A few thoughts on Don Brash's much touted "Orewa II" speech:
Firstly, those who have tarred the speech as beneficiary bashing are entirely correct. Like Orewa I, this speech is a finely-crafted exercise in divide and rule, singling out a segment of our society, demonising them and casting them as the enemy, and targetting them out for further victimisation. In his first Orewa speech, Brash did this to Maori. This time round, the targets are beneficiaries - specifically solo mothers, invalids and sickness beneficiaries - who Brash essentially accuses of being frauds, criminals, and malingerers, "ripping off the system" and "living off the rest of the community". Brash has plausible deniability on this, of course - his speechwriters put in careful caveats here and there which he could point to and say that of course he wasn't trying to tar all beneficiaries in that way - but at the same time it is undeniably the impression his speech was intended to convey. As for the facts that fraud is a relatively minor problem, that the vast majority of sickness and invalids beneficiaries really are too ill to work (though partly this is due to not getting the treatment they need for their conditions - something the government is now, finally, working on correcting), that 45% of DPB recipients are already in part-time work and less than 10% are still on the benefit by the time their youngest child turns 14 - in other words, that the "problem" for which he is offering a "solution" is vastly less serious than his punitive tactics would suggest - well, why should they get in the way of stirring hate?
Those who accuse Brash of resurrecting the failed policies of the past and going "back to the future" are likewise correct - there's very little here that wasn't tried (unsuccessfully) under Jenny Shipley in the late 90's. Though Brash's comment that adoption should be seen as an "acceptable option" suggests that he's looking beyond the late twentieth century, and all the way back to the nineteenth - the very era New Zealand was established as a reaction against. A significant strand of our ancestors fled halfway around the world to try and grub a living out of the forest and the swamp to escape the workhouse and the orphanage - not to recreate them.
The policy proposals themselves are best described as simple solutions for simple minds. They make good soundbites, but as shown during the Shipley government, fail to work in practice. Work-for-the-dole simply stops beneficiaries from looking for real work. Work-testing the DPB turns single-parent families into no-parent families. And work-testing those on sickness and invalids' benefits was nothing more than black comedy, with terminally ill cancer patients being dragged from chemotherapy to discuss their future work prospects with WINZ. There are far better options available - making work actually pay (rather than promoting a low-wage, low-skill economy) being the chief one. Others include providing proper healthcare so that sickness and invalids beneficiaries can work and have a life again, providing grants so that the unemployed can relocate in search of work, and removing WINZ's vicious clawbacks so that those on benefits can ease themselves into the workforce through part-time work. But such positive policies are anathema to a party seemingly committed to the idea that those on benefits are shiftless, demoralised bludgers rather than people who want jobs and lives like everybody else.