What a week. But while National’s woes dominate, who is noticing the erosion of democracy and the exclusionary politics that Labour is busy promoting?
Eclipsed by the excitement of the Soymin and Judy show was the announcement of a half baked social insurance scheme to solve a ill defined problem for an ill defined set of people.
No consultation, no gender analysis, no respect for the work of parenting.
A cluster of white middle class unionists have come up with the plan all without scrutiny and the Minister of Finance sees no need to seek other input.
For a scheme that could be “ the biggest expansion of the welfare state since ACC opened its doors in 1974” the lack of consultation is utterly bizarre. Anyone who thinks about social insurance for the newly unemployed in New Zealand quickly realises what a can of worms it is. Maybe that’s the reason little detail has been shared. It appears the public is being softened for a fait accompli: Labour knows best. Those who are left further behind and even more bewildered by the welfare maze will just have to suck it up.
Adding insult to injury, the Taxation (COVID-19 Support Payments and Working for Families Tax Credits) Bill was pushed through the house under urgency. No process here, no submissions, no consultation, no Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles in sight, no select committee. Just an unbelievably convoluted regulatory impact statement that shows how much more complex and contradictory they will make Working for Families.
Spun as a vital increase in support for families there will be a miniscule $5 per child increase after overdue inflation adjustments. We learn that “Ministers have agreed the original objectives for Working for Families remain important. The first of these is to “make work pay by supporting families with dependent children, so that they are rewarded for their work effort” Thus the use of the poverty of children to incentivise parental paid work is prioritised over child poverty reduction. In setting goals surely, what the public thinks is more important than the Ministers.
And does Labour not see the contradictions? Do they not realise that higher abatements add to the already huge work disincentives from overlapping abatements for the working poor?
Ominously Ministers have also agreed the following objectives for the further review of WFF:
- Objective 1: target support more to lower-income families rather than more universal support
- Objective 2: focus on low-income working families, while maintaining support for beneficiary families
- Objective 3: help make work pay and assist with the costs for people in work.”
National was clearly diverted by their own fiascos, but even they saw the deep contradictions. This is from Andrew Bayly in the debate under urgency:
“This bill’s going to pass through tonight with no select committee process, no input from any parties independent of this Parliament. And I think the main aspect that the Government is tying behind this bill is it’s dealing with the issue of poverty and increasing the Working for Families components, and there are a whole stack of components that will be improved and will be adjusted. And that will occur. That is a process that always occurs. It always gets triggered when the CPI accumulative impact is greater than 5 percent. There is nothing special in this part of the bill, even though that was what the Government members chose to focus on.
The only real difference was the $5 per child increase. I think the argument we’ve heard tonight is that this inflation index adjustment of certain benefits is going to be a game-changer in terms of lifting children out of poverty. And we had this disconnect between the Minister, who in his original speech claimed that 6,000 children would be lifted out of poverty, and then subsequently all the members of the House chose in their very short contributions—the maximum being 1 minute 30—to focus on a figure of 3,000. They couldn’t even get the story around the impact of the improvement to reducing poverty. But the reality is I find the argument spurious that as a result of doing an historical readjustment—or doing an adjustment taking into account historical increases in inflation a $5 per child increase is going to lead to any substantive change to child poverty in New Zealand I think defies logic.”