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Welfare Dependency—Initiatives to Address

Thursday 6 October 2011 (advance copy) Hansard source (external site)

Henare11. Hon TAU HENARE (National) Link to this
to the Minister for Social Development and Employment

What steps has the Government taken to reduce welfare dependency?

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

This Government believes that we can and we must continue to support people to get off welfare and into work. Under this Government, during very difficult times, we have had a number of successes over the past 3 years. For example, nearly 10,000 people are off the unemployment benefit, because we introduced a simple process to make them reapply. More jobs come every week into Work and Income, and more people are available for work. Under the previous Labour Government we saw many transfers between—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

This question asked “What steps has the Government taken to reduce welfare dependency?”. It did not ask anything about the former Labour Government.

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

Sorry, Mr Speaker. I was merely pointing out that we have seen fewer transfers between benefits under this Government, because of our focus on making sure that we get people on to the right benefit at this time. We have seen a number of successes.

HenareHon Tau Henare Link to this

What reports has she seen that discuss welfare changes?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

I have seen a number of reports. I have seen reports that defend a so-called sort of job-focused record, where in reality we actually saw the number of people on the sickness benefit and the invalids benefits more than double during a period in the 2000s. I have seen reports of work-for-the-dole schemes in drag. Meanwhile, this Government, of course, has had more than 12,000 young people going through our successful Job Ops programme, and more than 90 percent of them staying in jobs. I have seen reports of a peak in numbers on the youth unemployment benefit in January 2010, and more than 10,000 of them coming off since then.

CunliffeHon David Cunliffe Link to this

I seek leave to table data from the New Zealand quarterly employment survey from the Parliamentary Library—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Is the document prepared by the Parliamentary Library?

CunliffeHon David Cunliffe Link to this

It is. It shows that the number of people employed went up 25 percent under Labour and has declined 3.3 percent under this National Government.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

PrasadDr Rajen Prasad Link to this

What sustainable evidence does the Minister have that her policies will reduce welfare dependency given that the number of people receiving the domestic purposes benefit is at a 10-year high and the cost to taxpayers has increased by nearly $200 million since she became the Minister?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

What I do know about people on the domestic purposes benefit is that there are actually 15,600 people on the domestic purposes benefit who are doing part-time work. Prior to our Government’s Future Focus changes, this was more like just over 13,000. Nearly 12,000 people have gone off the domestic purposes benefit—

SepuloniCarmel Sepuloni Link to this

We do know that a lot of them can’t put food on their table for their kids.

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

I know that that member is kind of angry, and this might be her last question time, but it is OK—it is OK. Nearly 12,000 people have gone off the domestic purposes benefit into full-time work, and I think that is an achievement.

SepuloniCarmel Sepuloni Link to this

Did the Minister decline the opportunity to appear on Back Benches alongside me and Sue Bradford because—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

The Speaker must be able to hear the question to be able to determine whether it is in order at all, and I cannot hear the question with that kind of interjection level. Carmel Sepuloni may start again.

SepuloniCarmel Sepuloni Link to this

Did the Minister decline the opportunity to appear on Back Benches alongside me and Sue Bradford because, firstly, she thinks she would be unable to effectively defend her actions in respect of welfare reform and her Government’s failure to address increasing unemployment, or, secondly, because she knows she would be unable to?

BennettHon PAULA BENNETT Link to this

For 3 years I have been looking for that killer hit from Labour, and I would say that I have not seen it yet. What I would say to the member is that, firstly, I think it is cute that she is gasping for breath and trying to get an audience by using my own profile, and, secondly, that she might recognise that I am not a backbencher. See you next time, honey. [ Interruption]

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Members have had their fun. We come to question No. 12, in the name of Gareth Hughes. [ Interruption] I want to hear Gareth Hughes. [ Interruption] The Hon Annette King ought to cease interjecting.