Paul Little: Send jobless to Oz? A poor solution

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Unease for Paula Bennett over free tickets to Australia. Photo / Janna Dixon
Unease for Paula Bennett over free tickets to Australia. Photo / Janna Dixon

You can hardly accuse the Minister for Social Development of beneficiary bashing when her department has been happy to send the pesky malingerers on free trips to Australia.

We learned this week that the Transition to Work grant could also be a Transition to Australia grant when Paula Bennett acknowledged that her department had staked six New Zealand citizens to set off for a bright new life in that country, a practice she has now banned.

Apparently, finding out exactly how many people had been given a one-way ticket to paradise was not easy.

"There's not a box they can tick in the system that then can be looked at from head office, but what they can do though is search the system because people can still put the information in," said Bennett in a late entry for meaningless sentence of the year.

She seemed to be saying the only records were in hard-copy form and it would be quite the mission to go through them.

I would have thought that was an excellent opportunity to provide work for someone, and clearly that happened in the end.

Bennett has long shown concern that beneficiaries be "sent the right messages" with a tough-love policy. It's hard to know what message giving someone a free flight out of here sends. And if she cannot tell you how many people have gone, then she obviously won't know how well they did either.

For all we know, after a promising start, they could have ended up as burdens on Australia's welfare system. Making something someone else's problem is not a solution.

It has been suggested that this is a counter-intuitively brilliant move: spend a small amount to set someone up in a place where they can have a job and a future.

I'd like to think our politicians are working to provide that future here, not somewhere else.

It's one thing for individuals to decide for themselves that Australia is a better place to live than New Zealand; it's another for our taxes to back them up with a cheque and a cheery wave goodbye.


It's little known outside the psychiatric profession but mental health conditions fall in and out of fashion as often as Abba.

In the 19th century, hysteria, for instance, was a widely used label for women who didn't fit the stereotypes or behaviour expected of them.

Were I a betting person I would happily stake the price of a flight to Australia on the prediction that depression will cease to be considered a separate condition by the middle of the century.

There is a growing body of psychiatric opinion that many people who identify as depressed are just plain sad.

Their unhappiness falls well within the normal range of reaction to the bad things that have happened to them. And they will get over it without the help of drugs.

And now, Asperger syndrome turns out to have been, in many cases, a fancy name to describe people who are rude and can't be bothered to change their ways.

The new edition of the psychiatric profession's bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, will not recognise Asperger syndrome as a condition. People showing behaviours formerly falling under this label will be seen either to have autism or to not have autism.

You may well have heard, as I often have, people say with a shrug and a grin, "I'm a bit Asperger's", as they fail to honour the niceties of social intercourse.

Next time this happens you can say, "No you're not. You either have autism or you're rude. If so, learn some manners."

- Herald on Sunday

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