The Press

The political and the personal

Philip Matthews welcomes a welfare debate.


Greens with benefits

It usually takes a personal story to lift a dry policy launch from the quotidian news cycle and into genuinely important national coverage that reflects on large numbers of New Zealand lives. So it was when Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei confessed to committing benefit fraud as a young solo mother in the 1990s. That came as Turei co-launched what she hopes will be ’’the most significan­t changes to New Zealand’s welfare system in a generation’’, but the details were eclipsed by the revelation of her story and the sustained debate that followed. On one side, there was plenty of predictabl­e selfrighte­ousness about ‘‘bludgers’’. On the other, there were hundreds of confession­s of similar, morally complicate­d stories about the struggle of surviving and feeding children on very little.

Number 13

An image floated around New Zealand’s political internet, suggesting that Labour leader Andrew Little is the local politician who would best suit being cast as Doctor Who. He has the earnestnes­s but surely United Future leader Peter Dunne would win on sartorial grounds. But both have been pipped by Turei, as coleader James Shaw tweeted this week: ‘‘Announcing a new Time Lord to fight evil in the universe and also end poverty in New Zealand.’’ The only reason these jokes are even remotely relevant or funny is because the BBC unveiled its 13th doctor since the 1960s, and it is Broadchurc­h‘s Jodie Whittaker. Yes, a woman for the first time. Grown-up men were offended at this ransacking of their childhood, apparently. Wait until they hear that Happy Days is being rebooted, this time with a woman playing the Fonz. (Not true, but it should be.)

The 1990s revival

Twin Peaks is back. The X-Files, even Will and Grace. So are some of the less fun things about the 1990s: the beneficiar­y shaming that was a big feature of the decade and, as 500 Canterbury doctors pointed out this week, a squeeze on health funding in Christchur­ch. Sniping has been going on for some time between the Canterbury District Health Board and Wellington bean-counters. The doctors put the funding strain in historical context when they said they are experienci­ng 90s deja vu: ‘‘We well remember how strict financial constraint­s were applied by central government and Treasury to Canterbury Health Ltd in the 1990s ... The reforms, forced through against the express advice of local health profession­als, resulted in serious complicati­ons for patients and well-documented, avoidable deaths.’’

Eastern promises

It is easy to be negative about the Christchur­ch rebuild so here is some positive news. The eastern frame will open early in 2018. It will not include the nice houses in a campus-like setting that Fletcher Living has been charged with building; that part will reportedly be done by the science-fiction-like date of 2026. But there will be paved areas, a cycleway, lots of trees, a water feature, half a basketball court and – why the heck not? – two table tennis tables. The real news is that it means the Manchester St roadworks may actually come to an end one day.

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 ?? CAMERON BURNELL ?? Green co-leader Metiria Turei is the political face that launched a thousand arguments.
CAMERON BURNELL Green co-leader Metiria Turei is the political face that launched a thousand arguments.

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