Wednesday, 29 July 2009

I don't care what Paula Bennett got when she was on the DPB

Apparently our Minister of Social Services is under pressure to reveal what she was paid as a DPB recipient who accessed the Training Incentive Allowance herself when she was at university.

I don't care what she got. She was entitled to it, she accessed it, and how much it was actually doesn't matter a jot. Harping on this theme is simply continuing the broader attack on those who are on benefits, particularly the DPB.

So let's get back to the actual issue here, which is not what anyone gets in the way of actual dollar figures when they are on a benefit that they are perfectly entitled to access.

Originally this was actually about the Government cutting the Training Incentive Allowance. That's a matter of public policy that is worthy of debate. Should we as a society support solo parents in tertiary education? I say yes, others, including Ms Bennett, clearly say no. We could actually debate that through the democratic institutions we have; in particular in the media. That's what the two solo mums who raised their concerns were trying to do.

But instead the discussion was shifted to the dollar amounts they've received from the Government, not through some kind of generous largesse, but as an actual entitlement. Just like the pension, or the invalids' benefit, or Working for Families, or subsidised doctors' fees. Accessing a benefit you are entitled to is not rorting the system, it is using the system as it is meant to be used. So who cares how much they got?

This has backfired a bit on Bennett though, as in amongst the predictable bashing of beneficiaries, particularly solo mums on the DPB, serious concerns have been raised by people with credibility about her abuse of power. So now we're talking about that instead. Which is well worthy of discussion, and frankly I think she should resign, but I do hope we don't forget what this was all about in the first place; yet another example of a Government cut that is extremely counter-productive, actually saves little money in the bigger scheme of things, and is driven more by ideology than practical reality.


stargazer said...

snap! sort of... :)

Principessa said...

I'm of two minds on this Julie. I thing part of the bashing factor has to got to do with the fact that a lot of people don't know what Women on the DPB get for support- which entitles the right wing to make up all sorts of things about what Women on the DPB do with their money.

I think the Minister should lead the way and tell people what she received to show that- yes in fact - women on the DPB receive xyz amount of support- but follow it up with- and here is why.

The DPB needs to be destigmatized by educating widely about what it involves and how hard it is. I believe Paula probably received comparable to what the two women in the media who are being bashed received and if people knew that, they might calm down.

If Paula wants to campaign on having been "one of the people" she should speak up truthfully about what being "one of the people" involved.

Boganette said...

I totally agree with Principessa.

Bennett received assistance she was entitled to. Now that she's a minister and no longer needs that assistance she shouldn't attack women who do need it. That's not acceptable.

Instead of treating those women like dirt and trying to publicly embarrass them she should have treated them like human beings and talked to them about their concerns.

I don't know why I ever thought her life experiences would mean she would be a good social development minister.

Anita said...


yes yes yes yes yes! :)

Also, we're angry with Bennett because she punished two women for disagreeing with her by making their personal details public. So the response is to… punish Bennett for disagreeing with us by making her private details public?!

Insisting on publicly releasing her private information is completely counterproductive if we believe part of the problem is that people should have their private information kept private.

Hugh said...


Personally I think we should spend more time interrogating politicians about their views directly and less combing through their life stories in an attempt to divine their views from their experiences.

Bennett was obviously aware that the fact that she had been a beneficiary led some people to conclude she would be relatively receptive to the continuance/extension of benefits; she chose not to challenge this, thus benefiting it without having to make a public commitment to any policy (and being able, when disappointing those who had high hopes, to claim she's being consistent).

It seems to me that a politician's life experience is an extremely poor predictor of their policy views. It does give prognosticators something to prognosticate; it also, more sadly, often gives progressives false hopes.

Boganette said...

Hugh I'd definitely agree with that. It was pretty shallow of me to think that just because she had been a beneficiary she would be compassionate towards beneficiaries. But I think I wanted to believe it because I wanted a social development minister who would be compassionate and human etc.

Principessa said...

Hugh- I know what you are saying, but I think if you hold yourself up as having certain qualities in order to win favour with the people:

For example- A Minister (of religion) stands up and preaches family values, and then it just so turns out that said Minister is committing adultery behind the scenes then that is relevant information and discredits the Minister.

In Paula's case she won the Electorate of Waitakere based on an image the she was "a Westie"- one of the people, someone who's had a tough time on the benefit etc. And now she is making out that it is bad to receive xyz amount of dollars on the benefit (the DPB no less).

She held herself up as an example of one thing and then took away support for the same group with another.

She is the one not releasing all the information and she is the one that has put her own personal circumstances out here in the public sphere for all to see- just not the whole picture. One rule for Paula.

Hugh said...

Boganette: I want that too, but that makes me more, not less sceptical of any particular minister's credentials.

Principessa: I see what you mean, but a politician is dissimilar to a minister of religion - their main role is not to provide guidance and encouragement the way a minister does, but to actually enact policies.

This means their views on what policies should be enacted are more relevant than their own lifestyles.

I'm actually sceptical that Paula won her electorate for who she is rather than by virtue of being the National candidate. But even if you're right, you're kind of proving my point. Saying 'I was on the DPB' or even 'I was grateful to recieve the DPB' is not the same as saying 'I think that current welfare entitlements for single mothers shouldn't be changed'. That last statement is the only one that gives us any predictor of how a politician will behave once elected (even if it is subject to party discipline, public pressure and good old-fashioned mind changing). The other two can be disavowed at no cost.

The irony is that many right wing commentators find Paula's time on the DPB just as attractive a part of her biography, because it makes it harder to criticise her for removing it.

New Zealand's history is full of politicians who have enjoyed entitlements in their personal lives and then stripped them from others once they obtain power (often power that their entitlements assisted them into, esp. free uni education).

I must admit I was very sceptical when cautiously positive predictions were made for Paula's role in a National-led government, although I refrained from voicing that scepticism. Not that I'm wishing I had now - it's hard to resist making this into an 'I told you so' despite the fact I didn't tell anybody.

Anonymous said...

In that case I hope you are also equally as outraged about when David Benson Pope in 2007 released the exact same information about the same woman.


Boganette said...

Anon - Benson Pope had permission to release the information. Don't you think that's kind of a big thing for you to leave out of your argument?

Frankie said...

Man Hugh, I voiced my scepticism all over the place. National loves to use under-qualified and/or inexperienced women as fall-guys... Witness Melissa Lee (who as well as being a woman, was also a member of an ethnic minority- bonus window-dressing points.)

So yeah, I've been waiting to see what their game was with Bennett: giving such an important portfolio to a Minister so new and inexperienced was just a stupid, stupid idea from the get-go and I've been waiting to see how exactly she would mess up.

But she has exceeded any predictions I might have made with this horribly petty and unethical action.

I think the "Let's release her details" argument is partly rhetorical, a demonstration of her hypocrisy. I personally don't care how much she received from the State: but she's playing a game of 'Us and Them' and she can't have her cake and eat it too.

Another thing keeps occurring to me:

Firstly, that people sometimes work, pay taxes, then become dependent on the state for a while, or work after they are dependent on the state- that is to say, that tax-payer and beneficiary are not exclusive categories, as everyone seems to assume.

Brett Dale said...

There is a much bigger story, it has to do with the Labour party using MsFuller as a political football and it doesn't look good for Ms Fuller at this stage.

In the past 24 hours it has came out that.

MS Fuller received ten grand for a failed business

She lives in a two story expensive home.

Benson Pope had released details of her past.

There was some calls made by MsFuller to Annette King before Paula’s released her information.

MsFuller was getting over $700 a week.

Now just today, the good people at have released that Fuller has been on some message boards, under three different names, talking about her misuse of her ex’s credit card and admitted to have been living off her ex’s credit card (paying for her rental property) while receiving a benefit.

She says “I know its wrong”

Surly the police have to look into her actions?

stargazer said...

um brett, as has been mentioned on two other threads here and numerous other places on the internet (including an article in the herald), mr benson-pope had obtained consent before releasing any other information.

as to the other information, even if it was accurate, it has absolutely no bearing on her and other beneficiaries losing the TIA so they can get themselves off a benefit. in fact, it seriously looks like some very nasty intimidation to try to get her to withdraw her complaint to the privacy commissioner. and this seems to be the modus operandi of the right - ensure that no-one dares complain about any government policy, or you will do your best to publicly harass and intimidate them as much as possible. your comment here is shameful, and i'm sorry that you feel the need to sink to this level instead of bothering to discuss the very important issue about training that ms fuller was totally entitle to raise.

Boganette said...

It's seriously pathetic to trawl message boards to look for things to attack these women on.

I didn't think this debate could get worse. But it has.

Brett - could you possibly provide the 'full story' instead of your distorted version of it?

The majority of the things you've said have been public since this debate began. There's no 'smoking gun' in any of the stuff you've provided. None of it has 'come to light' in the last 24 hours.

The woman received money from the Govt to start up a business. The fact that it failed doesn't mean shit. Do you blame every person in NZ whose business fails on them? You have no idea why her business failed. If you're upset she received a grant for that business blame the Govt not her. Write them a letter saying you don't think people should be given grants to start businesses.

You know nothing about her home. You don't know if she rents. You don't know if she owns it. You don't know if it's a family home. What counts as expensive? Do you know what it's worth?

Again - for those who don't understand plain English - Benson Pope had permission. Permission. Permission.

Why does it bother you that she called an MP? I would call my local MP if I felt threatened by a political party. Or if I needed assistance or advice. Why is that wrong? Is that not part of their job? To provide advice, assistance etc?

And wow - you've REVEALED she is getting "over $700 a week" aren't you clever? Do you know why she was getting that amount Brett? Because the Govt decided that's what she needed in order to feed, house and care for herself and her family.

And as for the message board crap? REALLY scrapping the barrel. It is disgusting behaviour and shows how pathetic this whole debate has become.

"Detective" Brett what you've said is no different to all the other rabid right-wingers whose brains explode every time they see a woman on the DPB. It's caveman shit "Oh she got a big house! Grunt. She rich! Grunt. She no deserve money! She a breeder"

It doesn't matter what she earns or what any other woman on the DPB earns - you're not attacking them for what they earn or what they put on message boards. You're attacking them for being on the DPB and complaining about National in the media.

And sorry if I sound fucked off.

It's because I am fucked off. These women are being crucified for speaking out. That's all it is.

This issue is about the fucking TIA dammit!

Ok I'm going to have a smoke and calm down.

Anonymous said...

No, you sound dopey.

Labour are using people and hanging them out to dry. Happened with Neelam Chaudary and Bruce Burgess already and now Ms Fuller, who has done herself in by publicly admitting her illegal deeds online.

Don't demand evidence, it's all over the media/blogs and newsites like Scoop.

Your anger is a little bizarre. I am surprised you are so defensive of a woman who has admittedly ripped off the system who earns MORE than a poor working family with 3 kids. Moreso, she is going to ruin it for real genuine families in need. Outrageous.

Boganette said...

*rolls eyes*

Lol seriously? That's your argument?

Oh well if it's "all over the blogs" it must be right.

Thanks for the laugh. I appreciate it.

stargazer said...

anon, i'm going to leave this comment up because boganette has already responded. if the information about illegal activity "is all over the internet", then please provide links. if you are unable to do so, it's either because you are making stuff up or too lazy. in either case, the comment will be deleted.

secondly, as i've mentioned on another thread, what she may or may not have done which may or may not be illegal is totally irrelevant to the issue at hand. it has absolutely nothing to do with her right to speak out about cuts to the training incentive allowance which allows beneficiaries to get off the benefit. the fact that you refuse to speak about the issue but simply focus on attacking these women says a lot about you, none of it complimentary.

Anna said...

I've read in one report that the woman's business failed because of illness - not that I particularly want to get into a debate about the deserving and undeserving poor.