Dr Michael Bassett

Dr Michael Bassett

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Welcome to the Current Welfare Mess


I'm not sure that it's much comfort to anyone to know that the post-Covid surge in violent crimes, gang activity, ram raids, random shootings, thuggery and stabbings is occurring in other countries as well as New Zealand. These days, wagging school, out-of-control welfare and low-grade parenting by some seem to be fairly universal problems.

We shouldn't be surprised. It was the late 1960s and 1970s when the so-called civilised world developed a craze for easy welfare. Unmarried women who casually produced a child discovered they could be paid to stay at home to bring up their child and that when having another one they were awarded a pay rise. President Bill Clinton experimented in the 1990s in the United States with a system of time limits to welfare, but most of the rest of the so-called civilised world has done little more than sigh or exhort us to be kind; Carmel Sepuloni under the last lamentable Labour government, pushed up pay for all welfare recipients, and removed the original requirement for women to name the fathers of their babies. In doing so, Sepuloni finished off any responsibility for tom cat fathers to contribute towards the up-bringing of the children they had carelessly fathered. Not surprisingly, the numbers of welfare beneficiaries rose.

An underclass existed everywhere before loose welfare. But it was much smaller. Our underclass expanded rapidly after the introduction of the Domestic Purposes Benefit. Two and three generations later, many children have never experienced a two-parent upbringing. Boys don't know what it's like to have a father, or to live in homes where parents go to work. They are sustained by welfare, state subsidized rents, school lunches and what can be stolen through gang activity and ram raids. The only standard of behaviour many of them encounter is the law of the jungle. Most of these children lead desperate, unloved lives.

Worse still, is the way that everyone, from social workers, to some lawyers, to Maori leaders in New Zealand keep arguing that governments should pay out even more. Asking the underclass to accept personal responsibility for their predicament is treated by many as insulting. They have a small point which we don't acknowledge: it was the politicians who let the underclass mushroom in the first place. But Maori leaders need to accept some responsibility for the underclass which is such a spectacularly Maori thing these days. Tribal leaders have won huge settlements since the 1980s and been granted reasonably easy access to the state's coffers, as can be seen from several postings on this blog. But the Maori aristocracy which treats their lower orders with indifference accept a bare minimum of responsibility to them. They want them to jump to attention when summoned to a demo or a rumble, but for the rest of it, their underclass is expected to "earn" money any way it likes. Gangs dealing meth, school truants as young as 9 years old prowling about, ram-raiders in the 11-18 year range, it's none of their business as far as today's Maori leaders are concerned. Some argue it's a predictable outcome of colonialism. Start keeping a note of the disapproving comments and signs of practical leadership from tribal leaders over the shootings and general mayhem that their followers engage in. I can assure you, you won't get writer's cramp!

Instead, Maori leaders are stepping up their belligerence. The loud-mouthed Mariameno Kapa-Kingi, Te Tai Tokerau's Maori Party MP, someone whose education seems to have been non-existent if you try to search for details, tells us that the Luxon-led government is on a "mission to exterminate Maori". "Bang on" assert the party's co-leaders. "This is how we feel and we will not be told how to feel" adds Rawiri Waititi. Those who point out that the Waitangi Tribunal is being misused, that it has a non-judicial role, or who assert the obvious that tikanga is not law, are denounced as "racist". Such is their declared faith in tikanga that they want it made a compulsory subject for law students. A cynic would note that whenever Maori get highly charged about something these days they usually see some advantage to themselves in the offing.

Such is certainly the case with the failure of Maori leadership to take steps to deal with escalating welfare numbers and the crime that follows in their slipstream. If Maori leaders really wanted to ensure that their followers have better lives, they would get in behind plans to curb the growth of welfare. Last Thursday, Social Development Minister, Louise Upston, announced that all new Jobseeker beneficiaries (currently there are 188,000 of them) who have work obligations must attend "Let's Talk Work seminars" and get serious about their fitness to begin work, unless they have good reason. If Maori leaders really had the interests of their rangatahi in mind they would get in behind Upston's modest initiative. Lord knows, it's a small enough requirement. If they have a credible alternative they should tell us.

To date, the ever-so-vocal Maori leaders seem to spout nothing but abuse. It's time government demanded something in return for the money that is paid to their people and the mayhem their negligence inflicts on the rest of society.