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Minister Must Earn Support, Not Buy It

Minister Must Earn Support, Not Buy It

ACT New Zealand Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman today slammed Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey for putting the wants of the Beneficiaries Unions over the needs of the taxpayer.

"Since becoming Minister, Mr Maharey has done little more than pander to his staunchest supporters - the Beneficiaries Unions," Dr Newman said.

"Official information showed that, when Labour became the Government in 1999, the Beneficiaries Unions presented the Minister with a list of more than 100 demands in return for their support. These demands included changes to the benefit fraud system, relaxation of the DPB and provisions to write off debts.

"New Parliamentary Questions just received show that more than 50 of these demands have already been implemented, with almost 40 others currently under consideration.

"Mr Maharey has softened the Government's stance on benefit fraud, and the recovery of benefit debts, by reducing repayments for 1,787 people and altering the way such offences are investigated.

"As a result, there seems little chance that the $2.8 million of taxpayers money fraudulently obtained, and now owed by the top five debtors on each of the Unemployment, Invalids, Sickness Benefits and DPB will ever be paid back. No doubt the Minister will use the new provisions of the new benefit law, that came into force on Monday, to write these debts off.

"The Labour Government must realise that working New Zealanders, whose taxes pay for the welfare system, demand zero tolerance to benefit fraud. By agreeing to the demands of the Beneficiaries Unions - to go soft on benefit fraud - instead of taxpayers who want fraudsters prosecuted and made to pay their debts back, Labour is embarking on a very risky strategy," Dr Newman said.

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