Waatea News Column: Why National’s beneficiary bashing is really dog whistle politics

We praise the Gods of the Free Market

National has promised a spiteful range of draconian measures against beneficiaries that have nothing whatsoever to do with helping those on the benefit and everything to do with dog whistling to National’s reactionary base.

In the minds of National’s reactionary base, beneficiaries are solo Māori mothers, by attacking beneficiaries, National are attacking Māori and women, and for those angry voters who harbour grudges towards both groups, beneficiary bashing is a voting goldmine that never stops paying out.

The welfare measures National are suggesting are all punishment based. $3000 fines for parents of truant students, more punishments for tiny breaches of protocols, cutting the number of beneficiaries by 25% and requiring gang members to prove they don’t have illegally-sourced income before receiving the benefit.

What’s worse than attempting to appeal to the lesser angels of our nature electorally, is that these welfare policies are all counterproductive.

If there is truancy at home, that is a signal of problems and fining the parents $3000 won’t help with any of those problems! It will only exacerbate them!

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Enforcing petty sanctions that cut the tiny pittance in welfare won’t help any of these who are vulnerable. Using desperation, poverty and hunger as weapons for compliance is egregious and beneath a civil society. This is social policy as spite, it isn’t what a modern society endorses.

Simply cutting beneficiaries by 25% is endlessly stupid, if the need for welfare is there, then simply dumping 25% off will see an explosion of homelessness, which is what we got the last time National as in power.

As for this crack down on gang members and removing their welfare, that is a vast ricocheting up of state intrusion into a persons life that could easily be expanded to anyone else and surely you want to build bridges for gang members to transition out of gangs rather than build barriers to them obtaining that?

National don’t care about any of these questions because the punitive bashing of beneficiaries to attract reactionary voters is the point here, not the welfare of the beneficiaries themselves.

It’s counter productive social policy at its dumbest and meanest.

First published on Waatea News.


  1. Well written piece Martyn.

    We know what to expect from the Blue Doom and Gloom in the Room. Extremely damaging and divisive short sighted policies that attack the vulnerable while feeding raw meat to their support base. Quintessential National Party.

  2. This is so true – but something is missing.
    National don’t care about any of these questions because the punitive bashing of beneficiaries to attract reactionary voters is the point here, not the welfare of the beneficiaries themselves.
    The welfare of the country as a whole is abandoned in the National policies, bereft of reason, intelligent compassion, and pandering to those who DGAF about any others, often including family members who are dispensable.

    The spite is in direct contrast to the beauty of the world around, and the idea of goodwill and respect for their fellow citizens and being a part of a bustling, supportive, happy, relatively homogeneous community. Bah, humbug!! Remember the dilemma of the person with a lot, being blackmailed by other money-obsessed; https://allthatsinteresting.com/john-paul-getty-iii-kidnapping

    After Paul’s ear was sent, his grandfather negotiated a deal to get him back for about $2.9 million (equivalent to $16.4 million in 2018). He paid $2.2 million—the maximum amount that was tax deductible—and lent the remainder to his son, who was responsible for repaying the sum at 4% interest. Paul was found alive on December 15, 1973, in a petrol station of Lauria in the province of Potenza shortly after the ransom was paid. At his mother’s suggestion, he called his grandfather to thank him for paying the ransom, but J. Paul Getty refused to come to the phone.

    A horrifying story that demonstrates the pit that money and self-obsessed can fall into. A film has been made about it:
    All the Money in the World is a 2017 crime thriller film directed by Ridley Scott and written by David Scarpa, based on John Pearson’s 1995 book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty

  3. When you see Chairman Simon on the nightly news these days it is usually a short clip of him dressed in stone washed jeans and an opshop suit jacket, and he is captured walking towards the camera in some retarded PR fashion parade, you know the thing. Well very occasionally, if one looks very closely, you see a little stream of ants walking across the pavement as Simon struts by. These ants have more significance than the National Party now.

  4. I’m confused. I’m not sure whether I think your Post is superb because it is, which it is, or because I simply think it is. Either way. Nail? Hit squarely on the head and if you’ve ever built anything it’s a satisfying feeling when you strike the nail squarely to drive it all the way home.
    Unlike jonky. Who’d couldn’t hit a nail when he tried the feeble, pathetic, useless little man-thing. Wouldn’t the otherwise useless, greedy money fetishists have a harsh life if they had to rely on actual skills and talents other than grifting the money of others, a talent rising out of a pathology, a psychiatric illness?
    I’ve just finished watching a film called ‘ The Post’.
    “ The Post depicts the true story of attempts by journalists at The Washington Post to publish the Pentagon Papers, classified documents regarding the 20 year involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam War.”
    Sure. The scale is higher and wider as depicted in the film than our institutionalised litany of swindles but a swindle is still a swindle. A Chihuahua is smaller than a Bull Mastiff but a dog’s a dog.
    That which you wrote above? Could easily be written of Labour too and why is that?
    ( Bear with, while I digress…)
    Misleading the American public spanned three Presidencies and cost billions, perhaps trillions of dollars and many, many young lives were lost on all sides in a barbaric act of ego driven madness in the interests of profits and status and to this day, you can go out and about in the cities of Cambodia and see the genetically disfigured from agent orange and the legless and armless, survivors of land mines and unexploded ordnance still lying about there. (If you go there? Stick to the tracks. Particularly if you’re fat. )
    I’ve not been to Vietnam but I have been to Cambodia several times and I could write about what I’ve seen and learned but I don’t want to give that particular evil left behind by the U$A in the name of freedom a name or a presence in your mind. A book titled ‘Off the rails in Phnom Penh’ https://www.amazon.com/Off-Rails-Phnom-Penh-Heart/dp/9748303349 does a better job of that .
    Where was I …? Oh yeah.
    Kiwi-As fellows have ripped us off in an eye wateringly callous way and they continue to do so.
    They, the old school crooks back in the day, constructed a set of laws and regulations that gave them legal rights to rip off export derived funds that should have been distributed via an un- fucked-with tax system and while the hungry, homeless and poverty stricken once-were working class and their whanau, friends and neighbours get picked over by scum seagulls like bridges and bennett at the tip face ( No disrespect to actual seagulls.) they, as they scavenge our money and resources, make sure we feel guilty if we question them and powerless if we resist.
    And just like in ‘The Paper’, the grifting, swindling and lying in our beautiful AO/NZ is now spanning many generations and has become an institutionalised part of our political mandate, of our history.
    Babies born in 1984 are now 35 years old.
    Those of you who were in your 20’s back in 1984? Spark up a blunt then think about that why don’t ya?
    We need an A lister actor to spread the word and a royal commission of inquiry into the past and present relationships between certain Kiwi-As individuals, businesses and their all-bought-and-paid-for politicians. You know the ones. The ones we pay six figures plus entitlements to to champion us in our best interests.
    Sorry. Longer than I expected. A bit selfish of me. Apols dahlings.

  5. The ends justify the means.
    Somebody in the private sector will get rich from these policies.
    The statistics will again justify the policies as people will do what they have to do to survive which could put them on the wrong side of the law and the Justice system, prison system, health system and housing/homelessness and education systems.
    Sound familiar?

  6. Deplorable but what are Labour and co doing that is a whole lot better? As far as I can see the main parties in this country are simply not worth voting for and come election 2020 I’ll be staying home.

  7. I wish someone would dig out and remind Paula Bennett and of course Slime-on Bridges of a nasty comment she(Bennett)made about the National government in the 90s.

    But at a guess I bet that morsel of attitude by Bennett shows she has a short memory.

    Beneficiary bashing is however the modus operandi of the NZ National Party. Just like Bill English telling NZers(and especially low income NZers)that we are living beyond our means and MUST experience financial cutbacks whilst he was busy double dipping on the taxpayers purse.

    Looking at the above photo of Bennett and Bridges I kind of wonder if Bennett thinks she is at a Destiny Church meeting because of the position of her hands and expression of brainwashed stupidity. And if that is so then her holier than thou attitude needs to be bought into question.

    Bennett is a hypocrite and Bridges is probably too scared of her to boot her out of the NZ National Party. But then perhaps John Key still has control over National and hence Bennett out-staying her ‘USED BY DATE’.

  8. Genuine benefituries need more support both in money and social services but this can only happen if the applicants met strict conditions. With low unemployment why is any fit person on the dole . The immegrants come from around the world just to work but some NZ will not move to a new town. Trying to stop truncy is a good move as education could help break the cycle of poverty. Free contraception should be available to all women so all children born are planned and wanted.. Social welfare is a safety net not a way of life and it benefit everybody that as few as possible are receiving it.

    • Trevor, beneficiaries do need more support and money, and right now when there is a govt surplus is the time to to implement that, time for Labour to get some guts, as odious John Key yelled in Parliament trying to get Kiwis catapulted out of this country and into danger zones.

      Poverty and deprivation are danger zones, and in many ways they are also killers. Correcting benefit levels to correlate with reality, is the morally and ethically and socially responsible thing to do, and doing it now, rather than closer to election time, gives National time to exhaust their hot air and resentment and screaming little jealousies – and there’ll be more issues to concern them in the interim. Bennett could break a fingernail.

      Contraception ? There are some impregnating men who object to that, hence the need for wrap around confidential services for some ethnic groups to enable women take control of their own fertility – if they so wish.

      I am sure you are not suggesting that when a mill or a factory closes and jettisons the security of half the settled rooted historical populations, that they be pulled up like weeds and dispersed all over the country – where it could all happen again. Better that work can be brought to them – it can sometimes be done, and is infinitely preferable than a so-called safety net needlessly full of the holes which slowly choke the whole family. Time to mend those nets.

  9. free contraceptive for women what about men trev you sound a bit chauvinist children are born and planned sounds like you need to get a life and you just got of noahs ark

    • Is it even possible to lower the birth rate or plan parenthood through female contraceptives? Some how it doesn’t seem a ligitimate use of taxpayer money. Targeted contraceptives maybe useful for planning some babies but not lowering the birth rate. That’s just magical thinking.

      • Sam – Free transistor radios for men having vasectomies like they used to in India ?

        There are women who do not want, or cannot cope with having more children, and preventing that, is to my way of thinking, preferable to having an abortion. The future economic cost to the tax payer of supporting children lacking in parental support could be much more than the cost of long term contraception; the social cost is hard to evaluate, but being an unwanted child can be a grim path to tread.

        • First of all forcing sterilisation on woman does not promote better parenting. It just allows the government to abandon poor woman so they don’t have to find work for poor woman. Y’know this is getting really annoying.

          • Sam – I’m not aware of anyone forcing sterilisation on women. I mentioned the Indian govt offering transistor radios to men having vasectomies – which doesn’t actually stop women from becoming pregnant, it just stops those particular recipients from causing pregnancies.

            Forcing either sterilisation, or an unwanted pregnancy, on any woman is morally repugnant. There are women from some ethnic and religious groups who do not have the choice either way, because their partners deny them that choice. These are women who may benefit from confidential services, to enable them to have that choice. It’s their choice – not yours or mine, and certainly not government’s.

            Being an unwanted child is a different kettle of fish altogether. The fact that we are world leaders in abusing and killing babies and infants in this country, suggests that what may be a beautiful taonga for some parents, is a nuisance or worse, for others.

            I suggest to you that every child counts, that every child should be a wanted child, and that fathers or mothers who place little value upon their children, may need help in learning to care for the vulnerable littlies they bring into the world, because all children deserve decent parents, and they certainly don’t always get them.

            And if you think that a mother doesn’t know what work is, and that mothers don’t work, that’s not right either. We do. If you want to quantify it in economic terms, have a look at Marilyn Waring’s work – I think she was a world leader there.

            • When the finance minister has to go out on the world stage with his tin cup begging foreign investors for capital, economic theory and foreign fat cats get fed instead of our own. When the infrastructure deficit spikes, complex calculus and Rightwing rhetoric spikes along with it.

              In any other time, under objective circumstances, children would not be so easily traded for easy economic wins. It is a sign of the times, that a left wing blog would consider the failed religious offerings of right wing failures that I have no time for or issue with rejecting totally.

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