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Q+A: Panel discusses Paula Rebstock interview

Published: 2:21PM Sunday November 14, 2010 Source: Q+A

In response to Paula Rebstock interview

PAUL John Tamihere, we'd better start you off on this one.  She's got a hugely difficult brief there.

JOHN Regretfully, we should have had this discussion when the economy was raging, and then you can get at the hard-end tail of your welfare difficulties and really form solutions then.  But really, welfare sits in the middle of a bigger debate, the macroeconomic debate.  Is the economic orthodoxy of Rogernomics, of Thatchernomics, of Reaganomics sustainable in light of the meltdown on whole other things, so there's major questions being asked about the productivity rates that have flowed through from that.  Then that then fits into how well your economy can sustain and present a whole range of meaningful jobs at a higher productivity rate.  The next question is welfare.  It is part of Kiwi culture since the '35 Labour Government to have a compassionate stance.  Regretfully, compassion can then turn into an entrapment vehicle.  I think it's worthy, this discussion, and we look forward to the tools that they report back on.  But they can't be seen outside of what Don Brash's commission has reported back on and the like.  It's gotta be seen as part of a wide end.  And the final thing I'll say is we have a tension on the street where a number of people have been funded to manage people's problems and not fix them.  And so we've got a very hard question to ask about the quality of education that is being given, the quality of welfare, the quality of health, and so on.

PAUL But again, nothing that you're talking about can be solved in less than about a 15-year period, it would seem to me.

JON No, that's it.  It's actually about redesigning a process to beginning so that new generations have greater opportunity than the generations that have preceded them and which haven't given them the right cues to enable them to cope on their own.  But John is exactly right, you've got the confluence of economy, economic changes, technological changes, demographic changes.  So it's actually about how you design that front end.  And in an economic system that is producing inequality, and increasing amounts of inequality, the problem isn't going to go away.  So it's how do we manufacture and design a better process to stop people falling off the cliff, rather than our traditional approach, which has been to throw all the resources once they've already jumped off.

PAUL Maybe we can simply get too fancy in all our talk about this, and maybe simply say, 'We're gonna help you out for two years and then your on your own.  Now, sort it.'

FRAN Yeah.  I think also what really didn't come up in the dialogue is the role of parents.  Why does a parent want some great, lulking youth hanging around the house, getting a benefit, eating the fridge, smoking dope with mates, going out in a car?  I mean, this is what happens.  Young people on the dole, they do not acquire it.  And I think there's gotta be a message to parents, 'Look, sorry-

JON Boot camps!

FRAN Well, boot camps, no.

PAUL You can lead a horse to water, but it-

FRAN 'The state is not going to pick up the cost; you pick up the cost.  And we're not gonna pay benefits till you're 20' or something.  I'll tell you what, there'll be a lot of parents very quickly would say to those kids, 'I'm sorry, you go out and get a job.  You're not gonna sit at home.'

PAUL Rebstock is of the view too there are jobs about, especially for young people.

FRAN But you've gotta be prepared to eat a bit of whatever sometimes when you start, while you learn to work.

JON But forget not that it is not just young people, Fran, it is also men and women aged 50 and 59, the biggest groups here, and as they try-How do they transition from one job to a life, you know, greater expectation of working, and how do we enable them to learn new skills for that to happen?

PAUL One of the problems, we didn't get to it in the interview, is the medicalisation of the benefit problem.  The doctor says, 'I'll give you six more months,' with the medical certificate and so forth, instead of, 'Get off your arse and get out.'

FRAN I think there does need to be a bit more of that.  How the hell have we got to the-with this huge explosion of benefits over a 20-year period?

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