UK Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith ruffled a few feathers in New Zealand with his hard (extreme?) views on welfare benefits and other issues affecting individual lives and careers.
His lectures in Auckland (hosted by Maxim Institute as a part of its Annual Sir John Graham Lecture series) and in Wellington (Institute of Policy Studies) had familiar notes – that serious issues should be dealt with seriously through serious legislations.
The topics that he covered were the ills of an ineffective welfare state, broken families, educational failure, personal debt, addiction and inter generational wordlessness.
His Welfare Reform Bill, now before the House of Commons in the UK, is considered “the biggest shakeup of the Welfare System in 60 years.”
His lectures held on July 22 in Auckland and the following day in the Capital, advocated welfare reforms in New Zealand, which he said, would deliver countries safe into the future.
“These reforms must be considered long-term investments. They are sometimes hard decisions because we are trying to face up to the challenges of tomorrow. We want a welfare system that renews people, not write them off,” he said.
Mr Smith said he was in favour of a welfare system that promoted responsibility, not destructive behaviour.
“Our Welfare systems need far-reaching reforms, not just eye-catching schemes or tweaks to welfare payments. At the same time, we want a retirement system that gets people thinking about tomorrow, not just today,” he said.
According to Mr Smith, the cost of aging should be shared fairly between generations in a system that was sustainable.
He cited broken families in the Western societies as one of the reasons for the ongoing economic recession.
These societies must learn from the Asian migrants who have strong family ties, which help them to foster good education and high values among their younger generation.
“These in turn promotes high values, leading to productive jobs, making them less reliant on state benefits,” Mr Smith said.
He said religious beliefs based on conservative ideas should be considered in tackling serious social problems such as teenage pregnancy, sole parenthood and use of cannabis – problems that pose serious threats to New Zealand.
“State benefits fuel these problems, resulting in a dysfunctional society, compounded by recession and financial crisis,” he said.
His lecture in Auckland was not without incident.
Former Green MP Sue Bradford led a small group of protestors in front of Heritage Hotel, the venue of the lecture in Auckland.
While the Left-Centre political groups voiced their objection, his views drew appreciation from some unexpected quarters, including the Maori Party.