Auckland diocese’s Justice and Peace Commission has called on the Government to accepts its responsibility to focus on building a decent society where everyone has enough to participate fully, not just “building a more productive and competitive economy” to the possible detriment of the wider community. 

The commission made this call in a submission to Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, in response to the Government’s Budget Policy Statement.

The submission focussed on the topics of “vulnerable families and children”, “Improving living standards”, “Housing”, “Climate change”, “Equitable Taxes” and “Investing in Prisoner Rehabiliation”.

Some of the commission’s main recommendations for Government which arose out of these areas were:

• Establish a programme of measurements and targets to reduce poverty including setting Government targets to  start to eliminate child poverty in line with the call of the Children’s Commissioner.

• Provide the support needed to create good jobs with decent wages and conditions.

• Deliver a more productive, participative and competitive economy by supporting
the Living Wage and lead in this by committing to pay state employees at least the Living Wage and negotiate with Government contractors to ensure that contractors pay at least the Living Wage.

• Extend Working for Families to beneficiaries.

• Establish a Benefits Entitlement Commissioner whose office would provide a network of advocates people could call on to provide information and practical support in helping people access the assistance they are entitled to in times of need.

• Undertake an extensive programme to build adequate numbers of well-maintained state houses for state tenants rather than the very expensive provision of “accommodation allowances” for private landlords.

• Take climate change seriously by moving to a lower carbon and methane economy by encouraging the use of smaller, more efficient transport, especially public transport, investing
in trains to take more freight and passengers by rail, providing tax breaks for moving to electric vehicles, and encourage the private sector to invest in renewables such as photo voltaic panels.

• Explore the possibility of introducing a Diverted Profit Tax (DPT) like that recently introduced in Australia and the UK to help prevent large multinationals artificially diverting profits earned in New Zealand out of the country so as to avoid paying taxes due here.

• Commit to a cross-party Justice Re-Investment Strategy as recommended in the December 2016 Salvation Army report Beyond the Prison Gate that aims to reduce spending on custodial prison services and re-invest savings in strategies that can decrease crime,
reduce reoffending and strengthen communities.

The submission’s conclusion noted that the Budget Policy Statement claims that New Zealand has a strengthening economy “driving more jobs and higher wages for New Zealanders” and the Government had a fiscal strategy of “paying down debt in the good times”, “so New Zealanders can be supported through challenging times”.

“The current acute shortage of housing and high levels of child poverty is exactly one of the ‘challenging times’ when additional support is needed for families to live decently and provide for the children in their care,” the submission noted.

The submission also pointed to an IMF report last June that suggested that in the current economic climate, Governments should invest in social spending rather than use surpluses for tax cuts or debt repayment.

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