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LINDSAY MITCHELL: Is real change on the cards?

Updated: Mar 8

Sometimes the gems are buried. My ears pricked up when the following statement was reported on a news programme playing in the background:


"MSD staff assessing anyone applying for emergency housing will increase their scrutiny of whether they have unreasonably contributed to their immediate emergency housing need ..."


I googled Minister for Social Development Louise Upston's press releases to confirm that's what she actually said. Indeed she had.


If the government means it, this is hugely significant.


It has been clear for decades that NZ's approach to welfare has gone awry. The late Roger Kerr, of the NZ Business Roundtable, once said to me, "The only way forward is to go back to the concept of 'deserving' and 'undeserving'."


To be honest, at the time I thought this was slightly draconian. But the passage of the years has only brought me further around to his view. By protecting people from the consequences of their own foolish actions NZ has only created more 'need'. In other words, the 'undeserving' have been rewarded.


This is a direct offshoot from the philosophy of 'non-judgementalism' which is absolutely rife through the social services and charity sectors, and even health and education. It is formally taught. Every needy individual is a 'victim' of circumstances, never their own poor decision-making.


I am personally a great believer in second chances and the right to redeem oneself, and have certainly had occasion to avail myself of these principles (or lived with the consequences of not being forgiven or excused.) But like many pendulums, the one called 'tolerance' has swung too far.


The welfare system is now the lifeblood of criminals. People who trash other people's property, who threaten and abuse neighbours, who keep aggressive dogs as status symbols, who have not a skerrick of regard for others, turn up at WINZ demanding to be placed in emergency housing. And they are.


(Not to mention the tens of thousands of other people who took no responsibility for their own education, go on to produce children recklessly and, in turn, take no responsibility for theirs.)


Between the passage of the Social Security Act in 1938 and the early 1970s the percentage of working-age people on a benefit never exceeded two. Today it stands at almost twelve, with the time people stay dependent growing every year.


As a society we have created this level of reliance by believing and acting on a bad idea. That we must not judge others. We must not mention their faults and shortcomings. We must bend over backwards to not blame the person responsible for their own troubles. That's the 'kindness and compassion' we are taught to aspire to.


Until Louise Upston said something quite contrary but actually utterly sensible.


In assessing applicants for emergency housing case managers must take into account whether they have "unreasonably contributed" to their need.


One assumes that if the answer is positive, there will be no emergency housing offered.


Quite right too.


My theory is that the emergency housing crisis - putting people into motels, lodges and motor camps - came about because the Labour government created an expectation that anyone who showed up at the newly-generous WINZ department asking for a house would get one (or something akin). If people had been turned away, they would have found their own solutions. Living with friends or family usually. If friends and family wouldn't have them - presumably because they were undeserving - why should the taxpayer fork out to put them into place where they can wreak anti-social havoc on nearby neighbours?


It's the individual who should experience the consequences of their own unwise actions - not everybody else.


So let's support Upston and encourage her to take this new approach further. I would vouch that the majority of New Zealanders want to help people who, through no fault of their own, need a benefit and public housing. But that willingness does not extend to people who chronically cause their own misfortune.


Lindsay Mitchell blogs here

4,959 views131 comments

131 Kommentare


"unreasonably contributed to..."


Good luck with that. Just look at how "manifestly unjust" worked with the three strikes law.


MSD, WINZ or whatever they're called now will not find any "unreasonable contributors", I can tell you that for free.

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If I recall the wording correctly, when Michael Savage introduced the dole, in the 1930s it was for “men who were willing to work but couldn’t find any”

If only we’d stuck to that basic principle!

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W deVries
W deVries
08. März

You get what you pay for...


Social policy is at the root of our modern malaise. No fault divorce, unidentified sires, and more money to have more kids. The more you pay, the more you get.


We need to start at the start. You can't legislate to make people (get &) stay married, but you can stop paying them to make lifestyles choices. As I've said before, if a woman has to leave the house of a violent man, we shouldn't make her stay there to prevent her starving. But if she leaves with 3 kids, we should pay for 4 kids the following year, and 5 two years later.


If young people want to be promiscuous, why should the…


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basilwnz
basilwnz
08. März
Antwort an

Yes. One might wonder how other cultures/religions deal with these eternal problems?

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Bill Casley
Bill Casley
08. März

The old familiar Victorian approach of charity for the deserving. It didn’t help back then and it won’t help now. NZ is proud of its universal access to health and education. Patients whose lifestyle has contributed to their poor health still get offered treatment, students who mess about at school still get offered the opportunity to learn. We should aspire to the same standard of universal help for our social services. Lindsay has said before that the more you help someone the less they help themselves. To which I would say, find me a successful person who has not been helped by others towards that success.

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basilwnz
basilwnz
08. März
Antwort an

Very well said. Bill's genuine and decent comments are admirable, but we have this unpleasant sub-group of citizens (actual numbers - who knows truthfully?) who abuse the charitable nature of our society, to its detriment.

There has to be a good clean out of our welfare system, so we can then say with some confidence that it is functional as intended, and affordable.

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wigramtaylors
wigramtaylors
07. März

Agree utterly. Our own kids are in that 'precariat' stage of life & know their parents have their backs should things turn to custard... we'd simply all pile into our own home for as long as it took. Not everybody has this attitude and these you don't even have to.

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wigramtaylors
wigramtaylors
07. März
Antwort an

...these days...

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