Guy Williams: Why does the Government pick on poor people?

Bill English's claims about drug tests just don't stack up.

Bill English's claims about drug tests just don't stack up.

OPINION: I grew up with a cruel sense of humour. I don't remember where I learned it, or even if I enjoyed it, but all the jokes I knew as a kid seemed to be about Maori people being poor.

It was crazy on many levels, most obviously because my school was in Nelson and I don't think I even knew any Maori people. 

"What's the fanciest car a Maori has been in? A police car." When I think about it, I don't think I'd been in a car flasher than a police car: Cops drive Holden Commodores. That was a very flash car!

Guy Williams: why is the government bashing poor people?

Guy Williams: why is the government bashing poor people?

The joke about Maori was that they were poor: Anything that was a bit "budget" was "Maori styles". It meant bad, or cheap, or ropy. "Gay" meant bad too, "povo" meant bad, "tranny" meant weirdo. To think this was a Catholic primary school, we were nerds, so who knows what the "povo trannies" across the road at Central School were saying.

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In the schoolyard, we were subconsciously taught to despise poor people. I'm not sure when I realised this was a problem, but I hope it was sooner than HBO's Talking Funny in 2011 when Chris Rock taught me "pressure applied upwards". It meant to punch up, attack the powerful, make jokes about Auckland, not Hamilton. Okay, I've ignored that last one, my bad.

Bill! Stop!

Bill! Stop!

If I can figure this out this basic concept in my stupid brain then why can't our leaders? This week Prime Minister Bill English (oh snap, topical tie-in) rallied against drug-using youths who can't be employed. Last year, he described some Kiwis looking for work as "pretty damned hopeless".

This is a common trend from government, to deride the people at the bottom. John Key did it, Paula Bennett still does it. It reminds me of school.

Here's the crazy thing, I did the minimum level of research (that's not the crazy thing, shhh) and almost as soon as old Bill made his statements about young people and drugs they were found out to be BS.

According to Radio New Zealand, the government's own figures show that 30,000 drug tests happen every year and only about 50 people fail them. If that sounds low, Google the private research, it's not much higher.

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"Wow, Guy you've stepped up your game this year with facts and figures." Cheers, person I made up in my head!

How about this: A newspaper report from 2014 noted that of the 8000 beneficiaries sent for jobs requiring drug testing, only 22 tested positive. That means only 22 beneficiaries failed the drugs test, not that 22 people passed the test… I always get confused with the wording: "Your test came back negative!"


"No, that's a good thing!"

"Well why didn't you say that!?"

Not only that, but the New Zealand economy is going pretty well at the moment, and Bill English and National are probably partly to thank for that. Real unemployment is low, fake unemployment is low (that was a very low-quality joke, even by my standards) and job participation is high.

So why, when someone asks the Prime Minister about high levels of immigration, does he not brag that things are going well, instead of getting sidetracked by young people failing drug tests? I don't know? I'm on drugs!

Why is the government still beating up… beating down on poor people? My best guess is because while the economy is going great, it's still their biggest embarrassment. It's not just their biggest embarrassment, it's New Zealand's biggest embarrassment, and it's embarrassing because we've got the ability to do something about it and we're not doing enough.

The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (how scary does Unicef sound when you write it out in full? Wow, this is powerful writing) estimates that 290,000 kids in New Zealand grow up in poverty. 622,000 adults are living in poverty.

Whose fault is this? The Government might say it's the individuals, that they've made bad choices, that they smoked weed when they were 16 and spiralled into a life of crime.

Stats show this is not the case and yes, Newstalk ZB.

Some people maybe do make bad choices, but maybe that's because they've never been given the opportunity to make good choices. Holy heck, that was great. I didn't think of it, an ex-girlfriend said it to me once… I really regret… enough about my bleak personal life ... let's stop punching down and start punching up!

Let's not let politicians wriggle out of tricky questions by blaming the poor, and focus on who's really screwing us… ahhh corporations? I'm not 100 per cent sure who it is yet, I'll have to do some more classic GW research and you'll have to tune in again to my next column.

Tickets for Guy's NZ International Comedy Festival show are now on sale 

 - Stuff


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