Does she stand by her reported statement that it would be pre-emptive to rule anything out because the Government was still working its way through extensive recommendations by the Welfare Working Group?
Yes. The extremely popular announcement made by the Prime Minister last weekend was the first response to the Welfare Working Group report. Over the next few months we intend to make clear to the public the direction that welfare reform will take if National has the privilege of leading New Zealand after the election.
Who is right: the Minister, who ruled out in March a card that would control the purchase choices of beneficiaries; the Prime Minister, who ruled it in at the weekend; the Minister, who said yesterday the card was only for 16 and 17-year-olds, and 18-year-old sole parents, because they are a special cohort; the Minister, who said today she would not rule out an extension of the card to more beneficiaries; or the Prime Minister, who said there is little interest in extending the payment card to other beneficiaries?
As I have been quite clear on, my response to that correspondence was on the basis of a letter from one correspondent, which was on something very, very different from the payment cards that we announced last Sunday—incredibly different from that. Our Ministers are working their way through a range of options. The payment cards will work for those 16 and 17-year-olds, and 18-year-old teen parents. I think they will be really valuable for them in helping them to manage themselves and their money, and, in the case of teen parents, will see their children being better off.
What did she mean when she said on Radio New Zealand this morning that there is a difference between a credit card on to which whole or part of a benefit is loaded and which restricts the purchase of alcohol and cigarettes, and a payment card on to which the whole or part of a benefit is loaded and which restricts the purchase of alcohol and cigarettes, or are they the same?
The member has not quoted me correctly from this morning. The credit card that was being suggested by the correspondent was incredibly different from the payment card for the 16, 17, and 18-year-olds.
In light of her comment that extending the payment card to other beneficiaries cannot be ruled out, what work have the Government and her officials undertaken on the cost and the workability of such a card?
As I have said previously, Ministers are working their way through the recommendations and will be making announcements in due course.
How much of a young person’s benefit will be loaded on to the payment card, where will they be able to use it—for example, a farmers market—will it be available to all retailers, will retailers need to make changes to their systems, and how much will that cost them, bearing in mind that it could affect businesses from Kaitāia to Invercargill?
That is a good question. Around that stuff, we have already introduced the cards for hardship assistance. What used to happen under Labour was that a letter was handwritten and then taken along to a supermarket that the beneficiary had to identify. There was only one place they could shop at, and that was very limiting. We have opened up those cards to, for example, The Mad Butcher and fresh fruit and vegetable shops in the area. Some retail outlets have come on board with it, like Farmers, Glassons, and The Warehouse. We are looking at other retailers that might like to get on board with it. It will give people more choice, and it will work fairly well.
Why did she say yesterday that the purchase of alcohol and cigarettes by young beneficiaries is a side issue, when the Prime Minister made a major feature of it in his announcement at the weekend, bringing loud cheers and whistling from the party faithful?
I think the Prime Minister mentioned the restriction of cigarettes and alcohol once, and he mentioned the word “support” more than 25 times. So, actually, support, and wrapping that around young people, is the main issue, and one that we are proud to be fronting.
Did she advise the Prime Minister, before he made the announcement about restricting 16 and 17-year-old beneficiaries from purchasing alcohol and cigarettes, that that is already restricted by law, and it is illegal to sell these to them; if so, did she suggest that a hard line could be taken on those who illegally sell to minors, rather than blaming the young people?
The restriction of cigarettes and alcohol is also extended to those who are 18 years old who are teen parents as well, through the payment card. I think what the member has not picked up is that they will be getting an in-hand allowance as well. If they really wanted to, they could purchase whatever they liked with that. So the issue is just about what the payment card restricts; it is exactly the point that it is about the payment card, not the in-hand allowance.