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"Newman Online"

"Newman Online"

Weekly commentary by Dr Muriel Newman MP

Newman On-Line: Labour’s Obsession With Controlling NZers’ Lives

This week, Newman On-line looks at the Labour Government’s attempt to regulate many aspects of New Zealanders’ lives. .

The problem with governments is that after they have been in power for a while, they have a propensity to become arrogant. The power goes to their head and they start believing their own propaganda. They think that they know what’s best for people and are inclined to railroad through their ideological agendas even if they know they will be damaging.

Driven by the desire to satisfy voters, we have already watched as this Government has given massive handouts to Maori that are unfair on the rest of the population; we’ve seen labour laws changed to suit the unions at the expense of small business owners; family law altered to meet the gay agenda; and we’ve seen welfare become a soft-touch to keep in sweet with beneficiaries.

But to hardworking New Zealanders, much of this seems like madness.

In particular, it is crazy that at a time when the country is crying out for workers, Labour is allowing more than 80,000 beneficiaries who could be working to be paid to stay on the dole. The dole is presently costing taxpayers $2.6 million a day. That’s almost $1 billion a year at a time when there are literally jobs for Africa, and when common sense tells us that anyone who is able-bodied should be employed.

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It is clear that for New Zealand to still have over 340,000 people on welfare at a time when the Government claims that unemployment is at an historical low, is indicative of a system that is no longer working properly. It’s time to overhaul welfare so that it successfully provides security for those who cannot support themselves, and work for those who can.

As a first step, time limits on the dole and compulsory work experience should be introduced to ensure that those who are able bodied get a job.

The Domestic Purposes Benefit, which is increasingly being used by younger single women to have and raise children, needs to be modernised as well. Most New Zealanders believe that children should be raised by their mother and their father and that the State should not be incentivising sole parenthood.

To that end, women on the DPB should not be paid to have more children, nor should they be encouraged to stay out of the workforce. With the right help and support – including childcare, transport, financial planning advice and the like – there are 50,000 single parents on the DPB whose children are of school age, who are in a position to get a job and improve their situation as well as helping to relieve the labour shortage crisis the country now faces.

Further, the welfare system should be ensuring that the 53,000 people who are presently on a sickness benefit are being pro-actively helped to become well enough to go back to work, and that the 85,000 people receiving an invalid benefit who are able to contribute through work, do so.

But Labour’s “we know best” attitude is not confined to welfare. Two Bills that are presently before our Social Services Select Committee – one to regulate charities and the other to close down sheltered workshops - display this approach.

The Government’s proposed Charities Bill was so draconian and punitive that it was rejected by the 30,000 strong sector, and had to be re-written. Rather than consult with the sector over the detail of this redrafted Bill – or at the least with the 750 organisations who put in a submission on the original bill - the Government has handpicked 20 organisations to consult with over the re-write. Labour’s intention is to send the new Bill back to the Select Committee so it can be passed – under urgency – before Christmas.

This undue haste over such an important Bill - which has the potential to cause a great deal of harm to the rather fragile charitable sector unless it is done right – is unacceptable. It completely undermines the safeguards and integrity of the Parliamentary Select Committee process. It also leaves more than 700 charities with a keen interest in the detail of this legislation in the dark.

I have launched an on-line petition at http://www.charitiesbill.co.nz to open the Bill up for a proper submission process. In my view, all charities should be invited to make a submission on the new Bill. If you have a concern about this issue, I would urge you to support the petition and pass it onto others.

The second Bill that I have taken an active interest in is the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion (Repeal and Related Matters) Bill. Driven by union demands, it will have the effect of closing down sheltered workshops. Again, the Government’s intention was to rush this Bill through before Christmas, but thankfully last week the brakes were applied and the Bill delayed until March.

It is unacceptable that only 16 submissions were received by the Select Committee on this Bill, which will significantly affect the lives of thousands of disabled people. That in itself shows that the families themselves are not aware of what the Government is proposing. My on-line petition at http://www.disabledpersons.co.nz is calling for proper consultation process so that families who will be dramatically affected when their place of work is closed down are properly and appropriately consulted and can voice their opposition.

While ACT opposes both of these Bills, given that the Government has the support to pass them into law, at least we can try to ensure that a robust consultation process is undertaken and that such controversial legislation is not rushed through.

Another area targeted by the increasingly arrogant Government is rental housing. Labour’s plan is to not only increase taxes on private property investors through changes to depreciation rates, but, as indicated in their discussion document on the Residential Tenancies Act, they also intend to introduce rent controls, to register landlords, to introduce warrant of fitness checks for rental housing, to provide Government advocates for tenants, and to lock in long term tenancies by removing rental agreement flexibility.

Again, anyone with an interest in this area should both support my on-line petition at http://www.depreciation.co.nz to oppose the proposed depreciation changes, and send in a submission on the proposed Residential Tenancies Act changes, which closes on February 17th 2005.

As we look forward to election year, it’s imperative that voters are aware of Labour’s obsession with regulating seemingly every aspect of our lives. This ideologically-driven “Government knows best” administration must be stopped. It’s long past time that New Zealand enjoyed a government that trusts people to strive to build a better future for themselves and their families. With election year just around the corner, 2005 could be the year of change!

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