Q+A panel discussions
Sunday 13thNovember, 2011
Q+A panel discussions.
The panel discussions have been transcribed below. The full length video interviews and panel discussions from this morning’s Q+A can be watched on tvnz.co.nz at, http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news
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PANEL DISCUSSIONS hosted by PAUL HOLMES
Time to welcome the panel to Q&A this morning. We’re very pleased to welcome Dr Jon Johansson from Victoria University; Matt McCarten, the former Mana president and head of the Unite Union, and good to see you with us and in such good health.
MATT McCARTEN - Unite Union
Thank you, Paul.
PAUL And to Fran O’Sullivan, columnist with the New Zealand Herald. Let’s discuss the DPB policy, Paula Bennett’s DPB policy, first of all. 54% in favour, 40% against. People are a bit queasy. What do you think, Fran?
FRAN O’SULLIVAN – Political Columnist
Well, I actually was quite surprised how many were in favour. I thought that more New Zealanders would be a bit concerned about people being pushed back to work as a sole parent when that child gets to one, but-
PAUL Well, being encouraged to find 15 hours part-time work.
FRAN Yeah, but, you know, and people know how difficult it is when you’ve got two parents juggling, let alone just being one. But I think- I was surprised, but I think it’s probably that people know the dire straits the country is in and wonder at what point we actually start to do something about this big welfare tail that we have.
PAUL It is consistent with what she’s been saying for the last couple of years, though, that she’s bothered by the number of people who have second or third children on the DPB.
MATT How many is this? You know, this has been going on for as long as we’ve been alive? Every election you put the boot in. This is it - the DPB is a good policy. It was brought in so that women in relationships- Don’t forget, these are not young teenage girls. There’s very few of them. There’s actually just a couple of thousand. Most of the people on benefits are people whose relationships are broken down. As long as you have boy meets girl, it’s gonna happen. So that’s what it’s there for. To say that once they’re there- And don’t forget, the other partner who’s working is paying 20% of their gross income to Social Welfare as well, and 24% if there’s more than one kid. And then on top of that, what we’re saying is that kids who are in poor families need to be looked after. And what we’re really saying is that as soon as you’re one, you should go out and get a job. I thought being a sole parent looking after your kids was a full-time job.
PAUL Well, Gluckman has warned about the dangers of breaking the mother-child relationship.
MATT Of course. But look at this. Even that, and that’s a moral thing, and I think there’s a consequence in the future when you do that-
PAUL Not just moral. A mental health thing.
MATT But here’s the thing. Anyone who knows anything about the employment market knows there’s not 43,000 jobs for these women - mainly women - to go out from 9 to 3 and not school holidays. It’s a nonsense. It’s not there. It’s nonsense. And asking women to give up looking after their kids- And don’t forget they’re one. So where are they? These are sole parents, remember, and a lot of them don’t have the family connection, and they’re going to go into childcare, but as a union which represents the low paid, what also is not taken into account is they work $3 to $5 an hour - that’s actually what it is - and you’ve gotta pay your transport to work. And I represent a lot of low-paid workers who’ve gotta go and ask their employers at the end of the shift could they have $6 bus fare cos they’ve gotta get home.
PAUL I see you are well energised. Dr Johansson, what do you think?
MATT I am. I get annoyed at this. It’s sanitised nonsense.
PAUL Energised. Yes.
JON JOHANSSON -
Well, I’m not surprised that a majority supports the policy because it doesn’t apply to them. It’s a lot easier to support government policy that targets a specific group. I’m with Matt in the sense that welfare policy- There is a genuine attempt here and a genuine concern about the plight of these 220,000 young New Zealanders. That said, when you actually look at the policy substance, you know, where is the big- There’s two issues here, right, the one that Gluckman has informed us from his fact-based studies, which is that essentially that we’ve got a lost generation already, that is one dimension of the problem. The other dimension is how do you reorganise government processes and policy through that prism of your 3-year-old, which has to be the most economically efficient way of organising state services. Those two core problems are not being dealt with in a first principle way certainly by government policy. I thought when Annette first announced this, you know, her policy about through the prisms of the 3-year-old, that it was the most promising and innovative policy idea of either of the two main parties. But once it’s now been reduced to its campaign bite size, way less so than what my original hopes for it.
PAUL It’s a hell of a problem, though, isn’t it? It’s such an eternal problem.
MATT It’ll be with us always.
PAUL As Guyon said to the Minister, you know, it’s not working, is it? The numbers on DPB keep going up.
JON But our system is continuing to crank them out.
FRAN Well, I mean, it’s people who crank out the babies at the end of the day.
JON But the incentives and disincentives here.
FRAN Well, that’s part and parcel of it, but I think somehow we need to actually get the incentives to try, in some way, to get the parents to stay together. I mean-
MATT Oh good, a good beating and keep them together-
FRAN No. Well, why is it then-
MATT 240,000. Are you talking about there’s tens of thousands of women who think, ‘Goodness me, I want to get $300 a week from the state, so I’m going to go out and get pregnant’? I mean, that’s just a nonsense.
FRAN No, I haven’t said that. It’s often a result of the relationships-
PAUL But the reverse doesn’t work either. I don’t think it stops you having unprotected sex, the idea that you may have to go to work in a year.
FRAN No, it’s not gonna stop that.
JON Not at your eighth or ninth drink, no.
FRAN Not at the moment, though. But I think the thing about, you know, the growth of the DPB. It started when the numbers were first, I mean, they were quite small, and it has exploded.
MATT I’ll tell you why it’s going up, because there’s- income and finance is a main thing in relationships. There’s pressure, pressure, pressure, relationships break down, and people can’t afford to go out and get work-
FRAN Well, it’s often in their financial interest to break up.
MATT No, it’s not-
FRAN Oh, come on.
MATT Oh, look. Oh come on, people sit round and suddenly say, ‘I can get $300 a week if I split up.’ Goodness me.
FRAN There’s been a lot of people who have done that over the years.
MATT Well, if you have that view, it’s called the ACT Party, and you can go and vote for them.
FRAN I had that view before the ACT Party.
PAUL A quick word on extending Working for Families to beneficiaries.
MATT Oh great. Great. It’s about the kids, and it’s not enough money to raise them on the benefit-
FRAN Well, why don’t you call it what it is, and it’s actually just an expansion of the DPB benefit. It’s nothing to do with working.
JON I’d like to see the entire Working for Families go and seriously raise the minimum wage. That’s what I’d like to see.
FRAN Yes, I agree with that.
PAUL A quick word on the Waitakere race from our panel. Pretty raw but pretty- You know, they spelt it out.
MATT Sue Bradford’s campaign is trying to get the party vote. If too many people vote for her as an electorate candidate, then Paula will win.
PAUL What do you make of that?
JON My only prophecy is that a woman will win that seat.
PAUL Fran O’Sullivan?
FRAN Well, I really do like the way that Paula brands herself. I mean, she could have walked out of Outrageous Fortune. They know her as Paula Benefit, the lady from WINZ. They know exactly who she is, and she tootles around in that leopard-skin car of hers. I think she has a very good chance. Even if the other sides all vote tactically, she still has a very good chance.
MATT It’s a bit like the Epsom thing. If people vote tactically, the Labour candidate will win. If they don’t, they just vote for personality, then Paula’s got a good chance of winning.
PAUL But as Bob Harvey says, they just vote for the person.
MATT What would Bob know? It’s a Labour area. He’s just saying that.
In response to PITA SHARPLES & SHANE JONES
PAUL Who won that? Fairly evenly matched. Any difference between them? What do you think?
FRAN There were differences, but I think they were evenly matched, and I do think that despite the balletics over what happened last time round with Tariana and the fallout with Labour, I do think they could possibly and conceivably also work together if they wanted to, if it was in their combined interests.
MATT Well, it depends on the vote. I mean, last time, National didn’t need them, so they made a strategic choice. Better to be in than not. But Pita’s being a bit disingenuous when he says that they’re not part of the government. He’s a minister. You don’t become a minister and get the baubles of office, so to speak, because you’re not part of it. You are. And when he made his point about the GST and the minimum wage and claimed they’re ours, you’re saying, ‘Yes, GST’s gone up 25% in this government, and the minimum wage went up 25 cents. Yeah, OK.’
PAUL Maori income has gone down dramatically.
MATT Yes, of course. But here’s the thing. Pita will win again. He’s the kaumatua of the nation and people warm to him. I’m surprised that Shane went up against him. Shane was offered the Manurewa seat on a plate, and he decided no, he wanted to go and contest it. I think potentially it will be his downfall, cos people see him as a future leader. Everyone knows in Maori if you want to be a leader, you need to get a general seat, and he’ll lose this time round and I think we could potentially see the end of the career of both of them in this term, cos Pita will retire and Shane-
PAUL Might have made a mistake, a tactical error, a strategic error. What do you think, Jon?
JON Yeah, I mean, Shane’s earlier career-
PAUL We’ve been asking all the way through the programme whose cellphone is that sitting on the table? Matt, can you answer that?
JON This is from the Banks/Key thing.
MATT (INTO PHONE) Is this John Key? We’re busy John Banks got a better deal.
JON I think Shane had always shown a reluctance earlier in his career to stand in a Maori seat and had always resisted the pressure on him to do so, so I agree with Matt’s comments on that. You know, with the Maori Party, you’ve gotta say, I think they really have few choices, and so long as Tariana is one of their co-leaders, there is only one effective choice. It will be with National, and just like the ACT Party, it’s at Key’s whim. That said, this Maori Party, you do not see that they will be able to transition from Tariana and Pita Sharples.
MATT Let’s be clear – they are the National Party’s party in the Maori seats. It’s all fiction. All of this is fiction.
PAUL Shane Jones did say, ‘If you vote for me, I’ll be in the thick of things.’
FRAN Yes. I think the interesting thing about Shane Jones, and I agree that tactically he may have made an error in just where he chose to be. But I think post this election the big thing for him is what is the composition of the Labour caucus. Assuming it’s actually going to be in coalition. If it is pretty much union dominated, a lot of the young rising stars with perhaps more centrist, business-friendly kind of attributes, I don’t think he’ll want to stay around. He’s not going to want to spend- He has potentially a commercial career sitting out there again if he wants to do that.
PAUL If it is a centrist Labour Party, he will stay around, won’t he?
JON Can I add to that, too? Whatever happens to Shane, if he is to leave Parliament, it will be parliament’s loss and it’ll be the nation’s loss. Of all the politicians, the Maori politicians that I’ve heard speak about the identity question, the most potential to lead us, that debate, forward is Shane Jones. And I’m not alone here. There’s a lot of us who really wish-
FRAN The business sector strongly respects him.
PAUL If Labour were to lose and there were to be a leadership change, what are his chances, do you think?
MATT None. Well, one, there is this small problem of videos in hotel rooms, and that’s going to be used.
JON They weren’t the right sorts of ones, were they, Matt?
MATT And he hasn’t got a seat. And if he loses badly towards Pita, it diminishes.
PAUL Seems to be general