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Comprehensive plan to eliminate poverty needed

Comprehensive plan to eliminate poverty needed

Maori Party Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader

26 May 2008

Michael Cullen's review of assistance for beneficiaries is just tinkering with the design of the poverty trap, it is not a strategy to eliminate poverty, says Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party.

"It's another sign that the government responds to polls, but not to people in distress," says Mrs Turia.

"The situation of people on the lowest incomes, including benefits, is getting worse very quickly. The government was too slow to respond with the budget. Now it's talking about a band-aid solution, to stop the bad PR it's getting.

"The kind of help that Dr Cullen is offering beneficiaries will simply keep people alive in the poverty trap - it won't get them out of it.

"What's needed is a comprehensive strategy, driven by a belief that poverty is unacceptable in the midst of plenty, and it must be eliminated," said Mrs Turia. "If they don't believe it, then change won't happen."

"The high price of dairy products means the poor have to go without, while industrial farmers become millionaires. Our food prices are following a global trend. People overseas are starving.

"Our people will starve too, unless we tackle the systemic causes of poverty," she said. "Poverty is not created by the poor."

The Maori Party says:

* Provide a universal benefit for parents raising children. If families are already well off, recoup the benefit from tax on higher incomes. (Universal benefits reach the neediest families most effectively.)

* Set a baseline for poverty at 60% of the average wage, and a deadline of 2020 to eliminate child poverty.

* Exempt the first $25,000 of income from tax.

* Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

* Remove GST from food. (The government says this would make the tax system too complex, but that argument hasn't stopped them granting all sorts of exemptions from the Emissions Trading Scheme.)

* Investigate other sources of revenue - capital gains tax, bank transaction tax.

"It is deeply ingrained in New Zealanders to care about te pani me te rawakore, the poor and vulnerable. But the government is listening to lobbyists for the wealthy elite.

"A bit more emergency assistance for beneficiaries will not get to the root of the problem. There has to be a significant change of attitude towards redistribution of wealth through the economic system, and asking what kind of society we want," said Mrs Turia.


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