Welfare Reform a Political Watershed

Published: Thu 26 Oct 2006 11:13 AM
Press release – for immediate release – Wednesday, October 25th 2006
Welfare Reform a Political Watershed
The Labour-led government’s plan to reform our social welfare system marks a major change in the New Zealand government’s political philosophies, says Tina McIvor of Wellington’s Wildcat Anarchist Collective.
“This could rouse people to review the country’s basic political principles: Socialist or capitalist, caring or selfish, centralist or libertarian? Should people be treated simply as units-of-labour? Or is the human condition in all its precariousness worth valuing without reference to the economy, profits and the GDP?” she says.
Our current raft of welfare benefits were born out of the socialist ideas of the 1938 Labour Government. New Zealand’s system is based on providing income for people who cannot work for reasons beyond their control. Circumstances such as sickness and sole parenthood, are recognised as preventing a person from working. People receive support simply because they are citizens and differing circumstances are acknowledged in the policies of our welfare system.
“Labour plans to remove the socialist principle that our welfare system has been based on. Under Labour’s reform, human beings become merely units-of-labour, some considered ‘units-of-labour with barriers to be overcome in order to move into the labour market’.”
This policy means Labour will take welfare dollars from people on benefits and pass it to employers through wage subsidies, keeping real wages low. Work incentives will be put in place for those who are sick or require supported employment.
Work incentives for sole parents have already been implemented with the introduction of the In Work Payment in April 2006 which is available only to sole parents working 20 hours or more. Many sole parent families experiencing financial hardship are excluded from support provided through the Working for Families Package.
“Labour’s plan will assist employers such as Progressive Enterprises who locked out their workers recently. Supermarkets are big users of Work and Income subsidies and there will be a massive proliferation of subsidies if more and more people who are sick and have children are forced into work. Businesses win and people lose.”
“Underlying Labour’s policy is the sentiment that people can’t be trusted with welfare benefits, will bludge indefinitely and are essentially lazy and greedy. Since individuals base their view of human nature on themselves, this begs the question about the nature of our politicians: perhaps they are the self interested, greedy, dishonest, untrustworthy bludgers?”
“Are people more important than profit? Do we have any solidarity, caring, or altruism for other human beings left in our popular ‘moral’ fibre,” McIvor asks.

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