Centrelink scandal has been happening in NZ for decades

By   /   January 11, 2017  /   7 Comments

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Labour and the Greens won’t touch the punitive neoliberal welfare state, but MANA and the Maori Party certainly can.

The horror of what Australia are doing to their own beneficiaries has been laid bare by the Centrelink scandal where a new big data sharing system (which is being mooted in NZ) has sent thousands of Australians debt collection threats.

Unfortunately this style of neoliberal welfare punishment has been operating in NZ for decades.

WINZ has over the last 30 years of neoliberalism become the worst abuser of poor people in the country. They refuse to tell beneficiaries what the ‘relationship’ equation is and as such have a secret spying department who trawl beneficiary social media accounts to catch them out having ‘relationships’. WINZ then claim this is benefit fraud.

How many beneficiaries have been caught out in this type of ‘fraud’? 60% of sole parent beneficiaries owe money to WINZ because of over payments which WINZ have called ‘fraud’.

This is just insane, these people will never get out of debt to WINZ and by refusing to explain what a relationship actually is, WINZ keep doing this to purposely create fear amongst beneficiaries in a corporate culture geared to intimidate and hurt the most vulnerable in NZ society.

Look at the horror of Kathryn’s story…

In August 2015 I sat through a whole day of hearing in the High Court on this sad case. What a convoluted sets of arguments were expounded to justify the punitive approach taken by the Crown.  That was the latest court event in a 15 year saga in which an unwell beneficiary is being pursued for the repayment of $20 a week.

Her debt arose from an accusation by an ex-partner that she had been receiving the Domestic Purposes Benefit over five years in the 1990s, alleging she was with him. She has always denied she was in a relationship in the nature of marriage in that period.

Unlike so many others who are told to plead guilty and show remorse to secure a lighter sentence, she refused to take that path and spent 6 months in prison even though she had a five year-old at the time. Her family have suffered enormously and unjustly.

A prison sentence was not enough for the MSD who have insisted she still owes them $117,000.

The costs to government let alone society to date have been huge. Some of the monetary costs are the Crown Law outlay of $85,000 for the last 15 years of Civil proceedings for debt recovery, the $11,000 for the costs of criminal prosecution before that, and an estimated $50,000 for the incarceration.

Barrister and journalist Catriona MacLellan is the author of Kathryn’s Story: How the Government spent well over $100,000 and 15 years pursuing a chronically-ill beneficiary mother for a debt she should not have

Kathryn’s Story is intended to inform and educate those in positions of power about the contexts of the lives of many defenceless women who may fall foul of the system used to establish relationship fraud

The case study also draws attention to the punitive approach to reparations that apply in the welfare system. Kathryn’s treatment is in sharp contrast to that for white collar tax evasion, which has been well documented by Lisa Marriott in recent Victoria University research.

Kathryn’s Story builds on CPAG’s work around relationship status as defined in the welfare system, in the 2014 report The complexities of “relationship” in the welfare system and the consequences for children.

CPAG is calling for a broad review of the use of a ‘couple’ as the unit for determining welfare support, as well as a major shift in attitude towards beneficiaries and sole parents by policy makers, so that relationship fraud convictions of sole parents become a thing of the past.

…the neoliberal welfare state can’t be challenged in NZ because Labour and the Greens are too terrified of being painted out as soft one beneficiaries so don’t bother with any real reform against these abusive state departments.

Once upon a time, before the neoliberal revolution the Labour Party introduced in the 1980s and did bugger all to repeal in the 2000s, these state welfare agencies were pillars of egalitarianism in NZ culture. By gutting them of compassion and focusing them on abusing beneficiaries they are the first organisations that demand urgent and radical reform.

Labour and the Greens won’t touch the punitive neoliberal welfare state, but MANA and the Maori Party certainly can.

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7 Comments

  1. james says:

    “Greens won’t touch the punitive neoliberal welfare state”

    Citation or supporting evidence, please.

    • There is no evidence. The Green policy has always been that Labour is far too punitive, they just haven’t been in a political position where they can wrestle Labour further left on the issue.

      The Green Party already supports a UBI in theory as-is, (in practice they have not decided how the details should be worked out so they don’t have a specific policy on how to do one, but then again neither do TOP or Labour) which is presumably the direction Bomber wants to go based on his comments about TOP.

  2. Nzone says:

    The rich is getting richer, the poor iis getting poorer.

  3. Z says:

    I know one Green MP who has been faithfully donating to a welfare advocacy group for some time now. It’s done quietly, without expectation of recognition which is probably why you haven’t heard of it.

  4. J S Bark says:

    Oh get real Martyn. The Maori Party?

    In the entire period of their time in existence they have supported, enabled and followed the National Party. For all the bloody good it has done them and the Maori people.

    Mana certainly have the balls and mana (pun sort of intended) to pull this one off but not the tired worn-out elitists in the Maori Party.

    They are Tories and have no interest in leftist ideas.

  5. Sheena Jackson says:

    People need to accept that Governments & the Rich want poor people to not exist…that is the bottom line.
    I was shocked to read that Bill Gates was quoted as saying that we need to get rid of the poorer countries that do not contribute anything to society.
    Hard to beleive some people think like this.

    Playing God !

  6. […] are tens of thousands of beneficiaries who have been trapped by the Neoliberal Welfare State into debt using fraudulent and vicious means. Allow beneficiaries to work off the debt (at a […]