creation.

Where are the jobs, Mr Key, Ms Bennett, et al?

Idiots.

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Other blogs

No Right Turn: WINZ doesn’t care

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

5 October 2012 4 comments

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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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National ramps up attack on unemployed and solo-mums (part rua)

24 September 2012 6 comments

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Continued from: National ramps up attack on unemployed and solo-mums

Yesterday (12 September) Welfare Minister Paula Bennett released this piece of spectacular “data” to the media,

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It was one of those “Shock! Horror!” stories that the media loves – great headlines, not much critical analysis. When you read the whole “story”, the questions that are not answered scream out at you,

  1. What is full meaning of the statement “An actuarial valuation conducted as part of the Government’s welfare reforms shows the average total cost of those who had received a working-age benefit in the year to June 30, 2011 was $78.1b”?
  2. Why did the Fairfax reporter not cross-reference invalid and sickness beneficiaries to ACC policy of “exiting” clients onto welfare, where ongoing rehabilitation was not available? (ACC staff rewarded for cutting off clients – MP)
  3. How accurate is the report?
  4. How does this report help create 170,000 new jobs, promised by John Key last year?  (See: Budget 2011: Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs)
  5. What was the point of the report, when Bennett herself has admitted on TVNZ’zs Q+A,“There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do.” – Paula Bennett, 29 April 2012 (See:  http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news/transcript-paula-bennett-interview-4856860)
  6. Why has National spent $800,000 on this “report”, when previously  Bennett refused to undertake further research to gain information on child poverty,  “of course there is poverty in New Zealand. This has been acknowledged by the Government but it’s not a priority to have another measure on it” ? (See: Combating poverty more important than measuring it.)

It’s interesting that Paula Bennett rejected calls for further research to quantify the levels of child poverty in this country stating that, ” it’s not a priority to have another measure on it” – but feels it necessary to spend nearly a million dollars of our taxes on a study of  “an actuarial valuation” on long-term costings of  welfare.

If this doesn’t raise the hackles and outrage of New Zealanders then they are truly braindead.

Worse still is the timing of the realease of the Taylor Fry report.

The report – designed to paint unemployed and solo-mums in a maximum damning light – was released on 12 September.

A day later, this story became public,

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Full story

Listen: Listen to more from Bill English on Morning Report

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Thus far, that story does not seem to have appeared in any other media.

It has been quietly “buried” under a mountain of negative press releases from National.

This blogger has zero doubt that National was fully aware that Statistics New Zealand was in the process of releasing the data on job losses to the public. That story, plus ongoing redundancies and rising unemployment led National’s taxpayer-funded spin-meisters to pre-empt Statistics New Zealand’s bad news shocker, and instead release their own “Shock, Horror!” story.

Thus far, it seems to have worked.

But for how long?

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank has released an astonishing report blaming National’s policies for low economic growth,,

Fiscal consolidation is expected to have a substantial dampening influence on demand growth over the projected horizon. This consolidation will, all else equal, lead to a lower OCR (official cash rate) than would otherwise be the case.

See: Govt austerity slows growth, keeps rates low – RBNZ

National fails to create the 170,000 new jobs they promised us last year, and blames beneficiaries for their incompetance? Noice.

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Yesterday, this blogger emailed Paula Minister on National’s recent bout of beneficiary bashing,

Date:   Wednesday, 12 September 2012 2:23 PM
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: Recent “welfare reforms” – Some questions for you.
To: “Paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz” <Paula.bennett@parliament.govt.nz>
Cc: Chris Laidlaw RNZ <sunday@radionz.co.nz>,
    “campbelllive@tv3.co.nz” <campbelllive@tv3.co.nz>,
    Dominion Post <editor@dompost.co.nz>,
    Daily News <editor@dailynews.co.nz>, Daily Post <editor@dailypost.co.nz>,
    Hutt News <editor@huttnews.co.nz>, Jim Mora <afternoons@radionz.co.nz>,
    “Joanna Norris ( DPT)” <joanna.norris@dompost.co.nz>,
    Kim Hill <saturday@radionz.co.nz>,
    “kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz” <kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz>,
    John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>, Listener <editor@listener.co.nz>,
    Morning Report <morningreport@radionz.co.nz>,
    NZ Herald <editor@herald.co.nz>,
    Nine To Noon RNZ <ninetonoon@radionz.co.nz>,
    “news@dompost.co.nz” <news@dompost.co.nz>,
    “news@radionz.co.nz” <news@radionz.co.nz>,
    Otago Daily Times <odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz>,
    “primenews@skytv.co.nz” <primenews@skytv.co.nz>, Q+A <Q+A@tvnz.co.nz>,
    Southland Times <editor@stl.co.nz>, TVNZ News <news@tvnz.co.nz>,
    The Press <letters@press.co.nz>,
    The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>,
    “tariana.turia@parliament.govt.nz” <tariana.turia@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Waikato Times <editor@waikatotimes.co.nz>,
    Wairarapa Times-Age <editor@age.co.nz>
Kia ora Ms Bennett,
 
Regarding your proposals to compel the unemployed, solo-mothers, etc, to undertake various obligations, or face having their welfare payments cut, I have some questions to put to you;
  1. Will recipients of Working for Families – which some call a “welfare benefit – also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?
  2. Will superannuitants who are caring for children also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?
  3. Will children of all families, regardless of financial and/or employment circumstance also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?
If  compulsory early childhood education and doctor’s visits for children of unemployed, solo-mums, and other welfare recipients is such a good idea that National is willing to enact legislation, and financially penalise parents for failing to carry out this policy – why are other parents also not being compelled to enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and medical clinics?
 
Is there a basis upon which only the unemployed who have been made redundant from companies, government departments, and SOEs, are being targetted? What is that basis?
 
If unemployed or low-income families are financially unable to enroll their children in Early Childhood Education, doctors, etc, what steps will National take to offer additional financial assistance?
 
Do you still stand by your comment that you made on TVNZ’s Q+A on 29 April 2012, that, “there’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do”.
 
And lastly; is this propopsal – plus your other so-called “welfare reforms” – simply not an attack on the unemployed and solo-mothers to deflect attention away from your government’s inability to generate the 170,000 new jobs that Prime Minister John Key promised us at the last election?
 
I await any possible answer you might be able to provide to these questions.
 
Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger
 

PS: This correspondence is not to be regarded as permission, whether actual or implied, to release any personal details about me that the State might hold about me.

Her office has responded today (13 September),

Date: Thursday, 13 September 2012 9:06 AM
From: Natalie Hansen <Natalie.Hansen@parliament.govt.nz>
To: “‘fmacskasy@yahoo.com'” <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: FW: Recent “welfare reforms” – Some questions for you.

Hello Frank

The Hon Paula Bennett, Minister for Social Development has asked me to thank you for your email. 

Consideration is currently being given to the matters you raise and you may expect a reply at the Minister’s earliest opportunity.

Kind regards

Natalie Hansen

Private Secretary, Office of Hon Paula Bennett Minister for Social Development | Minister of Youth Affairs Executive Wing 5.5, Parliament Buildings| Private Bag 18041 | Wellington 6160

Telephone: +64 4 817 6815 | Fax: +64 4 817 6515 | Email: Natalie.hansen@parliament.govt.nz

Consideration is currently being given to the matters”  I raised?

It will be interesting to see what – if any – rational response Bennett comes up with. This should be good.

* Up-date*

Date:  Monday, 24 September 2012 3.57PM
From: “J Key (MIN)” <J.Key@ministers.govt.nz>
To: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: RE: Recent “welfare reforms” – Some questions for you.

Dear Mr Macskasy,

On behalf of the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, I acknowledge the copy of your email sent for Mr Key’s information.

Regards,

E Tanga          

Ministerial Assistant/Records Officer           

Office of the Prime Minister

No further response  received from Paula Bennett’s office as at 24 September.

 

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Sources

Scoop.co.nz: Combating poverty more important than measuring it

NZ Herald: Fate of youth gloomiest stat of all

NZ Herald: Benefit tally ‘not an excuse for hard line’

NZ Herald: Andrew Cardow: Bennett out-nannies Labour’s nanny state

NZ Herald: Govt austerity slows growth, keeps rates low – RBNZ

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Paula Bennett: one strike and she’s out.

19 September 2012 9 comments

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National’s diversionary strategem of inferring that our high rate of unemployment is a deliberate life-style choice, and the fault of the unemployed, continues unabated. In large part, with few exceptions, this strategem of Divert & Deflect, is aided and abetted by a compliant media.

People like  Fairfax’s Tracey Watkins,  and NZ Herald’s John Armstrong and Fran O’Sullivan, have been unquestioning in their slavish “reporting” of  National’s assault against the unemployed.

The latest from  National Politburo member, Comrade Bennett, is a new  diktat  imposed upon the unemployed that  ” cancels payments for those who refuse [an]  offer of ‘suitable’ job “,

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Full tragic story

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To repeat and quote Bennett, when she stated on TVNZ’s Q+A on 29 April,

There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. “

See:  TVNZ  Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

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#1 – Where are the jobs?

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Where are the jobs – especially the 170,000 that Dear Leader Key promised us last november?

This is not just a rhetorical question – National was re-elected upon their (undeserved) reputation as “prudent stewards of the economy”. And a pledge to create 170,000 new jobs.

That they have failed to produce these new jobs, is an understatement. Unemployment continues to rise.

See: Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc (May 2012)

See: Unemployment rises: 6.8pc (August 2012

And redundancies continue on an almost daily/weekly basis,

So, where are the jobs,  Comrade Bennett?

Never mind turning down one job – with 162,000 unemployed all competing for a small, limited number of jobs – most jobless people will not even have the luxury of one job offer.

This blogger has a sneaking suspicion that Comrade Bennett is referring to pseudo-“jobs”,

  • telemarketing (best done at dinner time)
  • door-to-door salesperson (households love to greet strangers on their doorstep, flogging vacuum cleaners)
  • prostitute (highly skilled/motivated to satisfy clients’ needs;   someone with passionate  people-skills)
  • chimney cleaner (for small-builds, to facilitate easier access up chimneys)
  • rent-a-womb (for rich, childless couples – males beneficiaries may be excused from this, at WINZ discretion)
  • fruit picker (traditionally seasonal work – but still doable in winter time, lack of fruit is NO excuse!)

All growth industries, no doubt.

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#2 – An alternative to the ‘One Strike’ policy?

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The WINZ Charter, as follows,

What you can expect from us

We will:

  • give you prompt and efficient service
  • let you know about our services and how we can help
  • give you information that is correct and easy to understand
  • give you the assistance you are entitled to
  • explain your rights and obligations
  • explain why we ask you to do certain things
  • listen carefully so we understand what you are telling us
  • be understanding and caring about your needs
  • be respectful, friendly and professional in the way we serve you
  • tell you who may be able to help if we can’t.

You have the right to:

  • be treated with courtesy and respect
  • cultural sensitivity
  • use any of our services
  • be given information about the services we offer
  • be given correct information and entitlements
  • be listened to
  • be given fair, non-judgemental service
  • have your information kept private and confidential
  • have any decisions we make explained to you
  • have a support person there whenever you deal with us
  • make a complaint or ask for a review if you disagree with us.

So that we can help, you need to:

  • give us the information we need to assess your entitlements
  • make sure any information you give us is correct
  • tell us about any changes in your situation
  • keep any agreements you have made with us
  • attend and be prepared for our meetings
  • tell us if you’re unable to keep an appointment
  • treat our staff with courtesy and respect.

See: WINZ – Our Service Charter

I propose a minor amendment to the above Charter with one addition,

Our prime obligation to you:

  • we are committed to honouring the Prime Minister’s pledge to create new 170,ooo jobs
  • we will have one chance to provide suitable work from one of those 170,000 new jobs; at decent pay-rates; within reasonable travel time/distance
  • failure to comply will mean that the Minister of Social Welfare will have her Ministerial salary docked at the rate of unemployment benefit, for each week that you remain unemployed
  • if, after one year of  failing to honour our committment to you, and you are still unemployed, the Prime Minister will personally apologise to you, and will either provide a meaningful job for you, or support you into retraining at a nearby polytech or University, to be paid out of his own $50 million bank account

I think that amendment is fair, and puts the onus on to John Key and Paula Bennett to fulfill their obligations to us, the public, and to those people who voted National on the basis of creating 170,000 new jobs.

Let’s see National meet their obligations: 170,000 new jobs, as promised.

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Full story

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Other Blogs

Why politicians like the beneficiary debate

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ACC – A Complete Cock-up

22 June 2012 1 comment

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Revelations unearthed and made public by the Green Party, that ACC paid bonuses to their staff to ‘bump’ long-term clients from their books comes as no surprise. Only the most naive would still believe that everything was hunky-dory at ACC.

See:  ACC bonus pay for claimant cull

Faced with the revelations, ACC Minister, Judith “Hugs’n’Crushes” Collins belatedly admitted that ACC staff are paid bonuses, and tried to justify the payments as  “a good thing” because ‘it gets the clients back to work’.

Yeah, right.

Nice spin, Minister.

Then ACC’s departing chief executive Ralph Stewart chipped in, rejecting accusations that bonuses were made to bump clients of ACC’s books,

No one can leave ACC until they are rehabilitated. There are two clear steps. The rehabilitation step’s first, leaving the scheme second – it’s not the other way around.”

See:  ACC claimants removal motive denied

Let me put this as delicately as I can: bullshit.

This blogger is aware of at least one person in the late 1990s,  who was bumped from ACC’s books and onto a WINZ invalids benefit, after a work-related back-injury.  ACC actually paid for the client to be flown from Dunedin to Auckland, to be  “assessed” by one of ACC’s “independent” consultants.

Result; she was taken off ACC’s books and made a WINZ “client”.

If anyone wonders why the numbers of invalids and sickness beneficiaries have risen in past decade – whilst ACC’s long-term clients have reduced – wonder no more. This is where invalids/sickness beneficiaries have come from.

This is backed up by a  2007 report on ACC clients  removed from ACC’s books,  showing 46% were out of work, with nearly 25% on the unemployment benefit.

See:  Long-term ACC client list pruned

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WINZ Beneficiaries

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Actual MSD figures

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ACC long-term clients

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Source

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The woman in question received no rehabilitation and her back injury persists to this day.  “No one can leave ACC until they are rehabilitated” – therefore rings hollow in this blogger’s mind.

It is a bit rich for Ralph Stewart to be rejecting that bonuses were made to reduce long-term ACC clients – whilst at the same time   admitting,

Mr Stewart said long-term claimants have dropped by about 1200 since November, to about 10,400-10,500, but denied he was put in the job to move on claimants.

He said only 20 percent of staff incentives relate to rehabilitation.”

This is the same man who,

  • oversaw  ACC’s  accusations of extortion levelled against Ms Pullar and laid a complaint with the Police;
  • during the police investigation had listened to Bronwyn Pullar’s taped conversation of a meeting held between ACC staff; Michelle Boag; and herself;
  • and yet stayed silent at a subsequent media conference that the taped conversation actually proved Pullars innocence!

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ACC Chief Executive Ralph Stewart and Chairperson John Judge

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Aside from the very real possibility that ACC’s executives may be guilty of the crime of wasting Police time (see:  The Jackal: ACC’s false police complaint against Bronwyn Pullar), why on Earth should we believe anything that escapes Ralph Stewart’s mouth?

Ralph Stewart is not averse to mis-representing facts when his suits his agenda. He has already demonstrated that his word cannot be taken at face-value.

The evidence is compelling: ACC is mis-using Corporation funds to pay it’s staff bonuses to push long-term clients off its books.

Next question: what is Judith Collins going to do about it?

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Additional

ACC minister put pressure on bosses to make complaint – Labour

TV3 Sixty Minutes:  The Eye of the Storm

Gordon Campbell on the incentive payments at ACC

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= fs =

Three Jokers and an Ace

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This has been one of those strange weeks that only a National-led government can give us. Part of that strangeness has been described in a previous blog, with the antics of  Paula Bennett, Pita Sharples, and a slow train-wreck called ACT.

See: 20 May: End of the Week Bouquets, Brickbats, & Epic Fails

But before the weekend was over, there was more neo-liberal nonsense to follow. One thing you can always count on with the Nats – they’re good for a facepalm on a regular basis…

First Joker: David Carter

Local Government Minister, David Carter’s performance on TVNZ’s  Q+A, on  20 May,  was an exercise in National’s  ‘Daddy State‘ policies revving up several notches.

Not content with forcing assets sales, fracking, and deep sea drilling on us – the NPPB (National Party Politburo of Bunnies)  is now issuing diktats from on-high to local body councils.

Firstly, Kommissar Karter instructed local bodies what was  acceptable “core services” by local body councils,

GREG

Okay, core services – what on earth are core services? Because there seems to be a lot of scope in what a core service is and what a council should be taking care of.

DAVID

Well, it’s certainly clear what core services are, and they are rates and rubbish and water, et cetera. But this legislation’s not about saying to councils, ‘You can only embark on core services.’ It is still the responsibility of the council to engage with its community and find out what services that community wants. But we want that debate to be far more transparent than it has been in the past.

GREG

Well, hold on. It sounds like the Government’s wanting a bob each way in this. They’re wanting to say they keep in touch with what’s happening with the rates, but they’re only to go and do core services at a local level or not. Which way is it to go?

DAVID

We are not saying that councils can only do core services. If you take my Christchurch City Council, for example, and it runs the Ellerslie Flower Show in Hagley Park. You could argue that’s not a core service. The council has determined that there is value in delivering that show for the people of Christchurch, and, frankly, I meet a lot of people on planes who are travelling from all over New Zealand to come to that. The council’s decision is to run the Ellerslie Flower Show, and that is a decision for the council to make. It’s certainly not a decision for central government to make or for myself as minister.  “

Then the Minister advised the Great Unwashed what was not acceptable “core services”,

”  DAVID

We’re certainly going to get local government to be far more focused on what activities it undertakes. In the past, some councils have stepped too far and undertaken activities, Hamilton city, for example, with the Grand Prix racing. I think that was an activity that went far beyond where local government should have gone. It cost local government in that area a lot of money. We’re not saying you cannot run race cars; we’re saying you need to think very very carefully before undertaking that activity. And by putting these financial management tests in place, I think councils will think more carefully about some of those longer-term extraneous activities they’re undertaking than they did in the past.  “

So according to Kommissar Karter,

  • V8 car races – out
  • Flower shows - in
  • Asset sales – in
  • local democracy to choose our own expenditure: out
  • centralised, National Party control over expenditure: in
  • core service by councils – tba

The Minister then added, for good measure in case the proles had not understood his Diktat from On High,

”  DAVID

You’re hitting on the essence of the relationship that should be between local government and central government. It has to be truly a partnership, but it’s not on for local government then to step into the space which is clearly central government’s role. And it is central government’s role to establish the education system in this country. It is central government’s role to establish parameters of measuring the success of that. We can then work with Len Brown and his council, particularly as he tries to develop solutions to some of the social problems in South Auckland, and we’re happy to work with him in a partnership. But the core responsibility still remains with central government.

Which, if implemented, would mean that Otorohanga’s Council-led  and community-based initiatives – which has seen unemployment and youth problems plummet – would not be a core Council responsibility?

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog

Full story

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Had National’s policy of curtailing Council activities been in full-force, youth unemployment and associated problems would remain unchanged, or probably much worse in that small town.

See also:  Youth unemployment a growing problem

Or was the Minister expecting Otorohanga to wait for Central Government to address the worsening crisis of youth unemployment? Youth unemployment which has rocketed from 58,000 to 87,000 this year?

How would National’s policy, to “reign in” local Councils,  impact on other towns and cities that attempted to take steps to address our growing social problems? Would Auckland prohibited from pursuing a programme similar to Otorohanga?

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Frankly Speaking Frank Macskasy Blog

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David Carter’s performance on Q+A was simply breath-taking. If anyone thought that Labour was guilty of  creating a “Nanny State” – they had to watch Carter to see National go several steps further. In effect, central government will be dictating to local bodies what they can or can’t do.

Democracy? Not in our towns or cities, according to Minister Carter.

National is taking over. Curfew at 7PM.

See transcript: Q+ALocal Government Minister David Carter interview

See video:   Q+A: Local Government Minister David Carter (15:28)

The irony here is that whilst National stands by and watches unemployment soar, local communities, through their elected representatives,  are taking steps to address this growing problem.

Meanwhile, National’s response to unemployment is not to implement job creation programmes – their  response is to fiddle with welfare.

Which leads us to the next issue…

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Second Joker: Paula Rebstock

Q+A’s interview with Paula Rebstock – appointed by Welfare Minister Paula Bennett to head a board to oversee the implementation of National’s welfare “reforms” – is continuing National’s mission to demonise the unemployed; widows; solo-mums (but never solo-dads), and others who rely on social welfare to survive.

Since National has no job-creation plan,  Dear Leader and Paula Bennett are shifting responsibility for lack of jobs onto welfare beneficiaries. (Because we know that welfare pays for the mansion, limousine in the drive-way, and the beach house in Hawaii. Oh, wait, no, that’s John Key.)

It is a most pernicious form of scape-goating.

It is shameful, and panders to the nasty prejudices that reside in the dark depths of our vestigial reptilian hind-brain. For the Working and Middle Classes, who have always had the sneaking suspicion that welfare offers an opulent lifestyle – until they themselves are made redundant – only to then discover the true nature of just how paltry welfare actually is.

To put this issue into some context, New Zealand’s unemployment doubled after the global financial crisis and resulting recession,

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking Blog

Source

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Rebstock headed the infamous “Welfare Working Group” in 2010. Some of the  recommendations of the WWG were so punitive and inhumane as to return to the Victorian Era. Even John Key was moved to reject many of Rebstock’s extreme proposals.

In November 2010, Rebstock was interviewed by Paul Holmes on Q+A,

”  PAUL

So that means a bit of government intervention, that means government providing these [jobs], presumably.

PAULA

Well, I don’t know if it does, and I think this is a really important point. If we look at how the labour market in New Zealand has performed, it is true we’ve been in a recession and we’re now moving into a slow recovery and jobs have been an issue, but since 1986 this economy has created more than 500,000 jobs. Now, it responded as well as almost any economy in the world to the economic environment. We had one of the highest employment rates in the OECD. I think that it is a little bit of a cop-out to say that we can’t deal to some of the issues around long-term benefit dependency because of the job market.

PAUL

Oh, come on, Paula, the jobs simply aren’t there. I mean, if you look at 2006, there was a 30,000 net gain of jobs. In 2008 it had gone down a bit – 9,000 net gain. God knows what it is this year.

PAULA

We actually are experiencing a gain in jobs. The labour statistics that came out last week show that. I’m not saying that we haven’t been in a recession, Paul, but this is the time right now to prepare people for the recovery. They need to be ready to take the jobs that are there.  “

See:  Holmes interviews Paula Rebstock (15 November 2010)

Unfortunately for everyone, the jobs were not “out there”.  With the recession is full swing, exports were down, and companies were laying off staff in their hundreds.

Unemployment in November 2010 was 6.4%. By January 2011, it had reach 6.8%. The rate moved up and down, and currently sits on 6.7%.

See:  Unemployment rate lifts to 6.7pc

Fast forward 18 months, and despite the economy continuing to stagnate, National is pursuing it’s scape-goating of unemployed and solo-mothers (but never solo-dads), and Rebstock and Bennett are both  still ‘singing the same song’.

On 16 May, Bennett said,

The cost of today’s total number of beneficiaries is estimated at $45 billion. It makes good economic and social sense to provide targeted support up front to get more people into work sooner.

This new approach will be embedded at all levels of the welfare system and the board will be responsible for ensuring accountability and overseeing the delivery of reforms that will see fewer people on welfare for long periods.

See:  Minister defends new welfare board

Not. One. Word. About. Job. Creation.

National is displaying an almost Obsessive-Compulsive antipathy on welfare issues.  Their sole focus is on welfare and welfare beneficiaries.

As if 80,000+ New Zealanders decided to chuck in their jobs in the last few years, and instead live the life of luxury on $204.96 a week (net).

See:   WINZ  Unemployment Benefit (current)

Yet, not too long ago (29 April), Social Welfare Minister Paula Bennett actually admitted,

PAULA         
No. There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do.

See:  TVNZ Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview (29 April)

So why is National spending $1.1 million on Rebstock’s ‘Work and Income Board’ to oversee WINZ – when it ain’t welfare that’s broke. It’s the job market that is 160,000 jobs short?!

See:  Rebstock to head welfare watchdog panel

Bennett goes on to say,

”  I’ve got fantastic frontline staff, I’ve got fantastic upper and middle management that are working hands on with policy changes and implementing that frontline.  “

“Fantastic front line staff”.

“Fantastic upper and middle management”.

“Working hands on with policy changes”.

But no jobs.

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Third Joker: John Key

National’s “Gateway” scheme had its origins during the Mana by-election, in 2010. As some will recall, it was National’s grand plan to beat the Labour candidate, Kris Faafoi.

National’s candidate was… Hekia Parata – the current Minister for Education.

Ms Parata lost by 1,406 votes to Labour’s candidate. (The margin widens when adding centre-left votes for the Greens and Matt McCarten.)

See: Mana By-election 2010

It appears that the “Gateway” scheme was little more than an election bribe for Mana voters; a “lolly” to entice people to vote for Parata.  National lost, and were stuck with fulfilling their policy pledge.

(Damned inconvenient when that happens, I guess.)

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Full Story

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Heatley touted the scheme, grandly proclaiming,

It is important the government provides opportunities for people to move into home ownership. Affordable homes schemes such as Gateway is another way we can assist more people into a home of their own.”

But by May of this year, it seems that it was ‘no longer important the government provides opportunities for people to move into home ownership’.

John Key announced it’s cancellation last week.

For a man who was raised in a taxpayer funded, and subsidised, state home with his siblings and widowed mum, and who benefitted from a societal  value that decent housing was a basic human right – John Key has some very strange attitudes toward providing shelter for the poor and vulnerable,

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Full story

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The Gateway scheme details,

GATEWAY SCHEME
* For first home buyers earning under $100,000 a year
* They can get a mortgage to build or buy a house on state land
* Must have at least a 10% deposit
* Have 10 years to buy the land

It’s interesting to note that Key is unable to deliver “low cost” housing for couples earning under$100,000 and says,

The Government has looked at that programme and decided that’s now not the most effective way of going forward.

So we think the capacity for lower income New Zealanders to own their own home is greatly enhanced by the fact interest rates are lower.

“If you have a look at the average home owner in New Zealand, they are paying about $200 a week less in interest than they were under the previous Labour Government.” – Ibid

His comments raises several issues,

  1. It says a lot about Key’s impression of what constitutes “lower income New Zealanders” when the threshold is up to $100,000 per couple. Perhaps by his multi-million dollar standards, a couple on $100,000 is “poor”?
  2. Derides the previous Labour government and claims credit for lower interest rates, by stating “they are paying about $200 a week less in interest than they were under the previous Labour Government“. As if current low interest rates are a result of National’s intervention? (Interest rates are determined by the Reserve Bank, and are currently low because our economy is stagnant. National can take credit for the latter, but not the former.)
  3. How can  providing decent, affordable housing for low income earners  be “not the most effective way of going forward” ?
  4. Key is living in a millionaire’s fantasyland if he seriously believes that “ the capacity for lower income New Zealanders to own their own home is greatly enhanced by the fact interest rates are lower“.  Dear Leader doesn’t understand that the interest rate can be irrelevant if people can’t afford to buy a home in the first place.

If ever there was ever an instance of the Silver Spoon mentality – look no further than our current Prime Minister, the Rt Honourable John Key.

New Zealanders are deluded if they think this man can relate to their ordinary, everyday, lives.

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The Ace: John Tamihere

As mentioned in a previous blogpost, John Tamihere is hosting an excellent, low-key, intelligent, current affairs chat show on TV3 (Sunday mornings) called “Think Tank“.  Last Sunday’s (20 May) episode focused on child poverty in New Zealand and what practical steps were required to address this growing social crisis.

Last week, it was pokie machines and their effects on communities.

As the show’s name suggests, the goal is not just to look into critical social issues – but to come up with solutions.  The show’s panel of four people offers solutions; and the guests scrutinises each suggestion.

It’s a chat show for sure – but instead of superficial inanities, the conversation is serious and fit for adult consumption.

This is good television. This treats the viewer as   intelligent and capable of considering complex issues.

This blogger can only live in hope that this is the turning point of 21st century television, and we are seeing an end (or at least slow reduction) of the execrable rubbish we have been served up, since  commercialisation and dumbing down became the norm for broadcasting in this country.

John Tamihere is perfect for the role of host for the show. Not a polished or trained media front-person, John Tamihere has walked the hard yards in life and has moved from the tough neighbourhoods of South Auckland to the halls of power in Parliament. He’s lived life. He’s seen things that Middle Class New Zealand has no wish to see or experience, outside of comfortable television shows.

This blogger’s only criticisms revolve around scheduling and lack of promotion.

Scheduling “Think Tank” on Sunday mornings ghettoises the show. It relegates it almost as an ‘after thought’.  It would be an act of naked political subversion to broadcast it during prime time viewing. (That should give National’s/NZ on Air’s,   Stephen McElrea something to howl about!)

The show also needs more promo on TV3. This blogger discovered it only by sheer fluke. Not promoting it leaves us wondering if TV3 doesn’t really want to draw attention to it? Perhaps doesn’t want to draw the ire of certain National Party ministers?

One hopes not.

TV3, as your print-media colleagues used to say, Publish and be damned !

It’s a good show.

Be proud of it.

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Media sources

Loans for housing on crown land

Holmes interviews Paula Rebstock (15 November 2010)

Otorohanga’s success story

Council goes solo to help young jobless

Key backs cut-off for cheap homes plan

Minister defends new welfare board

TVNZ  Q+A: Local Government Minister David Carter (video)

Reserve Bank to keep OCR unchanged though hikes flicker on horizon

References

Official Cash Rate (OCR) decisions and current rate

Previous blogposts

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

Bennett confirms: there are not enough jobs!

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“If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.”

28 April 2012 3 comments

From a multi-millionaire Prime Minister who had the benefit of a free, taxpayer-funded tertiary education, and lived in a subsidised State House, courtesy of New Zealand’s once-proud social welfare system…

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Full Story

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… to a government that cut taxes for the rich; raised GST for the poor; and has done precious-little to implement any meaningful job-creation policies,

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Full Story

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It appears that one can’t budget, Mr Key?

Of course, it’s easier to point the finger at the unemployed who’ve lost their jobs since the recession impacted on our society in 2007. Never apportion responsibility  at a government who appear unable to count.

It’s far, far easier to blame the solo-mums (but never solo-dads), invalids, widows, and sickness beneficiaries. After all, the Boardrooms of Goldman Sachs, Lehmann Bros, AIG, General Motors, Bank of Scotland, Lane-Walker-Rudkin, and over 40 finance companies here in New Zealand, were all run by welfare beneficiaries.

Let’s check some incomes and wealth levels,


Current benefit rates (after tax):

* Unemployment & sickness benefits: $204.96
* Domestic Purposes Benefit (one child): $293.58
* Invalids’ Benefit: $256.19
* Pension (single): $367.45

May also qualify for allowances: accommodation supplement (max of $225), childcare, allowance, disability allowances ($58.13).

Current wealth/income estimate for John Key & Ministers:

* John Key’s wealth: $55 million (Source)
* John Key’s  salary:  $411,510 p.a.  (Source)
* Paula Bennett, Social Welfare Minister salary: $257,800 p.a. (Source)

May also qualify for allowances: free accommodation; free transport; generous superannuation; and 90% subsidised airfares after retirement (after three terms in Parliament)

As our Dear Leader sez,

If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.”

Perhaps he  and Ms Bennett should go onto the equalivalent of welfare benefits. Beneficiaries tend to know how to make ends meet living on a meagre amount of money.

In fact, maybe Key and Bennett should  do a straight swap – I know a few beneficiaries who could do a better job running this country.

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Paula Bennett on unemployment: spin baby, spin!

9 April 2012 6 comments

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All ministers have a coterie of staff. They consist of  PAs, researchers, speech writers, policy analysts, media experts, and… ‘spin doctors’. Actually, any of the previous list can be labelled a “spin doctor”.

“Spin Doctors” take a piece of information and presents it in a certain, carefully constructed way, that makes their respective Minister look good to the public.

Example; National’s recent policy on 16 and 17 year old unemployed youth was “reformed”, announcing that they would be issued “purchase cards”, to eliminate wasting their benefit on cigarettes and alcohol.

End goal: to make National look good in the public eye, by getting “tough on welfare”.

(Except for one thing. It’s already against the law for retailers to sell tobacco and alcohol products to 16 and 17 year olds.  The law is already in place to deal with this issue. And if retailers are selling these products to 16 and 17 year olds, then it’s a RETAIL problem – not a welfare problem.)

But the Spin Doctors quietly ignored that salient fact and simply pushed the message: National is “getting tough on welfare”.

That’s the message being spun and put out to the public to absorb. One simple line.

Anyone who doubts the efficacy of spin doctoring of  such messages should check letters-to-editors and on-line fora to see how many low-information, National-friendly “armchair experts” now repeat that one, simplified Official Line; the government is “getting tough on welfare”.

That’s “spin”.

Today, Bennet’s media people released this apparently positive news into the public arena,

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Source

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But not before her Spin Doctors got their hands on it first,

More than 5000 people cancelled their unemployment benefits because they found jobs last month.”

It could well be that 5,000 “cancelled their unemployment benefits”.

But as to how she could possibly know that they all “found jobs last month”? How could she possibly know that?

Those 5,000 could easily have been part of the exodus of New Zealanders moving to Australia,

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Kiwi exodus to Aussie at new high

11:30 AM Wednesday Mar 21, 2012

New Zealanders continued to abandon their home country for Australia, with the speed of annual departures accelerating to a record 53,000 last month.

New Zealand lost a net 39,100 people to Australia in the 12 months ended February 29, 4,100 of whom left in the month of February alone, Statistics New Zealand said today.

That’s the biggest-ever annual net loss to Australia, as just 13,900 people crossed the Tasman to live in New Zealand, though short of the monthly record of 5,000 in February 2001.

People have been quitting New Zealand for Australia for years as they seek higher wages and a better standard of living across the ditch, and in 2008 the National Party won office campaigning on a promise to stem the outflow. ” – Source

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If any one of those 5,000 entered into a relationship or marriage/civil union with a working partner – they are no longer eligible for welfare.

If any of those 5,000 began a part time or seasonal job – they may no longer be eligible for welfare.

If any of those 5,000 went on to ACC; a programme of some description; jail; or died –  they’re no longer eligible for welfare.

Nek bit,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the number of people on that benefit is now at 53,479, which is the lowest March level since 2009.”

When they’re raising welfare as an election issue, National spins the figures high, and quotes all recipients of  state assistance,

More than three quarters of all beneficiaries will be forced to seek work or face cuts to their payments under sweeping recommendations from the Government’s Welfare Working Group…

That would more than double the numbers required to look for work from 133,200 of the 360,000 people presently on a benefit to 277,200. ” – Source

At such times, it suits National’s agenda to “spin” the figures as high as possible and accentuate them in the media.

When it suits their purpose to paint themselves in a good light, they quote low figures, and focus on those. The “spin” is more positive.

Moving along,

Ms Bennett is particularly pleased that 2800 young people who were beneficiaries moved into work last month.”

Let’s give Minister Bennett the benefit of vthe doubt. Let’s assume that every single one of those 2,800 young beneficiaries is now in  paid work. Let’s assume that work is full time, and not a part-time burger-flipper. Let’s assume it’s ‘permanent’ and not seasonal fruit-picking.

What  has the media release not covered?

Answer: it doesn’t state how many young beneficiaries there were to start with. And the figures are tragic,

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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Full Story

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Though undated, Duncan Garner’s blog-entry was written during National’s party conference in August last year.

So in one month, 2,800 young people moved into employment. Let’s hope that those jobs are permanent, because at 2,800 young people per month, it will take National just under two years to move all 58,000 into employment. That’s not counting new school leavers, graduates, young people returning to New Zealand, etc.

Next,

The National Government has shown real leadership with initiatives for youth employment, including the recently announced Job Ops with Training.”

That’s highly arguable. In fact, National has made a fetish out of leaving job creation to the market. Aside from the cycleway, it has created very few new jobs. Quite the opposite, they’ve thrown 2,500 state sector workers onto the unemployment scrap-heap.
As the media story states,

Overall the number of people on benefits fell by 6698 in March to 322, 951.”

And again, there is no way of telling where those 6,698 ended up.  In employment? Gone overseas? Prison? Shifted on to ACC? Entered new relationship? Died? Kidnapped by aliens?
As a point of interest, New Zealand’s ranking of NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) Youth 15-24, is near the OECD average. We are stacked between France and Portugal.
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By contrast, our Scandinavian/Nordic cuzzies are all within the top twelve on the ranking list.

Finland is #9.

We are #19.

I think Gerry Brownlee needs new Spin Doctors. Maybe he could borrow Paula Bennett’s?

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= fs =

National signals epic fail – and waves flag of surrender

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Last year’s election was fought on two main issues;

  • the economy and jobs
  • a tea-party in Epsom

Ignoring the last item, National was adamant that it had policies that would deliver 170,000 new jobs for this country,

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Full Story

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Key said,

New Zealand can’t keep borrowing money at $380 million a week. We can’t have New Zealanders exposed to high interested rates, New Zealanders need a plan for jobs.

This is a budget that actually delivers that.

Treasury say in the Budget, as a result of this platform on what we’ve delivered, 170,000 jobs created and 4% wage growth over the next three to four years.” – Ibid

Unfortunately, even the pro-National Party group, Business NZ could see no discernible plan from National,

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Full Story

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Nearly five months after Business NZ’s extraordinary criticism, National still appears to have no plan for job creation, aside from relying on Christchurch’s re-build – and a fair whack of sheer hope. Instead of implementing an economic plan from jobs, what we have is,

When the Ministry of Economic Development and Ministry of Science and Innovation, Steven Joyce, said,

A more efficient and effective ministry focused on lifting overall productivity and supporting the growth of competitive businesses is a crucial element in creating more jobs and higher wages, and boosting our standard of living.” – Source

… it appears that National has some fairly bizarre ideas as to what will create jobs.

No less disappointing is this statement from Finance Minister Bill English,  and Development Minister Steven Joyce, speaking in unison like Tweedledee and Tweedledum,

“Sustainable economic growth which creates permanent worthwhile jobs is best achieved by building a competitive economy that allows business to trade successfully with the rest of the world,” the Ministers say. ” – Source

In effect, National has adopted a hands-off policy to job creation, leaving it to the “market” to deliver new jobs,

The reality is that if we want more and better jobs for New Zealanders we need to encourage more businesses to be based here. To do that, the Government is focused on making it easier for businesses to access the six key areas they need to grow.  ” – Ibid

So having abrogated all responsibility for direct job creation in this country, National is defaulting to Plan B;

  • Deflect reponsibility by shifting blame on to victims on economic stagnation
  • Paint welfare beneficiaries as “lazy lifestylers”
  • Make life harder for welfare recipients
  • Look tough in front of National voters

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Full Story

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National’s Bene-Bashing Bill  will include,

  • Managed payments for young people and teen parents that will pay essential costs directly and provide a payment card for living costs.
  • Youth service providers will be incentivised to help young people into work, education or training.
  • Young people will be encouraged to take budget or parenting courses with weekly bonus payments.
  • Introduction of a guaranteed childcare assistance payment.
  • Information sharing between government departments to target school leavers likely to go on a benefit at 18.
  • Sole parents on the DPB, women alone and widow’s benefits will have to look for part-time work when their children are five or older.
  • They will have to look for full-time work when their children are 14.
  • If they have additional children while on a benefit they will have to look for work after one year.

Source

No mention of jobs.

No suggestion of  “more exports, more real jobs”,

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In fact, like Dear Leader’s   “State of the Nation” speech on 15 March, there is very little emphasis at any job creation whatsover. Throughout his  2,990 word-speech, job-creation is not mentioned once. But Key does refer to an expectation in  “reduction in long-term welfare dependency“.

How a “reduction in long-term welfare dependency” can be achieved whilst not investing in job creation is one of those unanswerable puzzles  of right wing parties like National.

It probably also did not help the plight of unemployed, solo-parents, etc, that Paula Bennett did away with most of the Training Incentive Allowance – an allowance she herself benefitted from when she was a  solo-mother,  going through University.

National is trapped. Trapped in a free-market paradigm of  hands-off government where only the ‘Market’ can create jobs, and a right wing government’s role is simply to keep taxes low; ministeries small; and regulations minimal.

The trap is that when the ‘Market” fails to deliver expectations, National is left with the ultimate responsibility of why the economy is still stagnating and so many people are out of work.

Default Plan B: shift responsibility onto welfare beneficiaries and infer that they are choosing a deliberate “lifestyle” and “welfare dependency”.

Outcome: National absolved of reponsibility.

The irony is that while right wingers are hot on personal responsibility – right wing parties like National are quick to dodge any form of it.

I leave the final word to the National Party and it’s “values”,

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Actually, no, I’ll have the last word: when National fails to deliver – expect blame to be dumped on scapegoats. Preferably the most vulnerable ones who can’t fight back.

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Additional

TVNZ: Budget 2011 – Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs

NZ Herald: Business NZ sees no economic plan

NZ Herald: Cycleway jobs fall short

NZ Herald: ‘Super ministry’ plans unveiled

Bill English: Business success at heart of Govt growth plan

Previous Blog posts

Performance Pay? Why not!

Once upon a time there was a solo-mum

Great Myths Of The 21st Century (#2)

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Good onya, Sue!

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!


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Once upon a time there was a solo-mum…

… and a Wicked Wacko Witch.

Sally* is 37 and a solo-mother with an 18 year-old (Wayne*) and 11 year (Zack*) old sons.

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Sally had Wayne to her first partner, but the relationship did not last because of drug-taking and violent abuse on his part. (Some months after they separated, he committed suicide.) Sally went on to the DPB, raising her newborn son by herself.

Seven years later, Sally met someone else and formed a relationship with him. The relationship went well and she became pregnant (a son, Zack) to her new partner.

As  her pregnancy progressed, Sally’s partner seemed to go of the rails,  and he increasingly  took up  drink and drugs with his boozy mates. As Sally said, he “was more into his mates than his family” and she finally  threw him out.

Sally was adamant she did not want someone like him as a role-model for her sons. She went back on the DPB and began to examine her options in life.

Eventually, Sally  applied for a course at Victoria University for a bachelors degree  in early childhood education. She applied for, and got, the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA).

Zack’s father saw his young son a couple of times during his first year as a newborn and infant, but thereafter showed little interest in maintaining contact. He eventually disappeared from Sally and her children’s life. She was on her own to raise her sons – a role she took seriously, and sought no new relationships with men.

Instead, she applied herself to her university course.

Sally says that the TIA helped her immensely, paying her transport, study-costs, fees, and childcare for her sons. She says,

You could only get the TIA on the DPB, not on the dole, which I thought was unfair.”

After her graduation, Sally followed up with a Masters degree, which took another four years in part-time study. During the final two years of her uni studies, she took up a part-time job. This decreased the amount she received on the DPB, and her part-time job was taxed at the Secondary Tax Rate (her benefit was considered as a “primary job” by the IRD).

Sally took out a student loan for her M.Ed, as WINZ would not pay the Training Incentive Allowance for higher university education.

One could view the “claw back” of her DPB and higher tax-rate on her part-time job as a dis-incentive which penalised Sally, and others in her position, but she persevered. With end-of-year tax refunds, she says it “all squared out” – but she could have done with the extra money through the year.

Sally graduated and got her Masters degree in early childhood education. By this time, Wayne was 14 and Zack, 6. One month later, she found a full time job and replaced the DPB with a good salary. She says that the MA gives her an extra $11,000 per annum.

During her studies and part time job, Sally raised her two sons – one of whom was increasingly “challenging” with Aspergers and ADHD.

(This blogger can confirm that young Zack – whilst a bright, personable child – can also be “a handful”, and was effectively thrown out of his previous school for “disruptive behaviour”.)

We discussed the Training Incentive Allowance, which Paula Bennet used to put herself through University. I asked her,

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With being on the DPB, and with the availability of the TIA, do you think it assisted and motivated you to get yourself of the Benefit?”

Sally replied,

With the TIA, definitely. If I’d have to borrow money, yeah, I think that would’ve been quite daunting, I guess. I mean, I had to take out a student loan anyway, so if I’d have to borrow more, it would’ve taken longer to pay back. The extra assistance helped.”

I asked,

So the TIA, you believe, was a good incentive?

Sally responded,

Yep, yep, otherwise some people would probably stay on the benefit, especially when working part-time and being on a part benefit, is  hardly  worth it, especially at a certain level. So I think training to get a higher income to make it worth going off the benefit and not have to borrow thousands of dollars for it, yeah, that’s a good incentive.”

Sally has now been off  the DPB; in paid employment for the last four and a half years; and paying tax on a good salary. She is also spending more, and her oldest son, Wayne is now doing tertiary education himself.

Being a taxpayer means that she is now “paying it forward”, to support the next person who requires state assistance. This is what welfare should be about.

Unfortunately for us, the Minister for Social Welfare, Paula Bennett, who was on the DPB herself and used the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a University degree – has canned the TIA.

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Paula Bennett was on the DPB and used the Training Incentive Allowance to gain a University degree.

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Bizzarre.

Only a National Government can screw up a system that actually succeeded in training and upskilling people; getting them off welfare; and into paid work. One cannot help but wonder if National secretly wants thousands of people on welfare, to create a  pool of cheap labour, and drive down wages…

Sally has worked hard; bettered herself; improved her family’s financial position; and has raised two sons in a good home – one of whom is in tertiary education now.

This is a good outcome due to progressive government policy.

Please, Mr Key, may we have some more?

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* Sally and her son’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.

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“One law for all” – except MPs. (Part Rua)

2 February 2012 4 comments

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The issue of privacy, politicians,  government departments, and ordinary citizens is something that has played out in the public arena in the last few years…

In 2009,  two women;  solo-mothers;  on the domestic purposes benefit;  criticised the Government for cutting the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA).

This was the same TIA that Paula Bennett herself used to put herself through University,

I have never made a secret of the fact I have been on and off the benefit and that I did receive the TIA.

What I can tell those people who are looking at tertiary study is that it’s not going to be easy but if they back themselves, and this Government is backing them as well, then they can get off the benefit. They may even end up a cabinet minister.” – Source

The two women were on training courses to be a teacher and  nurse.

In retaliation to criticism, Bennett gained  access to their MSD (Ministry of Social Development)  files and released figures regarding the two women’s WINZ payments, to the media.  In doing so, Bennett clearly violated the women’s, privacy,

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Full Story

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Bennett defended her actions by stating that she wanted to  “round up a one-sided story“.  Bennett added that “she had not sought the women’s permission she felt they had taken the matter public by talking to the news media and writing on the internet“. (Source)

So there you go, folks. The rules set by the current regime are simple; if you criticise the government and talk to the media – be prepared to have the State retaliate, using your own personal information against you. (Stalin would be proud!)

Fast forward to December, last year,

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Full Story

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WINZ head,  Janet Grossman said,

These people have let us down badly. Their actions cast a shadow over our honest and hard working staff who understand that client privacy is sacrosanct.”

It is a shame that Paula Bennett’s – and other politicians – understanding of “sacrosanct privacy” appears to differ  markedly  from what you and I might think on the subject.

So  it was hardly surprising that  John Key was scathing in the matter of  a secretly-recorded conversation between himself and John Banks,  at the Urban Cafe in Epsom last year,

I’m not bothered in the slightest about what is on the tape, secondly, I am very bothered by the tactics that I believe have been deliberately deployed by the ‘Herald on Sunday’.” – Source

Politicians, though,  have recourse to  the full force of State power – the police – to guard their privacy. And John Key certainly seemed to have no qualms about engaging the Police on this issue. After all, as Key stated,

The good thing is we’ve lowered the crime rate by seven per cent across the country so they do have a little bit of spare time and this is a really important issue.” – Source

A politician’s privacy is “important” – even if half the media-contingent in Auckland were present at the meeeting between Banks and Key.  Folks can see for themselves just how private their conversation really was,

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The “moral” of this story?

If you’re an employee at WINZ, and access personal files of clients without appropriate reasons – then expect to lose your job.

If you’re the Prime Minister – your conversations are always private. Never mind the dozens of  journalists you’ve invited to the latest pre-arranged photo-op. (If in doubt, the Police can be called to enforce the Prime Minister’s wishes.)

If you’re a recipient of social welfare – then your privacy is at the discretion of government ministers.

Have I missed anything out?

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Previous Blog entries

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

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