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«Te Oranga o te Iwi Maori: A Study of Maori Economic and Social Progress Maori and Welfare Lindsay Mitchell N E W Z E A L A N D B U S I N E S S R O U ...»

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However, a white underclass also exists. It is just proportionately smaller. The underclass is not defined by a lack of money but a lack of affirming morals. It is largely, but not entirely, a product of inter-generational welfare dependence.

Statistics show that there is considerable overlap between the Work and Income caseload and the CYFS caseload. Children whose parents rely on the DPB are four times more likely to be the subject of a care and protection notification.86 Table 1: Maori* receiving benefits – March 2008

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Source: MSD factsheets, March 2008.

At the end of September 2008 there were 55,255 working-age female Maori in receipt of a main benefit.87 That equates to one in three working-age Maori women.

Over-reliance on welfare has exacerbated the size of, and problems associated with, an underclass, but why was the effect, right from early times, greater on Maori? At the risk of generalising, perhaps Maori were more vulnerable to the corrupting power of welfare handouts, having only recently been an agrarian people who had had to work the land and fish the waters to survive, whereas colonists were largely industrialised and accustomed to handling earned money – the only kind they had known.

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Perhaps, too, where there is more sharing there is also the opportunity for more exploitation. Individual ownership of property was not an overriding ethos and while whanau could be a rich source of support they could also consume assistance intended for an eligible individual, broadening overall dependence.

From Nga Iwi o te Motu, Michael King offers:

[Peter] Buck wrote in his annual report [as Native health officer], “The [Maori] communism of the past meant industry, training in arms, good physique, the keeping of the law, the sharing of the tribal burden, and the preservation of life. The communism of today means indolence, sloth, decay of racial vigour, the crushing of individual effort, the spreading of introduced infections, diseases, and the many evils that are petrifying his advance.” [Maui] Pomare added: “The Maori having been an active race and always having been kept in a state of excitement by wars and the rumour of wars, can now only find vent for his feelings on the racecourse, gambling and billiard-playing, with an occasional bout in the Land court”.88 These observations were made in the early twentieth century, well before widespread welfarism, but shed light on the whys and wherefores of what followed. In the 1800s, Maori men lost their potential mana as warriors and in the 1900s, their potential mana as providers. Their willingness to embrace welfare caused the latter.

Earlier I described the separatism and discrimination historically experienced by Maori. Today, there are marked similarities between African Americans and Maori: their high rate of adolescent and teenage birth; low rate of marriage;

disproportionate reliance on single parent welfare; high crime and incarceration rates. Travis Snyder, in his impressive analysis of the US war on poverty and its

results wrote:

The scourges of welfare are colour blind, but because African Americans happened to be the poorest at the time of its enactment, it hit them the hardest. I’ve described the reasons for their poverty before the surge in welfare spending; existing welfare, segregation, discrimination and the scars of slavery. The reason a higher percentage of African Americans continue to languish in poverty can be directly attributed to the effects of welfare, especially its destructive affect on family formation.89

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Alcohol and, later, drugs, which were relatively new to Maori and made more accessible and usable by land sales first and benefits next, also created greater problems for Maori than for New Zealand Europeans. Although Maori do not necessarily drink more, some seem to have a tendency to binge drink.90 A recent survey showed Maori were more likely than other ethnicities to use drugs or drink in a “hazardous” manner.91 Additionally, Maori are twice as likely to suffer from a substance abuse disorder or addiction.92 The relevance of alcohol and drugs to the welfare discussion is vital. The two issues are compounding.

Welfare has alleviated the need to moderate the use of alcohol and drugs in the interests of holding down a job or parenting well. General reliance on sickness or invalid benefits for substance abuse and alcoholism is steadily rising. Research into the growth in invalid beneficiaries has noted the high incidence of schizophrenia among Maori93 and there is evidence cannabis use in adolescence increases the likelihood of experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia in adulthood.94 Maori have a higher rate of cannabis use than non-Maori. As at December 2008, 34 percent of those reliant on a sickness benefit with a primary incapacity of ‘substance abuse’ were Maori.95 Perhaps the disruption of whanau links, especially those between koroua and kuia and their mokopuna (grandparents and grandchildren), has irreparably damaged some Maori. It has not been sufficient to send in Pakeha substitutes for

absent nurturers and teachers. A Plunket nurse recalls her experience:

In the seventies Maori mothers had a choice between Plunket and Public Health; those who had no interest in having their baby supervised tended to play one organisation off against the other and attended neither. Retaining contact with ‘lapsed’ mums was brought about by indefatigable sleuthing by 90 Kyros Kypri, Maori/non-Maori alcohol consumption profiles: implications for reducing health inequalities, New Zealand Medical Journal, vol 116, no 1184, 24 October 2003, www.nzma.org.nz/journal/116-1184/643/ (last accessed April 2009).

91 NZPA, New Zealand Herald, Maori alcohol and drug use ‘more hazardous’ – survey, 5 November 2007, www.nzherald.co.nz/maori/news/article.cfm?c_id=252&objectid= 10474088 (last accessed April 2009).

92 NZPA, New Zealand Herald, Maori ‘twice as likely’ to develop drug addiction, 21 November 2006, www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10411772 (last accessed April 2009).

93 Moira Wilson and Keith McLeod, Understanding the growth in Invalid’s Benefit receipt in New Zealand, Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, issue 29, November 2006, www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/journals-andmagazines/social-policy-journal/spj29/understanding-the-growth-29-pages127-145.html (last accessed April 2009).

94 Louise Arseneault, Mary Cannon, Richie Poulton, Robin Murray, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie E Moffitt, Cannabis use in adolescence and risk for adult psychosis: longitudinal prospective study, British Medical Journal, vol 325, no 7374, 23 November 2002, pp 1212–1213.

95 Official Information Act request, 19 March 2009.


both Plunket and Public Health nurses – a needless waste of time and energy and often money for wasted trips.96 Handouts have hurt Maori, and will continue to hurt Maori more than other New Zealanders. In particular, the practice of paying for single parenting, of substituting the state for whanau, will ensure the rebuilding and renaissance of Maori society shuts out a class of people who will continue to feature heavily in statistics that describe the worst aspects of life today. What can be done?

The way forward There exists an extreme view that the state has no role at all in welfare provision.

It is not one I share. Nevertheless, the state should limit its involvement to that of providing a safety net of last resort. Self and family responsibility must come first. Middle class welfare – the provision of cash or services to those who can afford to meet their own needs – must be avoided. Welfare reforms that deter people from behaving in detrimental ways because there is no perceived risk should be made with those basics in mind.

New Zealand politicians have a habit of looking overseas for policy solutions.

Who can blame them? Too much time can be spent reinventing the wheel.

Sometimes, however, not a lot of thought is given to whether the countries looked to have much in common with our population make-up, characteristics and cultures.

New Zealand is unique. Maori are unique. The experience of Maori, though, shares commonalities with that of other indigenous minorities.

Unfortunately, contemporary policy analysts frequently look to Europe, especially Scandinavia, for inspiration, yet New Zealand has little in common with long-time homogenous and largely Lutheran societies. Instead, New Zealand shares more with the younger, multicultural United States. Sadly, some of those generalities are not happy ones. We feature both amongst the highest teenage birth and imprisonment rates, for instance. It nevertheless makes sense to look at what the United States has been doing in the welfare reform area and what effect those reforms have had.

President Clinton promised Americans he would “end welfare as we know it”.

Living on welfare would no longer be a lifestyle; it would be a temporary event only.

A major plank of the US reforms was time-limiting their DPB equivalent – Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) became Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The assistance was only available for two years at any one time and five years over a lifetime. Consequently, between 1996 and

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2008 the number of families receiving welfare dropped 64 percent.97 The poverty levels of female-headed households with children have neither declined nor increased significantly despite predictions that the reforms would massively increase poverty.98 The legislation covering the reforms was entitled the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). The United States enshrined the idea of personal responsibility in the law’s name.

For Maori, who, it would appear, have a strong attachment to collective responsibility, there may be a reluctance to entertain this notion, although to say as much seems a slight. Personal responsibility can exist as a subsidiary of collective responsibility, but the tension between, and reconciliation of, the two must be addressed if solutions are to be genuinely sought.

Paternalism If the principle of collective responsibility is to continue to dominate, then paternalism will be justified. Unfortunately, paternalism, with the state as the primary agent, may prove little better than the status quo. We currently have a government department that controls the income of people on welfare and sporadically attempts to control their lives and well-being. The first function justifies the second. A school of thought maintains that since the state is paying benefits, recipients must jump through prescribed hoops. It attempts to define what those hoops are according to the rest of society’s standards. There is talk of ‘reciprocity’ or ‘mutual obligation’. Taxpayers have, via the state, expectations about how recipients should conduct their lives.

For example, concern that children are not being fed properly is frequently expressed. To that end, providing welfare in kind, rather than cash, is a recurring suggestion. In the United States, the Kennedy administration turned food stamps into a permanent programme in 1963. It was expected the scheme would expand to cover around 4 million people at a cost of $119 million. However, by 1995 spending for food stamps had increased to $26 billion and the monthly number of recipients was 28 million.99 Between 1996 and 1999, post-reform, food stamp

US Department of Health and Human Sciences, Administration for Children and Families:


www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/data-reports/caseload/afdc/1996/fycytotal96_ek.htm (last accessed March 2009).

US Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements, www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/histpov/perindex.html (last accessed March 2009).

99 James L Payne, Overcoming Welfare: Expecting More from the Poor and from Ourselves, Basic Books, New York, 1998, p 28.


usage fell by about one-third.100 But by early 2009, food stamps, now re-named SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), were received by a record

31.8 million monthly recipients.101 The hallmark of government welfare programmes was apparent. Attempting to fill a need creates more.

Food stamps – and other vouchers – can also be sold for drugs, alcohol, cigarettes etc. The US General Accounting Office estimated in 1995 that 10 percent of benefits were trafficked.102 Clearly, food stamps still breed growing dependence and are not guaranteed to achieve their goal of engineering behaviour change. Having said that, they may still achieve better results than cash hand-outs.

Taking the programme a step further, Australia has been trialling income management by using electronic SmartCards as a way to deliver assistance-inkind.

The Income Management Card will use the EFTPOS system to efficiently deliver income-managed welfare payments to about 20,000 Centrelink customers in Northern Territory income-managed communities and the trial of income management for people referred by child welfare authorities in selected areas of Western Australia.

Individual customers on income management will be offered a PINprotected card which allows them to use their income-managed funds to purchase priority needs, such as food, household goods and clothing at approved merchants using EFTPOS.103 As at March 2009, 15,000 Aborigines were being income managed. This involved half of their welfare income being quarantined for spending on essentials using a BasicsCard at nominated stores. Advantages include a reduced risk of cash being stolen (by partners) or misused. However, problems include beneficiaries being confined to the Northern Territory, feeling racially discriminated against through ‘rationing’ and a correlated increase in violence. The Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency has blamed the quarantining for an increase in murders.104 100 Michael D Tanner, The Poverty of Welfare: Helping Others in Civil Society, Cato Press, Washington, DC, 2003, p 81.

101 ‘Record 31.8 million on food stamps’, CNN Money.com, 5 March 2009, www.money.

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