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Dr Muriel Newman

Taxpayer Funded Activism

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4 November 2007

Taxpayer Funded Activism

In the wake of last month’s Police raids, Tuhoe activists have asked to be left alone to establish an independent Tuhoe nation. They say that they will take up arms to defend their right to live as they please, as a country within a country.

In a revealing interview for TVNZ’s Sunday programme, Tuhoe spokesman Tamati Kruger answered the question “Are you a New Zealander?” with “No, a Tuhoe”. He went on to say, “It is the duty of every Patriot to defend their beliefs and their culture. It is the duty of the oppressed to rise up and break the chains of distress and despair. Our priority is to maintain for those generations to come the right to be Tuhoe. Tuhoe have a tradition of clashing with the Crown. This will continue until the Crown recognises that Tuhoe want self rule”.

When asked if there is a Tuhoe army, he stated, “There are many Tuhoe women, children and men that would rise up very quickly to defend their culture, their beliefs, their ideology and their philosophies”. He drew analogies between the battles of Tuhoe and the struggles in Ireland and indicated that they would be prepared to use violence to achieve their goal of establishing a nation within a nation.

When asked directly by the interviewer, “If we don’t find a political solution could it go violent?” the spokesman answered, “That can never be discounted by us”. Certainly television footage of children as young as ten being trained to use guns (the legal age is 16) indicates a commitment by tribal leaders to ready the whole community for violent action. (To listen to view interview, click here )

While they are supported in their quest for sovereignty by the Green Party, the real source of political power comes from the race-based Maori seats. The Maori Party, which holds four of the Maori seats, is committed to fanning the separatist flames within Maoridom in its drive to win all seven Maori seats at the next election. Their continued advocacy for preferential treatment for Maori does nothing to heal the racial divide, nor enable young New Zealanders to see a future where all Kiwis are treated as equals.

What’s more, it is scandalous that funding for the quest for self determination by Maori activists comes courtesy of taxpayers. As a government Minister said last week:

“We have groups calling for separate nations within our nation and prepared to use guns and violence. What is most obscene about this is that these same people, who want their separate nation, want us the taxpayer to pay for it”.

Winston Peters went on to say: “This is where the system is failing – taxpayer sponsored militant separatism. These groups want separate development – but your money to fund it. Rejecting all our values except collecting the dole each fortnight.” (To read the Speech, click here )

Most New Zealanders – including most Maori – find this situation abhorrent. The Prime Minister knows exactly what is going on yet has done nothing to sort it out.

In fact, under Labour, it is now far easier to become a career beneficiary and rip off the welfare system – and the taxpayer. Someone can now live in an isolated area where there are no jobs and receive welfare support for doing so. In times gone by our welfare system prevented this by requiring those who lived in areas without jobs and who wanted welfare support, to either relocate to a place where jobs were available, or declare themselves voluntarily unemployed.

These days, someone can stay on a benefit in the long term by either refusing to take any jobs that are offered, or by making sure that they are not suitable. If they pretend to be an artist, they can get paid the artists’ dole indefinitely. If they are sick of their job and want to spend some time at home, instead of having to face a stand-down period, they can quit work one day and go on the dole the next. It is now far easier to go from the dole to the non-work-tested Sickness and Invalid Benefits. For teenage girls, the Domestic Purposes Benefit is a viable career choice. And if someone is on welfare and working for cash, the chances of getting caught are minimal.

In spite of more than a decade of economic growth and a critical shortage of workers, according to the Ministry of Social Development there are still more than a quarter of a million working aged people receiving welfare. Many of them are career beneficiaries.

Of the 263,000 beneficiaries, almost 100,000 are women on the DPB. Many have been on the benefit for years, making sure they continue to qualify by having a stream of children to different fathers. These are women who have no intention of ever getting a job. They should be ashamed of the detrimental affects that this lifestyle is having on their children. The Labour Government should stand accused of allowing it to happen: together, the government and these career baby producers have put their own interests ahead of what’s best for the children.

In the USA, when they woke up to how career welfare mothers were blighting the lives of their children in order stay on benefits, the Government changed the system. Their welfare reform programme, signed into law in 1996 by Democratic President Bill Clinton, aimed to ‘abolish welfare as we know it’. The key intent was to get welfare mothers off benefits and into mainstream life. They required sole parent beneficiaries to undertake work, training or community service activities for a minimum of 30 hours a week. In order to create a sense of urgency, they introduced time limits of two years for the continuous receipt of welfare and five years over a lifetime. They also paid the benefit at a set rate irrespective of the number of children, to discourage women from having more children just to make more money.

Essentially these reforms replaced their equivalent of our Domestic Purposes Benefit, which provides open-ended income support, with a programme which gave temporary assistance conditional on work. A life-raft of support services such as child care, transport help, relocation assistance and financial planning advice, were also provided. The single purpose of these benefits was to remove the barriers to employment and ease these beneficiaries into jobs.

The results were remarkable. The welfare caseload fell by 60% from 5 million to 2 million families as welfare mothers found work. The biggest improvement by far was among women who had never been married. Overall, by 2002 the poverty rate amongst black children and sole parents fell to their lowest levels in US history, with 2.6 million fewer adults and 2.8 million fewer children living in poverty than six years earlier.

This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator is Dr Lawrence Mead, Professor of Politics at New York University. In his article “Why Welfare Reform Succeeded” he says:

“Welfare reform was a triumph, not just for social policy, but for American government. Seldom has a major social reform been instituted so successfully. This was a credit to elected leaders and administrators at all levels. In the 1960s and 1970s, when welfare first became a national issue, how to reform it was deeply divisive. Liberals and Democrats wanted to liberalize benefits and coverage, while Republicans resisted. In turn, conservatives demanded work requirements, and liberals resisted. The impasse prevented all fundamental change. But over time, these passions cooled. Welfare reform came to be treated more practically, as a problem to be solved. A concordat emerged where liberals abandoned entitlement, the idea that aid should be given based on need without demanding work, while conservatives abandoned downsizing government. Rather, both sides focused on promoting work”. To read the article click here

Professor Mead makes the point that while there is still work to be done welfare reform has fundamentally transformed the way that assistance is provided to single parents, linking it firmly to work and contribution. As a result, there is no desire to re-introduce the unconditional benefit entitlements that had proved to be so damaging to women and their children.

If these types of reforms were introduced into New Zealand, the effect on career

beneficiaries and their children – as well as on the wider economy – would be profound.

To the government we need to question whether the career activists and career beneficiaries of Tuhoe should be funded by those they protest against. Surely this is a greater scandal than sensationalised accusations of mistreatment by Police.

This week’s poll asks: Should taxpayers fund career beneficiaries who are able to work but choose not to? Go to Poll

Reader’s comments will be posted on the NZCPR Forum page click to view .