Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King
Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King

PoliticsOctober 9, 2023

Election 2023: The welfare, equity and representation policies in two minutes

Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King
Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King

What are each party’s policies on welfare, equity and representation? Here is the two-minute version, summarised from

See more from our policy in two minutes series here.

Most New Zealanders are proud of egalitarian and progressive movements in our history, from women’s suffrage to marriage equality. Yet struggles for equity based on disadvantages like gender, identity, sexual orientation, race, religion and class continue. In recent years the responsibility to protect marginalised communities has clashed with worries about limiting free speech. 

Our welfare system, once considered “cradle to grave”, has changed, yet with inflation and the cost of living rising, people are in need of financial assistance. Parties have different views on how help might be best distributed. Some focus on increasing incomes through tax cuts, while others on providing services and support from the state. 


Labour would continue to index benefits to average wages and increase the abatement threshold of the minimum wage to incentivise people to take up part-time work. They would review Working for Families, starting with increasing the in-work tax credit by $25 a week for those earning up to $50,000 per year. They would also review the impact of relationship status on benefit entitlements. Labour would keep superannuation at 65, and continue to index it to wages. They would make the apprenticeship boost initiative permanent, and introduce programmes like He Poutama Rangatahi for underserved communities. 

National would introduce a package of welfare reforms estimated to cost $122 million over four years. They would increase the use of sanctions against young people who receive jobseeker support for over three months, if they do not carry out new compulsory actions. They would fund community providers to pair jobseekers with a job coach, and introduce a bonus payment of $1000 for people under 25 who find and stay in work after receiving the jobseeker support payment for longer than a year. National would index beneits to inflation, instead of hourly wage growth. National would maintain the Winter Energy Payment for all superannuitants.

Act would impose spending controls on people who receive sole parent support, unemployment benefits, and people on the National Gang List receiving any benefit. Spending controls means that payments are received on electronic cards, which are restricted and monitored. Act would also index benefits to the consumer price index, rather than wage growth. They would restrict the Winter Energy Payment to over-65s who hold community services cards and to the recipients of the Young Parent Payment, Jobseeker Support, Sole Parent Support, and Supported Living Payment.

Te Pāti Māori would double current baseline benefit levels, and remove various barriers to accessing social welfare. In particular, it would reduce the current appointment requirements, remove the requirement to repeatedly show proof of disability or sickness, remove relationship investigations, and remove work test obligations. Te Pāti Māori would cancel all debt owed to the Ministry of Social Development and ensure that additional grants do not need to be repaid in the future.

The Greens would introduce an income guarantee for anyone out of work, providing a minimum income of $385 a week for individuals, $770 for couples, and $735 for sole parents. They would allow people in part-time or casual work to earn more without losing the income guarantee. The Greens would also remove “intrusive and arbitrary” assessments for determining the relationship status of single parents. They would double the Best Start payment for families with a newborn. These changes would be paid for by introducing wealth taxes and new tax brackets for those earning over $180,000 per year, and a new corporate tax rate of 33%.

a sleepy newborn baby in a white singlet and nappy with their arms up by their head against a green and yellow background
Image: Getty Images, design Tina Tiller

Workplace and income inequity

Both National and Act would abolish fair pay agreements which were introduced in 2022 as a way for workers and their unions to negotiate core minimum conditions for a whole industry. 

Both National and Act would reintroduce the 90-day-trials, so that employers would be able to dismiss employees without reason within 90 days of hiring. 

National would adjust all income tax brackets for inflation and would introduce a tax rebate for families earning less than $180,000 per year to claim back 12.5-25% of their childcare costs. They would expand eligibility for the Independent Earner Tax Credit, which would extend the upper limit of eligibility from $48,000 to $70,000.

The Greens would strengthen the rights of contract workers, ensuring they can participate in Fair Pay Agreements and other collective bargaining. They would create job and apprenticeship programmes with free training, focusing on workforce re-entry for parents. The Greens would adjust the minimum wage annually, so that it increases at least in line with inflation. They would increase annual leave and bereavement leave entitlements and implement comprehensive pay gap reporting, saying that wage disparities based on gender and ethnicity are unjust.

Te Pāti Māori would not tax income under $30,000 and implement a new tax bracket of 2-8% for net wealth over $2 million, saying that wealth has been allowed to accumulate in the hands of a small minority. It says assets and wealth should be taxed to fund policies aimed at ending poverty.

Labour would take GST off fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables. It would introduce two weeks of paid partner’s leave, to increase to four weeks by July 2026. This party would lift the Working for Families abatement threshold from the current $42,700 to $50,000. It would raise the minimum wage every year, and reduce the gap between the living wage and the minimum wage.

Representation and protections for marginalised communities

Act would abolish the Human Rights Commission and the Ministry for Women. They would ensure that the proposed hate speech laws are not enacted, saying the laws would create restrictions on free speech and be difficult for police to implement.

The Greens have far too many policies in this area to fit into two minutes. They would provide a free advocacy service for disabled people, increase funding for staff in aged care facilities to rectify staffing shortages, and introduce a mandate for a children’s interest analysis in all relevant government policy decisions. They would extend hate speech protections to include religion, gender, disability and Rainbow communities, in addition to race.

National would limit access to free prescriptions to those with a Community Services Card or a SuperGold Card. They would increase superannuation payments annually and extend free breast cancer screening to those aged up to 74. National would remove public transport discounts

Te Pāti Māori would create a plan so that Māori children do not end up in state care, which they say has been damaging. They would reform Oranga Tamariki and establish the Mokopuna Māori Authority within three years. With 70% of children in state care Māori, the new authority would use Māori principles and give effect to tino rangatiratanga, they say. 

Labour would retain public transport discounts for those under 25 and those with Community Services Cards. They would make cervical screening free for people aged 25 to 69 years old, saying cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and early screening saves lives. Labour would also extend the 20-hour free early childhood education policy to families with two-year-olds.

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