The Welfare Issue
Looking after those who are genuinely in need is the hallmark of a compassionate society. It is a responsibility the Government takes seriously, but we think we can do better.
At the moment we have a system which creates long-term welfare dependency and is open to abuse. The changes the Government has proposed will address these two key issues by switching the focus towards investing in job seekers and cracking down on welfare fraud.
We believe that if people are able to work then they should either be in employment or looking to be. We would create a new benefit type called ‘Jobseeker Support’ which would carry work expectations according to an individual beneficiary’s circumstance.
Sole parents will also face some changes. If a sole parents’ youngest child is between five and 14 the expectation would be that they could undertake part-time work. Those with children aged 14 and over would be supported through the ‘Jobseeker Support’.
There are of course people who do need continued Government support and cannot work - that assistance will be maintained under the new ‘Supported Living Payment’ which will take the place of the current Invalids Benefit and the DPB paid to those caring for the sick and infirm.
It is expected that these changes and the ones already made would result in 66,000 fewer people on welfare by 2016 and another 11,000 working part-time. These changes represent savings of $1 billion.
The Government’s welfare reform also intends to crack down on benefit fraud. Those who lie, cheat and steal from the current system suck resources from others genuinely in need. We want to increase the amount of data-matching between government agencies to help identify when those applying for benefits are lying about their income or identity.
Better Health for Children
As a Government we have had some great success improving the health care New Zealanders enjoy. One achievement in particular has been increasing the care for our youngsters. We have increased funding for maternity services and provided more support for first time mothers. We put an extra $9 million into the Zero Fees for Under Sixes programme and reached record levels of immunisation for under two’s. But we want to do more.
As an infant grows they start to lose the immunity they have built up from their mothers, this means that in the early months of life we are more vulnerable to infections. Early vaccination is the key to boosting a child’s immune system to react quickly. We want to set a new goal of having 95 per cent of eight-month-olds fully immunised with three vaccinations by 2014.
But that is not all, the Government would like to ensure that all children are enrolled with a GP, WellChild, or Tamariki Ora provider at birth and we would extend the Zero Fees for Under Sixes programme to cover after-hours care. We also have a plan to roll out a $12 million rheumatic fever programme which will target this disease in vulnerable communities.
A good healthy start to life sets us up for better things and I believe that it is the least we owe to our next generation. I am pleased to see that the focus on caring for our children’s health will only increase in the future.
Referendum Brief – Preferential Voting
Today I am looking at the Preferential Voting system (PV) as part of my continuing updates on the referendum’s alternatives to MMP.
Under PV the country would be divided into 120 Electorates and you would get one vote – for your preferred Electorate MP. There would be no list MPs and Parliament is made up only of candidates who won their electorate’s support.
Like ‘Single Transferable Vote’, you would be asked to rank your preferred candidates from ‘1’ down and your vote may be transferred. To be elected, a candidate must reach the threshold of 50 per cent of votes. If no candidate has done this after the first preference votes are counted, then the candidate with the least votes will be eliminated. Their votes are then redistributed based on second preferences. This will repeat until one candidate does get over 50 per cent.
Under PV the larger parties often have a greater percentage of seats in Parliament than they received in first preference votes. Minor parties will also find it more difficult to gain representation and as a result it is likely the winning party would be able to govern alone.