INDEPENDENT NEWS

United Future Supports 'Ambulances For Africa'

Published: Wed 20 Nov 2002 03:53 PM
United Future Supports 'Ambulances For Africa'
So United Future's Gordon Copeland is upset that critics are describing their Commission for the Family as some sort of wishy- washy feel-good policy. If it's any consolation Gordon, I'm upset too, but for different reasons.
In his column, "The crucial importance of the family in the New Zealand economy", he bemoans the $1.5 billion cost of the DPB. He forgot about the accommodation supplement, family benefit and special benefit which many recipients also receive but I'll forgive that.
What I find harder to swallow is that United's first action, on agreeing to support the government, was to vote for MORE welfare. Treasury warned that if the DPB was not worktested, numbers would grow by 1,000 every year for the next three years but United ignored that. Numbers had dropped since the introduction of worktesting but United ignored that. Their own leader had voted against the bill before the election but the party ignored that.
United Future unnervingly jumped very quickly into bed with the leftist egalitarians who cry 'worktesting is punitive'. I am sure we all find work punishing on a bad day but we do it because somebody has to pay for the 400,000-odd working-age people who don't.
In fleshing out a grim picture of hardship, Mr Copeland refers to the New Zealand Living Standards 2000 report. But he makes no mention of the finding that people in work had better standards of living than those on benefits, even when their incomes were about the same. An earlier report, "Children in poor families: Does the source of family income change the picture?" found; "...there is considerable variation in the living standards of those below the poverty threshold, and (the results) suggest that poor children in families with government transfers as the main income source are a particularly vulnerable group."
Clearly a job is better than a benefit, especially where children are concerned. But Mr Copeland goes on to tell us that they support the government's approach to family breakdown which is to place ambulances at the bottom of the cliff by way of benefits and like payments. Does Mr Copeland seriously believe, hand on heart, that all benefits are ambulances? I wonder if he ever entertains a sneaking suspicion that they might be cop-outs or incentives, or even rewards for the irresponsible. Perhaps hush money for those in the too-hard basket.
If benefits were truly ambulances then they would be temporary for the able-bodied. People ride in ambulances to hospitals and surprise, surprise, they get out of them.
In an attempt to convince us that we need a Commission for the Family to "explore, advise and initiate programmes and policies aimed at strengthening marriage, relationships and parenting for the benefit of all New Zealand families," he adds that similar policies have shown early promise in Singapore and the US. Hello?
Singapore does not have a welfare state and since 1996 the US has treated welfare as strictly temporary. To say that those policies will work in the New Zealand environment is, to borrow Gordon's analogy, like to trying to win the America's Cup in a waka.
It is United's 'hope and dream' that their commission will reduce the number of ambulances at the bottom of the cliff and then state spending can be reduced and taxes lowered. Yet Mr Copeland admits that twenty five years of putting ambulances at the bottom of the cliff has only led to .....more and more ambulances being put at the bottom of the cliff. Good Lord, the congestion at the bottom of the cliff rivals an Auckland motorway.
How many more years will it take for people to wake up and realise that government social spending programmes don't work? What if, instead of taking the $10 million cost for the commission off the employer who is desperate to take on more staff but can't afford to, we simply left it in his pocket?
Jobs must come first.

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