Paula Bennett is not a Cabinet Minister who holds back re her opinions, in any form. As Minister in charge of ‘benefits,’ she has been seen as either a ‘basher’ or as someone who says what many NZers think---that some on the ‘benefit’ are ripping off the system. Take her latest announcement—the one where she has said that 21,000 beneficiaries have had their payments cuts when they travelled overseas. Her argument is that if you are on a benefit, how can you afford to travel overseas? One could find some merit in this statement, but it is lacking in finesse. There may well be situations whereby families need to travel overseas and that they have paid for their trips, by having other friends and family putting their hands in ‘their’ pockets. I am talking about urgent trips, like for funerals and other family related affairs. I am also talking about those who travel to places further afield in order to improve their lot, like jobseekers. I am not talking about someone who manages to save enough money from a benefit and then travels for leisure. Hell, most of us can’t do that and it is my belief that the benefit does not cover such activities. Of course, I am not talking about those senior citizens who have squirrelled away the money to take such a trip. Let’s leave the ‘oldies’ out of this discussion.
I can just hear many hard-working Kiwis, who barely manager to pay the rent/mortgage and other family bills, throwing up their hands in exasperation, when they hear people, maybe their neighbours, gallivanting around, at the expense of their hard earned money and taxes.
It is just that MS Bennett’s announcement lacks sensitivity and as usual, paints one picture with one brush. It is not always as simple as you portray, Ms Bennett! But---yes, the question does need to be asked.