I must confess to being a little startled to see both John Campbell and Mark Sainsbury (7pm on TV3 & TV1 respectively) so strident with Social Development Minister Paula Bennett last night. Both were keen to fan the flames of outrage that a Minister should publicize the details of exactly how much two beneficiaries were getting, when said two beneficiaries had gone to the media claiming the Government weren't giving them enough money.
I was startled because an hour earlier both networks had confirmed (via their political reporters) that it was standard practice for Ministers (both Labour and National, in previous decades) to normally leak this type of infomation to reporters 'off the record' and let them run the story. Bennett's crime seems to be that she just issued a press release to ALL media, instead of a quiet whisper to a favoured Parliamentary hack.
No, you say, Bennett's crime is that she is bashing beneficiaries when she herself was on the DPB not so long ago. Okay, I'll grant you that but I still have to side with Bennett when she says that was then and this is now. Hypocrite! you reply.
Not really. Welfare benefits were set up to help people in times of need - to act as a safety net - not a cocoon to insulate you from the real world. Trust me, I was on and off 'the Dole' a lot when I was in my early 20s so I know how seductive it can be getting all that money for nothing (it was so nice I once claimed it twice). You get used to the income stream and pretty soon you begin to believe that you've 'earned it' because you're contributing to the community in other ways. In my case I was 'contributing to the Arts' via my role as manager of various bands and breakdancers. In the case of Natasha Fuller she contributes by volunteering two days a week at her children's school.
In hindsight I'd guess Fuller has contributed more than I ever did, but at the time I felt I was entitled to the measly $126 a week* the government gave me. And that's the problem. We now have generations of people who feel they are entitled to that money, that they deserve that money, and shouldn't be expected to demean themselves by taking a job that is beneath them. How will working on minimum wage at McDonalds get me any closer to my dream job of being a TV Presenter? ask today's youth.
Well, the reality is that we can't all be TV Presenter's, DJ's, Party Promoters, Fashion Designers, Make-Up Artists, or whatever else it is that today's youth aspire to, so "f#ck you" if you think my taxes are going to pay for you to sit on your ass while you wait for that dream job to land in your lap. Cos it won't. Take that job at McDonalds** and get some frikken life experience in the real world - you'll meet real people (both customers and co-workers) and you'll learn what it's like to actually work for a living. You don't have to stay there forever but while you're doing that you'll be suitably inspired to chase your dream job, really chase it.
Bennett's mistake has been that she hasn't communicated very well. According to the Herald On Sunday who originally reported the story last weekend:
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announced in May's budget that the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA) - a key stepping stone off welfare for DPB and invalid beneficiaries since the late 1980s - would apply only to high school level or lower courses. But universities and polytechnics knew nothing of the changes until students tried to enrol in the past few days.
So a whole bunch of beneficiaries are now finding they can't get the TIA to go to PolyTech or Varsity. Boo hoo - take out a student loan and Boo Ya! you're in. It really is that easy... what a shame Bennett hasn't made that clear.
[* Fuller gets $715 a week, but she has 3 kids to raise.