It seems Paula Bennett has been reading my Christmas message. She asked me to sing some of it in the House yesterday:
However I wasn’t in the House for the purpose of entertaining the Minister. I wanted to know if she was prepared to meet with the Alternative Welfare Working Group, whose report was launched yesterday.
The report covers ground that the Government’s Welfare Working Group and the Minister of Social Development are ignoring, and includes an examination of the values behind welfare as well as some suggestions for a fairer society and better solutions than what we currently enforce on the poor. These suggestions include policies to promote decent jobs, health care for all, reducing the barriers to paid employment for people with disabilities, eliminating the punitive culture at Work and Income, and making benefit levels adequate to support people out of poverty.
Paula Bennett, however, was keen to talk about my Co-Leader Russel Norman’s imminent fatherhood and how lovely it is to have children, while ignoring the dire situation of a third of children in this country who live beneath the poverty line.
I suggest that she comes down to the nearest foodbank and we can have a jolly sing song with the people seeking food so we can all celebrate her Government’s policies. I am sure the people at the foodbank would also have opinions on her welfare reforms.
In the meantime I pay my respects to the Alternative Welfare Working Group for its report Justice for All (PDF). A great effort – minus fees, consultants and contracts. The Green Party stands alongside them with our solutions and ideas. We are willing to engage with the challenges, unlike the Government which is manufacturing a “crisis” in welfare as an excuse to cut expenditure. Let’s by all means debate the issues and review the Social Security Act, but not via a mean-spirited attack on our most vulnerable citizens.