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Tickets to ride, but numbers questionable

Jacinda ARDERN

Social Development Spokesperson                       

23 December 2012                                                  

MEDIA STATEMENT

Tickets to ride, but numbers questionable

While Paula Bennett has been able to give a media outlet details of the number of  unemployed people Work and Income has paid to travel to Australia for work,  she seems determined to withhold the same information from Labour, its Social Development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. 
 
“Despite asking questions on the number of times the Transition to Work Grant was used for tickets to Australia on the 7th of December, the Minister is yet to reply to me.
 
“She has however chosen to drop the information to the media.  Yesterday it was reported that 68 beneficiaries had their flights to Australia paid for by Work and income, while 11 were assisted to get to places as far away as Israel.
 
“In the last five years 500,000 people have received funds through the Transition to Work grant. Given that airline tickets could be listed as basic ‘travel costs’, it’s unlikely we’ll ever know what the real figures are.
 
“What we do know is that Ms Bennett presides over a department that has given up on creating opportunities for Kiwis in New Zealand.
 
“Paying people to travel to Israel and the UK shows just how desperate Work and Income was to keep benefit numbers down and how desperate New Zealanders were to find work.
 
“Ms Bennett’s attempt at obfuscation by not answering parliamentary questions is typical of National. If there’s an issue, Ministers either don’t front, or they try to fudge it.
 
“What is really clear in this case is that Ms Bennett didn't know what was going on in her own department.
 
“She only issued a ministerial directive to end the practice after I queried it in Parliament earlier this month. MSD had begun centralising decisions around the use of the grant in September.
 
“At some stage I hope Labour is provided with the correct figures, and with other information around the grant that has so far gone unanswered.”
 
ENDS

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