The Questionable Assumptions of Anne Tolley about Beneficiaries



Oh dear. Is there any Ministerial portfolio that Anne Tolley *can’t* embarrass herself in.

I’ve just listened to the interview she did Friday with Duncan Garner, and good grief.

Here’s how Tolley attempts to explain unemployment in her electorate:

“Up the East Coast it can be a pretty good lifestyle … at times it looks pretty good. Especially at this time of the year – a little bit of Dole, and they have a cash crop, and good kaimoana. It’s a pretty good lifestyle. So it’s a pretty tall ask sometimes to convince people like that that they should be working 5 days a week and earning their money when they haven’t had to and they haven’t seen anyone in their family have to do that.”

Hark; is that a racist dog-whistle I hear yonder…?

Let’s be honest. When Tolley talks about kaimoana-gathering, dope-growing, intergenerationally-unemployed beneficiaries on the East Coast, the “people like that” she’s referring to are Maori. Or, rather, what she *thinks* of Maori. (In my experience, the invocation of stereotypes almost invariably indicates *far* more about nature of the the stereotyper than the group being stereotyped)

And while it’s true that Maori have been disproportionately done over by three decades of neoliberal economic malaise (as of 2013, 80.3% of beneficiaries in Gisbourne and 56.8% in the wider Hawke’s Bay were Maori, for instance); the fact that the Minister can’t proffer a better explanation for this than ‘they’ve picked up a cool-looking lifestyle their parents showed them’ betrays the trademark and woeful lack of vision, empathy and understanding of the issues that we’ve sadly come to expect from Tolley.

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To her credit (and my frank surprise), she rejected Garner’s goading use of the term “Bludgers”, and explicitly acknowledged that the vast majority of Kiwis drawing an unemployment benefit *do* in fact use the welfare system as intended to support themselves through tough times rather than a means to fund an “alternative” lifestyle.

But the implicit message in the rest of Tolley’s words seems all too clear. National will trumpet till the dairy-farm ownership comes home *any* reduction in beneficiary numbers as evidence they’re capable of doing something about unemployment (even if the *actual* reduction in the number of “work ready” Jobseeker beneficiaries from this time last year is only 2,217 – while more than half the remaining negative 10,000 is attributable to the litany of potentially non-employment related reasons why one might stop receiving a Sole Parent Support benefit). But when pushed to explain *why*, if they’re so good at job-creation, there’s still more than 300,000 Kiwis reliant on welfare for their daily bread … all they have to offer is “it’s not our fault the stats include lazy Maori and the disabled/long-term impaired. Ignore them. They don’t matter. Everything’s peachy on Planet Key!”

I’ll save for a future post a more in-depth commentary and analysis on why it might be that some beneficiaries may feel they have to resort to the proceeds of crime or relying on nature’s bounty rather than the state in order to feed their families. In the mean-time, if you’re one of the nearly 70,000 “work-ready” Kiwis still on an unemployment benefit who’re having difficulty finding gainful employment … Marie AnTollynet has this suggestion for you: “Let Them Pick Kiwifruit.”

Great she had a such a “fabulous” holiday.

[My thanks to Simon Noonan & Andrew Paul Wood for their assistance with this piece]


  1. Curwen Ares Rolinson, the following you said of her is a fake statement, as she will change this stance eventually.

    “To her credit (and my frank surprise), she rejected Garner’s goading use of the term “Bludgers”, and explicitly acknowledged that the vast majority of Kiwis drawing an unemployment benefit *do* in fact use the welfare system as intended to support themselves through tough times rather than a means to fund an “alternative” lifestyle.”

    Watch this politician, she has been known in our regions as totally untrustworthy.

    She is one firmly of the Key clones.

    She will say things that sound supportive while behind the scenes she is plotting the opposite, very much a Key clone here.

    She in Napier & Gisborne (the seats she has held has been shown time and time again not to be trusted at her word, sorry to shatter your vision that she may sound plausible.

    She always disappoints.

  2. “So it’s a pretty tall ask sometimes to convince people like that that they should be working 5 days a week and earning their money”

    That’s stupid.

    Out of the Industrial Age. Factory talk.

    Doesn’t she KNOW we don’t have that sort of work any more? Particularly not in Gisborne.

    Is she not aware there is NO VIRTUE in working five days a week? There isn’t. And the sooner we remember that this BS about the 60 hour week is for the convenience and wealth-making of others the sooner we can look for more practical and humane ways to meet our needs-wants.

    And any time some fool starts an enterprise that would actually employ people for a living wage – the wallies from the Corridors of Power strangle the initiative in its cradle – then smother it with red tape.

    They’re mostly all like that in our Traditional Reactionary Party. They pass their single idea one to the other and hope that no one will ask them anything when they aren’t clutching the Ancient Wisdom.

    PS – if it’s cheaper to live on the East Coast, and make the pittance go further, there’ll be others who’ll head there. People aren’t stupid when it comes to survival.

    • And yet she wins her seat hands down and the party vote. What is going on in her electorate to achieve this? I assume part of the answer is the non vote.

      • They have given her a free ride in the press for years XRay. and the people have just gotten apathetic towards politics there also.

        The boundary changes helped Tolley as she sits in two provincial seats BOP and resides in Whakatanae, as she got on the hot seat with Gisborne folk about her lack of rail support (she reversed her previous support like a turncoat)

        We know she does not front any community groups request to meet her in Gisborne.

        Job market is poor there also.

    • The reason she wins her seat is also to do with the reality that we have somehow come to the conclusion as a people and, perhaps as a planet, that we have no obligation, and thus no desire, to worry about those intractable statistics and the people that comprise them. Maybe this is where the glorification of the individual who does his own thing in his own time (and stuff everyone else) ends up.

      We baby boomers fought against crippling conformity and collectivism while enjoying the collectivist triumphs of free education, cradle to grave welfare and universal health care. It wasn’t so much that we opposed those benefits, rather they were the legacy of our parents, suffering from the experiences of the depression and the war. We didn’t oppose the ideas: we supposed they would be there for ever, so neither did we fight for them. Thus, little by little, they have eroded.

      It is a cautionary tale about responsibility, complacency and the need for eternal vigilance.

      In the meanwhile the question needs to be asked of New Zealanders in many contexts and in many ways: would you prefer to sacrifice a little to diminish poverty and work with others to create an inclusive society, or would you rather stock your moat with piranhas?

      • Your last question was answered by the electorate in September last year. We’ll take the piranhas, thanks very much. And it won’t change until somehow we collectively hold a bigger vision for our nation than the “greed is good, slash and burn”philosophy that we are currently crippled by.

  3. I am afraid they are all the same, Tolley, Bennett, Collins and whatever their name. John Key, supposedly, so the media tend to repeat, “the most popular PM the country ever had”, is the smiling front of the team. He is as dodgy as many have pointed out on this blog and elsewhere.

    He took over from that Don the Brash One, and before him there was “Blinglish”, the “opposition leader” that led National to their worst defeat ever.

    Bill English, aka “Blinglish”, now Deputy PM, Finance Minister and also responsible for “social housing”, was before Christmas quoted as saying, that the benefit is “like a drug”, yes like “crack cocaine”. He must have been getting private lessons from MSD’s and WINZ’s Principal Health Advisor, Dr David Bratt, that rat.

    He kept Bennett tightly on his leash, although she at times unleashed herself with offensive comments. He will keep Tolley on the leash, to bark when she is supposed to bark. And English is the mind behind the “welfare reforms”.

    He, Key and little smart alec boy Joyce are the brains behind the assault on the poor and weakest in society, they got their supposed “scientific” evidence for it, bought science, all from the UK, where they went even further with forcing sick and disabled to seek work.

    Study a bit of the following, and you will know what it is all about:

  4. “…and good kaimoana…”

    Grabbing your own cray fish/kina, etc from the bay as opposed to going to WINZ for a food grant? I thought that was what “personal responsibility” was all about?

  5. Does someone from the National government need to nudge Ms Tolley and whisper …….pssst, remember you are supposed to be representing ALL your constituents, not just the ones who you think would have voted for you!?

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