Guyon Espiner interviewed Paula Bennett on Q & A this morning about her changes to the welfare system. I thought the final question was illuminating:
GUYON Most of these changes come in on October 4, some of them coming in May this year.
PAULA 27th of September actually.
GUYON September this year?
GUYON Forgive me – so September this year. Are you going to be here to shepherd those through, because you are taking a scholarship at some stage later in the year, are you going to be here shepherding through some of these pretty crucial reforms?
PAULA It’s fair to say that the work’s going on now, it has been going on for the last year, and we’ve certainly got these next few months to get it right, as far as Work and Income being read for them, this is the crucial time, I’m very aware of that and the level of responsibility that I have leading up to that.
GUYON When do you go away on this scholarship?
PAULA I’m going away early October, so I am going away then, but we’re putting them in in September, but I think actually it’s the work that goes on now that’ll make that difference then.
GUYON So are you gonna be here when the reforms actually kick in?
PAULA Yes I will be.
GUYON You will be yeah. Right we’ll see how they pan out. Thanks very much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.
Bennett has won a scholarship to the US which will take her out of the country for six weeks – and it sounds as if that six weeks will begin a few days after her new welfare policies come into effect. Presumably the Associate Welfare Minister – Tariana Turia – will be thrilled to front up in her place.
One can agree or disagree with the ideology of Bennett’s reforms but it’s patently moronic to start work-testing beneficiaries and suspending their incomes for non-compliance when there aren’t any jobs around for them to apply for. It’d make a bit more sense in twelve months time – if/when the recovery starts to impact on the unemployment figures – but that might not be personally convenient for the Minister.