Broadcaster and former National list MP Claudette Hauiti says Paula Bennett will be known as the “minister who introduced punitive measures” and someone who was “less than humanitarian” following Bennett's retirement announcement this week.
After having served 15 years in politics, Bennett said she was particularly proud of her contribution as minister of social development and child youth and family but Hauiti claims she failed to help those in need.
“A lot of people talk about Paula as if she came from dire beginnings as a single parent on welfare,” Hauiti told Tapatahi.
“When she was in a position to help, she kicked the ladder from underneath her.”
“I’m not 100 per cent sure she’d be known for any great works.”
In Bennett’s departing speech, she talked about her efforts with helping struggling families across the country and said, “I set about reforming the welfare system, with more emphasis on what people could do, increasing our expectation on people to get work-ready and look for a job and changing the system so that more help was available for them.”
“The number of sole parents on the benefit dropped by more than 30,000 and the number of teen parents effectively halved. This meant tens of thousands of people no longer dependent on the state and were living independent lives.”
The MP was ranked No 13 in the National Party list and campaign manager for the September election but a leadership coup stripped her of both, which ultimately raised concern for lack of diversity under new leader Todd Muller.
Former National leader Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett were National’s most senior Māori MP's and while proud of their heritage, Hauiti claims not much will change without them.
“Todd Muller has no representation but, in terms of kaupapa Māori, we’re not going to miss anything,” she says. “Simon and Paula didn’t apply kaupapa Māori values either.”
“It’s not about diversity it’s about [Treaty] partnership, and we’ve just not seen it.”
“You can tell National governments are intent on Māori economic development but, when it comes to kaupapa Māori and the broader Māori voters, they’re not too concerned.”
Although Bennett set a positive example for solo mothers with aspirations to take on serious roles, particularly within Māori communities, Hauiti says Bennett had great support.
“What we can take from this is with determination and positive support, anybody can achieve that goal.”
National’s Jake Bezzant of Ngati Ruanui is now set to replace Paula Bennett as the Upper Harbour candidate.