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No Relief in Budget for Those Most in Need

No Relief in Budget for Those Most in Need

Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki, Maori Party

Friday 23 May 2008

“It has become blatantly apparent that Budget 2008 has nothing to eliminate real poverty,” said Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki.

“What is even more ruthless is that the amounts set aside for sickness, widows, unemployment and special circumstances have all been reduced”.

In his speech this afternoon, Mr Flavell outlined how the Unemployment and Emergency Benefit has been reduced by $39 million; sickness benefit by $13 million; widows benefit by $3.5 million and special circumstances assistance reduced by $634,000 in the 2008/09 budget breakdown.

Mr Flavell was speaking at the third reading of the Taxation (Personal Tax Cuts, Annual Rates, and Remedial Matters) Bill 2008.

“It seems that the culture of naming, blaming and shaming the poor has not changed in the slightest since the benefit cuts of 1991”.

“We would have been happy to go into urgency to assist beneficiary families and individuals who are trapped in poverty if we had seen evidence that real benefit levels would rise” Mr Flavell said.

Finance Minister Michael Cullen says tax cuts have been weighted towards those most in need.

“But in reality, beneficiaries stand to gain the very least from the tax incentives” said Mr Flavell.

“We believe there are many things that Government could have done to address the persistent poverty which is fast becoming entrenched in our country” said Mr Flavell.

“They could have

 signalled a commitment to end child poverty;

 ensured that lower income people carry less burden proportionally than those who are on higher income levels;

 remove GST from food;

 increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour;

 invest in Maori enterprise,

 or invest funds in public transport (which low income people will need as the price of energy continues to escalate)”.

“And that’s just a start…”.

"The minimal relief for those in the poverty trap is exactly that - minimal. It offers them no way out” said Mr Flavell. “At each new phase-in step, the new tax regime gets increasingly discriminatory. The gap between the tax break of low earners and high earners widens considerably”.

“The cuts start off as low as $12 at the first phase, and barely change when fully implemented. You only need to compare this with high income earners to see how the scheme is fully loaded for the better off. Those on incomes of $80,000 will get a $28 cut at the first phase, which will double to $55 at full implementation”.

“The question has to be put – how on earth will cutting these benefits do any anything about restoring an adequate income and a decent standard of living to families and individuals in financial difficulty?”

“If it is true that a society is judged on how it treats its most disaffected, then Budget 2008 scrapes the barrel”.


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