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Maxim - Real Issues No. 145

Maxim - Real Issues No. 145, 24 FEBRUARY 2005

One benefit to rule them all

New Zealand rejects UN cloning ban

Police seek $35 cleaning bill for Cabinet Minister

Play-dough ban misrepresented

One benefit to rule them all

On Tuesday the government announced a single core benefit with "add-ons" to replace the current "raft of benefits, rules and entitlements". It will roll seven main benefits into one, including the unemployment benefit, the sickness benefit, invalids' benefit, DPB and widows' benefit.

The goal is to reduce the time case managers spend on administration and free them up to spend more time helping people into jobs. Case managers are presently said to spend 70 percent of their time administering benefits. But good intentions don't automatically produce the best outcomes. Any new free time may quickly be absorbed administering "add-ons" such as accommodation supplements, childcare assistance, hardship payments and disability payments.

The new "one-size-fits-all" benefit is problematic because it uses only one set of eligibility criteria. A Cabinet Paper on the new system states that "Eligibility for the Single Benefit would be based on low income", with age, residence and emergency needs also being factors. A doctor's certificate may no longer be needed to prove sickness as grounds for receiving the benefit.

The government will still track the reasons why people are on the benefit; recording whether someone is unemployed, sick or widowed. But because one set of eligibility criteria widens the scope, more people will be eligible for the benefit than currently. A principle of sound policy is this: what government encourages it gets more of. The new single benefit may increase dependence on the state rather than decrease it.

New Zealand rejects UN cloning ban

On February 18 the United Nations Sixth Committee (Legal) passed a draft resolution entitled "Declaration on Human Cloning" (DHC) which prohibits the practice. The move has been welcomed by governments throughout the world and is seen as a positive step towards protecting the rights of both women and children. The DHC was adopted by a clear majority, with 71 national representatives in favour of it and only 35 opposed - including New Zealand. 43 countries abstained.

New Zealand voted against the DHC because it prohibits both reproductive and therapeutic cloning. Although the New Zealand government is against reproductive cloning, last year they passed the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Act which allows for therapeutic cloning at the discretion of the Advisory Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology.

The DHC rejects human cloning on the grounds of "human dignity" and "the protection of human life". It safeguards unborn children and helps prevent the exploitation of women in developing countries, where it is likely that cloning would put pressure on them to turn their bodies into egg farms. The DHC is a positive move and New Zealand has missed an opportunity to signal its support for the protection of human life.

To read more on some recent UN issues and New Zealand's position visit: http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/news_page/unrecent.php

Police seek $35 cleaning bill for Cabinet Minister

Last week the police visited the home of a young Dunedin family at the request of Associate Justice Minister David Benson-Pope, seeking $35 for cleaning costs. There was neither prior notification of the bill nor any indication that an offence had been committed.

During debate on the Civil Union Bill last year, the couple glued posters protesting the legislation on the front window of Mr Benson-Pope's Dunedin South electoral office. Water soluble paste was used, no damage was done and criminal charges were not laid. Why, then, did the police at the request of a cabinet minister send a uniformed officer in a patrol car to ask for cleaning costs?

MPs do not have the right to direct the police on personal matters. It is important for confidence in our police and justice system that this is not even seen to be the case. How does an MP have so much influence that the police became involved in a civil matter? Surely the minister could have spent 45 cents and put an invoice in the mail. Perhaps the police should send Mr Benson-Pope an invoice for the cost to tax-payers involved in collecting the $35 cleaning bill. Incidentally, the bill was paid the same day.

Play-dough ban misrepresented

The Herald on Sunday (13 Feb) published an article which claimed that kindergartens around the country have banned play-dough and other food items from children's play because some cultures find it offensive. However, contrary to the perception and shock this generated, further investigation by Maxim has found that this report misrepresents the situation.

The Auckland Kindergarten Association, which was cited in the article, confirmed they have not issued a policy banning the use of play-dough. Some kindergartens are said to have reduced their use of food items in play, mainly to protect children's health and safety as they are sometimes prone to eating it. A small number of kindergartens may have banned play-dough for cultural reasons, but this is a matter of individual policy, rather than the result of a ban. The story illustrates the importance of looking beyond sensational headlines to determine the truth of a matter.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - David Lange, reprinted in Sunday, 6 February 2005

Our military forces are an arm of government, just like the Department of Social Welfare, although probably less able to inflict widespread harm.

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