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Lindsay Mitchell: Sepuloni

Hot on the heels of media nonsense about Ardern's departure - for instance, it was driven by misogyny despite many of her harshest critics being females - comes the fawning over Sepuloni.


In the NZ Herald Thomas Coughlan writes:


Sepuloni’s elevation to the top may challenge this. She’s Social Development Minister and may keep this role after the reshuffle (she’s excelled, so far).


And at RNZ Jane Patterson says:


The MP for Kelston, Sepuloni has been a steady pair of hands in the social development portfolio and makes history as the first Pasifika deputy prime minister.


For starters emergency housing is in the social development portfolio. The take-over of motels leading to social mayhem (think Rotorua) has been a tragedy for those housed in them and those in their surrounds. The waiting list for public housing has sky-rocketed since Sepuloni has been Minister.


EVERY main benefit has seen increased numbers since 2017. Covid played a part, but the upward trend was established before 2020.


Never before has New Zealand seen demand for both skilled and unskilled labour at current levels yet 11.3 percent (up from 9.7 in 2017) of the working age population is benefit-dependent.


Compounding this, the average length of time people are spending dependent has gone up.


Sepuloni has driven some extraordinary changes that defeat what the last Labour government was trying to achieve. No longer requiring mothers on the benefit to name fathers of their children is a prime example.


The increases to benefit rates and other financial supports have eaten away the incentive to work as the difference between income from work and income from a benefit dwindles. Previous Labour governments resisted linking benefits to wage inflation but Sepuloni did exactly that in 2020.


In fact, this Labour government has implemented many of the Green Party's welfare policies including diminished use of sanctions to enforce work obligations.


Her own ministry's annual reports acknowledge the department is not moving in the right direction in a number of areas.


Worst of all Sepuloni has overseen a rise in children living in unemployed homes. The damage to their outcomes is well researched and documented. But unheeded by this government whose sole focus has been to lift incomes with their fingers firmly in their ears over the unintended consequences of paying people to do nothing ... except have children.


If all of the above is "excelling" I hate to envisage what failing looks like.


Sepuloni has not been a great Minister. That the media are painting her as such demonstrates ignorance and bias. The only thing that has kept the social development portfolio largely away from the headlines is the comparatively worse performance of police, education and health.



Lindsay Mitchell blogs here

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