National's Meanness and Hypocrisy Recently Magnified
I generally try to follow the principle of attacking the message rather than the messenger, however I have found it impossible to ignore the hypocrisy and meanness of our current Government Ministers. For many their personal conduct and past actions provide a context for what motivates and drives their decisions.
Bill English's hypocrisy is the most extreme when one remembers his claiming of a housing allowance of around $40,000 a year to live in his $1.2 million Karori family mansion. He had tried to convince us that his actual home was his Dipton family home (owned by a family trust) where he had not resided for many years. It was obvious that his real home was the one he and his wife had purchased in Wellington and where they lived for some time with their six children. English had been claiming $900 per week from the taxpayer to live in his own house. English reluctantly paid back $32,000 after much media attention, if his allowance hadn't been exposed he may still have been claiming it today.
While our Finance Minister was more than happy to have taxpayers subsidise his already affluent and privileged lifestyle he has put a lot of energy into denying others the ability to house and care for their families. As the Minister for Housing New Zealand he has spent around $30 million trying to sell off our state houses and has limited maintenance and new building by demanding that the social housing provider pay back over $100 million in annual dividends.
English's latest stroke of meanness was to lead the veto of Sue Moroney's Parental Leave Bill. The attempt to extend paid parental leave from 18 weeks to 26 weeks was supported by all parties in the house apart from National (for an international comparison Ireland provides for 42 weeks and Norway up to 45). English used the power of veto to block this vital support for young families with the claim that the predicted $60 million a year it would cost hadn't been budgeted for. This is a hollow argument when he had already spent $30 million of non budgeted funds on consultants for a failed scheme to sell off state houses.
National clearly had no qualms about throwing $11.5 million of tax payer money at an aggrieved Saudi farmer but when it came to compensating Teina Pora, a Maori man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 22 years, they were not so generous. National applied compensation guidelines suggested by Justice Hammond in 1999 to determine a payment and meanly refused to include an inflation adjustment. The $2.5 million offered is $2 million short of what was recommended by Rodney Hansen QC.
Compassion is certainly lacking in National Ministers when dealing with homeless families. MP Jan Logie attempted to get Social Development Minister Anne Tolley to explain why homeless families were being forced to pay for motel accommodation because of the Government's failure to provide enough emergency housing. Despite providing examples of desperate families with limited resources or options, Tolley insisted that the often substantial motel debts of up to $78,000 should be repaid in full.
Paula Bennett has desperately attempted to appear compassionate and then continually fails with regular outbursts that reveal her true nature. Bennett used the Training Incentive Allowance when she was a sole parent on the DPB to increase her qualifications and then was involved in wiping it once in Government. When a beneficiary questioned the cuts Bennett released her personal information to the media to discredit her and refused to accept charges of abuse of power. We have witnessed a repeat of this behaviour when Bennett's Ministerial performance was shown up by an Auckland Marae that opened its doors to the homeless and questioned the levels of Government support. Bennett's press secretary leaked to the media the fact that the spokesperson for the marae was subject to a police investigation.
In an attempt to appear to be doing something about New Zealand's social housing crisis, without spending much money, Paula Bennett even offered small handouts for those willing to leave the city (but without certainty of a home or job elsewhere). To reduce the perception of a crisis, and her own failings as a Minister, Bennett fabricated a story about fictitious flying squads (consisting of MSD officials and the Salvation Army) that were knocking on the windows of homeless people's cars and offering support. The PM repeated her story, with convincing detail, in an attempt to suggest that those sleeping in cars were refusing support and were choosing to live that way.
Michael Woodhouse is another Minister who would rather support the wealthy and ignore the needy. He refused to describe profitable but dangerous industries like cattle and dairy farming as high risk (53,000 workers were injured on dairy farms over 7 years) in his Health and Safety Reform Bill and amusingly lumbered worm farms and mini golf with that label instead. His announcement that New Zealand will answer the call to double our refugee quota by only adding 250 in two years time was embarrassing. New Zealand is currently ranked 90th in the world per capita for our acceptance of displaced people and by 2018 it is likely to be even lower. While our Government is reluctant to show compassion to refugees it has welcomed wealthy tax cheats to our untaxed foreign trusts and overseas speculators into our property market.
I could go on and describe Judith Collins' lack of compassion for rape victims, Hekia Parata's attempt to illegally close down low decile and special needs schools, Gerry Brownlee's treatment of vulnerable householders in Christchurch, but I have covered these before and the stories are numerous.
Over the last seven years National have led a significant shift of wealth up to a privileged few and has gone to extraordinary lengths to ignore the plight of our most vulnerable. Meanness and hypocrisy will be the lasting impression of this Government and it's Ministers and why we need to remove them from the governing benches.