Where is Paula Bennett’s baseball bat?


When the current government is written into history Housing Minister Nick Smith will be remembered as the politician who tried to drive a stake into the heart of state housing.

He’ll be remembered as the man who said low-income families don’t deserve tenure (the right to stay in their home) no matter how long they have lived there and no matter how many times they have paid off the value of the house.

Last week Smith shepherded through parliament legislation to remove the right of tenure from all state housing tenants. From 2011 new state tenants have been told their state home is temporary only (“reviewable tenancy” is Smith’s jargon) and they must move into the private rental market as soon as possible. From last week this will apply to all Housing New Zealand tenants.

So while the middle class and the wealthy have tenure Smith says this will be denied to low-income families. The heartless bastard.

In the same legislation National approved private “social housing” providers to receive the same government subsidy as state house tenants.

Smith called it the most significant change to state housing in 75 years and he’s right.
The initial plan is to dramatically reduce state house numbers while increasing the number of people in “social housing” whereby the government shifts housing responsibility onto community groups and the private sector.

Assessing a family’s housing needs will shift from Housing New Zealand to the Ministry of Social Development with HNZ now being just another social housing provider whose role will decrease dramatically over time as state houses are transferred to private providers till state housing is a memory. In typical neo-liberal double-speak Smith calls it “creating a market in social housing”.

And when you have some shameful policy to get through then it’s a good idea is to find an exception to divert attention from the real purpose.

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So Nick Smith was ready last week with his media sound bite to say the legislation was needed because the captain of a fishing vessel in Nelson was making more than $100,000 a year and was living in a state house when there were more needy families who the government wanted to help. (Never mind that the fisherman would have been paying Housing New Zealand a market rental anyway because the maximum 25% of income to be paid on rent would have superceded market rentals in his case) Just another version of National’s beneficiary bashing.

Smith is right to say there are many families desperately in need of affordable housing. There are 5,000 families on the state house waiting list and this is after National slashed tens of thousands of people from the books in its first term of government.

Meanwhile Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is appalled at the situation of families living in a trailer park in west Auckland where people are paying huge rents for cockroach infested caravans. Bennett was seething about the injustice but it was all just show for the 3rd Degree cameras. She put it in for an Oscar. The trailer park is the logical result of decades of state failure to provide quality affordable housing for its citizens. If Bennett was serious she’d be in Nick Smith’s office with a baseball bat.

From day one in 1935 National has hated state housing saying “state housing creates dependency”. This meaningless mantra is quoted to anyone who stands close enough to a National MP for long enough. The last time I heard it was from Alfred Ngaro, a modern day Uncle Tom who is trotted out whenever National needs political cover for policies which will undermine low-income Maori and Pacific Island families.

In reality Alfred’s National Party mates are busy creating a culture of corporate dependency on government handouts while turfing low-income families from their homes.

Smith’s policy is social vandalism. The very families which need housing stability the most are to be made less secure and less stable.

We have a desperate shortage of affordable homes in New Zealand but never in our history, or anywhere else for that matter, has the private sector provided quality affordable housing for people on low-incomes.
The state is the only organisation that can do so on the scale required for every family to have a decent home.

The next government will have to not only repair Nick Smith’s vandalism but will have to address the crisis in affordable housing with a programme of state-house building such as we saw in the years following the Second World War when New Zealand built 10,000 state houses every year.

Any half-way-decent government would do nothing less.


  1. As soon as someone uses the term “beneficiary bashing” in their arguments about state funding they have lost. There needs to be a balance between the worth of the responsible citizen and the worth of the irresponsible ones. We need more responsible people to work and generate the funds necessary for adequate welfare.
    Dishonest and/or greedy beneficiaries are the problem and sorting them out is long overdue.
    In our opinion – if you have children and expect other people to pay for them you are a disgrace to Aotearoa.

    • Ten out of ten for the rant.

      Now – define ‘responsible’ and add ‘responsible to whom’.

      To work at what? And which responsible citizens are offering this work? Where? And are those same citizens responsible for providing on the job training?

      What is ‘adequate welfare’? Our current levels are inadequate to meet rising costs of power, transport, food, rent without having to apply for additional funding.

      Dishonest and greedy people can be found everywhere. Some know how to misuse the welfare provisions of the state. Some know how to exploit their employers, fellow club members, trusting folk. In all these categories culprits are caught and sorted out. Though it is disappointing to remark that so many enjoy long and rewarding careers despite costing others their peace of mind.

      Please feel free to spread your distaste wide enough to cover the venal company directors, enterprising entrepreneurs, shady politicians, double-dipping landlords and others from our Good and Great and Responsible layers of society. They are each worthy of scorn and opprobrium. Aren’t they?

      And I am delighted to note that you childless ones are so keen to see our country freed from the awful corporate welfare that is Working for (some) Families. Breeders should NEVER be rewarded with bonuses. EVER. Not at any level of income. Right?

    • This is a very common misconception of the way the world works, perpetrated by National, talkback radio and the mainstream newsmedia as well.

      The trouble is, it doesn’t match up with reality at all. The biggest money wasters are at the top of the heap, not the bottom. Much more so now that National’s been in government for a while.

      http://www.wheresmytaxes.co.nz is a good guide to where your tax dollar goes – and you’ll see that a surprisingly small fraction of MSD’s budget goes on the unemployment benefit.

      Furthermore, it is the responsibilty of a good government to provide a safety net for those who need it. The steady increase in the number of beggars on the street is clear evidence that when it comes to this, the National Government is an abysmal failure.

    • you’re assuming that all poor people are beneficiaries. they’re not.

      not all beneficiaries are lazy and irresponsible. the number of people on benefits is more a function of the lack of jobs at the time in the economy. unemployment increases because the economy slows, not because people get more lazy.

      and the “if you have children” bollocks? what you are basically saying is the poor have no right to have children. think about that for a bit longer, it’s actually pretty inhumane.

      and what of the people whose circumstances change after they’ve conceived children? what of accidental pregnancies? should all the poor be forced to abort them? I bet you’d think forced sterilisation and/ or contraception is a good idea.

      your attitude is remarkably similar to some notable historic dictatorships. I think that should concern you, greatly. but it probably won’t.

    • Sally and Steve – consider yourselves lucky you were born into an affluent family. However, your position of privilege does nor give you the right to indulge of mindless moralising and judgementalism.

      It’s obvious you have no idea how the “other half” live.

  2. Sally and Steve — that’s odd, because a lot of people in this country at the moment find this the more repugnant argument for some reason, if I could replace certain words in the paragraph…

    “There needs to be a balance between the worth of the responsible CORPORATE and the worth of the irresponsible ones. We need more responsible CORPORATES to work and generate the funds necessary for adequate welfare.

    Dishonest and/or greedy CORPORATES are the problem and sorting them out is long overdue.

    In our opinion – if you have A COMPANY and expect other people to pay for them you are a disgrace to Aotearoa.”

    Fact: the corporate largesse handed out by way of subsidies, tax breaks and the like and the overwhelming environment of unaccountability we have seen writ large has generated a situation where corporate / privateering tax doges outstrip so-called beneficiary rorts 5-1 and yet … no sorting out of them, in any real sense.

    They’re the ones ultimately reponsible for employing those people supposed to work, pull themselves out of the trap, you can’t hold the baton over people shouting “Work damn you!” … when there is no real (let’s get hard and honest about it) work of substance being created.

    The unemployment situation, dire straits and circumstances many find themselves in – often NOT through intended rort or scamming, much as that appeals to the neo-liberals, both overt and in disguise – are a situation caused by taking off the brakes on regulation, oversight and that much vaunted quality screamed by those who display nothing of the sort: accountability for ones actions.

    Privateers (corporate pirates with nothing on their mind but the bottom line as the measure of efficiency and worth) can create better solutions to this, affordable housing, take a long term view about it all, they can *make a choice* to do this. But short term returns, spurred by the mantra of market investment and a quick buck off the back of that market – and let’s face it, they doing absolutely nothing to earn said returns apart from a trip down to the stockbroker (or not even moving from their chair at all if they do it online) – seem to elicit howls of rage and apoplexy if people even DARE suggest they might pay an equitable balance toward society.

    We know who should be coming in for the hardest line as far as dishonesty, greediness and sheer disgraceful behaviour here.

    The language is always twisted: there is no argument, and never ever has been about “taking your pie”. People aren’t asking for MORE than they ought to, but it becomes really ugly when the same people screaming blue murder over “tax hikes on the rich” aren’t even IN the category of the ones who would pay a little more. And it is only a little more. The benefit, so to speak, of a graduated tax system is that extra tax comes off the top tier of the tax brackets, so it isn’t even applied to the *total* of the tax, but an extra off a subset of tax. People who don’t understand this don’t understand their own tax system, and the amount of people who don’t is frankly unbelievable.

    A very soul searching argument needs to be had about what we actually value now in this country.

    That’s what is seriously overdue.

  3. My question is why are the left, (who also represent the majority when the truth behind the issues is communicated well)- always complaining about right wing economic thugs with baseball bats?

    Why are you standing as representatives and commentating on a long corrupted ‘democratic’ system (thereby endorsing it), when you all must surely know it will always deliver a negative outcome for the vulnerable and the environment?

    Why not build a legally binding peoples democracy that preserves the truth and protects the people and the environment?


    • This is just the same kind of thinking that put hitler in power. A nice democratic society, where the atrocities that occured there, still occur today in our so called wonderful democratic societies. When are people going to wake up to the fact that there is no such thing as a democracy. Please give me an example of a democracy for arguements sake, that actually does what you think it does or can do?

  4. @ Sally and Steve .
    Nice names . Where’d you get them ? Walmart ?

    Anyway , I digress .

    Tch ! I haven’t read such blind , ignorant hatred in ages . Where have you been hiding ? Under what rock I might ponder ?
    You’re all ‘what O darkie’ , setting the lazy bennie straight . Good old ‘ How dare theys ! ‘ and ‘ Serves them rights ‘ . How quaint ? Fuck off . And I would assume you have the money to fuck off with . So , write a cheque darlings and use the cash to fuck off with . The filthy bennie has no money and you do presumably so the onus is on you so fuck off then . You must surely have a car . You could get in it , start it up and fuck off in that ? If not , and I doubt that , you could catch a cab to the airport ? Call a cab , get in it with all your pinks and beige’s all nicely packed and then drive along . Chat friendly-like to the poor dark skinned cabbie with the beastly Phd . Get out of the cab , walk to the terminal , get on that flight to Germany and fuck off to there . But don’t be surprised that if when you get there and you open up your odorous consumerist gob holes and espouse the same dumb , bland , bleak rhetoric that they too tell you to fuck off . So then where will you fuck off too , that’s the conundrum ?
    You’ve been fucked off from here , you’ll get fucked off from there and so you’re fucked in the middle and it’s here , that I rest my case . You are in fact fucked . So again , fuck off .

    Oh look ? I’m playing Sally and Steve tennis with Germany !

  5. Oh ! One more thing . If you find paula bennetts baseball bat ? I can find a use for it .

    What’s in the pot by the way . Boiled bennie baby ?

  6. Yes, and the sad fact is, very, very few out in the public know about the whole details of the policies and the longer term agenda that Smith and National follow, supported by lackeys as Banks and Dunne.

    The mainstream media has also contributed by not reporting facts on all this, and simply rewriting the press releases by Smith and his government into editorials and “articles”.

    In fact we are facing the abolition of social housing as New Zealand has known it for decades. This comes after various governments have intentionally neglected social housing under Housing NZ Corporation, which led to homes becoming derelict, due to damage, decay and poor insulation.

    No new stock was built, and gradually this “market driven” new approach was being prepared.

    I can see WINZ not only making appalling decisions about who has to be down and out and desperate enough, to “deserve” a social home offered by outsourced providers, I do see WINZ offer also special needs grants for sleeping bags, for those that will have no place to go, but the bridge down the road, or some shelter in a park or domain near urban areas.

    The war on the poor continues, and with all this propagandistic crap we get told about “helping” people, the opposite is true.

    Seeing Bennett try to present herself as “caring” at a meeting shown in ‘3rd Degree’ last week, where she waged war against an admittedly rip-off caravan park owner, that really made my stomach turn inside out.

    Where are the decent, secure and affordable homes for those that have to live there, who are just the tip of the iceberg of the whole problem? Maybe the next thing is to turn old, inhospitable prisons into “cage style” homes for singles? I would not put it past Bennett and her government mates and masters.

  7. When private enterprise (the unsubsidized lot), and social housing providers can house all those who need such housing, then the state wouldn’t need to. However as we all know the private sector is incapable without rent subsidies and social housing which is a good concept is nevertheless dependent on the good will of charitable organisations. The state is still the only source of houses they once provided at cheap affordable rentals or housing loans at 3-5% interest. Let’s look for practical solutions to housing instead of leaving it to an ideology that is not interested in building houses.

  8. My family rent out portable sleepouts (one of many such companies) but Housing New Zealand say they can adequately house all those that need it and they can’t allow our sleepouts on their properties.

    One family even got told that it was better to sleep on a couch than in a secure, insulated and private room. Yeah, right.

    While a family waits for their new home (and the need is often temporary) they must live with too many people in too small a house.

    I’ve seen the relief of private tenants and home owners when they know that a cabin can help. Surely HNZ tenants deserve the same flexibility?

    • May I ask please…………Do you live in one? A shortage of housing is not the problem. A shortage of affordable housing is the delimma. It does not just effect people who live in housing nz houses either. It effects most of us. Not sure if the housing market crashing will solve the problem. No different to the problem people have finding affordable food. There is no reason for anyone in the world to be left hungry, yet we all know why that is the case. Do we just give the hungry food stamps?

  9. Never let it be said the National solves problems with positive action. Instead, they remove the problem by attacking those affected by their policies, by changing criteria of eligibility.

    Changing WINZ rules to push unemployed off welfare to reduce official numbers is one such tactic. (No need to actually create new jobs.)

    Kicking people out of state housing is another.

    On the positive side, this should be an opportunity to inform every state house tenant of National’s policies and get them out to vote next year. Tenants’ own well-being is now directly threatened by this miserable government and selfish supporters like “Sally and Steve”.

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