I wrote a quick cut-up script to merge Tennyson’s Ulysses with Paula Bennett’s instant classic, Address to New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services. See if you can guess who said which line.
It is a pleasure to be here to speak to you all.
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
I am the Minister of Social Development, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I hope you have had a successful conference to date and that you have shared ideas, problems and solutions.
All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
Much have I seen and known: For example; if a woman on benefit had another child when their youngest was 18 they would automatically get another 18 years on benefit.
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all; And this is just the start.
I admire the work you do in our communities, far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
There are moments in my job when I sincerely feel the pull to be working at the grass roots level.
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end of well over 200,000 children living in benefit dependant homes.
They were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From Maori who looked after each other and fought for what they believed in.
A year later and some changes had been made but not enough for this gray spirit, yearning in desire
To stand still is to stagnate, so surely we should take the best of what we have known, the best of who we were and look to who we can be… But I digress beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This afternoon I want to talk about who we were, who we are and most importantly about who we want to be as citizens as New Zealanders.
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This is fair, especially when you consider that 50 per cent of New Zealand sole parents and 69 per cent of partnered women are already working.
A few weeks ago Family and Community Services announced that five providers would not have their contracts renewed this year.
I will subdue them to the useful and the good.
There had to be change and I would spend more time and money supporting that change.
There is over $550 million of contracting for services that MSD does and we are demanding that they all be up to a high standard.
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
The first change for those on DPB, That ever with a frolic welcome took
is that they will be expected to be available for part time work when their youngest is five and be in full time work when their youngest is 14.
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The new system will not punish people who can’t find work. If someone can’t find a job their benefit will not be cut.
The days of a passive system are over. Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The next logical question is why?
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It was also for those who were cruelly widowed and there was no such thing as being born into welfare.
That which we are, we are; it is not who we were. It is who we are. But is it who we want to be?
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We were a proud nation.
Moved earth and heaven,
One third of women currently on the DPB started on the benefit as teen mums. That is more than 30,000 people.
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.