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Banks: Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Bill

Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Bill
Third Reading Speech by ACT Leader John Banks
Thursday, July 19 2012

I rise on behalf of the ACT Party to support the Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Bill.

I would like to start by congratulating Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennett, on this Bill.

Welfare reform is something that the ACT Party has long championed.

ACT MPs and supporters have worked hard in the wilderness for years to bring about welfare reform.

They made the case that our system no longer works. That too many New Zealanders are left out of work, out of hope, and out of dignity by the system.

This system can give somebody else’s cold hard cash but nothing more. And that’s the problem with socialism, you run out of other people’s money.

ACT explained the success of President Bill Clinton, and Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin’s, welfare reforms.

ACT explained that children and young mothers needed love and community - love and community that a bank transfer at midnight could not give.

You can imagine how glad the ACT Party is to see mutual obligation become what everybody now knows is right.

One hopes that one day charter schools, reforming the RMA, and government spending limits become what everybody knows is right. For now we are pleased with welfare reform.

Along the way this bill has been championed by the ACT Party supported Welfare Working Group.

The group found one-in-eight working aged New Zealanders is on some form of hand out, borrowed every week from the savings of the Swiss, Germans and Chinese.

An economically, socially, and morally unsustainable situation.

This Parliamentary term, welfare reform is not only supported by ACT, but recommendations from that working group are part of our Confidence and Supply Agreement and part of this bill.

It is ACT’s vote that makes these reforms possible and, specifically, ACT’s confidence and Supply Agreement that stipulates the obligations for parents as per the Welfare Working Group Report.

ACT’s Confidence and Supply Agreement also includes initiatives for better support to at risk families, income management, and contestable provision of social services.

When I was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Whangarei, the local police, social workers, and employers knew everybody in the town who was on welfare. Welfare then could work because we were all in it together.

This bill represents a small step back towards that kind of mutual connectivity and responsibility.

The community used to say to people on welfare, ‘hey, we will help you but you have to do a few things for yourself.’ That is what this bill seeks to bring back.

We acknowledge that sixteen and seventeen year-olds are not fully mature decision makers. They will no longer be given just cash, but in kind accommodation and food as well as an allowance. At the same time they will be obliged to do things for themselves. They must undertake education, budgeting and, in the case of young parents, parenting classes.

The current welfare reforms do not propose all stick with no carrot, but true mutual obligations.

They do not merely take away benefits for non-compliance, but will pay extra for recipients who do comply with the new obligations.

This sense of give and take is closer to the kind of human relationship of which mechanistic welfare has robbed us.

But the ultimate dignity that a person can have is the dignity of work.

Work builds self-esteem. Think about that term. SELF-esteem.

It’s not other people’s opinion of you, but your own opinion of yourself.

Without work, you cannot believe that you are a contributor. And it is very hard to hold yourself in high esteem when you know that you depend on others.

This bill reemphasises the importance of work.

It reemphasises the importance of work for adults, and the importance of working role models for children.

It acknowledges that in many families with small children, both parents work, at least part time.

This brings work expectations for parents receiving benefits back into line with how most New Zealanders live.

The reforms in this bill are a welcome part of a bold and principled reform program being carried out by the Minister of Social Development.

Minister Bennett and our coalition partners are investing in the social capital of this country by realigning welfare with the notion of mutual obligation and work.

The reforms in this bill correspond to the Welfare Working Group’s recommendation number 30, a recommendation emphasised in the ACT Party’s Confidence and Supply Agreement with National.

We look forward to seeing further bills enacting further elements of our agreement in the coming months.

We are turning the corner in New Zealand. The ACT Party has played its part in putting welfare reform on the table.

We have long argued that this 40 year experiment in open-ended welfare has not worked because it is based on the wrong values.

We have argued that a culture of mutual obligation must replace one of entitlement.

This bill is the arrival of that long march, and I am glad to be supporting it as Leader of the ACT Party.


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