‘Every dollar that is spent on welfare has to be earned
by a hard-working New Zealander.’ Thus Paula Bennett,
who by fronting the latest ‘welfare reforms’ has probably
wiped out in one hit whatever goodwill she brought
with her into the job of Social Development Minister.
All the evidence is that, apart from a tiny minority, the
kind of people who get welfare benefits move from
work to welfare and back to work again, depending on
the state of the economy; the average stay on the
unemployment benefit is less than a year. In other
words, the hard-working New Zealanders who earn the
dollars that get spent on welfare are also the people
who gratefully accept that welfare when they need it.
They themselves have helped to pay the taxes that make
this possible. With remarks like the above, Bennett
contrives to paint a picture of two New Zealands, one
industrious and responsible, the other leechlike and lazy.
In fact, we are all in this together, as one people: today’s
‘hard-working New Zealander’ (it could be you) is
tomorrow’s beneficiary, and vice versa.
Politicians, particularly those on the right, commonly use
the failings of a few as a stick to beat the many with; to
see government ministers like Bennett doing it now is
desperately depressing. At a time of high unemployment,
where exactly are the jobs for those who will be forced off
welfare by these 'reforms'? Maybe there are two New
Zealands after all, because the picture this paints for me
is of one standing in a warm well-lit doorway driving the
other out into the snow.