Protest over benefit reforms

About 150 protesters stop traffic in central Dunedin as they march against proposed welfare reforms. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
About 150 protesters stop traffic in central Dunedin as they march against proposed welfare reforms. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Chants of "National Scum!" rang through Dunedin streets as workers and beneficiaries united in protest yesterday against proposed welfare reforms.

They called for Prime Minister John Key to resign and Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett to "go to hell".

About 150 people gathered outside Work and Income New Zealand in St Andrew St at 1pm with placards, banners and a loudspeaker.

A dozen police officers diverted traffic as people spilled on to the road.

Protesters told the Otago Daily Times Ms Bennett was a hypocrite and her welfare reforms would drive more New Zealanders into poverty.

Dunedin resident Michelle Helliwell said workers and beneficiaries were no better off under the scheme.

"I feel like I'm witnessing a bank robbery where New Zealand's family silver is being taken. This is the gutter of a political system that will create more vulnerable children," she said.

Solo mother and domestic purposes beneficiary Rebecca Alexander said she should be allowed to look after her own child, not forced to pay for child care in order to work.

Labour member of Parliament for Dunedin North David Clark and Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei joined the protest.

Women and mothers suffered the most under "punitive" reforms which robbed mothers of the right to determine what was best for their children, Mrs Turei said.

Welfare reforms were the National-led Government's response to its own failure and the war on poverty had become a war on the poor, Dr Clark said.

The protest coincided with others throughout the country for the National Day of Action Against Welfare Reforms.

-rosie.manins@odt.co.nz

'Third World' countries

OK, you mention 'Third World countries'. I have travelled in a few of those and have seen the real poverty which exists.
Sure, we have 'handouts' in NZ but there is no direct comparison with a so-called 'Third World country'. For one thing, most necessary items are far cheaper than they are here in NZ, where we are ripped-off, over-taxed and over-regulated.
It is (or was) possible to buy a tidy two-storey house in the Philippines for NZ$20,000; you could easily feed a family for $50 a week; and the household electricity bill is maybe $30 per month.
There simply aren't enough jobs in NZ for all the unemployed so people are going hungry and doing without necessities, despite the existence of a subsistence social welfare system. Meanwhile, the rich are getting richer under this government.

Work

I have worked since I was 14. I'm now 30. I've done everything from "checkout chick" to my current career, which is very rewarding to me and has taken me many years of hard work to archieve.

New Zealand is not a third world country. It is not China, India or Africa so get off it and stop using that as an excuse. Those people are truly poor. They don't have any other option but to be poor. Your wages here in NZ compared to those of people in India would be like Donald Trump saying he's poor. Even people on the benefit here are rich compared to those in third world countries.

Maybe use the poor people stuck in third world countries to remember how lucky you are to live in a country with health, education and free handouts. [abridged]

A choice?

Only a person with blinkers on could say that being poor is a choice. If that is true then almost everybody would choose to be rich, wouldn't they? Life is not a level playing field and people lose their jobs and find themselves in dire straits without choosing it. This is happening every day in New Zealand.

Mathew, if you have a job you are one of the fortunate ones. Maybe you have never been made redundant or unjustifiably dismissed - and now you resent your taxes paying benefits to people who can't find a job. I can tell you that it could easily be you without a job, unable to pay your bills, or afford those luxuries you take for granted. Welcome to the real world.

Tell it to Africa

Being poor is a choice caused by laziness? Yeah, like in the developing world, where they work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for $1 a day. Certainly poor, but would you call them lazy? [Abridged]

Being poor is a choice

"We should all support the most vulnerable in our society because being poor is not a choice. It is better for us all if people are supported rather than punished. For all you know, someday it could be you, your children or someone you care about in a similar position."

The vulnerable people in out society are those who suffer from health issues or are not able bodied. Being poor is a choice.

We all have choices in our life and they start from a young age. At some point in all our lives we are faced with choices which can pave how our life will turn out. Unprotected sex is a choice. Giving up on school or adult education is a choice. Not working to be a better person is a choice.

If someone can't provide a child with a stable home where it is loved by two parents, gay or straight, than why have a child? That right there is a choice and it's sad some kids have to grow up without the love and support (from their parents) that they should have.

Yes, the rest of us have to pay for them, which is the right thing to do. But don't have a whinge when your kid is in full time schooling and you have an obligation to find work and start giving back.

 

Out of context

This comment has been taken quite out of context. Rebecca Alexander gave an honest and passionate speech about the realities of being a mother on a benefit and the realities of being underemployed. She was not at all saying that she did not want to go to work. She was saying that she should have the right to dignity and be able to make decisions for herself and her child.

This is surely something all parents should be entitled to. She was pointing out that Paula Bennett was a solo-mother who has thrived only as a result of tax-payer funded benefits, so it is hypocritcal of her to take the same opportunities away from others.

We should all support the most vulnerable in our society because being poor is not a choice. It is better for us all if people are supported rather than punished. For all you know, someday it could be you, your children or someone you care about in a similar position.

Fair portrayal?

I'm one of the protesters, and I don't think this article fairly portrays our demonstration. Near the end of the march, a friend of mine got a little excited, and said "Paula Bennet go to hell" once. I stopped him immediately. A phrase uttered by one individual out of 150 once in three hours isn't remotely representative of the whole event, and it is extremely disingenuous to imply that it is. [abridged]

Get real

"Rebecca Alexander said she should be allowed to look after her own child, not forced to pay for child care in order to work."

Yes we would all like to stay at home and not go to work, but this is the world we live in. Why should I have to work to pay for my children as well as other people's.

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