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Newman: How Social Welfare Nurtured A Killer Trio

How Social Welfare Nurtured A Killer Trio
Weekly Column by Dr Muriel Newman

Jules Mikus, Bruce Howse, William Bell. Three killers who - in a year defined by rising crime and a fading blue line - stand out for their unmistakable evil. Three men whose convictions may have served justice, but whose lessons our country has thus far ignored.

We reacted to each conviction with immediate feelings of rage and disbelief. We paid tribute to Teresa Cormack, Saliel Aplin, Olympia Jetson, Bill Absolum, Wayne Johnson, and Mary Hobson. To salve our emotions and in an attempt to answer our questions, the media examined each killer to give us an insight into their lives, their minds and their motivation - yet sadly these efforts came to nothing beyond shallow conclusions regarding the malevolence of which mankind is capable. Perhaps as the year closes, it is now possible to look at the conditions that bred each of the trio, and to recognise a common thread: each killer was a repeat offender who had spent years completely carried on the backs of taxpayers, maintained by the largesse of our welfare system, with state-reinforced denial of any responsibility for their own actions.

Consider first Jules Mikus - a man with 60 convictions, including the murder of young Teresa. Mikus was allowed to sponge off the taxpayer for more than twenty years. He fathered numerous children, leaving the mothers supported by taxpayers on the Domestic Purposes Benefit. The benefit system freed Mikus of any responsibility to work, and enabled him to continue fathering children and leading an indolent life of crime.

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Next, take Bruce Howse, the stepfather who murdered his two daughters in cold blood. Howse had been on a benefit for years. He was able to wallow in the sort of indulgent and destructive behaviours that cannot be maintained with a disciplined lifestyle based on an eight-hour work day.

And finally, reflect on William Bell. Convicted most recently for three RSA murders, Bell had 80 previous convictions. Growing up in a gang household, he was a state ward from age eight. His criminal career blossomed under state guardianship.

It is important at this point to make two observations. Most people on welfare are not criminals but good people who are trying to build a better life. Some killers come from middle class, working backgrounds. But these observations must not detract from the fact that these three - and many, many more New Zealanders - have been delivered a strong and recurring message throughout their lives: take no responsibility for your own actions, because the state will mop up behind you. The toll of our refusal to learn adds not only to the roll-call of victims, but also to the economic damage to our nation.

It has been estimated that the average law abiding, working citizen will contribute a million dollars to society over their lifetime, whereas a non-working criminal will cost, on average, three million dollars. Prisoners in high security prisons cost $100,000 a year, youth offenders $120,000, and benefit costs range from $15,000 to $50,000 a year, depending on the circumstances.

Our welfare system does not simply allow anti-social behaviour, at times it encourages it. The state lets parents abrogate any responsibility to support their children emotionally or financially. Men may freely sire children with disregard for the consequences, while others are denied their parenting role. Women are paid to have children they cannot care for. And destructive, abusive and criminal lifestyles are funded with money from tax-payers.

Despite the obvious sickness in our welfare system, there appears to be little clamour for welfare reform - but I hope that may be changed.

I intend to lead a campaign for welfare reform. I believe we should leave in place a safety net for those who cannot support themselves, but we must change the system that encourages destructive behaviour and damaging outcomes.

To me, this means introducing time limits to prevent people abusing the system; organised work days to bring dignity and purpose to those without a job; changes to child support law to prevent men from indiscriminately fathering children; family law reform to ensure non-custodial parents remain connected with their children; encouraging women who have children they cannot properly care for to offer them up for adoption; and mentoring schemes to teach dysfunctional families the skills of being good parents and responsible citizens.

If you support what I am trying to do, please contact me and send details of others who you think would be interested, at muriel.newman@parliament.govt.nz

I am driven by the certain belief that Jules Mikus, Bruce Howse and William Bell are not unique. What frightens me the most is that the lessons that the state taught the trio of killers, it is today teaching to a new generation of New Zealand children.

_____

Dr Muriel Newman, MP for ACT New Zealand, writes a weekly opinion piece on topical issues for a number of community newspapers. You are welcome to forward this column to anyone you think may be interested. View the archive of columns at http://www.act.org.nz/action/murielnewman.html


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