Wednesday, June 10, 2015
It has now been repeatedly proved beyond dispute that when it comes to matters of social welfare and industrial safety John Key's Casino Cabinet is more than willing to play Russian roulette with fatal outcomes. It was bad enough when the gambles they were prepared to take had yet to kill anybody. Now that the number of fatalities is mounting it is intolerable that they should remorselessly turn their loaded revolver on yet another of the most vulnerable groups in society with their Social Bonds experiment.
Media comment on the deaths of Emma-Lita Bourne and Seosa Tovo through respiratory illness has until now largely focused on the dampness of the state houses which the coroners have blamed for their deaths, and Housing NZ chiefs have accepted responsibility- which is more than can be said of the Housing Minister.
But, as pointed out by Northland doctor Roger Tuck, insulating a house will not prevent dampness unless it is adequately heated, and every day he sees children who- despite living in insulated houses- suffer life-threatening respiratory illness because their parents quite simply cannot afford the heating bills. Inadequate incomes are clearly as much to blame as inadequate housing.
The Prime Minister himself lamely acknowledged this when he alluded to the $25 benefit increase announced in the budget as a measure to remedy an unsatisfactory situation. Although he did not admit it, this was also an acknowledgement that his government's reliance on employment to solve the problems of poverty is an abject failure. He must be called upon to acknowledge this far more explicitly than he has so far dared to do.
When Paula Bennett introduced her much vaunted benefit reforms more benevolent and far more knowledgable people were quick to warn of their potentially lethal consequences. Not content as usual to simply ignore sound advice, John Key's cavalier response was to flippantly deride the warnings by saying that even if all benefit assistance was cut, no-one in N.Z. would die of starvation. I challenge him to repeat that assertion at Emma-Lita's funeral. If no children have died of starvation, Key should thank the tens of thousands of parents who have saved his bacon by risking their childrens health as they evidently do whenever they economise on vital home heating.
Paula Bennett has insisted ad nauseam that employment, not welfare- is the solution to poverty, both of beneficiaries and their children. The death of Soesa Tovo, who was employed as a security guard from the same causes as Emma-Lita proves her to have been at worst disingenuous and at best self-deluded, and she likewise must be held to account for her errors. That is unless she and her colleagues are prepared to admit that their employment and welfare policies have been successful in keeping wages as low as they are, and that infant mortality is for them an acceptable price to pay for the higher attendant profits. Her strenuous denials that welfare reforms had any such goal would be more credible were she to equally strenuously oppose the Employment Relations Act.
During her term of office Ms Bennett has shown a great deal of zeal in prosecuting parents whose apparent neglect has resulted in the death of their children. It has suited her political agenda to thus stigmatise those who she has conspired to deprive of the means of supporting their children. Let's see her show the same zeal in denouncing those whose negligence is responsible for Emma-Lita's death.
If any of John Key's ministers had a shred of the decency that so many NZers attribute to them, they would be ashamed to serve in his cabinet and would resign in remorse. Whether through design or through negligence is somewhat immaterial: they are collectively guilty of infanticide.
Indeed, -apart from book-keeping- wilful or inadvertent homicide is the only thing for which they have shown any competence whatsoever.