The Dim-Post

August 10, 2012

Shearer and the roof-painting benefit bludger

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 10:49 am

Gordon Campbell has an overview and intelligent critique on this, but briefly, one of David Shearer’s recent speeches opened with an anecdote about a work-shy sickness beneficiary in his electorate who was painting his roof instead of out looking for a job (in totally unrelated news, unemployment increased again in the last quarter).

There’s a lot a Labour MP could say about welfare and unemployment, but Shearer said what a National MP would say:

it wasn’t bloody fair, and I said so. I have little tolerance for people who don’t pull their weight. We don’t like others ripping the system off . . .

I think this sort of stuff is calculated to provoke a reaction from ‘the left’. Sue Bradford and Hone Harawira (or whoever) are supposed to condemn Shearer and call for him to resign, and this is supposed to boost his credibility with ‘middle New Zealand.’ But parties generally shore up their base before they move to the center. And you usually move to the center with a watered down populist take on your own values, not those of an opposing ideology. John Key ‘swallowed dead rats’ in 2008, sure – but he didn’t campaign on his deep affection for government regulation and progressive taxation, which is the rough right-wing analogy to Shearer’s strategy. This just seems like it’ll alienate Labour’s activist base, most of whom already hold the parliamentary wing of the party in contempt.


  1. No mention of the fact that he may have been on the sickness benefit because of mental illness, and painting his roof was the only therapy he could afford.

    Comment by alex — August 10, 2012 @ 11:05 am

  2. fact? may of?

    Comment by CnrJoe — August 10, 2012 @ 11:06 am

  3. We don’t pay these people to sit around all day to not sit around all day!

    Comment by garethw — August 10, 2012 @ 11:09 am

  4. Im unemployed (thank you john key) and do not collect a benefit…….David Shearer is a dud….as a long term labour supporter I wont vote for them with him as leader….David Cunliff is the only hope for labour at the moment.

    Comment by Kerry — August 10, 2012 @ 11:19 am

  5. Did John Key fire you, Kerry?

    Comment by Gregor W — August 10, 2012 @ 11:21 am

  6. And if Shearer and his buddy key think im gonna go break my neck to do any sort of job they are dreaming!! I will do what im want to do and qualified to do…not what they want me to do just to make a buck!….sorry not gonna go work at McDonalds or as a building labourer just to suit them…

    Comment by Kerry — August 10, 2012 @ 11:22 am

  7. via his “cost cutting” in the public service…yes.

    Comment by Kerry — August 10, 2012 @ 11:23 am

  8. I can’t tell if Kerry is for real, or a troll playing on every civil-servant stereotype ever devised. If the latter, well played.

    Comment by Andy M — August 10, 2012 @ 11:32 am

  9. Let’s not underestimate the achievement by the Parliamentary Labour Party. Having a policy vacuum at the same time as a leadership vacuum takes some doing.

    Comment by billbennettnz — August 10, 2012 @ 11:40 am

  10. I began this year thinking Shearer should be given a years grace before final judgement is passed on his ability as Labours leader.

    I don’t hear much about him, precious little from him and last week I saw a picture of a man somewhere and had to read the caption to learn it was Shearer, having not seen his likeness before to my recollection.

    It’s beginning to feel there is no Labour party in New Zealand, certainly none with a face I would recognize and it has become a work of self discipline to continue to give grace through out the year.

    Comment by Fentex — August 10, 2012 @ 11:41 am

  11. In my experience, Labour’s proletarian base has no more enthusiasm for fake sickness beneficiaries than the rest of us. He’ll certainly be pissing off the activist base, but that’s not the same as pissing off potential voters.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — August 10, 2012 @ 11:51 am

  12. Even if this “strategy” made sense (it doesn’t), there’s no way waffly Shearer can be the convincing front man for blokism. It’s like Don Brash getting into his stock car.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — August 10, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

  13. Psycho Milt: As Danyl said, the usual way to go about things is to shore up your activist base before reaching to the centre, and to reach to the centre by modifying a principled position. Furthermore, the supposition that his example was a fake beneficiary rested solely on neighbourhood gossip. This kind of thing addresses no one’s concerns and reinforces social division.

    Comment by Olwyn — August 10, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

  14. Funny thing is, Don Brash almost won the election. That kind of remains my touchstone for how good the National media machine is.

    Comment by lyndon — August 10, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

  15. “Sue Bradford and Hone Harawira (or whoever) are supposed to condemn Shearer and call for him to resign”

    And they didn’t, did they? Because nobody takes Shearer seriously at this point. Nobody cares.

    Comment by Giovanni — August 10, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

  16. Poor Kerry.

    Lost your job as a lion tamer?

    You must be an Australian. No matter the financial inducement offered, the Australian mining industry is unable to attract unemployed people from Sydney and Melbourne to work in North Western Australia. Not even as FIFO commuters with airfares paid by the employer.

    They’d rather sit around on the dole looking for jobs as lion tamers in Redfern that make $150k per year.

    It seems the modern day leftist is above moving to where the work is.

    Comment by Rob Ripley — August 10, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

  17. Correction – typo

    Should read “….than make $150k…”

    Comment by Rob Ripley — August 10, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

  18. I hope Shearer keeps talking. More Labour votes go the Greens every time he says stuff like this. They have little use for TWO multi-national 1%-er parties. One is bad enough.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — August 10, 2012 @ 2:47 pm

  19. @Steve – are you counting National and ACT as one party?

    I will do what im want to do and qualified to do…not what they want me to do just to make a buck!

    @ Kerry – let me see if I understand you correctly.

    You’re unemployed because of John Key, but not claiming any entitlement.
    Both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition expect you to work in a job that you believe to be personally and professionally unsuitable and you feel (quite strongly) that it’s up to them to furnish you with a job that suits your specific requirements.
    Am I missing anything?

    Comment by Gregor W — August 10, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

  20. It seems as though Shearer has a semi-valid point, although he could have used a different analogy, such as seeing one of his unemployed neighbours sitting on the couch for ten hours at a time, every day, for a year.

    Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that, while the unemployed are a favourite for politicians to pick on, they actually do have responsibilities (contrary to popular belief) such as family commitments, housework, home maintenance, looking for employment, meetings while not in employment, temporary and contractual and seasonal work (a lot of unemployed do this), gardening, cooking, caring for extended family members, etc.

    Comment by Dan — August 10, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

  21. I have little tolerance for people who don’t pull their weight. We don’t like others ripping the system off . . .

    Shearer’s been misunderstood. It was a thinly-veiled attack on members of his caucus.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — August 10, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

  22. The dream time stories make more sense than this one.

    Comment by merv — August 10, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

  23. Gregor W: Yes. Since the National Party took over the ACT Party, I do consider them to be one party.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — August 10, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

  24. “But parties generally shore up their base before they move to the center.”

    But what if the base has become irrelevant now all the money has been spent?
    What if that social model has achieved as much as it possibly could short of financial collapse?
    What if the left social model all over the Western world is failing because there’s no more other peoples’ money?
    What if Shearer is right to push first towards the centre and offer the middle class something before its totally lost?


    Comment by JC — August 10, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

  25. It also illustrates the quandary that mainstream Left parties in the Anglosphere face. With the Right’s successful grasp of wedge politics, these Left parties are forced to choose from two equally no-win choices:

    – if they reject the wedge politics, they’re left looking PC and soft on crime/welfare/asylum/terrorism et al.
    – if they agree with the wedge politics, they’ll give the impression of me-too-ism and allowing their opponents to dominate the agenda, and also disaffecting core supporters too.

    And the political arms race to the bottom probably won’t stop anytime soon… until it ends in catastrophic meltdown.

    Comment by deepred — August 10, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

  26. FFS deepred is it always about wedge politics, class warfare and neo-lib conspiracies with you lot???!

    As JC notes perhaps the western welfare model was deeply flawed and in effect a pyramid scheme based on growing western populations, world war rebuilds etc.

    Comment by Tim — August 10, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

  27. “But parties generally shore up their base before they move to the center.”


    Comment by Hugh — August 11, 2012 @ 1:01 am

  28. Key & Shearer fight over a narrow band of swing vote. NZ is in effect a one party state. Deal with it.

    Notice that the Greens have started to.

    Comment by Simon — August 11, 2012 @ 8:08 am

  29. The important question,what colour was he painting his roof, blue or red?

    Comment by frank_db — August 12, 2012 @ 2:15 am

  30. > but Shearer said what a National MP would say

    What a weird comment. What that implies is that National MP’s are never right, so Labour MPs have to consistently disagree with them. It is refreshing when National and Labour MPs agree.

    Comment by Ross — August 12, 2012 @ 10:42 am

  31. > painting his roof was the only therapy he could afford.

    Well, he could paint my roof if he wants therapy!

    Comment by Ross — August 12, 2012 @ 10:46 am

  32. Oh yes JC and Tim, too much socialism is clearly the problem. Thank goodness for our saviour Rand.

    Comment by Sacha — August 12, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

  33. Well when are National MP’s right? Was it right to borrow $12billion for tax cuts that went primarily to the rich, in spite of the knowledge they already had regarding the lack of funds available for superannuitants?

    Comment by Dan — August 13, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

  34. “Bludger on the Roof” – would make a good title for a musical. I can just hear the lyrics starting to flow…

    If I were a rich man,
    asset growth in my property portfolio could be leveraged for MRP shares
    All day long I’d claim roofing maintenance against the trust corporate expenses,
    If I were a wealthy man.
    I wouldn’t have to work hard.
    Captial gains and tax exempt depreciation would pay for the Hawaiian pad .
    If I were a bludgey bludger rich,
    Fiddle and diddle my tax, man.

    Thank you, thank you, try the steak…

    Comment by Fooman — August 13, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

  35. Bludger on the Roof
    Bludger-bashing is cool so long as you don’t sell any assets, OK?

    Comment by Joe W — August 13, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

  36. Fooman: Bludger on the roof . Very good

    Comment by Alistair — August 14, 2012 @ 12:26 am

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