Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Act warns about growing benefit roll"

Out early pamphleteering this morning, to avoid the nasty weather predicted for later, it was a surprise to hear my press statements being picked up by NewstalkZB. They ran one about the growing DPB numbers during the 9am news and the other about the Invalid Benefit blow-out at 11am. I was surprised because I had issued the statements as 'welfare commentator' but they went to air as ACT party releases.

Act warns about growing benefit roll

25/10/2008 12:32:01

The Act Party is predicting a growing roll of people on the invalids benefit, if Labour gets back into office.

Figures from the Ministry of Social Development show there were 78,000 people on the benefit a year ago, but more than 83,000 now claim support.

Act candidate Lindsay Mitchell says it is the biggest single annual rise since Labour came to power. She is concerned that the length of time people remain on the benefit is also growing. Mrs Mitchell says there is a steady input of people going on the benefit and fewer people coming off.

Trigger happy Hutt City Council

Today in the mail I received this;

Never before have I received such a document. I had recently incurred a $12 fine for overstaying two hours outside the Petone Library that had now incurred court costs of $30.

But as I read through the notice from the court warning me about the possibility of arrest, that I must contact them immediately if I plan to travel in the next 48 hours, etc, I thought, that fine is not overdue. It is in my pile of bills awaiting payment.

On checking I found sure enough it wasn't due until 28 days after October 7.

So how often are people sent extra fines before time and the payee doesn't realise the court has acted prematurely? How often are people bailed up at airports for not paying fines that are not overdue?

I rang the Justice Department who are blaming the Hutt City Council who have sent it through to the courts before time. It's hard to imagine mine was on its own. This sort of stuff really pisses me off. Not because they nearly got $30 extra dollars out of me but because there is the potential for this process to cause huge inconvenience and embarrassment to people who are fully intending to pay their fines by the due date. I can just picture how angry my husband would have been with me if we were prevented from getting on a plane because I had allegedly not paid a fine. What an unholy row that would have been. Never mind the District Court. It would have been the Divorce Court.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The failure of Labour's 'welfare reforms'

The September quarter benefit statistics have just been released. Ruth Dyson is being very quiet. I have a issued two statements below.

Thursday, 23 October, 2008

Just released Ministry of Social Development figures show a large rise in Invalid Benefit recipients.

"The previous Minister of Social Development, David Benson-Pope, assured the public more than once that the growth in this benefit was slowing. Yet the numbers have risen from 78, 268 to 83, 618 in the year to September 2008 - a 7 percent rise. In fact, this is the biggest single-year increase since Labour has been in government, " welfare commentator , Lindsay Mitchell, said in response to the news.

"Their much touted plans for reducing the numbers reliant on an invalid's benefit have made no impression. What we are seeing is further evidence of 'welfare reforms' that have failed."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Newly released figures from the Ministry of Social Development show that over the past year numbers on the DPB have climbed from 96,673 to 98,473 - a rise of 1,800.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell is not surprised. "I have predicted that the Labour's so-called reforms would run out of steam once those most likely to take up the In Work payment had moved into paid employment."

"What we are now seeing with the DPB is growth in the young uptake, continual gradual growth in Pacific and Maori uptake and in the numbers of women who have children aged 14 and older. Treasury are not forecasting falling numbers either."

"Labour missed a golden opportunity to do something bold with this benefit. From its peak the United States managed to decrease numbers on their equivalent benefit by 70 percent during the prolonged period of good economic growth and low unemployment. Since 1999 Labour have managed a mere 10 percent reduction."

"Let's hope that the next government has a really hard look at what the benefit system is doing to young women and their children by continuing to offer an welfare lifestyle which commonly leads to so much lost potential."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

David Garrett - ACT's number 5

I attended one of Maxim's election panel discussions last night primarily to listen to ACT's number 5 David Garrett. I thought I better have a look at and listen to who I am voting for with my Party Vote.

This is a man who doesn't suffer fools. During the discussion about abortion a poor quality heckler suggested Roger Douglas ought to be aborted. Garrett responded to the elderly man, "I think you are confusing the words abort and euthanase. At your age that could be a very dangerous thing Sir."

On the role of the state he was very good. This came up when a question was put about the importance of non-governmental leadership. Garrett exhorted people to lead themselves. We need very little government, he said. (I noted Darren Hughes can't tell the difference between the state and the non-government sector saying that leadership in the community sector, in organisations like the Women's Refuge and Plunket, is very important and that's why Labour wants to fully fund them. What is the difference between a government agency and a fully-funded-by-government agency?)

Mr Garrett upset Hughes when he described a claim by him as a 'lie'. Hughes didn't like the "big bad ACT Party" language, so Garrett repeated it. I approved. I can't stand mincing words. If Garrett knew what Hughes was saying was a lie he has every reason to describe it as such. And it is ironic that the Labour candidate should object to what he sees as unpleasant language when the hecklers supporting Labour are amongst the most rude. (I spoke later with the Rimutaka United Future candidate who is quite upset at the level of nastiness from Labour hecklers she had been witnessing at Upper Hutt meetings. The same wasn't happening at the Hutt South meetings she and I have done together).

The touchiest subject was yet again the anti-smacking legislation. I thought Garrett needed to take a little more care here. We mustn't fall into the trap of using the left's words. Avoid 'beating' and use 'smacking' - always. In response to that hackneyed objection that children should have the same protection as adults he made the point that the reason you don't beat your wife is she knows not to run out onto the road.

Of course that leaves the inference that it is okay to beat your children. Actually Chris Finlayson described the distinction legalistically very, very well. So well I cannot repeat it word for word. (I was impressed with Finlayson who has improved immensely since I last heard him speak on the campaign trail in 2005.)

But I liked too Garrett's directness, his slightly rough edge by comparison (both are barristers). This contrast helped add weight when Garret closed saying ACT would provide the spine in a National government.

Given Garrett was the only non-MP on the panel his performance was credible and creditable.

(My own liberalism still has me feeling slightly uneasy about the three strikes policy. I back it because I agree that ultimately victims and potential victims must be protected. But I can still imagine situations where somebody's circumstances might explain their violent offending - it may be against the same person and they pose no danger to others - or they might be wrongly convicted of a violent offence, and applying a blanket law may produce a miscarriage of justice. But I am not well-versed in this area and Garrett is.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Campaigning , Catholic meetings and near calamities

Last night I took a punt and went back to basics. Candidates had been given a joint statement from Catholic Bishops to respond to and then take questions. The church was fairly full. The questions were mainly relating to personal and private matters and taking what I will describe as a 'negative' position on abortion, same-sex marriage, voluntary euthanasia, embryo stem cell research, etc. You get the picture.

This is my speech (without the electioneering tagged on the end). I knew we would have plenty of time to talk policy during question time;

We were asked to provide a response to this collective statement by Bishops . I don't much like the word collective. Neither do other members of the ACT Party if they are true to ACT's philosophy. Unlike other parties ACT actually has a defining philosophy. That of individual rights and responsibility. We put the rights of the individual above the rights of the collective because we believe people own their own lives and should be free to live them as they choose providing they inflict no force or harm on others. Of course there are grey areas about what constitutes harm or force, for example Libertarian views can differ on abortion, but in the main we can agree on quite a lot. We can certainly agree that currently the state interferes far too much in our lives.

It seems to me that the Bishops want too much from government and too much from candidates. ACT was formed on the idea of personal responsibility. Look at most of today's problems, some described in here, and the solution to them could be found in the individual taking responsibility and making the right decisions. For instance, if people produced only children that they want and can provide for , much of the New Zealand's child poverty would be resolved. I often muse that if people had and used three things - common sense, commitment and conscientiousness, their lives, and the lives that touch theirs, would be simpler, happier and more effective. Of course, we all make mistakes. The key is to learn something from those mistakes. Unfortunately when the state collective picks up the pieces and buffers the individual from the consequences of their mistakes, many fail to learn anything.

The idea of individual rights should not be confused with selfishness or a culture of 'me first'. Exercising personal responsibility doesn't preclude one from exercising responsibility for someone else. But that care for others, and the acting on it , should be a voluntary matter. We shouldn't mandate governments to exercise social responsibility on our behalf. Because when we do that we are reliant on the government of the day's goals and values matching our own and of course, as many of you have discovered, there is no guarantee of that.

So the best way to ensure that doesn't happen is to reduce the government to as small a role as possible. Unfortunately I sense that the Bishops would like to use the state to serve their values and determinations, as much as any other collective attempts to. That can lead to more conflict than harmony.

In a largely secular, free society, there will always be individuals who have moral values not embraced by the greater community , and you know how that feels. But when that happens the solution is not to ask govt to step in and use organised force but to use moral persuasion and example to change the views of other.

To sum up forcing the collective interests of one group on another doesn't provide a successful blueprint for society. That's what I believe and certainly ACTs current MPs would share the view that individuals should enjoy , and respect I might add, having as much individual freedom as possible.

A number of people approached me after the meeting to thank me for my honesty. I can't think of a better compliment. Two elderly ladies in particular were delighted that I had "said 'no' to the Bishops" and said until then they had never known what ACT actually stands for.

But my gut instincts about honesty are right. People are crying out for honesty (as distinct from somebody simply mirroring their own thoughts) yet get increasingly less of it. I stood in the last two elections because I believe in Rodney Hide. He never evades the hard questions and he never lets down people like me who believe deeply, almost achingly, in the rights of the individual. The world is overflowing with people who want to run other people's lives for them and they fill the ranks of politicians, bureaucrats and religious authoritarians. I can't stand them. But the good news is they are still in a minority and many of the silent minority can't stand them either - although I wouldn't presume to include Catholics.

Low light of my campaign so far came yesterday when I lost my trailer frame to an almighty wind gust. Thankfully nobody was behind me. It must have made a hell of a racket. As luck would have it - my second most welcome dose - an ACT supporter lived nearby. He heard the racket and came to my aid, driving the trailer around the block and back to where I was hanging on to the corflutes madly flapping in the wind and threatening to fly away with me in tow. We managed to bundle the signs into my slightly damaged car and get the frame back onto the trailer. I realised then what had happened. We had put a sign on the back and it had created a build up of pressure inside. That combined with the gale force winds Wellington experienced yesterday was just too much. Last election I towed a trailer for many weeks with no problems but we changed the design. Bad mistake. Today we rebuild it - better and stronger than ever before.

As my good Samaritan waved me off he chortled, "Thank goodness it was you and not a Green Party candidate I had to help. Keep up the good work!"

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday campaigning

A different kind of Sunday drive....

What a neat bunch of people. Especially Alwyn who not only supplied his labour and van for the day but had prepared a lunch of pasta and home-made bread (and Doreen left scones) for us to stop off to at midday.

For years Hutt South has had some very generous and loyal volunteers. Thank you all.