A prayer to the god of small things


Gone are the expectations of transformation, game changers, or long-term vision. Could Labour please just fix some little irritations before the election?  Please. Last century’s outmoded, anomalous and harmful policy quirks can’t be justified by any rational argument. They should have been fixed by Labour eons ago.

Here are just 3 examples which exasperate and inflict great harm for no good reason, but there are many others.

  1. Penalties for having sex: A couple on the Supported Living Payment get a total of $654 net compared to two adults sharing accommodation on the same benefit who in total receive $768 net. Why?  Does MSD think there should be a tax of $114 a week on having the possibility of, if not the actuality, of sex? Worse still two sole parents sharing but deemed by the bedroom police to be in a relationship, would see their core benefits drop in total by a whopping $341 per week.

In principle we should load tax on things we want less of. Good relationships promote vital wellbeing and yet we penalise them? Recent modelling from CPAG shows that couples on benefits suffer the biggest gaps between their basic expenses and benefit entitlement income compared to other types of family grouping. 

Note too, a couple on a benefit gets a total of $700 in winter energy payment, but two singles sharing get 29% more at $900.  Why? Is it that 1950s reasoning insists that couples will save power by cuddling in one bed? 

How could Labour go about fixing this problem?  Just align married and single rates by lifting the married rate to the singles rate. Now that didn’t hurt did it!

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Next step, allow an individual income test and an individual threshold for abatement, currently set at $160 per week (jobseeker) for a couple, but two adults sharing can each earn $160 per week, or 100% more. 

  • If you have a partner who is on a benefit in their own right (regardless of whether you have children): the first $160 (before tax) per week that you and your partner earn in total doesn’t affect your main benefit
  • after this your payment reduces by 35 cents for every dollar of income you and your partner earn. MSD

Crazy stuff. Grinding couples down when they earn a bit extra because they also may have sex is very weird.

There is hope!  It took a long, long time to get some sense into superannuation policy. Finally, after 15 years of conferences, petitions seminars and political advocacy, Labour decided that an individual would not have their superannuation reduced dollar for dollar for the excess overseas state pension state pension of their spouse.  It shows it can done!  Nobody died and some now feel they are actually people in their own right regardless their choice of bed-mate.

2: Pathetic asset limits for the accommodation supplement: The numbers of older people coming into retirement with fewer assets, and in more hardship are increasing.  However, only a minority of those in high-cost housing can excess the accommodation supplement because to qualify they must have less than $8100 in the bank.  Think about how ridiculous that is for somebody who has accumulated a small nest egg to last for what might be a retirement of 30 or 40 years in length.  It is a sudden, cliff-edge policy: one dollar over the limit and ALL the accommodation supplement (that can be up to a maximum of $165 for a single per week) is lost.  What is the origin of this stupid threshold? You have to go back 35 years. In 1988, $8100 was the allowable amount in the predecessor to the accommodation supplement. Nothing has changed since then!  LOL. 

I am aware of retirees who are putting money under the mattress as they try to store up enough to fix their teeth, get hearing aids or go on a short trip to see their grandchildren. 

Fix this now please Labour.  If we must have a cash asset test raise it to $150,000 and index it annually to inflation.


  1. Forcing a harsh repayment of student loans: We expect young, skilled nurses and teachers and others to re-pay student loans from very low incomes. Income over a gross $22,000 is taxed at an extra 12% for loan repayment. But wait, the gross sole parent benefit is now $28,600—so she has an extra $792 to repay. That $22,000 threshold was set in the early 1990s and has scarcely budged since then.

Our young have no incentive to stay here, and going to any tertiary institution is increasingly disincentivised by the spectre of a large loan and its punishing effects.  Sole parents with student loans, trying to get ahead by working can face additional clawbacks for the Accommodation Supplement and Working for Families, leaving them with very little reward for their extra work effort. Nuts! 

The population is rapidly growing older, intensifying pressures on the healthcare and aged care sectors. Does society have a death wish?  Here’s an actionable idea: write off the assessed loan repayment every year for every nurse, teacher, caregiver that stays in New Zealand.  Just do it!   



  1. No wonder I’m pissed people don’t work. “A couple on the Supported Living Payment get a total of $654 net compared to two adults sharing accommodation on the same benefit who in total receive $768 net.”
    I could end my business & stay at home and look after my sick wife and get $700 – 800 a week.
    But my wife and I don’t see that as honest when I own and run a business and do not want to rely on the state doing nothing.
    I’m pissed people get this much on a benefit – why would you work when you can get this?
    I get it for short term issues or disability but long term non workers – ffs!

    • ffs ! Indeed Typical brilliance from a dull thus exploitable mind.
      While you rage against your neighbours, as most morons would, you chose to ignore the greedy elephant in the empty kitchen cupboard.
      Nine multi-billionaires! Four foreign owned banks stealing $180.00 A SECOND in net profits annually! Do you know who owns most of what was once our essential infrastructure? Foreign owned private investments companies, that’s who.
      And you bitch and whine “Poor worker me, poor old hard working worker me!! It’s them beneficiaries! I hate them! Lets kill them! Make them suffer more than they already do! Hate, hate, hate, kill, kill, kill, …… Wait!? Oh shit! My fucking mortgage’s just jumped up! $10.00 for twelve eggs! It’s them greedy fucking chickens! I bet they’re on benefits! Bastards! Kill all chickens! Work ’em to death! I want two eggs a day from now on you lazy little shits! And don’t be giving me any of your whiny be-gawking neither! ”
      I don’t know you at all but I suspect you’re not who you say you are. I’d suspect a deep state minion to big business and politics who’s done a class in rough neckery to discredit and deflect where focus should aimed. At the manipulative-thieves multi billionaires and the four foreign owned banks to steal $180.00 a second in net profits. That took about eight minutes to write… lets make it ten. Ten minutes is 600 seconds.600 seconds is $ 108,000.00 dollars gone, off shore, into the four foreign owned banks to pay for the rapacious greed of their ‘share holders’. And you bitch and whine about a few dollars desperate people need to survive.
      I bet you’re fun around the barbi.

    • Not many New Zealanders like you and wife left Rogue Estate.
      There are definitely none in the Labour or Green ranks who firmly believe in state benefits.Many in the National/Act ranks,people of purpose and self pride.
      Congratulations Rogue Estate,good on you.

      • National/Act = high unemployment, low wage economy and more on benefit. Yes they are the party and people that purposely pride themselves on the great wealth divide. Most in the Nact/Act ranks label others whom struggle in life as losers, no hopers.

    • if you don’t want benefits you paid for(cue whining about the lie of high kiwi taxes) then more fool you. rogue

    • Neanderthal attitudes like this are one reason Govt.s won’t act to end benefit stigma and get MSD to pull their sadistic heads in.

      “Last Place Aversion” is a real phenomenon studies have found, whereby low paid workers resent and fear increases to the minimum and living wage because essentially it means they have to face their own miserable reality and not having an inferior group below them anymore.

      • True, Tiger Mountain.
        I struggle to understand one of mankind’s basic needs as I see it: The need to have somebody to look down upon and despise.
        The only way that some sad people can find to bolster their own lack of self-esteem.

  2. “Gone are the expectations of transformation …”

    Huh? I’m fearful of the level of transformation that Chippy and friends will wreak upon this country if they win in October.

    Maatauranga Maaori in the science curriculum. Criminalization of parents or health professionals who are reluctant to “affirm” a kid’s gender dysphoria. Capture of most of our institutions by Critical Race Theory and radical gender ideology. We’ve got transformation alright – just not the kind I would have liked.

    • 100%
      There will be a flood of talent heading ver the Tasman if Labour gets reelected, and Albo just put out the welcome mat in anticipation!

        • He had no say in the matter. His party has no plan.
          To date they have tried to recruit people from overseas, when retention and building the workforce should have been the focus.
          When banning is your go to strategy that is what you get. Your policies should be human centric otherwise you create social health harm.

      • And there will be a flood of immigrants that would never get into Australia/Canada/US, coming to this country if NACT get in. In other words, the ongoing NACT effort to drive down wages in this country will go into overdrive, coupled with union-busting (this is where the immigrant labour comes into the equation), and further privatisation of assets. Should make the future attractive to young New Zealanders I’d imagine… not.

      • And there will be a flood of immigrants that would never get into Australia/Canada/US/UK, coming to this country if NACT get in. In other words, the ongoing NACT effort to drive down wages in this country will go into overdrive (the real reason for “the flood of talent” going overseas), coupled with union-busting (this is where the immigrant labour comes into the equation), and further privatisation of assets. Should make the future attractive to young New Zealanders I’d imagine… not. A future where they haven’t a hope in hell of buying a massively overpriced house, because their low wages, high rent (thanks to boomer landlords), inflationary prices, and student loan will ensure poverty.

      • No one really cares about efficiency or productivity as long as they’re cheaper & they don’t talk back. Not exactly a recipe for long-term success, but then who cares about the long-term either.

    • Hey PPii,
      you forgot “and he’s gonna to take your guns away”
      from your list of boogie-man issues prepared for you by Steve Bannon.

      • Did you just misgender the person formerly known as “The Boogie-man”? Said person now identifies as a woman – please respect her choice.

  3. It’s worse than that, married non-workers with a working partner are financially tied to their partner – so if it isn’t a good relationship they can’t leave. We need to decouple benefits entirely for the sake of easing domestic violence.

  4. Surely the energy heating a home provides heat that two or more can share. The argument that two people need more power to heat their home is erroneous. So if anything that part of this argument is skewed.

    I thought that the winter energy payment was for a dwelling. Does this mean that where four singles share a house that the cost per household subsidised by the taxpayer is even higher? This fails to meet the values of care and fairness.

    The other two arguments are more robust. But they are value judgements that goes beyond care and fairness. They touch on the redistribution of wealth value and clearly hurts the poor more than the wealthy.

      • That is very progressive. Now why are they not doing just that when it comes to couples. When it comes to couples they act conservatively.
        The progressive conservatives.

  5. You make some good points regarding inconsistencies Susan. I would go further:
    Why not slap an import duty on gas guzzling SUVs that currently litter the streets? At the same time zero rate Japanese ‘kei cars’ (they zero rate this class of light weight low powered cars)

  6. Great Post @ the ever wonderful Susan St John. Whilst not meaning offence, you must go and clone babies with Russell Brand immediately.
    Let’s be clear re ‘wealth’. In Nu Zillind, extreme wealth is accrued, not by industry but by stealth. AKA stealing, enabled by Neo-liberalism which is a swindle. Neo-liberalism is used against we Kiwis to relieve us of our farmer exports derived money which built our public infrastructure which the neo-liberals have already relieved us of. Do you have an opinion on that @ graeme hart? Don’t try and argue, you lot. There are certain immutable facts that can’t be ignored. Like day is day, night is night and dead is dead, our economy is agrarian and still is not withstanding the desperate attempts by a select few criminals to re write that particular script. I mean ‘tourists’ ? Really? It’ll be canned mountain air next. ( That’s actually not a bad idea! Could come with the smell of an endangered Kia shit. I bet a certain Korean car manufacturing company, who make excellent electric cars BTW, would be in to that.)
    We’re a fucking mess ain’t we? We poor old Kiwis have no idea where to turn to next. We vote and get ignored. We protest and get demonised. We work hard and get fucked by foreign owned banksters, we pay our taxes and see that money get spent on the play things of the hyper riche ( Jonky and his short, hairy, super stars. Was that, like, $130 million? And if you go back 30 years didn’t jimbo bolger renege on increasing our old people’s pensions because he decided to pay that $300 million, give or take, out to the bnz which got snapped up by tricky micky fay who then on-sold it to the national bank of Australia and now it’s back as being one of the four foreign owned banks to steal $180.00 a second in net profits annually! I’ve just read that back to myself and burst out laughing!) Look! Kiwi’s. You’re schmucks! You’re lovely, wonderful, little fluffy sitting ducks. We glorious, beautiful, wonderful, loving, caring AO/NZ’ers are, in our own right, an endangered species because of our best qualities and that kind of environment can only grow from unrestrained politics, commerce and economics.

  7. Gone are the expectations of transformation, game changers, or long-term vision. Could Labour please just fix some little irritations before the election?

    So much they could have done but no point in holding your breath.

    Thanks Susan.

  8. The whole “couples” thing should have been dumped long ago. It hasn’t reflected the way our society works for a long time. Relationships are more dynamic, less permanent, and may not necessarily be restricted to a man & a woman. Woman can earn too and can be financially independent. Couples can often keep finances separate, and no one agrees to fully financially support someone else after a couple of dates, even if they had sex. 1950s are gone, it’s time to move on.

    • hear hear. It is very tiresome to have to keep asking for the obvious changes . Note that Labour was twisting itself into knots to remove the couple penalty in its now failed social insurance scheme. It thought if it did that it could just ignore the benefit system.

      • Reprioritisation seems a bridge too far for labour.
        They seem to miss the fact that the individual is the smallest group, followed closely by the couple.
        Reaching the smallest groups after public services that reach everyone seems to be inconvenient.

      • Just tying benefits etc to individuals just seems so simple and so obvious. My wife and I have been in a relationship since university and married for over 15 years now, we share a bank account but neither of us knows how much money the other has in other accounts. My wife’s money is her own and not my concern, and certainly neither of us could get any sort of benefit based on the assets the other holds, despite my wife having no actual income.

        Simply having a boy/girl friend should not mean one person is completely financially responsible for the other, that is so last century it is almost unbelievable that it is still the way government departments view things.

  9. As usual, Susan makes some common-sense suggestions. Why wouldn’t the government want to address these inequalities, especially for elders? It’s obscene to eat into retirement savings of only $10,000 and fixing that would help to address poverty and reduce health costs.
    Equally important, a fairer welfare system would cut the harsh abatement regime and increase the incentive for working age people to work.

    • Welfare is about “care” and kindness.
      “Fairness” is another matter.
      When one needs help, “fairness” will get you nowhere very fast.
      “Care” says one winter subsidy per dwelling. “Fairness” says universal winter subsidy for individuals.

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