30 Oct 2019

Bridges unapologetic for hardline welfare policy plan

From Checkpoint, 6:10 pm on 30 October 2019

National leader Simon Bridges is making no apologies for taking a hard line on welfare - on Wednesday floating a plan to cut off the benefits of those who do not get their kids immunised.

Other policies in the party's newly released discussion paper on social services include reinstating benefit sanctions on women who will not name the father of their child, bringing back targets to reduce the number of beneficiaries, and returning to Bill English's flagship policy of social investment.

"We have a firm belief that people have better opportunities and better lives, ultimately, if they're not caught up in state dependency over the long term," Mr Bridges told Checkpoint's Lisa Owen.

He said the policy on benefit sanctions when fathers were not named ultimately helped society, "because it makes quite clear that if you are a dad and you have had a child you have obligations and responsibilities.

"This is not an extreme policy. I accept that [there] are plenty of exceptions, where it is unjust for the mother to be disclosing the situation, we get that.

"But I do think, in general terms, having a sanction on as I think others have called them in the past, the 'deadbeat dads', is the right message to society."

Mr Bridges said he would introduce a clear plan for reducing numbers of people on benefits, but would not say what the target was, until closer to the election.

In response to the question of follow-up after people are taken off the benefit, Mr Bridges said: "I think that's why social investment… is so important."

"It's not just throwing money at an issue, as I think the Labour Party and this government does, it's targeted investment where we think it'll make the difference."

He said National was in favour of people on the jobseeker benefit being able to earn more before there was an abatement on their benefit.

"We're making clear in this document that we do think it can be better than that. We do want to ensure that people feel the rewards of their labour."

The government-appointed Welfare Advisory Group said the income cap for abatements on benefits should be $150 a week.

Mr Bridges said that figure "has a logic" to it.

In National's discussion document, it asked whether it should be a requirement for sole parent beneficiaries to fully vaccinate their children.

Mr Bridges said that question was being asked because "we're talking about people who receive taxpayers' money".

But he said he did not have data showing sole parents were statistically less likely to immunise their children.

"There is no good reason to not immunise your child in 2019. Given that, if you're not going to do it, I say you shouldn't be receiving taxpayer funding."