Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Tamihere unveils private welfare plan

By SIMON COLLINS

Labour minister John Tamihere wants welfare to be privatised.

He told the Knowledge Wave Trust's leadership forum in Auckland yesterday that benefits for each household should be paid through non-government case managers.

The case managers would pay the household's rent or mortgage and electricity bill, and buy basic food items.

"Any residual money left over from the benefit would then be transferred into the beneficiary's private bank account to be used for discretionary spending."

Mr Tamihere, ranked 19th in the 20-member Cabinet, is Minister of Youth Affairs, Associate Minister of Maori Affairs and MP for Tamaki Makaurau.

He said he was speaking "as a Cabinet minister and MP for the Maori populations in the Auckland region".

A spokesman for Social Development Minister Steve Maharey said he had seen the speech, but did not want to comment on it.

Mr Tamihere said privatising the benefit system would enable private managers to negotiate bulk discounts for their clients along the lines of a $3 discount on prescriptions negotiated by West Auckland's Waipareira Trust for its medical clients when Mr Tamihere managed it.

"Waking up beneficiaries to the power of budgeting, to the strength of co-operating and to thinking medium- to long-term is a huge leap for them."

He said beneficiaries should accept obligations in return for state support.

State house tenants should be told their homes were a short-term "respite facility", not a house for life.

Parents needed to be "mentored" to ensure that they enrolled their children in preschools.

"Welfare as presently practised in this country literally kills us with kindness," he said.

"It hands out enough to get you through until your next handout.

"There are no mutual responsibilities. Recipients are denied a sense of worth and equality."

Mr Tamihere said he had been raised in regions that were now in their third and fourth generations of "state-dependent individuals, families and communities".

"I am not proud of my people's negative indices. Notwithstanding these difficulties, I do not accept that their failures and deprivations are caused by genetic malfunction.

"Unleashing Maori communities from state dependency will mean ensuring that they take responsibility for breaking that dependency.

"The amount of lost opportunity as Maori work through their grievance resolutions with the Crown has been incalculable.

"The Treaty [of Waitangi] is not a panacea for Maori success or participation in any new economy," said Mr Tamihere.

"We must throw off victimhood and become beacons for nationhood."

Herald Special Report - February 18, 2003:
Knowledge Wave 2003 - the leadership forum

Herald Feature:
Knowledge Wave 2003 - the leadership forum

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