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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Welfare for farmers: the bosses dole

There has only been a burble of discontent over the eligibility of farmers to access WINZ payments because of the drought in the North Island. Kate has spat the dummy along with Hooton on behalf of capitalism, rightly describing it as welfare for farmers. Well let me spit the dummy on behalf of everyone else. This is about fairness and why the government treats their obviously preferred group differently to the obviously maligned group.

When a drought is declared (or other weather-related crisis event) WINZ lets farmers have 'Rural Assistance Payments'. Not the dole - an assistance payment that is classified as a 'grant'. The payments are only for farmers.
Contractors such as fencers and haymakers are not covered by this programme [...]
So the farmer - the owner of a 'land-based' business - is the class of capitalist this is designed for, no-one else regardless of how the weather has affected them is eligible. You own a car wash and can't get water to operate, or are any of the many other businesses dependent on weather and affected by the drought... the government says: too bad, tough luck, that's the market, you should have insurance, you should have saved for this event, you should borrow money to tide you over, your management is poor, you shouldn't be in business, get yourself another job, go on the dole etc. The difference in approach is quite marked to the kid gloves and pandering to farmers - the Lords of the Land.


What are the conditions for payment?
  • The applicant finds it difficult to meet essential living expenses through their farming business because of an adverse event.
  • The applicant has no other significant income.
  • Payments are cash and off-farm asset tested. Farm/orchard assets such as dairy company, meat company or fertiliser company shares are not included in the off-farm asset testing.

What are the payment details?

Payments are equivalent to the current rate of Unemployment Benefit at the time of the event.
Payments can be made for one year from date of application or for a period as approved by the Minister for Social Development, whichever is the lesser.
Payments are approved from the Monday of the week of application.
You or your partner can earn $80.00 per week (before tax) before your Rural Assistance Payments are affected.
Payments should generally be made in a lump sum representing a four-week period. You will need to re-apply every four weeks if you need ongoing assistance.

And if you venture further through the actual application form we see how the upper classes are treated when they fall upon hard times and need temporary relief.  They have a ministry-established Rural Support Trust that takes care of farmer's paperwork. No humiliating forced attendences at the WINZ branch amongst the smelly prols, discussing private details in earshot of everyone at the open office. No threats and hassles and soul-destroying begging unlike the unemployed or other beneficiaries. And just fax in the re-application. No distrust and patronising weekly payments - monthly lump sums instead! Good to be the boss, isn't it...


I declare that:

The business is in financial difficulty, by reason of a specific adverse event, and is not

producing sufficient income to meet essential living expenses without drawing on the
equity of the business.


I have a history of deriving my principal income from a land-based industry, or

My business is in the developmental stage and I intended that my income would
come from the business.


I do not have any assets unconnected with the farm operations which can be readily

converted into cash, for example, shares, term investments.


Compare all this to the position of a non-land based business or employee.
Do those laid off because of weather conditions (for example) have this fall-back? Do those laid off or businesses in tough times because of the government's own policies or an uncontrollable and unforseen international event have this fall-back? Of course not.
Farmers have a special status, an elevated and superior status, to everyone else in New Zealand. This has been confirmed by both main parties throughout history. When their time comes they escape the stigma of being a bennie through their own Trust and their own WINZ payments. When will the government institute an Urban Support Trust to help the brains-based businesses? When will they institute a Trust to help all the regular unemployed so they don't have to go through the WINZ mill?
The more I look at these inconsistencies and the unfairness of the WINZ system the concept of managing a minimum income through the IRD appeals all the more. A no-fault system with the IRD paying out to the minimum living income (after filing the application form) seems a better, more efficient way to provide a safety net than the de-humanising drudgery and bureacracy of WINZ.


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