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Pansy Speak: Botox anyone?

Pansy Speak
Botox anyone?

Labour knows no bounds when it comes to wasting taxpayers’ money. It was hardly a surprise that they have been caught out again using taxpayer funds in a bid to be re-elected, just like they did with the pledge card in 2005.

This time it involves their taxpayer-funded Budget pamphlet entitled 'A fair economy for a strong future'. The General Secretary of the Labour Party, Mike Smith, has confirmed to the Electoral Commission that the pamphlet was an election advertisement, which was funded and produced by the Labour Leader's Office.

So, given the tone the Government has set when it comes to appropriate use of taxpayer money I didn’t think I could be surprised anymore. However, I was wrong.

I was truly shocked to learn about ACC’s blatant use of taxpayer funds with their decision to shell out more than $750,000 for staff to have access to day spas, manicures, and Botox.

Every ACC staff member received $250 on an ACTIVA card in February this year. This card can then be used to purchase everything from pet grooming to aromatherapy to beauty treatments.

When I exposed the scheme, ACC fiercely defended it and their Corporate Affairs manager Laurie Edwards, said the card helped to retain staff and cut down on sick days. But, ACC have been unable to provide any research to back this up. When I asked them for some evidence during the Select Committee ACC estimates process all they could come up with was that the PSA had commented on the positive impact of the card, which is hardly a ringing endorsement!

When I quizzed the ACC Minister, Maryan Street, about the card she admitted she didn’t know what it had to do with improving the health and safety of staff and assured the House she would follow up on the matter. However, she went strangely quiet when ACC management came out swinging.

Of course, the Minister’s lack of leadership is nothing new. You might remember a story from earlier this year involving a prisoner who demanded that ACC pay for cosmetic surgery to fix his ear, which was bitten off during a burglary. At the time ACC said the law had to be changed so they could avoid paying out in cases like this (despite this being untrue). The Minister also said she would look into the issue but not surprisingly we have heard nothing since.

With the tough economic times facing the country, and the number of families struggling to make ends meet, it’s totally unacceptable that ACC is being so reckless with taxpayers’ money. ACC’s bloated bureaucracy needs to be more accountable and should be making safer work places, and helping the injured get back to work, their priority.

Earlier this week, John Key announced our plans for getting more people back into the workforce with our benefits policy.

National is committed to a comprehensive system of benefits that provides temporary support to people as they return to independence, and also provides indefinite, compassionate support to people who are physically or mentally unable to support themselves. We believe in a benefit system that is a genuine safety net in times of need.

We, however, will place an unrelenting focus on getting beneficiaries back into employment.

This includes a part-time work obligation for people on a Sickness Benefit who are determined to be fit for part-time work and people receiving the Domestic Purposes Benefit who’s youngest child is 6 or older. These people will be required to work at least 15 hours a week, trying to find work or in job-related training.

This system of work obligations will have built-in safeguards to exempt parents who have full-time carer responsibilities, because, for example, their child has a physical or intellectual disability.

All long-term unemployment beneficiaries will be required to do what it takes to secure employment. This may include practical training, attending a basic skills course, or attending drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Any beneficiaries who have been unemployed for 12 months will have to reapply for their benefit and undergo a comprehensive work assessment.

After that, they will be required to actively look for a job, go to any job interview they are referred to, and accept any suitable offer of employment. If they don’t comply with these obligations, their benefits will be reduced in the first instance, then suspended, then cancelled.

Thirdly, National will improve assessments for sickness beneficiaries. This will mean introducing more frequent reassessment during the first few months a person is on a sickness benefit. Anyone on a sickness benefit continuously for 12 months will automatically be sent to a ‘designated doctor’ for a second opinion on their work prospects.

National will also increase the amount beneficiaries can earn each week before their benefit is affected from $80 to $100.

When children can see their parents are committed to working, they will grow up with a good work ethic. We want to encourage all Kiwis to be ambitious for themselves and their families, and our welfare plan is one step towards doing this.

Pansy Wong

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