Josie Pagani and Susan St John are having a donnybrook over the direction of the Labour party and poverty.
One is an activist and member of the party the other is a lofty academic more attune with lecturing people.
My money is on the activist.
Susan St John accusesÂ me of âvisionless pro-work rhetoricâ for writing in my blogÂ aboutÂ Labourâs position on extending the Working For FamiliesÂ tax credit to families not in work.
Iâm not sure if Susan St John thinks it would be more visionary to be âanti-workâ. Iâm proud to support the core Labour value of work. The best way out of poverty is a well-paid job. The Labour movement is founded on the entitlement of working people to dignity through work and security when we canât.
Those of us who have been in and around families needing benefits to live on have experienced the cycle of getting work, getting off the benefit and then getting back into it again. Work is the central security in our lives.
There will always be many who canât work (or, often, could work but should not have to, such as many mothers of young children and many sick and disabled individuals among others.) Being âpro-workâ does not mean giving up on them or failing to represent them.
But my point was that you win the argument about doing more to help families on benefits if you can win the trust of those who are only two pay checks away from being on a benefit themselves.
Susan St Johnâs position implies the only way to help beneficiaries is by extending the in-work tax credit to beneficiaries. Yet we know that policy is unpopular.
So why donât we get support to reduce child poverty and inequality? She implies the in-work tax credit for beneficiaries is unpopular because of the way it is framed. Others often say it is because voters donât care about child poverty and inequality. I disagree.
Most New Zealanders really do care about child poverty. They understand the significance of increasing cash payments to beneficiaries. Theyâre not sceptical about the goal – they are sceptical about the in-work tax credit being the right tool to use.
It is revealing that, in an extensive quote from my previous column she left out this one:
âOnly when we do that job properly (representing working people) do we win the trust of people to increase benefit levels; because another Labour principle is compassion.â
Yet that is the main point I was making: we lost trust. We have to ask why.