Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lindsay Mitchell: Opposition and state media in denial

After completing an interview with Larry Williams last evening I listened in to the talkback response - all in favour of welfare reform - and then caught Wendy Petrie announcing that TV One would also be covering the Welfare Working Group Issues Paper, had talked to a young solo mum and had done some of their own number crunching which might surprise. So I tuned in. They led with the unemployment benefit showing, with graphics, that the duration of stays on it are not that long. Then they interviewed a sweet young mum who studies and has been raising her much loved child on the DPB but is determined to get off it and repay the taxpayer.

First the paper is titled Long-term Benefit Dependency: The Issues. Paula Rebstock said yesterday that it is not about the unemployment benefit which has actually been operating quite well over recent years. The focus is on the DPB, sickness and invalid's benefit. The report shows (3.6) that at June 2009 170,000 people on a benefit had been on a benefit for most of the last ten years. So for TV One to "number crunch" the unemployment benefit was just a dishonest disgrace.

Second, the solo mum they interviewed is the exception to the rule. The report shows clearly that teenagers going on a benefit have the greatest risk of staying there long-term. That never got a look in.

Repeatedly yesterday I heard the complaint that, there are no jobs or, the government has manufactured a crisis.

Labour leader Phil Goff said that rather than a culture of long-term welfare dependency, the numbers on benefits reflected economic conditions.

"It's not that people don't want to work; the jobs simply aren't there at the moment and the situation's getting worse."

Shame on you Phil Goff. This is why you will never be Prime Minister. You don't deserve to be.

Let's re-group here. Again, the report is about long-term welfare dependency and what drives it - the type of dependency that persists during good economic times. As it points out, in 1960 about 2 percent of the working age population was on a benefit. In 2007, after a period of very low unemployment, the figure was around 10 percent.

Unemployment is only one factor driving long-term dependency and not even the most important. There are more people on the DPB than on the unemployment benefit. There are more people on the invalid's benefit than the unemployment benefit. Long-term dependence is about people having children with no means of supporting them; about making themselves unemployable through drug and alcohol abuse or unhealthy lifestyles; about a passive system that allows people to stay on welfare long-term.

Crucially the report identifies that teenagers going on welfare is a significant factor and teenagers have consistently entered the system during good and bad economic periods.

It is utterly defeatist to say there are no jobs so that's an end to it. The report, for the first time ever, has accurately described the dimensions of dependence and identified chronic dependence amongst certain groups. But those who are best characterised as 'on the left' are still in denial.

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