Bennett announces drought relief get-tough measures

The government has announced a range of new measures targeting recipients of state assistance.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announced today that those seeking assistance under the government’s drought relief scheme would be required to submit to mandatory drug tests, and to show evidence that they were actively looking for alternative sources of income.

Farmers would also have their benefits docked if they failed to answer phone calls from Work and Income.

The measures are designed to crack down on the abuse by farmers of the government’s drought relief scheme.

Ms Bennett accepted that there was no evidence of widespread abuse of the scheme by farmers.

But she insisted that the new rules were necessary to keep farmers on the straight and narrow.

“Struggling farmers who are doing their best to manage and who are looking to find alternative work have nothing to fear,” said Bennett. “These rules are about helping to break the cycle of farmer dependency. Some of this dependency is inter-generational. We can’t afford as a nation to have hundreds of farmers begging for help each and every time a drought is declared.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a farmer or a solo mother,” said Ms Bennett. “If you want a handout from this government then the same rules apply.”

Reporters at the Minister’s press conference were unable to elicit further information from Ms Bennett about the measures, as she had by that time fallen over in a fit of hysterical laughter.

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