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Child Poverty—Green Party’s Goal

Thursday 15 September 2011 Hansard source (external site)

Turei2. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) Link to this
to the Prime Minister

Why did he refuse to join with the Green Party to set a goal to bring 100,000 children out of poverty by 2014?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) Link to this

TureiMetiria Turei Link to this

Does the Prime Minister agree that children have the same needs for good food, warm clothes, and secure housing whether or not their parents are in paid work?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

We certainly want to see all children doing well in this country, and we believe that the welfare system provides them with a base level of support so that they can get that. Probably where I disagree with the member is that paid work and welfare should be at the same rates.

TureiMetiria Turei Link to this

Has the Prime Minister refused to set a bold target to bring children out of poverty because he knows that most of the children in poverty live in benefit-reliant households, and that therefore bringing them out of poverty would require increasing benefit levels?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

Actually, every day the Prime Minister and his Ministers work hard on behalf of those children and all New Zealanders in this country. But let me give an example of lifting children out of poverty: if we get people into work, that is the best way to get those children out of poverty. For example, in the 9 months to June this year there was a 24 percent increase in the number of people going off the domestic purposes benefit and into work. Those 5,374 sole parents had more than 8,300 children. Those children—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

It is very interesting information that the Minister is sharing with us, but the question was reasonably precise about whether the reason the Prime Minister would not support the Green Party’s goal was that it would mean paying higher levels of benefits. The Minister sort of started to answer it in that she started arguing what other things might be important, but it would be quite helpful to say something about the question asked. If the Minister has forgotten the question, I am very happy to get Metiria Turei to repeat it. Maybe it would be helpful if she did repeat the question.

TureiMetiria Turei Link to this

Has the Prime Minister refused to set a bold target to bring children out of poverty because he knows that most of the children in poverty live in benefit-reliant households, and, therefore, bringing them out of poverty would require increasing benefit levels?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

My point was on behalf of the Prime Minister and was that the best way we can get those children out of poverty is to have them in households that are in paid work. For example, in the 9 months to June this year, 5,374 sole parents went off the benefit and into work. That meant that more than 8,300 children were in households that were in paid work and were more likely to be out of poverty.

TureiMetiria Turei Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You asked the Minister to address the issue of increasing benefit levels, which she once again did not do.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

In fairness, I think the Minister in her answer was disagreeing with the member’s question. Rather than increasing benefit levels—in other words, she was disagreeing with that proposition—she was arguing that the best way to get children out of poverty was getting parents into work, which I think is a perfectly fair way, I think, to reply to the question.

TureiMetiria Turei Link to this

How are low-wage jobs a solution to poverty when for every five children living in poverty, two are living in working households—how are low-wage jobs a solution to that?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

Because people are more likely to get into a higher-paid job by being in work, gaining skills, and actually being in that working environment.

TureiMetiria Turei Link to this

Would not extending Working for Families to beneficiary families, and raising the minimum wage for working families, be sufficient to bring 100,000 children out of poverty by 2014, and why does the Prime Minister consistently refuse to do it for those children who are most in need?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

I choose to answer the first part of that question. There is currently a court case going on about Working for Families and the in-work tax credit, and I am not prepared to answer that question.

TureiMetiria Turei Link to this

Is the Prime Minister aware that in Australia children receive the same Government support regardless of whether their parents are in or out of work, and that the Australian minimum wage is about NZ$19.50 an hour; if so, has he considered that introducing those child-friendly policies in New Zealand might actually help with his failing goal of catching up with Australia?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

Yes, the Prime Minister is aware of what Australia’s policy is.

KingHon Annette King Link to this

Does the Prime Minister believe that caring for children at home is work, and valuable work, in this country?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

I believe that being in the home with children and being in work with children—and I am not here to make that kind of judgment—is sometimes work and sometimes it is fun.