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Offenders can lose benefits under bill

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/08/2016

Parliament has passed the first reading of a bill that allows benefits to be stopped when offenders don't comply with community sentences. © Helen H. Richardson/ Getty Images Parliament has passed the first reading of a bill that allows benefits to be stopped when offenders don't comply with community sentences. Offenders who don't comply with community sentences can have their benefits stopped under a bill that has passed its first reading.

The member's bill was drafted by National MP Mark Mitchell.

He said in parliament on Wednesday night it offered an alternative management tool for the Department of Corrections, a step it could take before prosecution.

Mr Mitchell said it would be an effective measure.

"As of Monday, August 8, there were 28,562 offenders on community sentences," he said.

"Up to 50 per cent of offenders on community-based sentences are receiving some form of benefit."

Labour MPs said it would affect a handful of people - and stigmatise them.

The Greens also opposed it, saying it was a typical government measure which had been left to an MP to take through parliament.

NZ First voted against it after its MPs said a benefit was a safety net and under the bill it would be used as a punishment.

They also wanted to know what would happen to people who didn't comply with community sentences and weren't receiving a benefit.

Mr Mitchell said they would be prosecuted.

The bill passed its first reading by 61 votes to 60 and has been sent to a select committee for public submissions.

National, ACT and United Future supported it.

Labour, the Greens, NZ First and the Maori Party opposed it.

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