Election time cannot be far away. National has unveiled a discussion document proposing the reintroduction of any sanctions dumped by the Labour-led Coalition around benefits.
It is also promising, yet again, to go hard on gangs. Of course National is appealing to its own voter base, conservative or liberal, educated urban and rural folk, who believe they have worked hard for what they have.
Of course many National voters are the recipients of huge privilege in terms of family wealth, access to decent, often private, education and decent, usually private, health care.
They do not tend to live in homes where violence is a way of life, where intergenerational poverty is accepted as one's lot in life, where alcohol, dope, physical and sexual abuse can blight lives.
They do not normally live in rented accommodation subject to the whims and wiles of landlords with the ever-present threat of homelessness hanging over their heads.
They are not chronically sick due to the residue of childhood disease caused by cold, uninsulated homes. They did not grow up in those types of homes, the leafy suburbs or the family farm was their lot.
National is also keen on sweeping up all the disgruntled New Zealand First voters who Winston Peters turned on by going with Labour and that other lot. I suspect there will be a few thousand votes in that belief.
Beneficiaries and gangs are easy targets. Beneficiaries are unable to fight back in any meaningful way, most are just trying to exist.
In my humble experience, most beneficiaries do their best with what they have, love and care for their children at least as much as the lot from the other end of town, worrying about their children's future and their access to a decent education enabling them to break out of the poverty cycle their parent or parents are trapped in.
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They are easy pickings for a political party with a track record of blaming poor people for being poor.
Gangs are a different kettle of fish entirely. Purposely mixing them into the discussion document with beneficiaries is unkind and cruel to most beneficiaries. Gangsters choose their lifestyle, they like it and it pays very well.
Beneficiaries do not normally choose their lifestyle, the unfairness of life chooses it for them.
I spent half my working life dealing with the gangs, arresting them, prosecuting them, fighting with them, chasing them and, on one unusual occasion, helping save the life of one who had his throat cut in a pub brawl, something that the whole gang remembered going forward.
He was their much respected president.
I also spent hours in hui with gangs wearing my police uniform, trying to settle patch wars before they became out of control and murder and mayhem resulted. I do not like gangs but I understand their place in our society.
I got to know and respect some gang members and enjoyed a working relationship with several. Gangs are hierarchical with the best rising to the top, such as in any business or profession, the foot soldiers and numpties staying at the bottom.
Leaders can be not only extremely violent and physically able, they are also smart. They use their members, unpatched associates, especially vulnerable females to make money from crime, usually drugs.
It is now a billion-dollar industry in little old NZ and is run by criminal gangs, including the patched variety.
I do not know how many gang members also receive benefits together with any criminal earnings. I guess there are a few.
If the requirement on gang members to disclose criminal income actually becomes a National Party policy and if there is a change of government in 2020 it will be interesting to see how the policy transforms into enforceable law.
Will police be required to provide the Ministry of Social Development with a full list of the 2700 or so patched gang members in New Zealand today?
Will poor MSD workers have to track these gang members down, get them in for an interview and rely on them being open and honest?
Best of luck with that.
What about all the low-level criminal associates of gangs, those who live in the twilight underworld, not patched or not considered anything more than donkeys to be used?
Will the ministry rely on gang members and associates narking? Do not hold your breath. One way of becoming dead quickly is to nark to the authorities.
Gangs are not going away anytime soon. They are handy for dog-whistling politicians to use for scaring otherwise safe citizens just before election time. Gangs are now into their third and fourth generations. Whole families identify as gang members, knowing nothing else in their lives.
Do better National.
Stop bullying the poorest and buying futile fights MSD cannot win.
• Rob Rattenbury is retired and lives in Whanganui. He recently published a book about his years with the police.