When media as right wing as stuff.co.nz baulks at bennie bashing you know Paula has gone too far


When media as right wing as stuff.co.nz baulks at bennie bashing you know Paula has gone too far…

Beneficiary-bashing is, of course, a time-honoured political tradition. Like advertising, it’s annoying, but it works. Who doesn’t hate being ripped off by fraudsters who try to milk the welfare system?

What I hate more, however, is the dog-whistle to the small-minded, irrational envy that resides in all of us that someone, somewhere, is getting a better deal or an easier ride than we are.

…I reviewed our love affair we have as a country to denigrate and attack those on welfare in a blog last week

The three main cultural past times of NZers are beneficiary bashing, domestic violence and alcoholism.

…what makes Colin’s position slightly less credible however is that the criticism of bennie bashing can also be levelled against his media organisation. If Paula is dog whistling, she’s doing it with the aid of the very corporate media that Colin represents.

Here’s Stuff’s original story that does nothing to counter the bennie bashing mantra Colin complains about…

Crackdown on travelling beneficiaries
The Government is heralding a clampdown on the number of beneficiaries travelling overseas, although opponents say some are being wrongly penalised.

…it comes complete with a poll with no contextualisation.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

What if, instead of following Paula Bennett’s dog whistle, that news story opened with this…


… see how those facts immediately turn Paula’s bennie bashing on its head?

It’s the mean spitefulness and total lack of compassion masquerading as tough love for our weakest and most vulnerable members of society that is sickening.


  1. Are some in the New Zealand mainstream media getting a bad conscience now? Can we really believe that there will be change of heart, of tone and reporting, after so many years of “bennie bashing”? I doubt it, even if this one article Martyn refers to may signal some concerns.

    It is not just the disproportionate amounts of money involved in alleged benefit fraud and tax evasion on the other hand, there are justified concerns about the messages sent out by Work and Income and MSD, like the now so often repeated mantra of “work is good for your health”.

    I came across this story today:
    “What works and what doesn’t: How a job affects mental health”

    “I have been on some form of benefit through Work and Income for most of the last five years. I have been on the unemployment benefit, the sickness benefit and am now on the all-encompassing Jobseekers benefit. I also suffer from anxiety and severe depressive episodes.”

    “Meetings with case managers at Work and Income frequently featured a unhelpful and unsolicited medical advice, ranging from exercise to yoga to meditation to eating correctly to doing volunteer work. But by far their most common go to line was “Employment is the best path to recovery”.”

    “Employment can have a huge effect on mental health, but we cannot only recognise its positive contribution without admitting it has the ability to be a negative one as well. Work and Income’s mantra is not completely wrong; employment has been a huge step in my increasing mental health over the past eight months. However, on the flipside, an extremely unhealthy work environment in my late teens caused huge damage to my mental health, and contributed to years out of the workforce.”
    (Read the full story)

    Yet WINZ is determined to keep up the momentum and pushes for an expansion of their “mental health employment services”, involving outsourced service providers, placing mentally ill and other hard to refer clients into jobs on the open market.

    Radio NZ had an interview with WINZ Director for welfare reform, Sandra Kirikiri this morning, who did of course present it all as a great “success”, what they are doing.

    “WINZ expands scheme to support unemployed with illness issues”

    According to her clients are given “choices” or options, and one to one client contact with designated case managers, helping sick and disabled on benefits into work. She talks about “self assessment forms”, but does not say that these are done with certain expectations, and if a client is according to their Regional Health Advisors or Regional Disability Advisors able to do some work, there will be expectations that such clients will take part in measures offered. By the way the RHAs and RDAs are often not that qualified, at best former nurses, or various other staff with some vague “health qualifications”. Some have made some appalling recommendations in certain cases in the past. And they are all supervised by one Dr David Bratt, the Principal Health Advisor of WINZ, who likens benefit dependence to “drug dependence”.

    “WINZ staff interfere in treatment plans of beneficiaries”

    With the new outsourcing of supposedly “independent” work ability assessments, the expectations will only increase, that sick and disabled buckle to pressure to do at least some part time work, in mostly low paid, hardly fulfilling jobs.

    Some other media reports about risks and consequences of accidents and disability caused by work or else:

    More info to study:

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