The powerless & poor are the first casualties of neofascism, not social media citizens



Each week that goes by at the moment feels like another hammer blow against the health an wellbeing of our country and our people.

We all know that democracy is taking a huge hit through the GCSB bill. Huge respect to all of you who are organising and fighting against its almost inevitable passage.

Another kind of hit is taking place too. It’s a lot more gradual, but its impact is so damaging that some individuals and some families will never fully recover.

I’m talking, no surprises here, about Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms.

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The second big lot kicked in last month and already beneficiary advocacy services like our group Auckland Action Against Poverty are seeing the results: women close to retirement age and caring for grandchildren harassed daily by Work and Income to get paid work; people with major mental and/or physical issues threatened and intimidated, resulting in incalculable harm to their health and that of those around them; drug testing used as a sharp and simple way to get people off the benefit – and into what?

I sometimes think that John Key, Paula Bennett and all their crew will only be happy when they’ve returned Aotearoa to some 21 with beggars on every pavement, abandoned children at employers’ doors and thievery an everyday mode of existence for the poor. There are moments when I suspect we’re just about there already.

Yesterday a timely news article ‘Doctors told to prescribe work ethic’ reminded us all of the role medical professionals are increasingly expected to play as an integral part of MSD’s new sanctioning regime.

I would like to challenge nurses, doctors and other professionals out there to consider the part you may be playing – now or in the future – in practically assisting the Government to cause direct physical and mental harm to your patients.

Are your professional bodies discussing the ethics of this? Are you and your representatives taking it up with Government? Or are you sitting back and grumbling a bit, but just letting it happen, or even worse, actively complying with an unspeakable infringement of the Hippocratic oath?

We know the Government is also in the process of contracting out new so called employment services for people with mental health issues to private and NGO providers, services which will be used as a significant weapon in National’s war in the poor.

I understand that not all providers are sucked in by the Government’s ‘work first’ rhetoric, but I fear that others will believe the myth that paid work trumps all and chase the cash incentives, even when those in the mental health field should be the first to realise that for many just surviving through another day of wellness is a triumph of energy and will.

Yes, extending the state’s spy and surveillance reach is an appalling move towards creeping neofascism.

But I do sometimes wish that those who care about democracy might at times give a little more support, on the street, financially, and in other ways, to those groups who are fighting quite a different battle, against huge odds, for those who have the very least in Aotearoa right now.

If you live in Auckland and you or a family member or friend need help with a Work and Income issue, please feel free to contact AAAP for assistance ph 634 0591. Interested in supporting AAAP? See our website


  1. Thank you Sue for giving voice to this issue when all we hear from the Medical Assn is silence. I wonder what ethical path they would advise their fellow health practitioners to follow?

  2. It’s not easy to advocate for the poor and vulnerable as you inevitably become the same target of the venomous rhetoric Kiwi’s have an alarmingly fresh enthusiasm for. I have great respect for anyone that does. I’ve worked as volunteer support in our prison system over the past 15+ years, a system which houses a good proportion of the mentally ill. Their treatment is appalling with practices such as withholding medication being used as a disciplinary tool. The corrections Dept has been strongly criticised by the International HRC over the years and legislative amendments are made but NOTHING has changed. It’s a microcosm of the social sickness you highlight – an absolute disgrace. Mental health services are well aware of this and the silence is deafening. It seems the Hippocratic oath is subject to political expedience. Shame on them.

  3. The speed with which so many parts of New Zealand society are being coerced into this government’s agenda is truly frightening. I don’t think it is creeping neofascism but a full on sprint to the finish line. When you get the medical profession expected to carry out the government’s agenda you are pretty much at where Nazi Germany was by around 1936. The Nazis used Jews as its scapegoats. This government is using beneficiaries.

  4. People are only poor due to social and economic policy, but the reduction in welfare will cause a direct rise in criminality and help to fill the private prisons.

    Social media citizens if proved too influential may get their wings clipped, but big brother is not concerned as their voices are mostly lost in the more abundant disinformation.

  5. Neo fascism is on the rise globally, and while gay and lesbians are beaten up or even killed in Russia, in the UK there are increasing incidents of disabled being harassed, discriminated against and persecuted by some nasty “citizens”, who blame them for their country’s ill economic health.

    They have there already been through some rounds of ruthless, draconian welfare reforms that Paula Bennett and her Ministry of Social “Development” (I question the relevance of the last word in there now) are imposing on sick and disabled with incapacity to work right here in New Zealand now.

    Is it due to Paula Bennett being a bit slow and “dim” upstairs, that she feels there is an urgent need to repeat flawed and failed policies that were and are being tried in the UK and a few other places, or is she really so plain nasty to wave the stick and pull away any tiny carrot that I am struggling to see?

    We know where much of this drive and claim comes from, that work is “beneficial to people’s health”, that “work is good for you”, that it is even “therapeutic”. It all comes from one tight school of thought, based mainly around a department at Cardiff University in Wales, the UK, and headed by one Mansel Aylward, and his perverted “bio psycho-social model”.

    He and a few of his “expert” buddies, financed by a corrupt and sued private insurance giant called Unum Insurance (having their own agenda), have been advising Paula Bennett, and she and this government fell for the “pseudo science” they present. It is based on selected reports by selected “researchers”, most in the UK, and hashed up and presented as the supposed “evidence” that it is all “scientifically proved”. They even claim that around 70 per cent of mentally ill, or those with musculo-skeletal illness merely suffer from “illness belief”, and therefore are not seriously sick, and need to be ushered into work.

    Dr David Bratt, Principal Health Advisor for MSD and WINZ has since at least 2010 embraced these theories with enthusiasm, and he likens benefit dependence to “drug dependence”, which even now the Auckland City Mission had adopted ad “evidence based” “findings”.

    But to read and analyse what all this is built upon, perhaps do some checks, and that applies to the ones in the medical profession also, who get inundated with reports and new findings, often simply accepting what some parrots repeat to them endlessly:

    Fight fascism in the beginning, or it will be too late, I say, and that is a message I have to GPs and other doctors and medical professionals, who have to check all these new “expectations” MSD and WiNZ place on them with their sound conscience, and their Code of Ethics!

    • The only ‘blessing’, if there is one, is that NZ doesn’t have the same passion for buying/reading the red-top newspapers. We are lacking The Sun and the Daily Mail and other drum-banging tabloids with their endless stories of scroungers and skivers and fake disabled people so the ‘we’re not like THEM’ people have less fuel for their outrages. There still seems to be balanced reporting on welfare issues. It’s not all in favour of the government’s proposals.

      You’re right, though, Marc. The awful infection that is Atos work testing and the ‘work is good for you’ brigade have been around in virulent form since National came in for its first term. If we ever go any further down this attack track we’ll probably be seeing the suicides just like England’s.

      (Yes, Gosman. There is an abundance of personal anecdotal evidence to back this up in this country. Sue and a team of enquirers did an investigation around the same time as the overpaid Paula Rebstock was stirring the whitewash.)

      I think this is where National is playing ‘clever’: people often DO know someone who is collecting payments from WINZ or ACC that they’re past needing. Carefully overlooking their own foibles and perks from work, they become ‘outraged’ and honk about how ‘the government should Do Something to stop these Awful Feckless People. And the government obligingly dishes up a knee-jerk. Happiness all round – until it strikes close to home. But that doesn’t happen often enough, or widely enough to get through the inherent Kiwi smugness.

      Not quite a losing battle – yet definitely an uphill struggle. And the Outraged, a large talking, voting, block, are NEVER going to get it. Ever.

  6. We are regressing back into Charles Dickens times, but much worse. John Key/ Paula Bennet represent perfect caricatures of villains in his novels. They’ve probably never heard of Charles Dickens.
    It’s truly appalling, a hideous nightmare, where we’re at today..
    Doesn’t help either that the media has been bought, the general public been dumbed down, and morality, social conscience and ethics been carefully & strategically phased out. ( Notice also how the concept of
    social WELFARE as in, Well Being of people, has also been phased out)
    Sociopaths are the ruling class now, and I don’t say this lightly!

    • Please provide evidence the media gas been bought. Does this include State owned nedia as well? What about Campbell live?

      • Gosman –

        As of 14 August 2013 a deep breathing voice down Campbell’s neck has ensured that he is no longer going to challenge or expose anything that seriously, which this government, the PM or any advertiser on TV3 may dislike or seriously disapprove.

        Have you not seen the sudden change in his conduct and behaviour as of then? It is self evident. He is not free to say and report on whatever he likes. There is NO doubt about it.

        The same applies to state broadcasters TVNZ (appearing like any commercial channel there is), and slowly increasingly to Radio New Zealand National. Even Maori TV have recently become a bit more “image conscious” and trendy.

        The only television channels available on Free To Air in Auckland, that are somewhat independent on NZ government and commercial interests, are the 3 Chinese ones, strange that is. But they of course “serve” another “master”, or whatever you may call it.

        So much for free broadcasting and free press in New Zealand in 2013. I know people who sent in highly interesting, revealing stories or info to TVNZ and Campbell Live, it has never been taken up and reported on, as it is neither the simple, headline hitting, nor the “emotive” and sentimental story stuff, which requires little effort and is quick to serve up.

        They do not bother reading too much, let alone research stuff, or for that sake dare to seriously challenge any senior politician of the government and establishment.

        Only those like you, who do anyway support this kind of direction, you either do not notice what is going on, or you do not want to notice it.

        “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”, this is the motto of the present and the future. If you dare challenging that, behold, and sleep in places not known, to go on the safe side.

          • Visible evidence, on the “balance of probabilities”, as that is the sufficient proof to Paula Bennett and our present government also, so what is your point, peculiar “gander” or whatever???

          • Like this you mean?
            Up until recently I enjoyed watching Press TV (Iranian English speaking news Channel) off the satellite. Whilst this news certainly had its own agenda, it offered a completely different narrative. I found it to be very informative, well researched and professional; this allowed me to listen to two differing competing narratives and the luxury of drawing my own conclusions.
            This service was removed globally off the air on 1st July 2013 when the USA pressured the European satellite providers to remove it as part of the trade sanctions against Iran, (considered a violation of satellite service provider rules). This looks very dubious to me, the USA being the champions of free speech and freedom of the press simply don’t want a competing narrative, they want to be the providers of the only truth in the Middle East and seemingly throughout the western world, the removal of that service to my knowledge was never even mentioned on any of our western so called news channels, just gone. The good news is that at the service is still available on the internet for the moment. I use this as an example only.

      • I have long felt the same way. We have a media that is totally biased towards national. Protecting their (unjustifiably) high wages. Key is constantly given face time, while the leader of the opposition does not. They constantly refer to the greens as “the looney left” and idiots like Paddy Gower brand labour MP’s with idiot names. Doug Garner’s constant polls in the last election, I am sure had a negative effect on people bothering to vote. we used to have great credible intelligent journalists in our media. We now have a bunch of shallow fawning sycophants. I find myself longing for the likes of Simon Bridges and Lindsay Perigo.

  7. I think all of us here online contribute to the surveillance state by providing public commentary that is designed to be surveyed – by the state and everyone else. I am personally trying to reach the goal of writing and posting a handwritten, private message on paper at least once a week, partly in order to make it more personal, and partly to give financial support to the international postal system.

    These are not messages that somehow really have to be private, but by making them private, they can be sent and received with more feeling. We all need to work to generate and maintain the private wealth of friendship. That’s something that “poor” and “rich” alike can lack.

  8. with all due respect Sue I believe that a lot of people use Facebook etc because it’s free communication and you only need to top up and get so much data etc.. so it’s not really about a social divide in terms of a dollar, more like can you think further ahead than your next feed of dirty bird (just look at Natural News, people, to see what’s in the “chicken”) but i agree with what you are saying about the Hippocratic oath: privacy, personal integrity and autonomy all being seen as tradeable commodities- ha!

  9. Do you remember when there was an alternative? I don’t, I’m too young, but I heard it was a bit better.
    Apparently those were the days when capitalism at least pretended to give a shit.

  10. Now, hallo, all there, this is a new one, more revelations on how the welfare reforms were basically illegally introduced, by using hand-picked “experts” to “advise” MSD, to ignore truly independent input, and by using and abusing volunteer members to a Health and Disability Panel, that Paula Bennett appointed, just to tick off the plans they had all along. Shame on this crap government, and the lackeys they used:

  11. As far as I am aware the government subsides both NZ broadcasts and programs as well Doctors visits; count how many (NZ doctors out South).
    The media has always given a bad rap and scaring people in to thinking that Maoris and Polynesian are lazy that don’t want to work always killing and on a crime and drug rampage.
    But unemployment, and beneficiaries, crime, drugs and low social economics does not discriminate.
    The dumbing or subduing the population of free thought and the right to live a healthy life has been squashed into survival.
    I know many people who work full days who are still struggling to pay rent what some call the working poor.
    We/ New Zealand are in a crisis this is in no way an over stated statement. We have a health system that is failing, and the social wellbeing is thrown out the window unless you have money.
    Im not a racist but a realist we need to close the airport now and concentrate on NZ.
    My question that I find it hard to understand if we all no the fact that you and I are struggling to juggle finances and life why do we except the barriers what people impose on us? I have also been reading a little bit and wondered who are the shadow Goverment?

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