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Sharples: Social Security Amendment Bill.

Social Security Amendment Bill.
Dr Pita R Sharples; Co-leader,
Maori Party Tuesday

12 December 2006

Mr Speaker, this Bill has at its core a clever move by the Government to focus on beneficiaries by claiming the value, the absolute necessity, for people to participate in the labour market and engage in work as an appropriate outcome.

At the same time, the Bill states the government will continue to provide social and financial support for people with temporary or long term barriers to work.

What it also appears to have, as a consequential outcome, is a greater involvement by the state in the lives of vulnerable people.

It does this, under the guise of creating a more efficient support system to enable them to receive that to which they are entitled.

We are very concerned about the increased surveillance of particular groups by the state, in the face of increased freedom for others.

The Bill contains a second clever move by government. In the focus of encouraging people to think of work, something the Maori Party would support, a critical question is not asked: 'what sort of work are we talking about?'

Is it the sort of work where people have to aspire to succeeding in a low wage economy, where people set their sights from the peaks of the beneficiary mountain to the peaks of the mountains of the working poor?

The working poor which the Minister of Maori Affairs frequently refers to?

The part-time, the seasonal, the low-paid, the poor working conditions?

"Get a Job" replaces "Have a life".

What this Bill, and many others introduced by government, fails to acknowledge is that every aspect of the economy is inter-related.

In this House today, on the one hand we sit by and watch $95.7m being spent on reforming the social support system to supposedly create a 'work-focused system' - and on the other, close our eyes to the fact that not one cent will go towards the creation of jobs which people want to get out of bed for.

Not one cent to enable the establishment of meaningful, adequately paid, secure employment.

This House must be alert to the fact, that changes made in one area inevitably impact on others.

The social security system is linked to the wage rates, is linked to tax exemptions, is linked to capital gains, is linked to foreign exchange earnings.

Not only do we have this Social Security Bill but the Appropriation (2005/2006 Financial Review) Bill had its first reading yesterday, and last evening the Taxation (Annual Rates, Savings Investment and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, was sped through under urgency.

All these bills are related - they are all part of the whakapapa, the genealogy, of economics. Our question is, whose economic whakapapa is it?

Do not get us wrong, we believe in the necessity of the safety net of the social security system with its honourable intentions.

We believe that it is right and proper that the state supports our most vulnerable citizens, to ensure that all New Zealanders have the right to enjoy the quality of life.

But unfortunately for too many of us, it has had negative consequences; in that people have become entangled in that safety net.

And for some families the entanglement is what is now seen to be normal; indeed almost a right.

What we in the Maori Party say is that nobody has the right to be entangled in the welfare net of dependency or see the entanglement as a right, and no society or government has the right to promote such a view.

Mr Speaker we need to have a very good look at what we are doing.

What has happened here in Aotearoa to our people, who are the constituents, is no different to what has happened to other indigenous people where the safety net has become a welfare trap.

As a result people have become alienated from contributing positively to their own economic health, wealth and development.

And the values of the "I" and the "me" society have corrupted our traditional obligations to share resources and care.

Is it the case, in some families, that our traditional values of sharing and caring become interpreted as buying the booze for our teenagers, of sharing the joint, of partying with the cuzzies while the little ones are left to fend for themselves?

This is an absolute corruption of what we for so long have considered to be our "taonga tuku iho" - those treasures handed down.

This Bill does nothing to address that situation.

Mr Speaker, we in the Maori Party have an acute interest in, and a commitment to, having our people actively involved in the real economy, in being positive contributors to the economy rather than passive recipients and beneficiaries of the welfare state.

Mr Speaker, we will support this Bill to select committee but we say to this House that the debate with this Bill is just as much about economic philosophy and direction as it is about social development and direction.

The simple fact is Mr Speaker, that every economic relationship is also a social relationship, and we cannot continue to have the silo mentality of divorcing one from the other.


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