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Brash-Report: More Abuse Of The Welfare System

An update from the National Party Leader
No. 38, 25 August 2004

More abuse of the welfare system

In my last newsletter, I highlighted the pressure which many doctors experience to re-classify people from the unemployment benefit (where people are expected to be seeking work) to the sickness benefit (where there is no such pressure to seek work). I received a number of emails from people quoting similar examples.

One person wrote that, in her opinion, the unemployment figures are a "complete joke". She went on to say that "a good friend of mine is 42 and has not worked, well, ever. Work depresses him. Well heck, work depresses me too, but it pays the bills! Interestingly, he does 'willing work on organic farms' and other sorts of non-paying work that fits with his principles. It seems that fixed hours and a commitment to attend work as required just do not fit within them. More interestingly still, WINZ has no problem with this, and sees it as a positively good thing that he works 'as he can'."

I've also received an email from a police officer to tell me of the "sheer volume of reports we take each and every benefit day of 'lost' wallets, containing all of the said beneficiaries' money. They report the loss to us, head off to Work and Income with the Police report, and are then reimbursed the sum in full.

"If they say that they lost, for example, some DVDs they rented to watch, as well as their money, Work and Income pay for that loss as well.

"Yesterday the Police Station I work at took complaints from at least three people, each of whom 'lost' an average of $200. We must be paying out tens of thousands of dollars every week for bogus complaints of theft or loss of money. This practice is commonplace, rife, and is almost impossible to investigate successfully. If we ring Work and Income to say we think the complaint is rubbish, we usually get an earful.

"It wouldn't take much to pull together some stats. I would say that the sheer number of 'emergency' benefit payments would astonish middle New Zealand."

As I've said repeatedly, a National Government will continue to provide financial support to all those who genuinely need that support, but we will not allow those who could work but choose not to do so to continue living off the sweat of hard-working tax-paying New Zealanders.

And meantime our police are under huge pressure

I have made a commitment that the next National Government will review police numbers in New Zealand immediately after taking office, noting that at present we have only 18 police for every 10,000 people, whereas Australia has 22 and the United Kingdom has 25. We will also review the way in which police resources are being deployed. It seems abundantly clear that we either have too few police or they are not being well deployed at present.

A few weeks ago, I was sent a copy of a letter from the Hamilton police to somebody in Onehunga. The letter noted that the addressee's car had been stolen on 20 September 2003, but had been recovered the following day with the wallet of the suspected car thief in it. The letter explained that the file on the theft had gone to the Glen Innes Criminal Investigation Unit on 18 December; the file had been transferred to the Auckland City Car Squad in February 2004, at which point the suspect was interviewed, apparently for the first time; the file was transferred to Glenfield Youth Aid and a letter written to the suspect on 8 April; and finally the file was transferred to the Hamilton Youth Aid section of the police in the middle of May because the suspect had moved there.

The letter explained that Section 322 of the Child, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989 states that "all matters involving young persons should be dealt with without undue delay, and as 10 months have passed since the offence, any proceedings put in place now would be thrown out. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done by this office. However, you may wish to make a civil claim against (the suspect), who now resides at (the address in Hamilton)."

This is absolutely outrageous and it is easy to see why the recipient of the letter was very angry. The police knew the likely car thief on the day after the theft but did not have the resources to deal with the crime before they had to accept that there was no chance of a successful prosecution. Or perhaps the police resources were deployed filling in forms for those seeking emergency benefits from WINZ, or trying to raise revenue by the aggressive use of speed cameras.

I've also been sent a copy of an email to the Prime Minister which makes a similarly strong case that the police are under-resourced. The email read:

"Last Wednesday, 4 August, our home was burgled. We lost approximately $60,000 worth of personal effects. The police refused to turn up on Wednesday. They said they were 'too busy' despite me telling them we had found a jacket in our home not belonging to us, but presumably to the burglars. In the jacket was a hand-written note detailing my address, details of the alarm code I had given to three tradesmen working on our home. This crucial piece of evidence was not collected until Thursday morning by the non-sworn officer (name) of Mt Wellington police, who arrived to take prints etc. So why write to you? Well I am sick and tired of hearing of the rising burglary rate in my area of Auckland, St Heliers. In fact there were 30 reported on Saturday last weekend.... I used to live in London. The burglary rate was nowhere near what it is in this city."

There are lots of things which governments do and people of goodwill can debate whether they need to be done or not. But there is surely one thing which every government must do if it is to be considered a responsible government in a civilised society, and that is protect the public from those who would prey upon our families and our communities. This Government is failing lamentably in this most basic of responsibilities. The next National Government will give a much higher priority to giving the police the resources they need and to keeping repeat and violent offenders in prison.

Don Brash

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