Yes, I know, the decision not to increase benefits yet is terrible. It does condemn many households to a further miserable existence in povertyland. And it is wrong.
But I am celebrating today. Because thousands of single parent families, whose only ‘crime’ was to refuse to name the father of their child/ren, will no longer be subject to a punitive and disgusting sanction of $28 per week.
The cost, over $25 million per year, of removing the sanction demonstrates how much money has been taken out of the pockets of impoverished families by the state in exercising this penalty.
The sanction was a disgusting exercise of patriarchal state power against our most vulnerable women. It basically told women that they must tie their future fortunes to a man they had, for all sorts of reasons, left behind them.
It made families in the poorest of situations face worsened poverty and shame. The fact that, in light of this exercise of state power, so many women refused to give out the father’s details, says something about how deeply this issue cut.
Those women’s stance has now been vindicated and the terrible sanction will be removed. I note there was a rearguard action from the Nats, who grumbled that it allowed the fathers to get off scot free. That position is tone deaf. The fathers always got off scot free. It was the mothers and their children that bore the cost of the policy.
This invidious, outrageous policy will go down in political history of one of the worst attacks (along with Māori land seizures, dawn raids on Pasifika families and the Chinese poll tax, among others) on a section of the populace ever.
So the yellow brick road is a long one, with plenty of hurdles still to overcome, but today I am celebrating.
Dr Liz Gordon began her working life as a university lecturer at Massey and the Canterbury universities. She spent six years as an Alliance MP, before starting her own research company, Pukeko Research. Her work is in the fields of justice, law, education and sociology (poverty and inequality). She is the president of Pillars, a charity that works for the children of prisoners, a prison volunteer, and is on the board of several other organisations. Her mission is to see New Zealand freed from the shackles of neo-liberalism before she dies (hopefully well before!).