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Alliance attacks system of poverty


Alliance attacks system of poverty in the midst of plenty

The Alliance Party says that a living standards report showing that
8% of New Zealanders are suffering severe hardship is a brutal
reminder of the reality of life for the poor in New Zealand.

Alliance Party co-leader Len Richards says that the figures show that
even while the New Zealand economy has been doing well, hundreds of
thousands of people in the economy have been doing badly.

"When the inevitable recession arrives, imagine how the number of
people left to struggle in poverty is going to grow."

He says that on the 90th birthday of the Labour Party, it is
disturbing that the Labour Government is trying to play down the
figures.

"What would the founders of the Labour Party say if they were alive
today? They would not recognize these complacent careerists."

The rate of hardship revealed is horrendously high among the Pacific
people in Auckland. Overall the rate of severe hardship is 10 per
cent in Auckland, compared to 8 per cent over the country, and this
is because the rate among Pacific people is a massive 27 per cent
living in severe hardship.

"It is a scandal that Labour leaves so many of them suffering on the
margins of society."

Mr Richards says Labour and National are content to let the poorest
New Zealanders sink, as they were only concerned about the welfare of
the middle class and wealthy.

He says the National Party response in particular is disgusting,
since the National Party reduced benefits in the 1990s at a time of
high unemployment caused by Government policies, directly attacking
New Zealand working families.

"Frankly, I don't know how people like Judith Collins and Gerry
Brownlee can look in the mirror on the morning. They are still trying
to punish the victims of their policies."

The just released Living Standards report by the Ministry of Social
Development (MSD) records that 61 per cent of beneficiaries with
children were in significant or severe hardship in 2004. This is up
from 41 per cent in the year 2000. This is being reported as a 20 per
cent increase.

"This 20 percentage points rise is, in real numbers of people
affected, almost a 50 per cent increase (the change from 41 to 61 is
a 49 per cent increase)."

The report shows a decline in the real income of beneficiary families
with children had contributed to a rise to 8 per cent in the number
of people experiencing severe hardship in 2004. That compared with 5
per cent in 2000.

Mr Richards says this is a result of the mean-minded social welfare
policies of a Labour Government that targets help towards the
'deserving' working poor.

"Those on benefits are left to suffer hardship as a goad to force
them into some form of paid employment. These people are forced to
accept paid work at any wage offered, which tends to keep down the
wage rates of those in work."

Mr Richards says Labour and National are competing to see who can
build the most jails for the next generation of young people who have
already been written off by the "political puppets of the rich".

He says the Alliance would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour,
ensure genuine full employment with public works, raise benefit
levels, embark on a massive upgrade of state housing stock, and
ensure access to all in a free public health and education system.

The first $10 000 of income would be tax free, with a rise in income
tax for the wealthy, and GST would be abolished, starting with food.

ENDS

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