Red Alert

Posts Tagged ‘Paula Bennett’

The appearance of activity

Posted by on February 27th, 2013

Five weeks ago John Key appointed Paula Bennett as Associate Housing Minister, putting her alongside Nick Smith and Tariana Turia in a housing team to emphasise National’s commitment to tackling the crisis of unaffordable housing.

Problem is Ms Bennett still has no responsibilities – “to be advised” – according to the Government website. She doesn’t even have ‘general duties in the portfolio’ as others have.

She has no housing staff in her office and has been unable to answer written questions about her priorities. In fact a written question about her goals as Associate Minister of Housing was referred to Housing Minister Nick Smith’s office and then back to Bennett, and then back to Smith again.

Smith claimed in a written answer he has “formal and informal” meetings with Bennett on housing issues. It’s hard to imagine these will be much use if Bennett doesn’t know what she is doing!

National’s response to the housing affordablity crisis is all about creating the appearance of activity: a three member housing team, blaming Councils, threatening to tinker with the RMA.  Meanwhile with Kiwibuild, Labour has a robust, achievable plan that will get 100,000 Kiwi families into their own homes over the next 10 years.


John Key ain’t no statesman

Posted by on August 16th, 2011

Trevor Mallard got tossed out of the House this afternoon for calling John Key a chicken. It was probably a fair call on Lockwood’s part, it wasn’t a particularly dignified remark, but nor was the behaviour from the PM that prompted it.

Labour set down several questions to the PM on young people today. Key transferred the one from Phil Goff to Paula Bennett. He couldn’t do that for a subsequent question lodged by Annette King though, so Phil and Annette basically swapped. Annette asked the question to Bennett, while Goff sought to ask the question of the PM.

However, our PM has clearly decided that answering questions from the Leader of the Opposition is beneath him, so he simply walked out of the debating chamber, leaving Bennett to answer on his behalf. Whatever took him away clearly can’t have lasted long, because he returned later to answer questions from other members.

Pretty poor form for the PM to duck answering questions about his own comments.

National backs their mates, again…

Posted by on May 26th, 2011

Last year the National government was roundly criticized for setting aside $4.8 million in the Budget to be allocated to the Pacific Development Agency (PEDA) without a competitive tender process.  Keep in mind that when first quizzed about it Bill English’s first reaction, as it so often is, was to deny the whole thing. It took months of investigative work by the NZ Herald to establish that in fact not only did English know all about it, it was inserted into the Budget at his behest and officials didn’t know what to make of it.

The NZ Herald also suggested at the time the funding was part of an English-inspired effort to secure greater support for National amongst pacific voters. In the end they were forced to back down and a competitive tender process resulted in PEDA missing out completely.

Did they learn their lesson? It seems not. This year’s Budget allocated $2.4 million to Parents Inc, once again without a competitive tender process. The chief executive of Parents Inc, Bruce Pilbrow, was the Deputy Commissioner of the Families Commission (appointed by Paula Bennett) until he resigned just two days before the Budget. Why wasn’t the contract put out for tender? When did Pilbrow find out Parents Inc was getting the funding?

At the very least it’s a bad look for the government to set funds aside for specific organisations without going through robust processes to ensure the taxpayer is getting value for money. It leaves them open to charges of cronyism and looking after their mates, but then again, there are plenty of other examples of where the National Party are doing just that!

Annette = substance, Bennett = useless spin, play of the day

Posted by on May 6th, 2011

And from what I read she is struggling in Waitakere too.

For those without broadband, the Hansard is below: (more…)

Pushing mud uphill

Posted by on January 19th, 2011

No this isn’t a post about gumboots.

I was contacted today by a significant social service agency, which provides training courses in Dunedin and around the country and other important social services to the disadvantaged and those in need.

He told me Paula Bennett’s goal of getting 30,000 people off the unemployment benefit was already putting unbearable pressure on training providers; there weren’t the jobs for them to go to and it was cementing an underclass of people who were being further rejected by our system.

They are in a real bind, because they’ve been told by the government that to keep their course funding they have to deliver training courses to people, place them into jobs which they must keep for 91 days.

They’ve had to change the way they deliver their courses, the time period of those courses and who they can offer them to.

And they’re really concerned. They know they now have to turn away the people with the greatest need; the long term unemployed, those with physical disabilities, mental health issues, drug and alcohol dependencies and criminal records.

These are the very people this organisation was established to help.

And they believe that they won’t be able to meet the new government targets: to ensure that 62% of all people who finish the course remain in a job 30 hours per week for 91 days. Previously the criteria was  to get people into jobs (it didn’t matter how many hours a week) for 60 days. Which was reasonable.

Why 91 days? Because it’s one day longer than the 3 month stand down period imposed by the government, which means a new employees can be dismissed with no reason during the first 90 days.

There is a widespread belief that many employers are hiring people for shorter periods and dismissing them.

So training courses right across the country are under threat. As well as the small matter of not enough jobs for these people to be put into.

What is this government thinking? The liklihood of finding enough 30 hour/week jobs is unlikely, let alone the prospect of  employers who will  keep people in these jobs for 91 days.

This organisation, which is extremely reputable and has been around for a long time, believes it is being set up to fail and is pushing mud uphill.

These are strong words.


Posted by on November 18th, 2010

I have to say – this blog title on the Waitakere News website certainly captured my attention (refer to the link at the bottom of the this page). 

She can’t be far off from returning from her six week overseas trip because the Waitakere electorate has been flooded by Bennett billboards across Waitakere advertising a two hour constituency clinic when she’ll be available to meet.  As the Waitakere News blog rightly points out, constituency clinics are held on a regular basis by most (if not all) electorate MPs, however most electorate MPs don’t spend large amounts of tax payer money promoting a two hour period that they are available to meet (usually it’s a give-in that this will happen). 

In saying that, for the last six months my billboards have been prominent across Waitakere.  However, mine were advertising monthly ‘Public Meetings’.  Each month there was a different focus.  I’ve done – A joint public meeting with neighbouring MPs on Housing issues and another on the Early Childhood Education cuts.  Phil Goff also visited the electorate and whilst there we had a public meeting on the Future of Auckland (in the lead up to the Local Body election) and another at a later date with our Senior Citizens.  On top of that I’ve had one on the Welfare Reforms and following that one on Workers Rights. 

In light of this, I can see why Bennett would be desperate to get some billboards up…but…a constituency clinic????

Paula Bennett shamed into releasing full benefit stats

Posted by on September 9th, 2010

National has had a good run convincing Kiwis that it is an “open and transparent” government where “sunlight is the best disinfectant” etc etc.

It’s a tremendous bit of spin. The reality is somewhat different.

For the past 20 months, John Key’s ministers have acted in concert to block access to public information though the Official Information Act and written parliamentary questions. They’ve ducked and dived like sports cheats. It is not just the Opposition that has been thwarted. There is some excellent analysis on No Right Turn about National’s cheating.

Journos too have told me they are getting increasingly frustrated by National’s trickery.

In this context, I’m treating as a win for open government Employment Minister Paula Bennett‘s reaction this week to my media statement of a fortnight ago criticising her for burying bad news.

To recap, she was pinged for sneakily trying to hide bad unemployment data as the economy has slowed. As the jobs news got worse each month, the length of time before she would allow official data to go the Parliamentary Library got longer.

So I am pleased that she has been shamed, at least for now, into ending her dodgy practice. This week, on the same day as issuing her dishonest statement on benefit numbers for August (she said 6000 had come off main benefits – what she didn’t say was the situation had actually worsened again, with more than 8,800 people going on to main benefits over the same month), she quietly released to the Library the full summary of benefit stats for the month. You can see why she’s so shy, it’s pretty grim reading.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but whatever next? National Party ministers dispensing with their haughty contempt of the OIA and WPQs?

There are two Paula Bennetts

Posted by on May 7th, 2010

Great from the Standard

Filed under: humour

Pitcairn Island Council

Posted by on March 27th, 2010

Having a quiet coffee after ride this morning when I was approached by a woman who I had never met before, originally from Canterbury but recently returned from UK.

She had watched Parliament the other day and specifically mentioned how Bennett, Brownlee and Tolley had struggled and as she put it – “just aren’t intelligent enough to do the job.”

Then the line which I’m sure will become a classic – “they reminded me more of members of the Pitcairn Island Council than the New Zealand Parliament.”

I suppose we have become used to it and are too accepting.

Putting one NZer against another… is that fair?

Posted by on March 25th, 2010

Great interview on breakfast this morning by Carmel Sepuloni. Took on Simon Bridges over the National Government’s diversionary tactic of beneficiary bashing.

Worth a look. She’ll take it to Paula Bennett. Even Paul Henry thought Paula Bennett’s new policy was off. All Simon could say was, well it’s very popular!!! Great way to run Government.

Can’t upload the clip yet. But go here:

So tell me Paula

Posted by on March 25th, 2010

How is it fair for a guy whose late wife has been the breadwinner is work tested while he brings up the kids but a woman whose husband dies isn’t?

And while you are at it – why is it fair for a woman in her fifties who has never had kids to be exempt from a work test and paid a benefit while a woman of the same age who has three kids is forced to go out to work?

There’s consternation in those hills

Posted by on February 19th, 2010

Hackles have been raised out West by provisions in the third super city bill that could undermine the Waitakere Ranges.  Mining, undermining and our special natural areas seem to go together at the moment.

Now you can do something about it. You can print off this petition from the Waitakere Ranges Protection Society, distribute copies at work or through your networks, and gather as many signatures as you can.

There are two provisions in the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill causing concern. The first repeals s 18 of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act which requires changes to Auckland’s growth and development strategy to be consistent with the Act. The Bill replaces the strategy with a spatial plan not subject to the Ranges Heritage Area Act. As Greg Presland explains in the Herald yesterday the city’s boundaries could be shifted into the ranges. And as Sandra Coney says, it’s critical that the boundary is protected when a lot of housing developers are hungrily looking at greenfields.

The Bill also repeals law concerning the 8500 ha Auckland Centennial Park prompting the Auckland Regional Council to ask whether the Government was trying to nationalise the ranges and that the park, acquired with donations and public money, could be sold.

Waitakere MP Paula Bennett (along with other National MPs) opposed the passing of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act, which was shepherded through by Labour MP Lynne Pillay.  Bennett has blamed the repeal of s 18 on sloppy drafting and says it will get fixed at the select committee. Let’s make damn sure it does.

Waitakere Ranges at risk – thanks Paula

Posted by on February 12th, 2010

The third super city bill has a nasty hidden sting that could put the Waitakere Ranges at risk.

Submissions close midnight tonight so there isn’t much time left. But if you love the Waitakere Ranges, or live out West, you might like to make a last-minute submission on this sneaky attempt by Paula Bennett and the National Party to undo all the years of work by Westies to protect the Ranges.

These two clauses in the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill could gut the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act and see Aucklanders lose control over Waitakare’s prized Centennial Park:

1. Section 45 of the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill sets up a spatial plan for the super city to replace the old growth and development strategy which was subject to the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area. The new spatial plan will not be subject to the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act and this opens the door for the super council to ignore its protections.

2. Schedule 3 of the bill repeals s77 in the Local Government Act which vests ownership of Centennial Park in the Auckland Regional Council. The super city bill repeals it, instead of simply switching the ownership from the ARC to the new Auckland Council.This could open the door for nationalisation of the Park as has been advocated by National MPs, and the loss of local control.

My colleague David Cunliffe has described it as a “disgusting attack by stealth on the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area”. Lynne Pillay: “We worked so hard to get the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act passed. The National Party and Paula Bennett never supported it and now they are using the super city bill as a backdoor to gut the Act.”

I urge you to share this information with friends who may be interested, and if you can, make a submission. You can make your own submission on line.  (Make sure your internet browser is set to accept pop-ups). If you have problems with the on line form, send your submission to me and my office will lodge it for you.

Shonky Key unreliable and misleading – Bennett

Posted by on December 8th, 2009

Why is John Key so keen to minimise the impact of unemployment on New Zealanders.

In recent weeks he has taken to announcing weekly unemployment benefit figures at his weekly press conference.

He doesn’t understand that figures always drop in late spring and early summer.

But most of all he doesn’t understand that  according to Paula Bennett “releasing weekly benefit data has a number of limitations” – being –  “unreliable ” – “volatile ” – “and potentially misleading to the public.”

In the year he has been Prime Minister the number of people on all benefits has gone up by over 56,000.

Think about those families as you crow John. When you use shonky data you will get caught.

Dear Virginia

Posted by on October 3rd, 2009

Letter to Virginia Larson
Journalist and Editor
North and South

I’m feeling pretty disappointed with you having just picked up the October North and South magazine from my local dairy and seen your editorial titled Benefit Blues, where you have bought into the dog whistle attack on DPB mums led by Paula Bennett a month or so ago.

You seem to believe that there’s many women out there who choose to be on the DPB, who are intent on rorting the system and are on a pretty good wicket. And you’ve got a few anecdotes from people you know (middle class people) who report that “people on benefits” feel a sense of entitlement.

I wonder Virginia, how many women you actually know who are on the DPB? And I wonder if you’ve ever (or when was the last time) you actually sought some out and talked to them directly?

In my town, Dunedin, there’s a teen parenting course that’s been run by the Salvation Army for a number of years. It’s not a huge programme, in the last 2 years 26 young women have gone through this course, 7 have moved into employment, 6 into further study with 13 NCEA certificates awarded.

Their ages range from around 16 to early 20s. They join the course either by self-referral or referral from one of their support agencies. The course provides them with the opportunity to work towards their NCEA level 1 & 2, National Certificates in Computing, Childcare & Employment Skills, while also having their children close by under trained supervision.

It’s been funded by the Tertiary Education Commission, and that funding has now been axed. It’s the only teen parenting course of its type in Dunedin and it concentrates really hard on building literacy and numeracy skills, confidence, some basic parenting and nutrition skills amongst a group of young women who generally are withdrawn, lonely, isolated and have left school because they didn’t fit in, got pregnant, or were kicked out.

These girls are generally on the DPB. They are NOT getting $1000 a week, or even $700 as you claim so many women on the DPB are. They’re just getting by.

And I heard first hand their stories of how important this course has been to them. And the transformations they’ve gone through. Many of them are now thinking about what they’ll do next and daring to dream about an independent life for themselves.

They talked about (and I saw) their increased confidence, support from their peers, friendship and assistance with their children’s socialisation.

They now all have a routine, goals of future study and a sense of pride that they are no longer statistics, no longer “ just another young mum, sitting at home all day”, which has made their interactions in society a lot more positive.

Educated parents equal educated children. These young women are being supported to change their own and their children’s lives by positive and passionate staff.

So don’t give me your middle class righteousness Virginia, written from the viewpoint of a comfortable existence, relying on anecdotes from your righteous, indignant mates. Go out and front up to some of these women and walk in their shoes for an hour or so and imagine what it’s like.

Like the Training Incentive Allowance, teen parenting courses have been an essential step in these young women making the transition to lives where they can become better educated and contribute.

This isn’t about being a bleeding heart liberal, it’s about what real funding can do to change real people’s lives. For the better.

Update: Have sent this letter to Virginia. Hope she responds

Paula Bennett lied to Parliament

Posted by on September 16th, 2009

Remember TV1 News last night. A surprised Paula Bennett was door stopped between her office and the house yesterday.

Pita Sharples had just informed the media that he was in negotiations to increase benefit levels as part of the Maori parties conditions for supporting the National parties ETS.

Paula Bennett knew nothing of the negotiations.  ” I don’t want benefit levels to go up at all.” she said.

But today at question time she blustered and babbled pretending she knew all about it.

That was a lie.

The so-called “increase in benefits” appears to be the annual increase through the CPI (which includes any increase in electricity and petrol).

It looks like the National party thinks the Maori party don’t know how benefits are set and what is necessary to ensure beneficiaries are supported before not after their expenses are increased.

Bennett confirms she ordered access of database

Posted by on July 29th, 2009

Paula Bennett today confirmed that it was her office that accessed the SWIFT computer for the information released on two beneficiaries earlier this week.

Being ordered to do so by Bennett will not save the staff member from the discipline which will follow.

Doesn’t seem fair to me.

Paula Bennett pulls the ladder up behind her

Posted by on July 22nd, 2009

I couln’t believe the bare-faced hypocrisy spouting out of Paula Bennett’s mouth at question time day.

This is the woman who got her qualifications (BA…) while on the DPB with the help of the Training Incentive Allowance (I’m told she constantly complained at the time that it wasn’t enough!)

Now because “times are tough” other beneficiaries are to be left on the benefit with little chance of getting ahead because she has cut access to assistance which would help others get a qualification like hers.

Key and Bennett are happy to give tens of millions of dollars for a rugby party but won’t help the poorest get a chance for a decent job.

She is the worst example of taking all you can from the taxpayers but making sure no one else does.

Cock-up or Machiavelli @ Work

Posted by on May 24th, 2009

I’ve been reflecting on the last couple of weeks in politics – Melissa Lee, Christine Rankin especially and wondering if it is possible for a government in New Zealand to use up so much political capital accidently or whether there is a possibility of some sort of weird plan.

We have the budget coming up this week. It is an enormous opportunity for the government. For the first time since 1984, when our diplomats had been using post credit cards to draw down foreign denominated loans,there are no rules.  Key and English have a blank canvas and enough political credit given the scale of their win and the economic crisis to do almost anything.

What we don’t know is whether they have the guts to invest some of their massive political capital in the sort of change that could ensure not only they win the next election but also become the natural party of government for the next couple of decades.

But they have to be bold. They have to have real vision. They won’t do it with a few places for tourists to ride bikes and other changes at the margin. Every now and again I see glimpses of that from Key – but this is the test. There won’t be another budget with such an opportunity.

I write this safe in the knowledge that the budget is in bed. Nothing I write can change it.

And more importantly that is the case for the government as well. And what I can’t work out is whether their massive and extraordinarily highly paid political pr team has for the last three weeks been focusing on a massive effort to sell a radical budget, whether Lee and Rankin are crude old fashioned deliberate diversions or whether the old “if in doubt its a cock-up” theory prevails.

John Key chose Melissa Lee. I could never understand why. Her maiden speech was intellectually incoherant – it was an enormous untaken opportunity. It was a sign of lack of political savvy. She was a shiny star but with no substance. A real contrast with just about all of the Labour maiden speeches and several of her National colleagues.

Mt Albert was the wrong electorate to use her Korean ethnicity as an electoral plus. It was a selection certain to cause local upset.

And she has performed in a way that was predictable. I don’t need to catelogue her mistakes but not many people who have watched her in parliament are surprised.

So why did John Key chose her?

Similarly with Christine Rankin. The Cabinet was divided. McCully has made it clear to Trans tasman he was away. John Key ended up backing Bennett against all her more experienced colleagues. It was a decision that didn’t make sense.  National owed Rankin nothing. No one voted National because she appeared at their rallies. In fact the reverse could be true. Her support was as valuable as that given by Cardinal Tamaki to English and the Brethren to Brash.

Joyce appears to be running the government pr machine these days. He is good. We saw that through they way he built the Nats from their 2002 train wreck.

So what is he up to?  Maybe the budget is massive. Maybe they took more risks than they intended and the last couple of weeks have been a bit of insurance so Lee and Bennett can take the blame if the budget doesn’t work?

Whatever the future of the government and of John Key could well be at stake.

Caption competition

Posted by on May 21st, 2009


This pic was taken last night in Waitakere at a public meeting on the super city hosted by Paula Bennett MP.

Who can think up the best caption? Tonight I will post a caption that reveals what they were in fact laughing about.

(Photo: John Chapman)