Bryce Edwards aggregates various bloggers, pundits and journalists predicting that the tragedy in Christchurch would be ‘good’ for National in terms of polling and election results and there seems to be a conventional wisdom forming around this. I think it’s wrong for two reasons:
- There was no substantial movement in the government’s popularity after the September quake. Maybe we’ll see a post-event bounce but I doubt it will be sustainable. I think almost all of the swing voters in the country currently support National, so there isn’t much room to move.
- The severity of this earthquake will send the economy into a sharp recession for the rest of the year (probably the next few years). This will not go well for the government.
In these circumstances voters tend to drift towards non-ideological populist parties that play to people’s sense of anger and resentment, and in New Zealand that constitutes ACT and New Zealand First. Ordinarily Labour would gain from a poor economy under a National but the current leadership has no ability to persuade or attract voters. ACT are even more doomed in that respect. I’m picking that closer to the election we’ll see the government’s popularity decline and New Zealand First’s rise.
Judith Collins speaks on the looters in Christchurch, in which she rather heavily implies she wants to see them raped in prison:
Police Minister Judith Collins said the actions of looters was akin to “people who rob the dead”.
She expected to see the judiciary throw the book at looters.
“I hope they go to jail for a long time – with a cellmate.”
It’s natural for private citizens to feel this way and this is the kind of grim humour you’d expect to hear from, say, a talkback radio-host. But Collins is the Minister of Police and Corrections and – in theory – she represents the state’s monopoly on punishment and violence. She really shouldn’t encourage individual citizens to rape each other.
From the Police media site:
Last night two New Zealand and two Australian Police officers came across the man, who was harassing some contract workers on the Ferrymead Bridge.
The New Zealand officers spoke to the man and introduced him to their Australian counterparts.
The man then said the Australian Police were “scary” and allegedly confessed to looting a nearby bar. He had allegedly stolen two bottles of alcohol and a bottle of water.
Police arrested the man, who is now in custody and facing charges.
Most of the stories about looting in the ruins of Christchurch send me off into violent revenge fantasies, but this is sort of adorable:
In a separate incident, a looter was caught red handed by police stealing a pearl drum set from a music store in Blenheim Road in the early hours of this morning.
The thief had smashed the front window to gain entry. Police caught and arrested a man 15 metres from the store.
That’s the wonderful thing about New Zealand. No matter how extreme the tragedy, no matter how vast the physical destruction, and no matter how terrible the carnage and despair and grief, there’s always some bogan who sees it all as an opportunity to score a really kick-ass drum-set.
Meanwhile, I’ve been out buying stocks of hand-sanitiser to send down to Christchurch in an aid package. I know that we’re all heroes in our own way – but can’t help but feel that my way is slightly less heroic than the way of the guys who rescued survivors from burning piles of rubble.
The basic idea of the WWG is this: all the different benefits – Unemployment, Sickness, Invalids, the DPB ect – are scrapped and combined into a Jobseekers Benefit, so named because all the recipients of this single benefit will be active Jobseekers, and the role of the welfare system will be to get them back into work as quickly as possible.
- The WWG does accept that a small number of beneficiaries, namely the terminally ill and those caring for disabled children, may need to exist on a benefit for some time, and not be actively seeking work.
- The Jobseekers benefit will be set at the rate of the unemployment benefit – because that’s what all these people are: unemployed. They’ll be paid supplementary payments based on circumstance, ie Jobseekers with children will receive additional funding to care for their children.
- Female Jobseekers are strongly encouraged not to have additional children. They will have contraception options made available to them and be expected to return to work four months after the birth of an additional child. If Jobseekers continue to have children they should be subject to financial penalties. The WWG suggests those additional children not receive financial support.
- The WWG suggests that after a six month period Jobseekers who continue to receive a benefit be subject to sanctions and a ‘Work for Welfare’ program, ie a compulsory job scheme.
- Jobseekers be subject to drug and alcohol testing, and be obligated to pass these tests.
- Failure of Jobseekers to meet the obligations of the system will be punished with incremental decreases in payment, resulting in minimum two week stand-down periods in which they do not receive a benefit.
- Oh, here’s something to get Family First riled up – the WWG seems to support the anti-smacking legislation and proposes the introduction of a new criminal offence called ‘failing to protect a child’ (refusing to call the police on your neighbours).
- Jobseeking should be facilitated through contractors that are financially incentivised to find ‘positive outcomes’.
I haven’t read through each section of the report – but what it doesn’t seem to contain is a recognition that the number of beneficiaries is tied to wider economic factors like, oh, say, the unemployment rate or the performance of the economy – the problem is all about benefit dependency and the inadequacy of the current welfare system. The WWG does include this graph:
You could write a whole book on economics, social welfare and recent New Zealand history based on this graph, and it would be hard not to arrive at the opposite conclusions to those ones that the WWG reached.
Photo courtesy of Matt Wiseman, via Twitter.
The early reports seemed too crazy to be true – but they are. Right here on page 15:
The Welfare Working Group also proposes a change in the conditions of eligibility to address this issue. The majority of the Working Group recommends that a work test in the case of parents having an additional child while on welfare should be aligned with paid parental leave provisions (when the youngest child reaches 14 weeks). A minority of members felt that the work-test in the case of parents having an additional child while on welfare should be aligned with parental leave employment protection provisions (at 12 months). The Working Group is of the view that if the changes to the work test do not address the incentives to have additional children while reliant on welfare payments, then it may be necessary to consider additional financial disincentives in the future.
It makes perfect sense if you’re an
inhuman monster trained economist: women who have a second child on the DPB tend to normalise to living on a benefit and become long-term beneficiaries – so if you impose a high cost on that behaviour then they’ll respond rationally by avoiding it, with positive outcomes for them and the taxpayer.
But back home on Earth, there will always be a non-zero – and possibly quite large – number of young woman living in poverty who do not behave like good rational maximisers, and under Rebstock’s proposal the state would force them back into the work-force while their baby was less than four months old, or stop their benefit if they failed to comply.
I’d be amused to see Rebstock questioned on the practicalities of this policy: if a woman is married with one child and her husband leaves her, and she goes on the DPB then discovers she is three months pregnant will she be compelled to return to work fourteen weeks after giving birth?
But what’s the point? Who cares what Rebstock ‘thinks’? It doesn’t really matter what’s in the rest of the Welfare Working Group proposal – to suggest something this psychotic discredits the entire project. Some commentators have suggested that the WWG is an attempt to shift the Overton Window on welfare issues to the right and make the government look more moderate. If so I think it will be an utter failure. You can’t shift the Overton Window to the left on, say, Treaty of Waitangi settlements by suggesting the crown grant the entire North Island to Maori – you’ll just provoke a backlash from the other 99.999% of the political spectrum.
Radical new welfare proposals are set to become a defining moment in New Zealand’s history, the Salvation Army says.
A welfare working group will report to the Government tomorrow on options to reshape the welfare system, including tough new rules on getting parents on the domestic purposes benefit back to work.
People still don’t ‘get’ this government, or the character of its Finance Minister (who I suspect is also the de facto Social Welfare Minister, at least in terms of policy development). There will be no defining moment. There will be no radical reform for good or for ill. There will be super-short term cost-cutting, some outsourcing to the private sector and much ineffective tinkering around the margins: compelling solo mothers with dependants over the age of three to go out searching for jobs that aren’t there being a classic example.
Like almost everything this government does, ‘welfare reform’ will be a political advertising campaign and nothing more.
David Garrett, former ACT MP, law and order crusader and
convicted criminal self-confessed fraudster, has taken to contributing to the General Discussion threads on Kiwiblog. Today’s entry:
I am interested in the collective opinion on a little contretemps I had in the supermarket over the weekend. While selecting my fruit and veges, I noted an Asian women near me vigourously sniffing pieces of fruit …and then putting them back for others to buy. I told her – perhaps more firmly than I needed to – that while this may be acceptable in her home country, people here did not want to buy fruit she and others had sniffed. It did not go down well, with the daughter – sadly rather predictably- saying I was a racist.
Hat tip The Standard.
What I can say is it wasn’t helped by the death (of Private Kirifi Mila). Also the (Australian PM Julia) Gillard visit meant that quite frankly we were focused on what we thought was pretty important and that didn’t help.
Via NZPA, the Prime Minister explains his bewildering range of evasions and excuses regarding the purchase of new BMWs for his Ministerial fleet.
Has there been a coup d’etat in New Zealand in which the head of government was replaced by a blithering idiot who looks and sounds exactly like John Key?