There is a problem with National’s response to child poverty and meals in schools…
First, to re-cap, there was no announcement made in the Budget on 16 May regarding meals in schools,
Acknowledgment: Fairfax Media – Key tight-lipped on food in schools
Finance Minister Bill English was adamant that any announcement would be weeks away,
Acknowledgment: NewstalkZB – Budget 2013: No food in schools programme
Interestingly, whilst National is luke-warm on the idea of feeding hungry children in our schools, they have little hesitation in throwing our tax-dollars at private, profit-making businesses such as Charter Schools. What next – state subsidies for farmers to produce fatty sheep meat and a butter mountain?
National – the self-professed champion of the free market – throwing taxpayer’s money at private enterprises?
Regarding food in schools, Bill English had this to say about the subject on Maori TV’s Native Affairs last night (20 May),
Mihingarangi Forbes prefaced the interview by reminding viewers of a statement made by John Key with he was leader of the Opposition in 2007,
MIHINGARANGI FORBES: ” [John Key]… from the Opposition benches, promised, a Food In Schools programme. Back then he said he wouldn’t wait because “kiwi kids deserved better (see: National launches its Food in Schools programme). So earlier today I asked Bill English why, after six years, thousands of kids still wait.”
BILL ENGLISH: “[...] but I think we should keep it in perspective. In the budget there was a wide ranges of measures that are going to have a positive impact on the complicated problem of children and families who suffer from persistant disadvantage.”
MIHINGARANGI FORBES: “Can I ask, do you personally support, believe that central government should be providing food for children?”
BILL ENGLISH: “I think we have to deal with the reality that children turn up to school unable to eat, we believe that it’s parent’s respons-, unable to learn.We believe it’s parent’s responsibility to feed their children. And I think we would find that where children are turning up hungry, there’s probably any number of other issues in the life of that family that are difficult and need resolving. But we need these kids to learn, we can’t punish them for the circumstances that they’re born into or living in and so that’s why we support feeding them so they can learn.”
When asked when National would implement a plan, Mihingarangi reminded English that Key had stated that it was just a “couple of sleeps away”, he responded,
BILL ENGLISH: “Well, look, I think you should just wait for the announcements in a couple of weeks.”
Acknowledgment: Maori TV – Native Affairs (20 May 2013)
So what is the problem with National’s response to child poverty and meals in school that I referred to above?
Firstly the Nats appear to having some kind of internal crisis on this issue – leading to Bill English delaying any announcement for two weeks after the Budget was released. (Some have suggested that there is a ‘power struggle’ going on behind the scenes in Cabinet? It has been suggested that an announcement was going to be made on Budget Day – but was pulled at the last minute.)
But the real problem of any food-in-schools programme?
National has not budgetted for it.
The Mana Party “Feed the Kids” Bill is estimated to cost $100 million to implement (see: Mana Party – Fact Sheet). Any plan from National – unless it is half-hearted and watered down – will also require considerable resourcing.
Where is National’s Budget allocation for implementing any meaningful food in schools programme?
There does not appear to be any.
As National continues to dither and delay on this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”), there is a feeling of growing dread within me that National ministers are going to deliver the biggest cop-out to the country since… whenever.
No food, no money, no solutions.
Message to John Key & Bill English
Prove me wrong.
Scoop: National launches its Food in Schools programme (4 February 2007)
Radio NZ: Labour criticises ‘funny money assumptions’ on surplus (20 May 2013)
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Housing NZ Current waiting list
As at 30 April 2013 there were 4,568 people on the waiting list. Of this:
1,172 were Priority Eligible – A
2,207 were Priority Eligible – B
728 were C (assessed before 30 June 2011)
461 were D (assessed before 30 June 2011)
Acknowledgment: Housing NZ – Waiting list
- As at 30 April this year, Housing NZ had 3,379 people on it’s Category A and B waiting lists (Categories C and D are so low priority that their chances of getting into a state house are next to nil). (see: IBID)
- According to Housing NZ, they had 69,400 properties in the 2011/12 financial year (see: HNZ -Addressing housing demand). This has probably reduced significantly as many rental properties – such as in Pomare, Lower Hutt – were demolished in June 2011 (see: Pomare housing demolition begins).
- Child poverty in New Zealand has increased;
In 2006/07 230,000, or 22 percent, of New Zealand children were still living in poverty. That is, in households with incomes below the 60 percent median income poverty line, after taking housing costs into account. This is more than the entire population of North Shore City (205,605) or the Manawatu-Wanganui region (222,423) and means one adult and one child were living on $430 a week before housing costs. (see: Brief Statistics on Child Poverty in New Zealand 2004-2008)By 2011/12, approximately 270,000, or 25%, of New Zealand children were living in poverty. (see: Solutions to Child Poverty)
- A recent UNICEF report placed New Zealand amongst the worst in developed countries for child wellbeing, ranking us 25th out of 34 developed countries. We are now behind Australia and Britain also for homicide rates, child health, and safety. (See: NZ ranked poorly on child welfare)
In the past, one of the principle means by which New Zealand has attempted to ameliorate the destructive effects of poverty is for the provision of State housing, where tenants pay 25% of their household’s net income (See: HNZ -Income-related rent)
For thousand of low-income New Zealanders, this has meant the difference between this,
Acknowledgment: NZ History Online – Inside a state house
Unfortunately, too many New Zealanders have a narrow view of life and society in general, and cannot accept that in a civilised society there is a dire need for the State to provide housing for those who cannot manage, or, have fallen on hard times – especially during the Global Financial Crisis. But that need exists, and it is the price we pay for living in a decent society where beggars do not line the streets.
Even those who grudingly admit that social housing is a necessity still hold to the belief that State housing is for “short term emergencies”, and not for any longer period.
This writer thoroughly disagrees and disputes that notion.
The principle of housing is not just to provide a roof over people’s heads and give them warm shelter from cold and rain.
Social housing – as the name ‘social‘ implies – is where those on the lower socio-economic scale (ie, the poor) can create communities; offer mutual support; perhaps grow food for themselves in their backyards; and where children can put down roots and attend their local school on a steady, uninterupted basis.
The last thing we need now is those on low incomes (or vulnerable in other ways) being evicted from their state homes and forced into a life of transience – or trapped in high-cost rental accomodation, leaving little aside for food, medicines, clothing, etc.
This is precisely what National appears to be planning;
Acknowledgment: State tenants face ‘high need’ review
National’s 2013 Budget proposes;
Reviews of state housing tenants will be phased in from next year. Housing New Zealand estimates the reviews will lead to 1000 tenants moving out of state houses in 2015-16 and a further 2000 in 2016-17. About 10,000 tenants are already subject to reviews, if they signed an agreement after July 2011.
Assessment for housing will also be carried out by the Ministry of Social Development and integrated with other services.
Bill English described it with words that belied the misery that such a policy could create,
“It can become a trap for those whose circumstances could improve. We want to ensure people are in the most appropriate houses for them.
We will be looking at when tenants’ circumstances change and when they no longer have higher needs and will help to move them into other housing.”
Acknowledgment: Budget 2013: All state house tenancies to be reviewed
Only a Tory who has never know deprivation, hunger, and hopelessness could call a decent chance for a warm home as a “trap”.
It’s the same weasel words that National uses for welfare payments that can put food in unemployed person’s belly.
It’s not a “trap” – it’s a lifeline for survival.
English refers to “moving tenants into other housing“.
What housing? There is a critical shortage of low-cost rental housing in this country.
Moving a tenant on a low or fixed income into a $300-$400/week rental will achieve nothing except push the poor further into poverty.
It will also inevitably increase transience, as tenants fall behind in market rents and have to move on a regular basis. This uproots children from their school.
And it eventually leads to shocking incidents like this;
Acknowledgment: CYF lost track of neglected children
Welfare minister, Paula Bennett acknowledged the obvious,
“Because of the family’s transience, living in a number of regions, I am unable to give detailed information and an actual number [of social worker visits] at this time.
What I can say is there has been previous Child, Youth and Family involvement and notifications over many years, but Child, Youth and Family was unaware that they were at that [Lower Hutt] residence until January 4, when the police were involved.”
So, let’s be clear about this: forcing low income people from their homes is a pointless excercise in futility that achieves nothing except exacerbate poverty.
It creates unnecessary stress in already stressed families.
We will see ghastly consequences of families pushed further into poverty and unable to cope with financial pressures.
And, as usual, it will be the children who suffer the most.
All for what? What possible purpose or benefit is there in pushing people out of their homes and out of their local community?
Remember the stats above?
As at 30 April 2013 there were 4,568 people on the waiting list. Of this:
1,172 were Priority Eligible – A
2,207 were Priority Eligible – B
National has never been a Party to promote socially proactive programmes. At best they tolerate what Labour governments have built up over decades (like social housing).
The waiting list – 3,379 people on it’s Category A and B waiting lists – is obviously an embarressment to National ministers.
But instead of building an extra 3,400 houses or flats (which is doable), National has tackled the waiting list in a novel way; displace existing tenants into private accomodation, and re-tenant with those 3,379 in Caregories A and B.
It is a cynical manipulation of people’s lives so National ministers can, at next year’s election, claim that they have “eliminated” the state housing waiting list.
A “revolving door” of poor tenants is National’s cunning plan to solve the state housing shortage.
In the meantime, we will see more and more stories like this in our media,
The parents, a 25-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman, have pleaded guilty to failing to provide medical care, food and nutrition to the children, aged 4, 3, 2, and 7 months.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said in Parliament yesterday that her staff had been aware of the family for many years, but the agency lost track of them when they moved from Whanganui towards the end of last year.
Acknowledgment: CYF lost track of neglected children
A Message to John Key & other National clowns
In an op-ed piece in the Dominion Post on 17 May, former-Labour President, Mike Williams wrote that National policies – especially relating to poverty and housing – would hand “the Labour Party a golden opportunity to win the general election next year“. (see Budget: Stirring state house voters)
Williams further stated,
Budget 2013 gives a very large group who don’t turn out to vote on a regular basis a very good reason to cast their ballots next year. These are state house tenants.
What we all know is that there are just under 70,000 state rental houses in this country. What Labour discovered in 2004 was that there are between three and four enrolled voters per household and that a large majority of these potential electors do not bother to cast a ballot on a regular basis.
The threat to state house tenants planned for election year by National is a gift to Labour in a tight contest. Nearly everyone in a state house will have their tenancy reviewed and 10 per cent of these people will be moved on. That nice Mr Key has grown teeth.
On September 17, 2005, Don Brash was denied victory at the last moment by increased participation in South and West Auckland, north Wellington and east Christchurch – just where you find lots of state houses.
A bit of simple arithmetic: nearly 70,000 state homes times three or four enrolled voters per household equals 210,000 voters (conservative estimate).
Considering that the 2011 election yielded the following voting results,
Add 200,000 votes to Labour and the Greens – and National will be out of office. And Key is out of a job.
Make no mistake, Mr Key; Labour, the Greens, and Mana will work in concert to target every single state house and flat at the next election. Every person will be made aware of National’s intentions. Every single state house tenant will be warned that their continuing tenancy will depend on National being voted out of office.
National has just made 200,000 new enemies.
Nicely done, Mr English – a political suicide note dressed up as a “budget”.
Fairfax Media: Parents accused of neglecting kids (11 Jan 2013)
Fairfax Media: Neglected kids back home in days (15 May 2013)
Fairfax Media: CYF lost track of neglected children (16 May 2013)
NZ Herald: Budget 2013: All state house tenancies to be reviewed (16 May 2013)
Dominion Post: State tenants face ‘high need’ review (17 May 2013)
Dominion Post: Budget: Stirring state house voters (17 May 2013)
Previous related blogposts
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A letter to the editor of the Sunday Star Times, based on a response on a previous blogpost, National on Child Poverty?!
from: Frank M <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to: Sunday Star Times <email@example.com>
date: Wed, May 15, 2013 at 11:28 AM
subject: letters to the editor
Sunday Star Times.
I would fully support meals in ALL schools, regardless of decile ratings. It would eliminate labelling a school as “poor”. Feeding kids in all decile schools would be a benefit for parents for less pressure on them to daily prepare meals for their children – especially where both spouses might be working and busy in the mornings. School breakfasts and lunches would remove some of the early morning pressures and stresses.
The good thing, though is we would once again be on a road to egalitarianism. Imagine if all kids, regardless of class, had the same meals (taking into consideration personal needs; allergies, religion, etc).
If our cuzzies in Britain, Canada, and Scandinavian nations can achieve this, I’m dumbfounded why so many think this is beyond our capabilities. Are we, as a nation incapable of doing what needs to be done??
I don’t believe that. Not for a moment.
And if National and Peter Dunne can plow $200 million into the Rugby World Cup, their excuse that this is somehow “unaffordable” simply doesn’t wash with me.
So, ok, we start with Decile 1 and 2. I’m a realist. I understand we need to take this one step at a time. The Right Wing in this country are in a frothing-mouthed hysterics over this plan. It would be a major reversal of our current neo-liberal, Me First culture.
This isn’t just about feeding hungry children – this is about the soul of our nation.This is where we decide what kind of society we want to live in.
(phone number and address supplied)
It’s time to raise our voices on this (and other) problem. As election time nears, they will have one eye on polls and the other on public opinion.
Now is the time to grab their attention.
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Acknowledgment: Dominion Post – Poverty among Budget targets
At first glance, it appears that National has recognised that a crisis exists in our country; a crisis involving 275,000 children living in poverty.
Without doubt, this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) hit the public’s collective consciousness on 22 November 2011, when Bryan Bruce’s sobering documentary,”Inside Child Poverty” hit our television screens (see: Strong reaction to damning TV child poverty doco).
Since then, the problem has become a major concern concern throughout the country.
More and more organisations, schools, political groups, etc, are adding their voice to a growing clamour for action. Most New Zealanders – those with eyes to see; ears to listen; and a mind to understand – want action. They want kids fed, so that they can attend their schools and learn and get a decent chance at life.
This is what Bryan Bruce, the documentary-maker of Inside Child Poverty wrote on his Facebook page;
OK, let’s get some things straight about providing free healthy meals in schools.
1. First of all let’s decide on the principle before arguing about the detail.
Let’s admit there is a significant problem of children turning up to school hungry and that a lot of kids are eating low cost foods that contain a lot of sugar and fat , causing obesity , diabetes and long term health problems.
And at least get the Feed The Kids Bill to Parliamentary Select Committee. You can argue all you want about how it should be funded or what’s going to be on the menu there.
If you don’t think we have a community responsibility to feed children and/or educate their palates to healthy eating habits – then read no further it will only make you angry.
2. It doesn’t fill a hungry kids tummy to point at their parents and shout “Your problem is you have bad parents”. This page takes the view that kids don’t get to choose their parents and we have a community responsibility to ALL our kids to make sure they grow up healthy. And if that means feeding them for free- then that’s what we do.
3. No one is going to force feed any child food they don’t want to eat or is culturally inappropriate. If you watch the video below which I filmed in Sweden for the documentary you will see children from multi -cultural backgrounds CHOOSING their food. And Yes children with allergies are catered for and Yes children can still bring their own lunch prepared by the parents .
4.Free healthy school meals can be paid for without raising taxes. We just choose to re-distribute the existing pool of tax payer money and give up on some other things. Here are some suggestions, I’m sure you can think of other ways we could spend smarter.
(a) We could fund school meals out of the Health vote rather than the Education vote. In a document released under the Official Information Act I revealed that children under 14 receive 10% of the money set aside for health care. But children under 14 represent 20% of our population. So we could fund some of it – if not all of it – by giving kids their fair share.
(b )It is a well accepted health statistic that for every $1 we spend on preventing disease we save $4 in expensive hospital cure. So within a few years the scheme will fund itself out of what we save. If we DON’T do it, taxpayers will be spending much more than they are now on the Health budget in the future.
(c) We could make children a spending priority. National plans to spend a billion a year on Roads of National Significance over the next 10 years. What about Children? – aren’t they of National Signifcance? I’d much rather feed our kids than be able to by – pass small towns while driving to Auckland .
(d) We could pay the pension to people when they actually stop working and not just because they reach 65.
(e) We could spend more energy making sure people paid their taxes . Last year the IRD detected about a Billion dollars worth of tax evasion mostly by businesses. It’s estimated that the real tax evasion in NZ is between 4 and 5 Billion.
If you pay PAYE you can’t cheat your taxes. So we could easily pay for free school meals if more adults played fair.
Let’s impose greater penalties for tax evasion, and let’s stop thinking of tax as a bad thing. Tax is a good thing – it’s giving to ourselves. That’s how we can have schools and hospitals and yes even Roads Of National significance. Tax is the price of civilisation. Get over it.
Now whether you agree with some of the above, all of the above or none of the above , let’s at least agree that The Feed The Kids Bill should at least go to Select Committee after its First Reading so the issue can be properly debated.
Please contact your local MP today and urge them to support the Feed The Kids Bill.
You can find their contact details here, just click on their name :
(Please give Brian support by going to his Page and “liking” it. The bigger the numbers, the more ‘clout’ he has.)
It’s fairly obvious to all by the most stubborn-minded that a malnourished child is not well pre-desposed to learning well. A child who cannot focus on his or her lessons and falls behind, eventually becomes alienated and disenchanted. The cycle of poverty, hopelessness, and anger perpetuates.
The Mana Party introduced a “Feed The Kids” Bill – aka the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill – into Parliament last year, on 8 November 2012. The Bill is scheduled to come before Parliament for its first reading on 5 June this year.
With pressure coming hard and fast on Key and his increasingly shakey, poll-driven, ‘government’, their strategists are planning to end National’s destructive austerity Budgets and begin spending on essential social services that are critical to the well-being of our communities.
Part of this is Key’s stated intention;
Children who aren’t fed become victims and the Government has to deal with that, Prime Minister John Key says.
His comments come as action on child poverty is tipped to be the surprise package in Finance Minister Bill English’s fifth Budget on Thursday.
“The vast overwhelming bulk are [fed] in New Zealand, but if a child isn’t fed then actually they become a victim and whatever we think of that we need to try and deal with that issue.”
At his regular press conference, Key was coy at whether National would rule in or out a food in schools programme – but was more candid in ruling out support for Mana’s “Feed the Kids” member’s bill.
So. What we have is;
- A firm “no” by National to Mana’s initiative
- A firm “no” by Peter Dunne to Mana’s initiative (Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”)
- A vague committment; “The vast overwhelming bulk are [fed] in New Zealand, but if a child isn’t fed then actually they become a victim and whatever we think of that we need to try and deal with that issue.”
Now, call me a cynic if you like, but National has a fairly poor track record on dealing with social matters, whether it be unemployment, solo-mothers, worker’s rights and conditions, etc.
To give an example; our high unemployment.
Unemployment is high.
Jobs are scarce.
National’s ‘solution’; “reform” social welfare and make it harder for the unemployed to access welfare support, or to retain it. Additional ‘solution’; demonise the unemployed and infer that that are bludging. Ditto for solo-mothers.
That was National’s ‘solution’; force people off welfare and make the numbers look good. (see: Bennett trumpets 5000 fewer on DPB, see: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply, see: Welfare rules force people to struggle on without benefits)
I hope I’m wrong, but my gut feeling is that the Nats plan to pull a “swiftie”. We’re going to see something along these lines;
- A WINZ-based “targetted” approach where families that cannot afford to buy adequate food will have an increase in their food grants – but will probably have to re-pay it from their weekly welfare assistance.
- A reliance on some form of “PPP”-style programme, such as Fonterra’s milk-in-schools programme. There will be nothing concrete – just a “promise” to “investigate possible options”.
- A commision of enquiry of some description.
- An increase for school budgets to buy food, but which will be limited; capped; and money will be taken from elsewhere in Vote:Education to fund this.
- No increase in welfare assistance; no food in schools; but a form of food vouchers making up a portion of a beneficiaries overall entitlement.
- A limited “trial” food-in-schools programme – for a handful of schools only.
Far from addressing this crisis, National, ACT, and Peter Dunne will apply a band-aid “solution” and present it to the public of New Zealand as “Mission: Accomplished”.
It will be nothing of the sort.
Only one thing will begin to address this problem – a change of government.
NZ Herald: Strong reaction to damning TV child poverty doco (23 Nov 2011)
Previous related blogpost
The Daily Blog: Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director
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- Citizen A -
- 14 February 2013 -
- Matthew Hooton & Keith Locke -
Issue 1: Richard Prosser – is he racist? What are the ramifications for NZ First and does this reflect poorly on MMP?
Issue 2: Salvation Army gives the Government a D for child poverty, housing and employment – what is the Government doing?
and Issue 3 tonight: John Key’s decision to take Australia’s refugees – what do we get?
Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)
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To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.
The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.
Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc) in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises..
Inequality & Poverty
“You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.
Yet, also, you can measure a society by how many vulnerable people it creates – people who are able to work, and able to take responsibility for their own lives and their children’s lives, yet end up depending long-term on the State.” – John Key, 28 November 2006
“My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me.” – John Key, 30 Jan 2007
“I have said before that I believe in the welfare state and that I will never turn my back on it. We should be proud to be a country that looks after its most vulnerable citizens. We should be proud to be a country that supports people when they can’t find work, are ill, or aren’t able to work. ”- John Key, 30 Jan 2007
“When Sir Ed climbed Mt Everest back in 1953, he wasn’t the only New Zealander on top of the world. We all were. We were among the five wealthiest countries on earth. Not any more.
Fifty-five years on, we are no longer an Everest nation. We are among the foothill nations at the base of the OECD wealth mountain. Number 22 for income per person, and falling.
But what does a wealth ranking matter, you might ask? Why does it matter if we’re number 22 or number four?
It matters because at number 22 your income is lower, you have to work harder, and you can save less. You face more uncertainty when things go wrong, when you or your family get sick or lose a job. No New Zealand sports team would be happy to be number 22. Why is the Government?
This is a great country. But it could be so much greater. It has been so much greater.
So the question I’m asking Kiwi voters is this: Do you really believe this is as good as it gets for New Zealand? Or are you prepared to back yourselves and this country to be greater still? National certainly is.
So, make no mistake: this election won’t be fought only on Labour’s economic legacy. National will be asking Labour to front up on their social legacy, too. Many of the social problems the Government said it would solve have only got worse.
This time a year ago, I talked about the underclass that has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. Labour said the problem didn’t exist. They said there was no underclass in New Zealand.
But who now could deny it? 2007 showed us its bitter fruits. The dramatic drive-by shooting of two-year-old Jhia Te Tua, caught in a battle between two gangs in Wanganui. The incidence of typhoid, a Third World disease, reaching a 20-year high. The horrific torture and eventual death of three-year-old Nia Glassie. The staggering discovery of a lost tribe of 6,000 children who are not enrolled at any school.
The list goes on and on. The fact is, that under Labour, there has been no let-up in the drift to social and economic separatism.
We don’t need more of their hand-wringing, their strategies, and their interdepartmental working groups. What’s needed is the courage to make the tough calls to fix these problems.” – John Key, 29 January 2008
“I’m a product of the welfare state – there hasn’t been any great secret about that.” – John Key, 27 Aug 2011
Interestingly, whilst Key’s 2008 speech (A Fresh Start for New Zealand) started off describing New Zealand’s growing underclass, National’s Dear Leader went on to describe a series of punitive actions that his Administration would undertake, if elected to power.
The following sub-headings in Key’s speech are illuminating,
- Youth Plan (education, youth crime)
- Youth Guarantee (education, training, universal educational entitlement, threat of benefit sanctions)
- Youth Justice (extending Youth Court; tougher sentences for youth offenders; new Youth Court orders)
- New powers for the Youth Court
- First, the power to issue parenting orders.
- Secondly, the power to refer young offenders to mentoring programmes.
- Thirdly, the power to refer young offenders to compulsory drug or alcohol rehabilitation programmes.
- Tougher sentences
- The first is longer residential sentences.
- In addition, National will fund a new type of programme for teenagers who aren’t bad enough to be put in a youth justice facility but who need a serious dose of intervention.
- National will fund a new range of revolutionary ‘Fresh Start Programmes’. (boot camps)
- Finally, we think the Youth Court needs better teeth for following up serious youth offenders when they are released back into the community.
This was John Key’s “vision” of a “Fresh Start for New Zealand”; more punitive action against youth offenders – but precious little to address the root causes of youth crime; poverty, lack of jobs, poor housing, worsening health, lack of training and apprenticeships, etc, etc, etc.
Key’s “solution” was to treat the symptoms of this country’s growing underclass.
So it should be hardly any surprise that those symptoms worsened, and the underclass; prison population; domestic violence; hungry children; poor housing – all grew.
The truly unbelievable aspect to Key’s shonkey speech in 2008 was how comprehensively New Zealand voters sucked it up, en masse. (We seriously need to introduce comprehensive Civics courses in our schools, to teach young New Zealanders how to recognise and deconstruct political BS.)
Whichever way we look at it, New Zealand in the last four years has become a more unequal society, and with growing poverty.
The first causal factor was the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts, which gave the most to the highest income earners and most wealthy New Zealanders,
When, on 1 April 2009, then-Maori Party MP, Rahui Katene asked John Key in Parliament,
“How do low-income New Zealanders benefit from the tax changes introduced today?”
Dear Leader replied,
“They benefit because 630,000 New Zealanders—the New Zealanders who do not have children and who have been relatively low-income New Zealanders, and who got absolutely nothing under the previous Labour Government for 9 years—get $10 a week, or $500 a year. It is a small start, and it will be welcomed.”
At least Key wasn’t bullshitting us this time; for those on minimum wage up to it was indeed small. Someone on $100,000 would receive two and a half times more than someone on minimum wage.
The following year’s October tax cuts were hardly better – but this time the rate of GST was increased from 12.5% to 15%,
The impact on low-income families – along with increased costs for medicines (see: Prescription charges to increase), and other user-pays government fees – would be harsh.
Contrary to the NZ Herald’s claim above, the average earner would not be “better off”. The $15 a week “extra” would be quickly swallowed up in rising government charges; medicine prescriptions; increased petrol taxes; and the flow-on inflationary effects throughout the economy.
This was not a “tax switch” – it was a tax-swindle – with the richest making the biggest gains.
Interestingly, ACT’s Roger Douglas – commenting on the 2009 tax cuts – realised that National was having to borrow heavily to finance said tax-cuts,
“Does the Prime Minister agree with Professor Eric Leeper’s statement in the latest Reserve Bank Bulletin that counter-cyclical fiscal policy could actually be counter-productive; if not, why not; if yes, why, then, is he borrowing $1 billion plus interest a year in order to give tax relief of $1 billion?” – Roger Douglas, 1 April 2009
So much for National’s promises in 2008,
“National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.
This makes it absolutely clear that to fund National’s tax package there is no requirement for additional borrowing and there is no requirement to cut public services.”
Salvation Army Report: The Growing Divide – A state of the Nation Report 2012
This document by the Salvation Army is one of the most insightful and far-reaching analyses of current economic stagnation; political factors; and related social problems. It pulls no punches.
This blogger encourages people to read the Report (it’s written in plain english; very little jargon; and contains excellent data, with references). It should be put into the letterboxes of every home in this country. Click here to link to the report.
[NB: The report was written at a time when unemployment was at 6.3%. Since then it has increased three consecutive Quarters to the current 7.3% (see: Unemployment January 2012 to November 2012.]
Amongst the Report’s findings,
1. Inflation, higher prices, increased GST, raised indirect taxes (eg, fuel taxes), and government charges, have off-set the tax cuts of October 2010.
2. If New Zealand is to return to the historically low rate of unemployment of 3.8% in December 2006, (from the then-figure of 6.3%), we would require 90,000 jobs, in on top of 25,000 to 30,000 jobs required each and every year just to keep up with the growth of the labour force. The figure of 90,000 will have increased as unemployment now stands at 7.3%.
3. The rapid growth in the labour force participation rate of people aged 65+ (from 14.1% in December 2006, to 19.5% in December 2011) has been at the expense of falling employment participation of young people in the 15 – 19 year old age group.
Those in the 15 – 19 year old age group, the Report states, have “borne the brunt of the recession and tightening of the job market”. Unemployment for this group rose from 14.3% in December 2006, to 24.2% in December 2011.
It is also this group targetted by National’s harsh “welfare reforms”, which attempts to blame young people as “work shy” – a ‘double whammy’ from the Global Financial Crisis and a right wing government keen to shift blame for rising unemployment onto powerless victims of the Recession.
4. The numbers of welfare recipients receiving the Domestic Purposes Benefit has also been affected by the Global Financial Crisis and resultant Great Recession. DPB recipients dropped from a peak of approximately 111,000 in late 2003, to 96,000 in mid 2008. Since 2008, and as redundancies increased; unemployment rose; and jobs disappeared, the number reversed. DPB recipients skyrocketed to an all time record of 114,230 benefits by December 2011.
Far from being “bene bludgers” opting for the DPB as a “lifestyle choice” (which is constantly parrotted by ill-informed conservatives and low information voters), solo-parents are as vulnerable to recessionary forces as other workers.
5. In the year to December 2011, average weekly earnings rose a only 2.6% from $991.05 to $1016.95. Taking annual inflation of 1.8% into account, weekly earnings rose by a fractional 0.8%. With increases in rent, fuel tax, and other government charges, that increase will have vanished altogether.
6. The Report gave as an example of unequal wage increases the difference between hourly earnings in the finance sector increasing by $1.01 per hour, from $36.63 per hour in June 2011 to $37.64 in December 2011.
By contrast, the average wage in the traditionally poorly paid accommodation sector increased by only 3 cents an hour from $16.40 to $16.43 per hour.This was a clear illustration of the average hourly earnings of the highest paid sector increasing 2.3 times more than those for lower paid workers.
7. Most of the increase in State benefit payments over the past five years was made as higher spending on New Zealand Superannuation (43% of the increase) and Working for Families (37% of the increase). Approximately 568,000 people were receiving superannuation by June 2011.
This compared to 319,000 of other welfare recipents as at December 2011 – up from 264,500 from December 2006. Welfare numbers were dependent on the economy and increased only because of the impact by the GFC-caused Recession.
8. Food parcels issued to families and people in need doubled from 24,250 in 2006, to 53,360 in 2011. Again, this was in accordance with the advent of the GFC in 2007/08; skyrocketting unemployment; and a lack of job-creation policies by National, once it won the election in late 2008. (John Key admitted to this on 18 October 2011. See: Key admits underclass still growing)
9. Inflation of living costs for 2011 was fractionally higher for Low-Income Household CPI at 2.1% than it was for the All Groups CPIs, at 1.8%. Low-Income Households were more vulnerable to increasing costs such as rent, government charges, and gst increases.
10. The Report correctly predicted that levels of unemployment would rise during 2012, and would negatively impact on growth in wages and salaries of poorest paid workers.
For a full understanding the the Report, it is recommended that people read the document in it’s entirety, as I have abridged and condensed much of the information contained therein.
The Report reinforces anecdotal evidence, facts, and stats, that are already in wide circulation and confirms that jobs, incomes, and those receiving social welfare assistance are all affected by the global downturn over the last four to five years.
After all, John Key uses that very excuse to explain away National’s poor economic performance,
“We did inherit a pretty bad situation with the global financial crisis... ” – John Key, 11 Sept 2011
See: View from the top
Ministry of Social Development: The widening gap: perceptions of poverty and income inequalities and implications for health and social outcomes
In New Zealand, income inequalities have increased since the neo-liberal reforms and benefit cuts of the late 1980s and 1990s, although the rate has slowed this decade (Blakely et al. 2007, Ministry of Social Development 2006, Ministry of Social Development 2007). The New Zealand Living Standards 2004 report showed a million New Zealanders living in some degree of hardship, with a quarter of these in severe hardship. Despite the buoyant economy and falls in unemployment levels, not only was there a slight increase in the overall percentage of those living in poverty between 2000 and 2004, but those with the most restricted living standards had slipped deeper into poverty (poverty defined as exclusion from the minimum acceptable way of life in one’s own society because of inadequate resources) (Ministry of Social Development 2006, 2007).
This greater income inequality has seen New Zealand move into 18th place out of 25 in the OECD in terms of income inequality from 1982 to 2004 (Ministry of Social Development 2007). Over the preceding two decades New Zealand experienced the largest growth in inequalities in the OECD (2000 figures), moving from two Gini coefficient points below the OECD average to three Gini points above (Ministry of Social Development 2007:45-46). One indication of the impact of these inequalities has been that relative poverty rates, including child poverty rates, have increased.
OECD: Growing Income Inequality in OECD Countries: What Drives it and How Can Policy Tackle it ?
[See also Addendum 2 below.]
So it’s official – the Great Experiment in free market reforms from the mid 1980s to the late 2000s, has produced growing inequality here in New Zealand. Indeed, the trend has been global,
Income inequality followed different patterns across OECD countries and there are signs that levels may be converging at a common and higher average. Inequality first began to rise in the late 1970s and early 1980s in some Anglophone countries, notably in the United Kingdom and the United States, followed by a more widespread increase from the late 1980s on. The most recent trends show a widening gap between poor and rich in some of the already high-inequality countries, such as Israel and the United States. But countries such as Denmark, Germany and Sweden, which have traditionally had low inequality, are no longer spared from the rising inequality trend: in fact, inequality grew more in these three countries than anywhere else during the past decade. However, some countries recorded declining income inequality recently, often from high levels (Chile, Mexico and Turkey).
It is no coincidence that the trends “first began to rise in the late 1970s and early 1980s in some Anglophone countries, notably in the United Kingdom and the United States” – that is the precise period when Margaret Thatcher won office in May 1979 and Ronald Reagan became US president in January 1981.
Our turn came three years later with the Lange/Douglas government that ushered in “Rogernomnics“.
The OECD report above is simply being ‘coy’ by not connecting-the-dots.
What is more telling? Any person reading this would not be surprised. We have become innured to an unfair economic system which produces unequal outcomes and great disparities in incomes and wealth. As the OECD report states with alarmingly candour,
Increases in household income inequality have been largely driven by changes in the distribution of wages and salaries which account for 75% of household incomes of working-age adults. With very few exceptions (France, Japan and Spain), wages of the 10% best-paid workers have risen relative to those of the 10% least-paid workers. This was due both to growing earnings’ shares at the top and declining shares at the bottom, but top earners saw their incomes rising particularly sharply (Atkinson, 2009). The highest 10% of earners have been leaving the middle earners behind more rapidly than the lowest earners have been drifting away from the middle.
Furthermore, as the OECD report points out, “…more working hours were lost among low-wage than among high-wage earners, again contributing to increasing earnings inequality“.
The OECD report is backed up by Statistics New Zealand,
As with total employment, the drop in full-time employment mainly reflected a decrease in male
full-time employment, which was down 12,000 (down 1.2 percent).
Usual hours worked decreased 0.4 percent – down to 79.6 million hours over the quarter. The
changes in full and part-time employment reflect the fall in the number of hours people usually
work during a week. Over the quarter, the number of hours people actually worked decreased
0.8 percent, down to 73.2 million hours.
Ministry of Social Development - Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011
Whilst New Zealand has no formal or official measure of poverty or material hardship/deprivation, there are studies and conclusions leading to reports that offer a disquieting insight into the state of income inequality, poverty, and child poverty in our country.
One such report was conducted by Bryan Perry for the Ministry of Social Development in August 2012, entitled the “Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011″ – a 195 page study.
The full report is available here: MSD - Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011
A much-condensed precis of the Report;
2012 MSD Household Incomes Report – ‘Summary’
- Household incomes BHC (before deducting housing costs) rose in real terms for all income groups from 2007 to 2009, continuing the steady growth that began in 1994,
- Income inequality increased significantly between 1988 to 2004, then fell from 2004 to 2007 as a result of the WFF package, and was still around the same level in 2009 as in 2007,
- Income inequality grew very rapidly from 1988 to 1992, followed by a slower but steady rise through to 2004,
- From 2004 to 2007 inequality fell mainly as a result of the WFF package,
- Median Household incomes fell 3% in real terms after little change (+1%) from HES 2009 to HES 2010,
- This fall followed a long and strong rise in the median from the mid 1990s to 2008-09 averaging 3% pa in real terms. GDP per capita increased at 2.5% pa over this period on averagwe,
- Incomes fell for deciles 3-6, but rose for the top decile especially,
- At the very bottom (P15 down), incomes were flat from HES 2010 to HES 2011 (protected by benefit rates being CPI adjusted and NZS being wage related),
- Inequality decreased significantly from HES 2009 to HES 2010 then rose from HES 2010 to HES 2011 to its highest level ever. This volatility reflects the impact of the GFC,
- On the AHC (HouseHold income after deducting housing costs) moving line measure, the child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of households with children with high ‘outgoings-to-income’ (OTIs),
- The 2009 child poverty rate is almost double the rate that prevailed in the early 1980s,
- In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 230,000 children (22%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’), down from 380,000 (37%) in 2001,
- Hardship rates for children rose from 15% in the 2007 HES to 21% in HES 2011 using the ELSI measure. In part, this reflects the falling incomes of those in deciles 3-6, some of whom may already have been in a precarious financial position – the loss of income has been enough to tip them into hardship even though their incomes are still above the poverty threshold,
- Chronic poverty (as defined in the Incomes Report) is about having an average household income over seven years that is below the poverty threshold over those years. Looking at children in poverty in a HES survey (cross-sectional), 60% of them are in chronic poverty in any survey and 40% in temporary poverty. In addition there are others who are in chronic poverty but not in current poverty in that one year – this group is about 20% of the number in current poverty.
- In 2009, between 460,000 and 780,000 people were in households with incomes below the low-income thresholds (ie ‘in poverty’),
- In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 650,000 (15%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’, down from 930,000 (25%) in 2001,
- In 2009, just over one in three poor children were from households where at least one adult was in full-time employment, down from around one in two before Working for Families (2004),
- Income poverty rates for single person working-age households trebled from the 1980s to 2007 (10% to 30%) and were 35% in 2011. One in 9 poor people and 1 in 4 poor households are from this group. The rates are higher for the older group living on their own (45-64 years) than for the younger group,
- In 2001, 42% of households in the lowest income quintile had high ‘outgoings-to-income’, but this fell to 34% by 2004 reflecting the introduction of income-related rents, and has remained steady since then (33% in 2009),
- In 2009, 37% of children lived in households with high ‘outgoings-to-income’, a rise from 32% in 2007, and 26% in 2004 – the 2004 figure was the lowest proportion for some time, following the introduction of income-related rents in 2001 (when the proportion with high ‘outgoings-to-income’ was 32%),
- In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 650,000 (15%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’, down from 930,000 (25%) in 2001,
- The child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of households with children with high ‘outgoings-to-income’,
- The 2009 child poverty rate is almost double the rate that prevailed in the early 1980s,
- Just over two of every three two parent families were dual earner families in 2009, up from one in two in the early 1980s, but down from nearly three in four in 2004,
- Children in sole parent families have a higher risk of hardship (46%) than those in two parent families (14%). This reflects the relatively low full-time employment rate for sole parents (35% in 2009) - 73% of sole parents were in receipt of a main benefit in 2009,
- The value of New Zealand Superannuation (NZS) fell further below the median household income from 2007 to 2009,
- People living in sole parent households are a relatively small subgroup, making up only 8% of the population. Only 3% of those in sole parent households are found in the top income quintile. On the other hand, a high proportion have incomes in the lower end of the income distribution.
- High housing costs relative to income are often associated with financial stress for low to middle income households. Low-income households especially can be left with insufficient income to meet other basic needs such as food, clothing, transport, medical care and education,
- For the bottom quintile, the proportion with high ‘outgoings-to-income’ reduced from 2001 to 2004 with the introduction of income related rents, then remained steady in 2007 and 2009 at the 2004 level.1 For all but the bottom quintile, the proportion with high housing costs rose strongly from 2004 to 2007. From 2007 to 2009, the situation for the second quintile continued to worsen, such that by 2009, each of the two lower quintiles had one in three households with high ‘outgoings-to-income’,
- From 2007 to 2009, median household incomes (BHC – HH income before deducting housing costs) rose by 4.3% pa in real terms (8.6% in total). This continues the steady growth in the median from the low point in 1994. The AHC (HH income after deducting housing costs) median rose less rapidly (3.2% pa), reflecting the relatively rapid rise in average accommodationcosts,
- The increasing dispersion of household incomes from the 1980s through to 2009 is clear. For the period as a whole, incomes for households above the median increased proportionately much more than did the incomes of households in the lower three deciles, .
In 2009 the incomes of the bottom 30% of the population were on average only a little better in real terms than those of their counterparts two decades earlier in 1988. On the other hand there were more substantial gains in the period for the top half of the distribution. The income distribution is therefore much more dispersed in 2009 than in 1988, .
- The most significant structural change to the income distribution over the two decades from 1984 to 2004 is a significant hollowing out of the middle parts of the distribution from $12,000 to $30,000 (equivalised) and a corresponding increase in the proportion of the population in higher income households. There was also a small increase in the proportion of the population in low-income households in this period. From 2004 to 2007, the impact of the Working for Families package in that period is very clear for low to middle income households.The income distribution was more dispersed in 2004 than in 1984. From 2004 to 2007 income inequality decreased.
- The significant change in shape of the income distribution from 2004 to 2007 reflects two main factors: (A) the impact of the WFF package on low to middle income households and (B) the reduction in the number of people in households whose main source of income is an income-tested benefit (100,000 fewer in 2007 than in 2004)
- As recently as 1996, the government of the time in New Zealand was openly disapproving of any poverty discourse. However, in 2002, in the context of the Agenda for Children, the government made a commitment to eliminate child poverty, and in the Speech from the Throne in November 2005, the Governor-General described the Working for Families package as “the biggest offensive on child poverty New Zealand has seen for decades”. The current National-led government, like the previous Labour-led government, espouses the principle that ‘paid work is the best way to reduce child poverty’. New Zealand does not however have an official poverty measure.
- The rise in moving line child poverty rates from 1990 to 1992 was driven by two factors: the rise in unemployment, and the 1991 benefit rate cuts which decreased real incomes for beneficiaries by a greater amount than the median fell in the period,
- From 1992 to 1998 the 60% of median moving line poverty rate for children fell as unemployment rates fell and incomes for those around the poverty line rose more quickly than the median in the period,
- From 1998 the median continued to grow in real terms, but the incomes of many low-income households with children remained fairly static through to 2004. This meant that the moving line child poverty rate rose to 2004, indicating that low-income households with children were on average further from the median in 2004 than in 1998,
- On the After Housing Costs (AHC) moving line measure, the child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of HouseHolds with children with high OTIs (‘outgoings-to-income’ ratio),
- From 2004 to 2007, the poverty rate fell strongly … for the working poor than for the beneficiary poor. There were no further policy changes to housing assistance from 2007 to 2009 – the maximum rates of assistance remained fixed and did not move in line with movements in housing costs, and net housing expenditure rose for low-income households with children. This is reflected in the rise in child poverty rates from 2007 to 2009 using the moving line AHC approach.
.(Report Note: when a household spends more than 30% of its income on accommodation it is said to have a high “OTI” - ‘outgoings-to-income’ ratio)
The above is a heavily condensed version of Bryan Perry’s report. For a full report, please refer to: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011
It is fairly clear that income inequality is not only still prevalent – but increasing. The ‘Gini’ does not lie – and the Inequality Factor has risen from 30.2 to 33.5 (the higher the figure, the more inequality).
Child poverty is still with us, and remains New Zealand’s most critical problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”).
Despite John Key’s fine words and stirring rhetoric, National has failed to change it’s core “values” and adheres to a dogmatic faith in the Market to deliver solutions to poverty in our country.
Yet, John Key should know precisely what needs to be done. As he told the nation five years ago,
“My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me.” – John Key, 30 Jan 2007
The State invested heavily in Mr Key – as it did with many other people prior to the Rogernomics roll-backs of the late 1980s – and New Zealand benefitted accordingly from that social investment.
The social welfare system is designed as a safety net for citizens in time of need. Whether through job losses or injury or raising children single-handed, our society – through the State – demands that no one suffers. (Never mind the deranged ravings of the ill-informed on talkback radio.)
However, there is another role for our welfare society; to guarantee that the young from impoverished and vulnerable families are accorded the same opportunities that other, luckier parents can provide for their own children.
This is a country of plenty. There is no reason why we cannot eradicate poverty; poor housing; disease; lack of adequate, nourishing food for all children; and low schooling/training outcomes.
The only reasons that this blogger can see for the perpetuation of poverty is a double curse on our country, namely,
- An irrational prejudice against the poor
- A debilitating lack of will
Until we resolve both of these collective “disabilities” to our vision for a better society, we will continue to reap the rotten fruits of our inaction.
On 28 November 2006, John Key said,
“You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.”
I see no evidence of that.
Indeed, six years later, Key admitted that the underclass he spoke of has not diminished,
It is interesting and worthwhile to compare the rhetoric of John Key’s speech, A Fresh Start for New Zealand, with the data contained in the Salvation Army report, “The Growing Divide“. Both are worth reading. It rapidly becomes clear how Key cynically mis-represented facts to suit his Party’s election agenda.
It is worth noting that the GINI Coefficient – which is one method by which to measure income inequality – shows interesting figures for New Zealand,
A high GINI factor (close to 1 or 100, expressed as a percentage) indicates maximum inequality. A figure at zero indicates absolute income equality.
New Zealand’s GINI Coefficient rose (income became more unequal) from the mid-1980s to around 2000. At the mid-2000s, the GINI Coefficient began to reduce – indicating incomes are becoming less unequal. (Though has not addressed growing poverty in this country.)
What factor intervened in the mid-2000s to stem the rising inequality of incomes?
The same policy introduced by the preceding Labour Government, which Dear Leader, John Key, once described as “communism by stealth” (see: National accuses Government of communism by stealth) – but by 2008 had decided that he liked “Working for Families” after all (see: National to keep Working for Families unchanged).
After 2010, the GINI coefficient begins to rise again, as effects from our stagnating economy and National’s policies begin to over-take the positive income-redistribution aspects of ‘Working for Families’.
Income inequality in New Zealand is once again on the rise,
Gini scores (x100) for market and disposable household income, 1986 to 2011 (18-64 yrs)
Before taxes and transfers (market income)
After taxes and transfers (disposable income)
Dominion Post: Children need changes now – commissioner
To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.
The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.
Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc) in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises..
Social welfare safety net
It started well… National’s bad old image as a “bene-bashing Party, pandering to the ill-educated; the mis-informed; and the downright ignorant, appeared to be a thing of the past.
John Key was a product of a civilised society where social welfare could give kids from the most disadvantaged households a chance to better themselves.
“You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.” – John Key, 28 November 2006
” I have said before that I believe in the welfare state and that I will never turn my back on it. We should be proud to be a country that looks after its most vulnerable citizens. We should be proud to be a country that supports people when they can’t find work, are ill, or aren’t able to work.
My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me. ” – John Key, 30 Jan 2007
Key even seemed to “steal” policies from the centre-left Labour Party,
Perhaps National, under Key’s leadership, had learnt from it’s mistakes in the 1990s?
No such luck.
As the Global Financial Crisis plunged most of world’s nations (China and Australia being the two lucky exceptions) into recession, the ranks of the unemployted swelled.
As Brian Gaynor, executive director of Milford Asset Management, wrote in the NZ Herald on 18 August 2012,
” At the end of May, the 34-country Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had an unemployment rate of 7.9 per cent.
Nearly 48 million were out of work, 15 million more than when the financial crisis began in 2007.
The unemployment rate continues to rise in the eurozone and is now 11.1 per cent. “
Here in New Zealand, unemployment skyrocketted from 78,000 in late 2007/early 2008, to the current 175,000 – over a doubling in only four years.
That’s 97,000 who had jobs prior to the Global Financial Crisis who are now out of work.
If it weren’t for the 114,200 who have migrated to Australia in the same four year period, soaking up thousands of potential jobless New Zealanders, one shudders at the unemployment rate we would now have (see related blogpost: Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration ). Thank the mercies for our more affluent, and clever, neighbour.
It’s fairly obvious to all but the most entrenched, bene-bashing, Talkback Radio moron that New Zealand has not escaped the effects of the Global Financial Crisis.
National’s devotion to market-forces has caught Key, English, and Joyce in a trap of their own making. Their dogma dictates that the State “cannot create jobs” – only the Market can do that, as Key stated on several occassions,
“Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes better than business growth. For New Zealand to build a more productive and competitive economy, we need more innovative companies out there selling their products on the world stage.” – John Key, 24 August 2012
When the “Market” fails to behave as neo-liberal doctrine demands – then there is a problem. National cannot admit that it’s free market policies have failed. (It took the Russians seventy years to finally concede that their centralised market policy had failed them.)
For the National politburo, who cannot concede Market failure, there must be another reason why jobless numbers are increasing – not decreasing. It must be the fault of those on welfare. The unemployed must be to blame, as the Market is never, ever wrong.
Accordingly, from early-2011 onward, National began a concerted campaign against those receiving welfare assistance. It was a vicious, de-humanising, de-moralising campaign against those whose only “crime” was,
- having lost their jobs,
- had little access to training or apprenticeship,
- raising children on their own,
- were sick, injured, or disabled
From 2011, we started seeing headlines like these in our media,
Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key (17 Feb 2011)
Baby turns one, so get to work mum (6 June 2011)
Revealed: $100k-plus beneficiary homes (13 June 2011)
Single mum on DPB for decades (20 Sept 2011)
Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’ (8 May 2012)
Benefits may be linked to kids’ jabs (12 May 2012)
And if local bene-bashing stories weren’t sufficient to drive home the agenda of demonising this sector of society, National and it’s media corporate-whores could always rely on some excellent shock-value stories from overseas,
This next one was very popular at Federated Farmers – that well-known bastion of liberal sensibilities. The way that Bill English played his audience of cow-cockies and sheep-herders, with a barely-disguised smirk on his face, spoke volumes…
Drug tests for more beneficiaries mooted (28 June 2012)
Benefit cuts for drug users defended by PM (2 July 2012)
Said Paula Bennett,
“There’s two words we don’t use often enough in this country and that’s self-responsibility. The size of someone’s family is their business, so long as they don’t expect someone else to pay for it.”
So saith the woman who was on the DPB; had free taxpayer funded tertiary education; gave up her part-time job at the time because it was “too hard”; and had WINZ assistance to buy her own home…
Big families mean big welfare dollars (15 July 2012)
Bennett increases pursuit of welfare ‘rorts’ (23 July 2012)
Beneficiaries on warrants face cash cut (6 Sept 2012)
Kidnappers among targets in benefit plan (7 Sept 2012)
And to really, really make sure we’ve been paying attention to this Nazi-style demonisation propaganda,
Beneficiaries cost $130,000 over lifetime (12 Sept 2012)
And in case we missed it first time, Fairfax gave the political dagger-in-beneficiaries-backs another good, hard, twist,
Beneficiaries’ bill $78 billion (12 Sept 2012)
Though Bill English promised, hand-on-heart, that this was not an exercise in “bene bashing,
Benefit tally ‘not an excuse for hard line’ (13 Sept 2012)
Then the Nats came up with the idea of a law change of “one strike and you’re out” for welfare beneficiaries who turned down any “suitable” job offer from July 2013. Which would be laughable, because both Key and Bennett have conceded that there simply aren’t enough jobs for everyone.
So what would be the point of a “one strike and you’re out” for the unemployed, except to paint them as “work shy” and “lazy”?
Propaganda. Nasty stuff.
‘One strike’ rule for beneficiaries (18 Sept 2012)
Funny thing… the media never compared welfare beneficiaries entitlements with that of politicians. How many beneficiaries get free air-travel for the rest of their lives for themselves and their spouses? Or a gold-plated superannuation scheme none of us are entitled to?
Those were just some of the media stories and headlines that assaulted our sensibilities and attempted to paint the unemployed – the victims of the GFC – as “bene bludgers”.
All because National could not cope with the growing numbers of Kiwis losing their jobs, and had no plan to address growing unemployment.
So default to Setting ‘B’: Blame the Benes.
When Key stated that the most recent jobless stats – 7.3% unemployed - had “come as a bit of a surprise” (see: Unemployment surges to 13-year high ), he obviously had not been paying attention to yearly figures from New Zealand Statistics.
Jobless numbers had ‘only’ been rising since the beginning of 2012,
The scary headlines above were only partially offset by other media stories of New Zealand’s increasingly visible ‘underbelly’. Poverty was no longer staying behind closed doors, away from “polite society”,
Hungry kids scavenge pig slops (11 May 2012)
Welfare rejig carries whiff of hypocrisy (12 May 2012)
Stuck for ideas, Govt preys on powerless (13 May 2012)
The same hate-campaign was being conducted overseas,
No food, no shoes and kids kept home (23 May 2012)
Government Policy Impacting Child Poverty Levels (30 May 2012)
And then we came to the attention of the United Nations. Quasi-nazism – not exactly the “cool look” we want for New Zealand and it’s tourism industry,
Struggling families borrow to buy food (21 July 2012)
UN urges Govt reforms to not target beneficiaries (2 Aug 2012)
Principal wants taxpayers to fund breakfast scheme (12 Aug 2012)
Govt has caused ‘incredible shift of wealth’ – CTU (24 Aug 2012)
Playing politics is not helping kids (26 Aug 2012)
Even multi-millionaire, Gareth Morgan, had to state the bloody obvious for those voters who were still less-than-fully-brain-functional,
Bennett accused of dehumanising beneficiaries (6 Sept 2012)
Precious little sense on Planet Paula (17 Sept 2012)
Belt tightening won’t reduce unemployment (23 Sept 2012)
Experts lament state of NZ child poverty (24 Sept 2012)
And when the Nats did try to address a social problem, the result would have been comical – had the issue of murdered children reminded us what was at stake,
Child-abuse funds ‘blown on hype’ (1 Dec 2012)
Social welfare – the stats:
From the Ministry of Social Development’s website;
Numbers of working-age clients1 receiving main benefits at the end of September, 2002 – 2012
End of quarter
|Unemployment Benefits 2||Domestic Purposes Benefits 3||
Sickness Benefits 4
|Invalid’s Benefits||Other main benefits 5||All main benefits|
1 This report defines working-age clients as aged 18 – 64 years, to reflect the minimum age of entitlement of most benefits and the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation.
2 Comprises Unemployment Benefits and Unemployment Benefits – Hardship.
3 Comprises Domestic Purposes Benefits – Sole Parent, Domestic Purposes Benefits – Care of Sick or Infirm, Domestic Purposes Benefits – Women Alone, and Emergency Maintenance Allowances.
4 Comprises Sickness Benefits and Sickness Benefits – Hardship.
5 Comprises Emergency Benefits, Independent Youth Benefits, Youth Payments, Young Parent Payments, Unemployment
Benefits – Training, Unemployment Benefits – Hardship – Training, Unemployment Benefits – Student Hardship, Widow’s Benefits, and (until April 2004) Transitional Retirement Benefits. Youth Payments and Young Parent Payments replaced Independent Youth Benefits from August 2012.
Source: MSD – September 2012
The above data yields three interesting observations;
#1 Beneficiary numbers mirror Global Financial Crisis
Unsurprisingly, the numbers receiving social welfare benefits shot up just after the Global Financial Crisis hit New Zealand’s economy, impacting on employment. The effects of the GFC continue to this day to create redundancies and unemployment throughout the country.
Low-information voters and the lunatic right-wing fringe element in our society maintain the fantasy that welfare is a “lifestyle choice”, where beneficiaries are attracted by “big money” paid out in benefits.
Not only are welfare payments usually abysmally low (just barely sufficient to survive on) – but the stats above clearly show the correlation between the GFC and rising beneficiary recipients.
There were 51,334 more people receiving welfare benefits in September 2012 than there were in September 2008. This increase can be sheeted home to,
- the Global Financial Crisis destroying jobs,
- National’s lack of proactive job creation policies helping to push up unemployed numbers,
- ACC’s policies with regards to to injured and sick (see below).
Such is the folly of relying on the “Market” to deliver jobs.
Such is the hypocrisy of Bennett, Key, English, Joyce, et al, who blame welfare beneficiaries for being out of work – and threatening them with all manner of sanctions.
#2 Overall beneficiaries are down
Surprisingly, those receiving welfare benefits up to September 2012 still number 23,767 fewer than September 2002. Overall beneficiary numbers are not increasing anywhere as much as what Paula Bennett, John Key, and their right wing fellow-travellers are insisting.
There are two possible reasons for this.
Firstly, 114,200 (net) New Zealanders left our shores for Australia from 2009 to 2012 (see previous blogpost: Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: migration). Many left to find work overseas. These migrants might have added to unemployed and solo-parent welfare recipient numbers, had they stuck around here in New Zealand.
Secondly, see #3 below.
#3 Unemployment Benefits vs Household Labourforce Survey Unemployed
It is a ‘quirk’ of New Zealand’s welfare system that married or de facto couples cannot receive welfare assistance if one should loose his/her job, but the other remains in paid work.
On the other hand, two people not in a relationship (eg; flatting in the same house), are eligible for welfare should one become unemployed and the other remains in-work.
There seems no logic to this contradictory situation and is even more unfair when one considers that the married/de facto couple both paid taxes, prior to one losing his/her job. That’s New Zealand’s bizarre welfare rules for you.
Which may explain why those receiving Unemployment Benefits from WINZ numbered 50,390 in September 2012 – whilst the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) recorded 175,000 unemployed people (see: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter).
WINZ records only those paid an Unemployment Benefit.
The HLFS records everyone, within a more inclusive criteria, irrespective of whether they receive a benefit or not.
Interestingly, the figures above for Invalid and Sickness Beneficiaries rose significantly from 2009. This ties in with a NZ Herald report, dated 23 June 2012,
The proportion of long-term ACC clients moving on to benefits has surged since the corporation adopted a tough new stance, which has fuelled allegations that they are being forced off compensation before they are rehabilitated.
Figures supplied by the corporation yesterday also show it has slashed the number of long-term claimants on its books by a quarter since mid-2009.
But yesterday’s figures show that the proportion of long-term claimants leaving ACC and going on to health-related, unemployment or domestic purposes benefits rose sharply from early 2009.
In the five years to 2008, the proportion going on to benefits was 12.1 per cent, but during 2009 that rose to 16.4. In the first five months of 2010, the most recent data held by ACC, the proportion rose to 19.4 per cent.
ACC figures also showed the corporation had reduced the number of long-term claimants on its books by 3644 or 25 per cent to 10773 in the three years since June 2009. That reduction is well ahead of ACC’s targets.
Throughout all these events which are beyond the influence and control of the unemployed, solo-parents, widows, invalids, sick, etc, National’s demonisation of those on welfare has been a shocking indictment of John Key’s leadership.
What is it in the mental make-up of politicians like Paula Bennett, John Key, Steven Joyce, and Bill English, that treating those who have lost their jobs, or looking after children, as “bludgers” is morally acceptable?
Especially when they must have access to precisely the same information that I, as a blogger, have.
National’s response to unemployment is the introduction of “reforms” to social welfare legislation,
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett yesterday introduced the second round of reform legislation.
The Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill replaces the current benefits with three new categories: Jobseeker Support, Sole Parent Support and the Supported Living Payment.
It also includes provisions allowing payments to be cut if beneficiaries fail a drug test, have an outstanding arrest warrant, or if parents who do not meet “social obligations” for getting their children into health and education programmes.
As Bennett admitted on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 29 April 2012,
“There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. “
The question that begs to be asked: how many new jobs will this create?
So what did happen to National Food In Schools programme, that it launched with such fanfare in February 2007?
Not surprisingly, Key’s attitude seems to have gone through a Reverse Road to Damascus Experience,
But then, going from Opposition to Government will do that to politicians.
= fs =
- Bryan Bruce, Inside Child Poverty
Michael Laws. I don’t really want to start a chain of debate on this man’s opinion about child poverty because I have traversed all he has to say before. Nor do I want to fuel his talk show. But because he has attracted some attention recently on the child poverty issue here are my comments.
Yes there are SOME parents in New Zealand who are not as good as they should be.
Yes there are SOME parents who drink too much or take drugs .
Yes there is also a child abuse problem in New Zealand we need to address which is not the sole province of the poor.
But blaming and finger pointing and ” what parents ought to do” does not help the child who turns up hungry and cold to school.
A child does not get to choose its parents.
It is my view that our community has a responsibility to the well being of ALL of our children . That’s why I want to see healthy school meals in ALL of our schools so that our children enjoy the same right to healthy living that Swedish children get everyday.
I have not published Mr Laws piece or supplied the link to it because it is my policy as the editor of this page that I will not publish anyone who wants to shout ” Bad parent” over the head of a hungry child.
There are many,many parents who ( thanks to the economic decisions made by almost 30 years of Neo-Liberal driven governments) are just finding it very, very tough at the moment.
We need to ring fence our kids in these cruel times – not betray them by turning our backs on their most basic needs and closing their schools.
Yes parents should behave responsibly.
But so should we – they are OUR children, OUR future, OUR responsibility.
Chris Trotter: Not So Great Expectations
Fairfax Media: Inequality is now at its highest level
Fairfax Media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops
= fs =
Continued from: National ramps up attack on unemployed and solo-mums
Yesterday (12 September) Welfare Minister Paula Bennett released this piece of spectacular “data” to the media,
It was one of those “Shock! Horror!” stories that the media loves – great headlines, not much critical analysis. When you read the whole “story”, the questions that are not answered scream out at you,
- What is full meaning of the statement “An actuarial valuation conducted as part of the Government’s welfare reforms shows the average total cost of those who had received a working-age benefit in the year to June 30, 2011 was $78.1b”?
- Why did the Fairfax reporter not cross-reference invalid and sickness beneficiaries to ACC policy of “exiting” clients onto welfare, where ongoing rehabilitation was not available? (ACC staff rewarded for cutting off clients – MP)
- How accurate is the report?
- How does this report help create 170,000 new jobs, promised by John Key last year? (See: Budget 2011: Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs)
- What was the point of the report, when Bennett herself has admitted on TVNZ’zs Q+A,“There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do.” – Paula Bennett, 29 April 2012 (See: http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news/transcript-paula-bennett-interview-4856860)
- Why has National spent $800,000 on this “report”, when previously Bennett refused to undertake further research to gain information on child poverty, “of course there is poverty in New Zealand. This has been acknowledged by the Government but it’s not a priority to have another measure on it” ? (See: Combating poverty more important than measuring it.)
It’s interesting that Paula Bennett rejected calls for further research to quantify the levels of child poverty in this country stating that, ” it’s not a priority to have another measure on it” – but feels it necessary to spend nearly a million dollars of our taxes on a study of “an actuarial valuation” on long-term costings of welfare.
If this doesn’t raise the hackles and outrage of New Zealanders then they are truly braindead.
Worse still is the timing of the realease of the Taylor Fry report.
The report – designed to paint unemployed and solo-mums in a maximum damning light – was released on 12 September.
A day later, this story became public,
Thus far, that story does not seem to have appeared in any other media.
It has been quietly “buried” under a mountain of negative press releases from National.
This blogger has zero doubt that National was fully aware that Statistics New Zealand was in the process of releasing the data on job losses to the public. That story, plus ongoing redundancies and rising unemployment led National’s taxpayer-funded spin-meisters to pre-empt Statistics New Zealand’s bad news shocker, and instead release their own “Shock, Horror!” story.
Thus far, it seems to have worked.
But for how long?
Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank has released an astonishing report blaming National’s policies for low economic growth,,
” Fiscal consolidation is expected to have a substantial dampening influence on demand growth over the projected horizon. This consolidation will, all else equal, lead to a lower OCR (official cash rate) than would otherwise be the case.“
National fails to create the 170,000 new jobs they promised us last year, and blames beneficiaries for their incompetance? Noice.
Yesterday, this blogger emailed Paula Minister on National’s recent bout of beneficiary bashing,
Date: Wednesday, 12 September 2012 2:23 PM
From: Frank Macskasy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Reply-To: Frank Macskasy <email@example.com>
Subject: Recent “welfare reforms” – Some questions for you.
To: “Paula.firstname.lastname@example.org” <Paula.email@example.com>
Cc: Chris Laidlaw RNZ <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Dominion Post <email@example.com>,
Daily News <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Daily Post <email@example.com>,
Hutt News <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Jim Mora <email@example.com>,
“Joanna Norris ( DPT)” <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Kim Hill <email@example.com>,
John Key <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Listener <email@example.com>,
Morning Report <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
NZ Herald <email@example.com>,
Nine To Noon RNZ <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Otago Daily Times <email@example.com>,
“firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>, Q+A <Q+A@tvnz.co.nz>,
Southland Times <firstname.lastname@example.org>, TVNZ News <email@example.com>,
The Press <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
The Wellingtonian <email@example.com>,
Waikato Times <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Wairarapa Times-Age <email@example.com>
Kia ora Ms Bennett,Regarding your proposals to compel the unemployed, solo-mothers, etc, to undertake various obligations, or face having their welfare payments cut, I have some questions to put to you;
- Will recipients of Working for Families – which some call a “welfare benefit – also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?
- Will superannuitants who are caring for children also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?
- Will children of all families, regardless of financial and/or employment circumstance also be expected to compulsorily enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and doctors? If not, why not?If compulsory early childhood education and doctor’s visits for children of unemployed, solo-mums, and other welfare recipients is such a good idea that National is willing to enact legislation, and financially penalise parents for failing to carry out this policy – why are other parents also not being compelled to enroll their children in Early Childhood Education and medical clinics?Is there a basis upon which only the unemployed who have been made redundant from companies, government departments, and SOEs, are being targetted? What is that basis?If unemployed or low-income families are financially unable to enroll their children in Early Childhood Education, doctors, etc, what steps will National take to offer additional financial assistance?Do you still stand by your comment that you made on TVNZ’s Q+A on 29 April 2012, that, “there’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do”.And lastly; is this propopsal – plus your other so-called “welfare reforms” – simply not an attack on the unemployed and solo-mothers to deflect attention away from your government’s inability to generate the 170,000 new jobs that Prime Minister John Key promised us at the last election?I await any possible answer you might be able to provide to these questions.Regards,-Frank MacskasyBlogger
PS: This correspondence is not to be regarded as permission, whether actual or implied, to release any personal details about me that the State might hold about me.
Her office has responded today (13 September),
Date: Thursday, 13 September 2012 9:06 AM
From: Natalie Hansen <Natalie.Hansen@parliament.govt.nz>
To: “‘firstname.lastname@example.org’” <email@example.com>
Subject: FW: Recent “welfare reforms” – Some questions for you.
The Hon Paula Bennett, Minister for Social Development has asked me to thank you for your email.
Consideration is currently being given to the matters you raise and you may expect a reply at the Minister’s earliest opportunity.
Private Secretary, Office of Hon Paula Bennett Minister for Social Development | Minister of Youth Affairs Executive Wing 5.5, Parliament Buildings| Private Bag 18041 | Wellington 6160
Telephone: +64 4 817 6815 | Fax: +64 4 817 6515 | Email: Natalie.firstname.lastname@example.org
” Consideration is currently being given to the matters“ I raised?
It will be interesting to see what – if any – rational response Bennett comes up with. This should be good.
Date: Monday, 24 September 2012 3.57PM
From: “J Key (MIN)” <J.Key@ministers.govt.nz>
To: Frank Macskasy <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Recent “welfare reforms” – Some questions for you.
Dear Mr Macskasy,
On behalf of the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, I acknowledge the copy of your email sent for Mr Key’s information.
Ministerial Assistant/Records Officer
Office of the Prime Minister
No further response received from Paula Bennett’s office as at 24 September.
Scoop.co.nz: Combating poverty more important than measuring it
NZ Herald: Fate of youth gloomiest stat of all
NZ Herald: Benefit tally ‘not an excuse for hard line’
= fs =
- 13 September 2012 -
- Claudette Hauiti & Phoebe Fletcher -
Issue 1: Feeding kids at school – everyone seems to want to do it except the Government – who is responsible for hungry children – the parent or the State?
Issue 2: Latest round of beneficiary cut backs now look to punish the child for the sins of the parent – has Paula Bennett gone too far or will she go further?
Citizen A broadcasts 7pm Thursday Triangle TV – This blogger recommends ‘Citizen A’ as intelligent analysis of current affairs.
Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)
= fs =
Sad to say, these are the headlines that have been commonplace in our newspapers for the last few years,
National’s response to this obscene -but preventable - crisis has been,
- to “reform welfare” (as if welfare needed “reform – which it does not)
- implement purchase cards to prevent 16 and 17 year old beneficiaries from buying booze and ‘baccy (despite the law already preventing retailers from selling these items to young people)
- paint unemployed and solo-mums (but never solo dads) as lazy; drug-addicts; criminals; kidnappers, etc.
Even National’s election pledge last year, to create 170,000 new jobs is drowning in a wave of ongoing redundancies, day after day,
- ANZ; 1,000 redundancies
- Hakes Marine; 15 redundancies
- Telecom; 400 redundancies
- Brightwater Engineering; 40 redundancies
- Pernod Ricard New Zealand; 13 redundancies
- Depart of Corrections; 130 redundancies
- Summit Wool Spinners; 80 redundancies
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; 80 redundancies
- Cavalier/Norman Ellison Carpets; 70 redundancies
- IRD; 51 redundancies
- Flotech; 70 redundancies
- NZ Police; 125 redundancies
- CRI Plant and Food; 25 redundancies
- Te Papa; 16 redundancies (?)
- PrimePort Timaru; 30 redundancies
- Kiwirail; 220 redundancies
- Fisher & Paykel; 29 redundancies
- Goulds Fine Foods; 60 redundancies
- Canterbury University; 150 redundancies (over three years)
- Solid Energy; 363 redundancies
- Tiwai Pt aluminium smelter; 100 redundancies
- Norske Skog; redundancy numbers t.b.a.
- Goodman Fielder; redundancy numbers t.b.a.
- Dunedin City Council/Delta: 30 redundancies
Quite simply, National is struggling to address any of the inter-connected socio-economic problems currently besetting our country.
Why? Because National is trapped in an ideological paradigm of its own making.
National is heavily reliant on The Market delivering jobs – not central government – as John Key and his Party has maintained over the years,
“Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes better than business growth. For New Zealand to build a more productive and competitive economy, we need more innovative companies out there selling their products on the world stage.”
Key may have a point. Sort of.
In good times, when the economy is strong, it is mostly business growth that delivers job growth. The two go together, hand in hand, as they did in the early 2000s,
But in bad times, when the economy falters and stagnates, it is the role of central government to step in and take up the slack. It is central government that can implement policies to keep people employed; small to medium businesses turning over; and keep workers off welfare, until the economy picks up.
The alternative is recession; mass unemployment; businesses going under; and people on welfare.
It should be fairly obvious to all but the most ardent National/ACT ideologues that society benefits from keeping people in work, rather than allowing them to be made redundant and unemployed. This blogger sees no social good or business gain in permitting high unemployment to blight our society.
National’s abandonment of any responsibility toward actively creating jobs during an economic downturn – as has been ongoing since 2007/08 - is an indictment on our Prime Minister; his leadership; and his Party’s ineffectual policies.
An ideological faith in the Marketplace is not a sound basis on which to grow a modern economy and generate new jobs. An ideological faith in the Marketplace is simply grown-ups indulging in “wishful thinking”.
The result of which is,
Problem: child poverty is resulting in children going to schools hungry.
Labour’s solution: feed them.
It’s that simple.
Cost to taxpayers to do this: up to $20 million dollars a year.
Cost of doing nothing (National’s option): 3% of GDP (NZ$5 billion per year)
$20 million to fix a problem vs $5 billion to do nothing. Most common sense people would agree that this is a no-brainer. (Hardline National and ACT supporters would probably opt for the $5 billion cost to our GDP to do nothing, but then again, extremist National/ACT supporters are not reknowned for common sense.)
The next argument used by the Selfish Mob is, that it’s the fault of parents for not feeding their own kids; that it’s no one else’s responsibility; that they shouldn’t have had kids; stop drinking and smoking, blah, blah, blah.
Which is all simply a way to say, “It’s too big a problem and I don’t want to deal with it”.
Let’s cut to the chase;
- It’s not a child’s fault which family they were born into
- Not all families are druggies, alkies, smokers, etc. That’s playing the Blame Game, and it is dishonest.
- We either spend a few hundred or thousand dollars now, on each child in poverty, or we spend $90,000 per annum on them – when they end up in prison. Your call.
As Shearer said,
“I hear people argue that this is the responsibility of parents. We can debate that endlessly, but it won’t change this reality: tomorrow morning kids will still turn up to school hungry.”
Labour leader David Shearer has found his mojo and reacquainted himself with Labour’s heritage; caring for people at the bottom of the socio-economic heap, and not just the braying middle classes.
His announcement of a bold plan to feed every child in the bottom Decile 3 schools - 650 primary and intermediate schools – in our country, is gutsy. It flies in the face of the current fad of Individualism and playing the Blame Game which has infected our society since the late 1980s, when Rogernomics decreed with chest-thumping triumph that ‘Greed is Good’.
Several media reports, political commentators, professional experts, et al, have stated that child poverty has been increasing in the last 30 years. By ‘coincidence’, Rogernomics and the Cult of the Individual began thirty years ago.
We all know that is no coincidence. It is an unspoken truth that child poverty has increased these last 30 years because of the unforeseen (?) consequences of free market policies; loss of jobs to overseas low-wage economies; de-regulation; undermining of trade unions; seven tax cuts that transferred wealth upwards to the upper- middle class and 1%; other right wing socio-economic policies, and the pre-emininence of Individual selfishness over Community good.
The consequences were indeed predictable, and a few lone voices like ex-Wigram MP, Jim Anderton, tried warning us where we were heading. (Anderton predicted in the mid 1990s that increased student debt of dentistry students would push up dentistry fees and make oral healthcare unaffordable for many. That prediction has come painfully true. See: Costs of dental care hurting.)
Shearer has promised that a Labour-led government would pledge,
- One meal a day for every child in a decile 1 to 3 primary or intermediate school. Cost: $3m-$19m a year.
- Extend Reading Recovery programme to all schools and put 5000 more 6-year-olds on it annually. Cost: $20m a year.
- Plain English report on schools.
- No class size increases.
Good stuff. This is a fine start to un-doing 30 years of neo-liberal damage and to wind back the jungle-like mentality of me-first Individualism.
This blogger supports 100% the concept of meals in schools. And why not? Our cuzzies in Europe, America, and other nations do precisely this. Not only have their societies not collapsed – but their standards of living are measurably higher than ours.
It is common sense really. Who could say ‘no’? Well, sycophants to National can.
A cursory check of some commentary opposing Shearer’s announcement is based on costings; where will Labour get the money from?
Interestingly, the same questions are very rarely asked of National, when they engage in big spend-ups on “must have” things.
For example, there seems to be plenty of cash to spend on “consultants”,
Plenty of cash found by National, to spend on the Rugby World Cup last year,
Plenty of taxpayers’ money on plastic wakas - a real “must have”, according to National. Why not spend up $2 million on another Rugby World Cup project? Money seems to be no object when it comes to our national past-time,
See previous blogpost: Priorities?
And who can forget this expensive little fiasco,
National can also spend millions on subsiding businesses when it suits them; ETS subsidies for farmers; millions on Ministerial travel; and much more.
It is not so much a matter of whether or not we have enough money to spend on our children, so much as prioritising.
A reader should ask him/herself, what is more important; investing in children and lifting them out of poverty?
Or spending on sports tournaments, Ministerial travel, consultants, business subsidies, etc?
What on Earth can be more important than the children of our nation?! And why the hell am I even asking a question like this in 2012AD?!?!
Once upon a time, even John Key advocated for a Food in Schools programme,
To repeat what John Key said in 2007,
” We all instinctively know that hungry kids aren’t happy and healthy kids. I want this to be the first of many schools and businesses that we put together.
I’m interested in what works and I am humbled by the support this idea has received already.
We are going to put together the package while in Opposition. We are not waiting to be in Government, because all our kids deserve better.”
What happened to John Key’s wonderful idea (no sarcasm intended)?
Simple. He became Prime Minister. And that was the end of that policy.
If Labour is to be the new government in 2014, it cannot rely simply on National dropping in the polls. There are too many unforeseen events that may work in National’s favour to rebuild their public support.
Shearer and his colleagues must give the Voting Public a new reason to turn away from John Key and look at Labour instead.
There must be a “brand difference” between National and Labour – something that gives the punters a very real point of difference to consider.
I offer this to Labour’s strategists; the public are starting to sniff the wind blowing from National, and there’s a definite “odour” wafting down from the Ninth Floor. Too many things are rotten in the National Party; too many things don’t add up; John Key’s smile and wave has worn thin; and his promises are amounting to nothing.
Even Bennett’s beneficiary bashing is starting to look for what it is; an attempt to deflect public attention from National’s failure to create jobs.
Because despite National’s slavish adherence to free market dogma, even Key slipped when he admitted,
“We agree with you, it’s the government’s responsibility to do everything within it’s powers to try to get people jobs.”
And they’ve failed miserably.
Which leaves a vacuum.
And as any High School student can tell you; Nature abhors a vacuum.
To the Labour Party I say this, don’t try to be “National lite”.
In fact, don’t even try to be something you’re not. Return to values upon which the New Zealand Labour Party was built.
Stay loyal to those values. Except for a group in our society of die-hard self-centered bastards who couldn’t care less about their fellow kiwis, most New Zealanders are decent, fair-minded, and long for a society that we can be proud of, because everyone gets a fair go.
If Labour stays confident and loyal to it’s true core values, then it need not pretend to be something it’s not. People will recognise that dedication and there will be no need to try to pander to the lowest common denominator to win votes.
That kind of self-confidence is what will win you votes. Lots and lots of votes.
Labour’s policy on child poverty is where we, as a country, turn the tide on selfish Individualism and the creed of “Greed is Good”. This is where we start saying that we can do better – but we have to change the road upon which we are travelling.
The road of the free market is leading us into a mire of income disparity; poverty; hopelessness on the part of the Have Nots; selfishness on the part of the Haves; and a general sense of feeling that… something is not right with this country.
People are leaving New Zealand in droves – but it’s not just the money. This blogger senses a feeling of ‘disconnect’ from many families and young folk departing our shores. It is as if they no longer feel a committment to, or from, this society.
The road to the Free Market has failed.
We need a new road. We can start with feeding the poorest children in our society. Because, goddamit, it we can’t – or won’t – do a simple little thing like that, then we are not a society any more.
As TV3′s Lachlan Forsyth wrote on his blog,
” … For too long we, as a country, have done nothing.
If you don’t think the issue of child poverty in New Zealand is a problem, you’re dreaming.
And you’re part of the problem. “
Previous related blogpost
Sccop.co.nz: National launches its Food in Schools programme
NZ Herald: Child poverty costs NZ $10b a year – expert
NZ Herald: Illiteracy a yearly $3 billion cost – report
Office of Child Commissioner: Solutions to Child Poverty in New Zealand
The Standard: A decent policy
The Dim Post: The Big Lie
= fs =
From 1999, the final year of the Shipley-led National government…
Source: Otago Daily Times
To 2012 – some thirteen years later – and now led by a smiling, waving shark from the commercial sector that kindly gave us the Global Financial Crisis and fifteen million unemployed, worldwide,
Some things that we can always rely on, when National is elected into power; poverty will worsen; unemployment remains high; taxes will be cut for the rich, and welfare beneficiaries – the victims of National’s policies – will cop the blame.
Eventually, the realities of National’s mis-management filters through to the television-distracted middle classes and a mixture of guilt and fear prompts them to switch their votes from the Tories to Labour/Greens/NZ First.
Thus it was in the 1990s – and thus it will be in 2014 (if not earlier).
In the meantime, while it takes umpteen bad news-stories to awaken the TV-addled brains of baby-boomers, we continue to waste lives and the locked-in potential of people trapped in poverty, unemployment, and a stagnant economy. Child poverty remains New Zealand’s dirty little secret, to the rest of the world.
For National and their rabid ACT supporters, the fault lies elsewhere,
The Right is very ‘big’ on personal responsibility. Except when it comes to failed Right Wing policies. Then it’s someone elses’ fault.
Meanwhile, the real bludgers in our society continue to live their lives, enjoying the fruits of a developed nation, but not paying their fair share of taxes,
One of the constant refrains of the neo-liberal establishment and sycophants for the rich & powerful is that New Zealand society cannot afford things like decent housing and school meals for our children.
Of course not.
When the rich are not paying their fair share, they are denying society of the means to address poverty-related issues. At the same time, they enjoy living in a society built up with the taxes paid by others.
See previous blogpost: Greed is good?
In the meantime, our society income/wealth gap widens and we move further and further away from any notion of egalitariansism we once had.
If that’s the sort of society New Zealanders want, then let’s be 100% up-front and honest about it. Let’s prepare ourselves for outbreaks of disease; increased crime; drugs; beggars in the streets; and eventual outbreaks of mass violence.
I doubt, though, that Middle New Zealand could stomach an overtly class/wealth-stratified society – especially if poverty becomes so entrenched that it becomes more visible and inescapable. We prefer our poor to be out-of-sight and out-of-mind, so we can focus on who is going to win “The Block” or “The Voice” or “The Whateverthefucktelevisionisdishinguptoustotakeourmindsofreality“.
As long as Middle New Zealand is prepared to accept such a bleak future, then the rest of us can plan and prepare accordingly.
Or, we can turn our backs on that vision, and instead look elsewhere for inspiration.
The Scandinavians and French may be a good start.
Or are we, as a nation, so gullible and thick that we keep going around in circles, decade after decade?
= fs =
- Neil Watts, Blogger, Fearfactsexposed
July 16, 2012
Fairfax Media have yet again applied their eerie “1984″ technique of ignoring big news when it is likely to cost the National Party votes.
Yesterday’s outbursts in Parliament from “Social Development” Minister Paula Bennett, in which she made flippant remarks about child poverty, was leading the political news at other, more moderate media today, but there wasn’t a word about it from Gina Rinehart’s Fairfaxian double-thinkers at stuff.co.nz.
The New Zealand Herald ran the story under the headline, “Bennett slammed over child poverty claim”, while Radio New Zealand used Speaker Lockwood Smith’s assessment that “Bennett’s behaviour was worse than a three-year-old”. Such newsworthy fair would delight any real news editor, and is indeed the sort of hard-edged information that has traditionally sold newspapers. But, over at Fairfax – where news values takes a back seat to partisan loyalty to the National Party – readers were denied anything at all on Bennett’s latest lapse of judgement.
In fact, avoiding the worst of Paula Bennett’s ourageous, reactionary bile over the years, has effectively made this Minister a one-woman credibility disaster for Fairfax Media, who appear to simply groan and then bury their Rightwing heads in the sand every time a National Party member makes an embarassing gaff.
I won’t pretend otherwise; Paula Bennett truly disgusts me. That’s the only way I can describe the feeling that fills my stomach every time I’m reminded of her existence. Aside from being a despicable bully and a nasty little fascist, her role in cultivating policies that contribute to child poverty is abhorrent. Denying child poverty is even worse. She makes ‘Ministry of Social Development’ sound nothing short of Orwellian, and embodies all that is vulgar and immoral about the current Government. To see a major news corporation avoid the worst of her faux pas is simpy offensive to fair-minded and thinking New Zealanders.
Fairfax’s coverage of Bennett’s bullying of beneficiaries three years ago was woefully inadequate at the time, and they seem to be deflecting any criticism this time around by distracting readers with one of those dodgy, un-scrutinized on-line polls about whether beneficieries should be drug testesd; cue their army of brainwashed, redneck readers, dog-whistled into beneficiery bashing action.
Come on New Zealand! We need NEWS from our news media, not daily doses of Rightwing propaganda. Please help make a difference by sharing this blog, boycotting Fairfax’s publications, avoiding stuff.co.nz, joining us on facebook (Fearfacts) and telling your friends to do the same. Kia ora.
Reprinted with kind permission from Fearfactsexposed
= fs =
… you are made of sterner stuff than I.
This, evidently is a priority;
This, evidently, is not a priority;
Bill English said, about the loan to the IMF,
“ As a small, open economy, we benefit significantly from a stable and prosperous global economy. “
This blogger wonders if Mr English would also agree with this,
“ As a small, open economy, we benefit significantly from healthy, well-fed, well-clothed, well-educated children, irrespective of what kind of parents or families they might come from? “
Once upon a time, National made a big deal out of supporting children from low-income families,
In 2007, John Key voiced his concern at child poverty,
” I am told Wesley Primary, like so many schools in New Zealand, has too many kids turning up hungry.
“We’re putting Tasti and Wesley Primary together. This is a fantastic first step. In addition to this, Tasti has indicated they may wish to expand their generous donation of food to other schools in need, and we’ll be looking to facilitate that.
“We all instinctively know that hungry kids aren’t happy and healthy kids.”
“I want this to be the first of many schools and businesses that we put together. I’m interested in what works and I am humbled by the support this idea has received already. We are going to put together the package while in Opposition. We are not waiting to be in Government, because all our kids deserve better.”
Unfortunately, there was a hitch,
It appears that Key’s food-in-schools plan was more of a publicity-stunt than a carefully-researched policy. As Phil Goff (whose electorate it was), said.
“”If he had visited the area first he might have been better aware of the situation.
“To suggest this school needed a food programme before consulting them in the first instance really only suggests this is part of a political stunt.”
And Key’s response was perhaps the first indication that he was not above ‘bending the truth’ to extricate himself from a tricky situation,
” Mr Key said Ms Parkin’s attitude had changed since he spoke to her on Friday.
“I think what you can assume is that there’s been influence from the ministry, from the Labour Party,” he said. “
Yeah, right, Dear Leader. Everyone tells fibs except you?
Needless to say, once National took office a year later, the issue of hungry children in our schools disappeared from John Key’s consciousness. In fact, his attitude seemed to change 180 degrees,
Unfortunately, as countless media stories; government reports; international reports; NGO reports, etc, state – child poverty is still growing in New Zealand.
Calls for governmental funding for school meals have fallen on deaf ears.
But National has the resources to offer $1.26 billion to the International Monetary Fund for bail-outs. And make no mistake – such bail-outs don’t go to ordinary Greek or Spanish citizens. They go to propping up failing banks. Or loans to governments.
Imagine – just for a moment – what we could achieve with $1.26 billion. Imagine, every child fed and well-clothed and with good healthcare. Imagine every child from a low-income family given the best education money could buy.
Imagine eliminating an entire under-class in one generation.
As John Lennon sang, “Imagine... “
Can you imagine it?
= fs =
Getting to the Heart of Politics
Sunday, 03 Jun 2012 | Speech
The future of the Green Party is to be at the heart of New Zealand politics – its pivot and its conscience.
The Greens are a modern, progressive political movement. What do I mean by progressive? The past has lessons but it does not provide a road map.
Progressive means we are in the business of creating the future, of genuine transformation.
Our challenge lies in how we ready ourselves for that future.
Our challenge lies in how we transform our country where the values of compassion and justice are at the heart of all the decisions we make, as a country, as a community, as a family.
Today I want to start with the family, who are at the centre of all things. And especially children, who must be at the heart of everything we do.
But first let’s talk about their mums.
Heart of Politics: Women and Children
In 1896, the Suffragists passed this resolution at their National Conference:
“That in all cases where a woman elects to superintend her own household and to be the mother of children, there shall be a law attaching a just share of her husband’s earnings or income for her separate use, payable if she so desire it, into her separate account.”
The Suffragists were clear – women have the right to economic independence whether she chooses to stay home to care for her children or chooses to work, whether she has a partner or not.
She has autonomy. She exercises her self-determination.
New Zealand women are rightly proud to have won the right to vote, a first in the world.
That’s good, we like it when women vote. And we especially like it when women stand for parliament.
In fact the Greens like it more than any political party. While other parties lose women MPs, the Greens build women’s political power.
But discrimination doesn’t end when women win the ability to vote, to choose our own careers, the right to decide when to start a family, or the right to earn the same pay as men.
Many women in Aotearoa are still living in the shadow of discrimination, exclusion, racism. If we shine a light in their direction we find:
- New Zealand women are still paid 13% less than men doing a similar job
- 1 in 3 New Zealand women will have a violent partner in her lifetime
- 1 in 5 women will experience sexual violence
- 232,000 New Zealand women live in poverty
- 70 percent of women’s work is unpaid
And for Māori, Pacific and disabled women the numbers are much worse.
For all the very real gains women have made in the last century, there are glaring gaps – gaps that fuel inequality, injustice and poverty.
Do we think the women who took to the streets for equal pay would have thought we’d settle for a 13% pay gap?
Would the women who campaigned to provide contraception in New Zealand, receiving death threats for doing so, be satisfied that the Government now wants to “help” but only to stop women on the benefit from having babies?
Political and economic attacks against women and their children may look different these days, but they’re no less dangerous.
And for all the modern feminist advances we have made, the solo mum remains the primary target for society’s most vitriolic personal attacks – led these days by Paula Bennett who knows only too well how much it hurts, but plunges the knife in anyway.
This is a minister who:
- exposed two solo mums and their children to public vitriol by releasing their private financial details in retaliation for their daring to criticise the slashing of the training incentive allowance
- attacks women, battered and bruised, as failures and pariahs
- is linking contraception to income support in an effort to control the reproductive decisions of economically vulnerable women
- is forcing mothers into work and their babies into day-care as punishment for getting pregnant while on the benefit
- berates a woman, however culpable she, knows the woman is herself beaten and bruised, ignoring the fact that a safe mum means a safe child.
The principle behind these attacks on women has been summed up by Colin Craig, reportedly saying:
“Why should say a 70 year old who’s had one partner all their life be paying for a young woman to sleep around? We are the country with the most promiscuous young women in the world. This does nothing to help us at all.”
Yes he is an extremist, but his comments are the logical summation of the rhetoric of the National Government.
The National Government tells New Zealanders every day that women, especially mums on their own, are weak, incompetent and incapable.
New Zealand women are not some statistic in a Durex survey.
We are not weak; we are not incapable of making our own choices.
When we are afforded the respect, resources and rights that we deserve, we are the thriving forces behind our families and communities.
Working equitably alongside men in our caucus and our party, the Greens are here for women, young and old, for mothers and for nannies.
Holly is touring Aotearoa showing the Inside Child Poverty documentary in a town near you so we confront and deal with the realities of poverty on women and their children.
Jan and Denise are working with women from unions and community networks to expose the impact of National’s low wage obsession on women and children.
Mojo is blazing a trail through the veil of discrimination for all women with disabilities and for the mothers of children with disabilities.
Eugenie is working with women who are standing up for our rivers so our kids can swim in clean water, women who want our rivers wild and free, where tuna can grow old and wise like our kuia.
Julie Anne has taken the government to task over failed transport plans and is championing smart green transport to make it safe for our kids to walk and cycle to school.
And Catherine is challenging the vicious cuts in education, exposing the ‘class warfare’ waged by Hekia Parata and presenting families with education solutions that respect their children’s learning.
Women are fierce. Our transformation is in our hands.
Child Poverty and solutions
Nelson Mandela once said: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
Twenty five years ago, New Zealand children lived in one of the most equal countries in the OECD.
Since then, the gap between those who have the most and those who have the least has grown faster here than anywhere else.
Our children now live in one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.
We are staring, not into a gap but a chasm – one driven deeper and wider by a Government hell bent on making those who can least afford it pay.
Ours is a country where, for many kids, a pair of new school shoes is a pipe dream.
- Where, just last month, a Northland doctor wrote of children in his neighbourhood seen scrabbling through a pig slop bucket for something to eat
- Where Maori kids are 23 times as likely as non Maori to suffer acute rheumatic fever – a third world disease
- Where poor kids are one-and-a-half times as likely to die in childhood than other children
- Where four out of five families have struggled at some time to have enough food.
For hundreds of thousands of our littlest people, Aotearoa is empty of the hope that the rest of us base our dreams on.
But this is not a place where people are poor because they make bad choices, as Key has said.
We refuse to blame our children for being vulnerable and hungry.
We will shine the light into corners where they’ve been swept and confront the choices we can make to change their lives.
Let’s close the chasm between those who have, and those who have nothing, and fight to make this country equal again.
Let’s get fierce for our children.
I believe in a New Zealand that looks after all its children, regardless of the family they’re born into.
I believe in a New Zealand that sees its vulnerable children as the potential Hone Kouka’s, Pauline Harris’ and Jeanette Fitzsimons’ that they are.
I believe in a New Zealand which refuses to tolerate the waste of that potential.
So I’m issuing us all with a challenge.
Children should be at the heart of everything we do. When we are truly child focussed, and make all decisions with the child’s well-being as the starting point, how can we ever go wrong?
First we must put aside our political differences.
We must work to devise a cross party consensus to raise our children out of poverty – in a similar way we all reached an accord over superannuation.
The super accord has worked for older people. They have had some of the best outcomes in the OECD, while our children have nearly the worst.
All the NGOs and organisations who work for and advocate for children are clear. Children are to be the priority, the heart of politics.
So we must put our money where our heart is.
The Service and Food Workers Union have launched a campaign for a Living Wage. This is a wage set at what a family needs to provide for their kids, to live with dignity and to participate in their community on an equal footing.
What does that mean in practice for our kids?
- Going to school every day with a full lunch box, good shoes and a raincoat when it’s wet
- Having the right sports gear to play soccer, netball, hockey or rugby. Having the money to get to music lessons, art class, for supporting their natural talents.
- Having a warm, dry home so sickness is not a barrier to education and just having some good old fashioned fun.
A living wage is the way that we all contribute to and share in the benefits of families who are well, healthy and respected.
We have promised to give the kids of beneficiaries the same low income top up – the in-work tax credit – that children whose parents have jobs get. That will make a real difference to alleviating poverty.
If the child is at the heart of everything we do, how can we not extend paid parental leave to six months, so all babies can have the best chance of a great life by breastfeeding – if that’s possible – and bonding with their mum.
Keeping 200,000 kids in poverty costs us $2 to $4 billion a year in crime, ill health and lack of opportunity.
We must invest cleverly, and strategically, in the early years of a child’s life.
Having a high quality public education system is one of the best investments we can make in our children.
The recent budget saw an unprecedented attack on our public schools. The Government is pumping millions into private schools and their charter school trial while increasing class sizes for the rest of our kids.
The Green Party will defend public schools.
Mums and Dads need to know that when the Greens are in Government in 2014 we will unwind National’s education changes.
We will restore public schools to their rightful position as places of opportunity and human transformation, not the second tier institutions National want’s to make them.
We will strengthen our school system, not cut it.
We will unwind the cuts and protect smaller classes
We will not force teachers to compete with each other.
We will make sure our school system moved from being the least equal in the OECD to the most equal again.
We will improve access to education at all levels and reinstate the training incentive allowance at tertiary level study to provide a real ladder out of welfare like the one that helped me, and Paula Bennett, when we were young mums.
We see public education as the backbone of a fair and equal society and we will defend it to the hilt.
We will build more warm, dry homes and insulate the cold damp ones. Our home insulation scheme, negotiated with both Labour and more recently National, has been extraordinarily successful. For the cost of 370 million dollars, the benefit to New Zealand has been 1.5 billion dollars and counting. For every dollar spent, 4 dollars is returned.
Not only that but 18 deaths have been prevented. This is the Green economy in action.
We have saved money, saved power and saved lives.
And we would fund effective and affordable primary health care to rid our families of the third world diseases that plague our children.
How can we afford all of this? The truth is we can’t afford not to.
As John Key is fond of saying, it all comes down to choice.
He chose to:
- give tax cuts to the wealthy, which costs us $729 million a year
- lose $200 million because Treasury failed to monitor the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee scheme
- subsidise the agriculture sector through the emissions trading scheme at $1.1 billion
- spend $12 billion on unnecessary roads
- gift $34 million to massive, wealthy American film companies.
Yet the Government says that taking real steps to eradicating child poverty are not on its priority list.
Well, I say it should take heed of the wise words of Dr Seuss: “A person’s a person no matter how small.”
John Key needs to remember who he is actually working for.
A government makes choices about what it values. It demonstrates what it values, above all else, in how it spends public money.
The 2012 Budget made stark choices. Public money went to pay for the hole created by tax cuts for the wealthy, 100 million to promote the sale of your energy companies, 400 million for irrigation subsidies.
Millions have been given to private schools, so private school classes can be kept small while other kids in ordinary schools are squeezed in and ultimately squeezed out.
And it is all paid for by money from ill people needing medicines, families needing early childhood education or seeking higher education. It’s paid for by families, by women and ultimately by our children.
But New Zealanders make choices too. We all choose the values on which political decisions are made.
We can choose to shift the values of politics from the corporate and the individual to the community and to the family. To the heart.
We know the costs of failure, the costs of the wrong choice.
To make this shift we need a political and community transformation.
To be a society that looks after all our people and values the diversity and beauty in all our communities. It’s a choice we make together.
The Green Party will be the pivot, the heart of New Zealand politics, a modern, progressive political movement that voices our national conscience.
And by progressive I mean we are in the business of creating the future.
Our challenge lies in how we ready ourselves, ready ourselves for the challenge of government, for the challenge of implementation.
This is new territory for the country and for us. We will have to carve out new political relationships with our communities and other political players.
What will guide us, as it always has, is our commitment to our planet, to our charter, to our people and to our country’s children.
Because that’s our reality check.
We’ll know we’ve succeeded when Aotearoa can look into its heart and see a warm, happy child smiling back.
One with a full belly and a nice, shiny, new pair of shoes.
Reprinted by kind permission from the Green Party website
= fs =
Can it be true – that New Zealand children are living in such abject poverty that they are picking food scraps from pig-slop buckets,
This blogger went in search of hard evidence that such poverty exists in Godzone. The evidence, in a land of plenty, was compelling,
Nope, nothing wrong here. Plenty of food and drink. After all, politicians and photos don’t lie, eh?
= fs =
An OECD comparitive table on international tax rates (OECD average income tax, %, single person at 100% of average earnings, no child). Australian, Swedish, and New Zealand comparisons highlighted in red,
As the table clearly shows,
- New Zealand’s tax rate (single person at 100% of average earnings, no child) is lower than Australia,
- New Zealand’s tax rate (single person at 100% of average earnings, no child) is marginally lower than Sweden,
- The OECD average is dragged down by countries such as Mexico, Korea, and Greece,
- During the Clark-led Labour Government (2000-08), New Zealand’s tax rate was consistantly lower than Australia.
Comparing taxation with social outcomes for our children and families, we find the following. The table shows, with grim clarity, that we are lagging behind. Australian, Swedish, and New Zealand comparisons highlighted in red.,
Meanwhile, from “Inside Child Poverty New Zealand’s” Facebook page…
” 63 people voted in this week’s Friday Poll on National’s Welfare reforms. 55 don’t like them, 5 do like them and 3 don’t know.
Me? I think yet again here are policies which do not think through what impact the economic policy will have on the current and future well being of the child.
All the long term research tells us that if we do not get the first 6 years of a child’s life right in terms of meaning health, social and emotional needs – we risk spending huge amounts of money in crisis management is the child grows into an adult with health problems and anti-social attitudes and quite possibly emotional scarring from having to live with strangers for the better part of each day from year 1.
Opting for short term populist solutions instead of long terms planning and ring fencing our children from the storms of politics is not statesmanship, it’s salesmanship .
The legacy of the 1991 mother of all budgets was a dramatic increase in the all the diseases of poverty that affect poor children most. What part of that do the current architects of welfare reform not understand?
We must depoliticize children’s issues, come to a common cross party agreement about the appropriate level of community responsibility for ALL our children, work out the most cost effect method of meeting those needs and then ring fence it so no future governments can mess with it. This is the Swedish system. It is why they are No2 in the OECD for child well being and we are No 28 with only Turkey and Mexico below us.”
Bryan Bruce is 100% correct. The OECD stats paint a grim picture of Sweden achieving much superior outcomes for their children than we do. (The link to the relevant report is given below, under “Resources” – it’s worth having a look.)
This is one table, showing data on “Comparative policy-focused child well-being in 30 OECD countries”. New Zealand and Swedish comparitive rankings are underlined in red,
And a similar table, this time compiled from UNICEF data. Whilst New Zealand and Australia are not represented on this graph, it is interesting to note that the Scandinavian social-democracies rate consistantly better for children than the market-led, more capitalist-oriented nations of America and Britrain (both of which have considerable problems with poverty and other social problems),
Only the de-politicisation of child poverty can achieve practical, serious, and long-lasting solutions to this growing problem. National and Labour must work together if this is to be achieved.
Both parties have achieved cross-Party concensus on issues such as superannuation and our Nuclear Free policy. We need to be asking the question; why can’t the same be done for child poverty?
If Sweden and the other Scandinavian social-democracies can achieve a measure of success in this area – we need to be asking ourselves; why can’t we?
This issue is not beyond our means, abilities, and wealth to address. We have all that.
What’s missing is one thing to resolve this problem; the will to do it.
One of the inescapable consequences of poverty; over-crowding and damp housing; poor nutrition; and unaffordable healthcare,
It is interesting that Dr Baker says,
“Maybe we should be using the same approach to deal with all infectious diseases in children.”
A basic thing would be a housing warrant of fitness that covers health, safety and sustainability issues, a bit like the five-star approach with appliances.” He believes that could be run by the Auckland Council.”
A “warrant of fitness” for rental housing is precisely what Jazmine Heka is calling for in one of her petitions. Good, decent, housing would go a long way to preventing the spread of some infectious disease. Bryan Bruce pointed this out to us last year, in his excellent documentary, last year.
Taxpayers and landlords of good housing might care to note that they are subsidising bad landlords with sub-standard accomodation. Bad landlords collect the rent – but we taxpayers foot the medical bill for their tenants who become sick.
If middle-class New Zealanders believe that this issue does not affect them -let me dis-abuse them of that delusion.
Disease bacteria and virii make no distinction between social classes.
Disease bacteria and virii do not care if you live in Epsom or South Auckland.
Disease bacteria and virii care not one jot what your income or bank balance is.
If Mr Smith from North Shore walks past Ms Jones from Otara; and one is carrying an infectious disease and coughs as you walk past each other – congratulations. You’ve just been infected.
Or, pushing a trolley through a supermarket. You’d be surprised at the grime and micro-organisms on supermarket trolley handles. So the previous handler sneezed, and gripped the trolley? Now you have the same trolley?
Congratulations. You’ve just been infected.
Your child goes to the same school as someone from an over-crowded house, where measles, rheumatic fever, or meningitis is rampant? Congratulations – you and/or your children are going to be sick.
Poverty related disease do not respect socio-economic divisions or suburban boundaries.
If the middle classes believe they are immune, simply because they live in a “nice street”; drive the latest model Holden; and have a very generous income – think again.
The time bomb fuse is lit. The first major outbreak of measles has already happened. The next disease may be lethal and result in many grieving families.
Unfortunately, that seems to be the way of our country. We wait for a few fatalities and rising death toll before we are spurred to action. Until then… *shrug*
This is simply not good enough.
If we aspire to be a developed, civilised society – a First World nation – then standing idly by while disease like rheumatic fever continue to spread through our community is simply unacceptable. As a society, we are not doing enough to prevent these diseases from spreading – and we will pay dearly for our inaction.
For one thing, we need to take firm responsibility for ensuring the availability of good, decent housing,
- Private rentals need to be maintained at a standard that is healthy for tenants. Having (some) private landlords pass-the-buck, and shove the cost of their inaction onto the public heathcare system (ie; the taxpayer) is unacceptable.
- Government must build more State housing. Many low income families simply cannot afford private rents – the “market” has failed those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap. The State must step in and pay for new housing – or it will pay for increased health costs. One way or another, society will pay.
- Government must implement a cross-Party action-plan to address this quietly, simmering crisis. Playing politics whilst Aotearoa burns (through rheumatic fever) is nothing less than criminal negligence. These people were elected to Parliament to work for the good of this country, and it’s time they sat down around a table and got down to some serious, constructive planning,
Metiria Turei – Russell Norman
Pita Sharples – Tariana Turia
John Key is paid $411,510 per annum. Cabinet Ministers are paid $257,800. It’s time they started earning those very nice salaries, instead of sitting on their hands and playing silly-buggers across the Debating Chamber.
I refuse to believe that we do not have the collective wit to address poverty in this country.
Because make no mistake; every time a child dies in New Zealand through preventable poverty-related disease, those who I hold accountable are those who make grand pledges at election time and promise all manner of good things to us, to win our votes.
I hold these people to account!!!
If, like me, you are feeling enough is enough, leave your thoughts on John Key’s Facebook page. (Don’t worry, the SIS won’t come after you.)
Support for Jazmine Heka’s petition is still growing in the community, and shows no sign of fading. At a Market in the Hutt Valley, Karen spent several hours collecting signatures for Jazmine’s petition,
Because of the nature of the petitions, the Organisor of the Market refused to accept any fee for hiring the table.
The three petitions called for
- We request that the House of Representatives pass legislation to provide free healthy school lunches to all children attending schools
- We request that the House of Representatives pass legislation to provide free healthcare for all children including prescription costs
- We request that the House of Representatives pass legislation to introduce warrant of fitness’s for all rental houses
Karen said there was considerable support for the petitions, and said there was only one person who commented negatively about poor families.,
Karen had four food items on the table; a packet of 750gm “Pam’s” ‘weetbix’; 500gr ‘Budget Spirals’ dried pasta; a can of 420gr Watties of spaghatti; and 250gr Sanitarium “Marmite”. The four items came to around $10 from a supermarket.
She described the growing cost of food as hard for low-income families.
One person who signed the petitions agreed, and said that buying milk and bread to go with those four staples would easily add another $5 to $7 to that purchase,
Another signature being added to the three petitions,
Karen later advised that she had collected approximately 70 signatures, and that some had requested blank copies to take away, to gather their own signatures.
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Snailmail: PO Box 585, Whangarei 0140
Cont’d from: Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand …
This blogger has written to Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss on this issue,
“from: Frank Macskasy
to: Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss <firstname.lastname@example.org>
date: Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 1:44 PM
subject: NZ on Air
Is it simply outrageous that NZ on Air – and more specifically – Board member, Stephen McElrea, is attempting to interfere with the broadcasting and programming of television documentaries, citing that it might contravene NZ on Air’s impartiality. Specifically, NZ on Air has criticised and condemned TV3′s broadcasting of a documentary on child poverty four days prior to last year’s election.
This is absolute rubbish. It is also dangerous.
It is not – and should not – be mandated to a state owned organisation as to what New Zealand citizens are/aren’t allowed to watch, and when. Then is North Korean or Syrian style of government.
Furthermore, it appears that Board member, Stephen McElrea, is involved in attempting to empower NZ on Air to have authority to determine when specific programmes may be broadcast by independent media,
““The minutes of the NZ On Air board’s meeting in December says it is now considering adding a clause to the broadcast covenant requiring broadcasters not to screen programmes likely to be an election issue during the election period.”” – http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/96173/nzoa-accused-of-political-bias-over-poverty-show
This is outrageous and unacceptable. More so because because Stephen McElrea is deeply connected to the National Party, in his role as a Regional Deputy Chairman, and as John Key’s Electorate Chairperson in the Helensville Electorate.
This is totally unacceptable. Not only is this a gross conflict of interest, but it places NZ On Air’s independence into serious question.
This entire situation demands the following;
1. A new system of appointees to state bodies be set up which may make impartial appointments based solely on merit, rather than political connectivity. Such a reform is necessary if the public are to maintain confidence in our state structure and bodies.
2. Stephen McElrea must step down immediatly from NZ On Air. His position is simply not tenable, and casts a dark shadow over the impartiality of that organisation.
I sincerely hope that the suggestions and comments I have made here are brought to your attenton, as I believe this issue demands your utmost attention.
- Frank Macskasy
- “Frankly Speaking“”
Any response from the Minister’s office will be published here.
A copy of the email has also bee sent to various media, as it might be of interestr to them that a call has been made for Stephen McElrea’s resignation from “NZ on Air“. I suspect I may not be the only one making that call.
Tom Frewen has also come up with an interesting little matter of the only person to have complained to “NZ on Air“; a person by the name of “Alastair Bell”. As Frewen has written, is this the same “Alastair Bell” who is on the National Party’s Board?
To clarify this matter, I have written to Mr Bell, at the National Party,
“from: Frank Macskasy
to: Alastair Bell <email@example.com>
date: Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 1:53 PM
subject: NZ on Air
Kia Ora, Alastair,
Regarding the matter of an email sent to the board of NZ on Air, regarding a complaint about the broadcasting, by TV3 of a documentary, (“Inside Child Poverty”), can you confirm that you are the same Alastair Bell referred to in NZ On Air documents, as released under the Official Information Act?
- Frank Macskasy
“Frankly Speaking” “
Again, any responses will be published here, as I believe it is important to clarify this matter. Keep checking back, for updates.
Acknowledgement from the Minister’s office, recieved earlier today,
from: Kartini Havell (MIN) firstname.lastname@example.org
to: Frank Macskasy
date: Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 2:43 PM
subject: FW: NZ on Air
Dear Mr Macskasy
Thank you for your email of 18 January 2012 to the Minister of Broadcasting. The Minister will consider the issues you have raised and respond as soon as he is able.
Private Secretary – Broadcasting
Office of the Hon Craig Foss
Minister of Broadcasting
Private Bag 18041
DDI 04 817 9022 Fax 04 817 6518
Response recieved from Chris Foss, nearly a month later,
I’m not sure if anyone would buy the Minister’s assertion that “the expectation is that all Board members put their political or other affiliations aside when they participate in Board activities“.
Stephen McElrea most certainly did not ” put [his] political or other affiliations aside ” when he attempted to interfere in TV3′s programme-scheduling over the child poverty documentary.
Email address for Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss: email@example.com
Related Blog post
Last year, in March, is a NZ Herald’s business writer and media commentator, John Drinnan, raised the issue of possible conflict-of-interest surrounding the appointment of Stephen McElrea to the Board of NZ on Air,
Neil Walter, NZ On Air’s chairperson denied that there was any conflict of interest,
Well, there was and there is, most certainly a conflict of interest, as events are now showing.
Stephen McElrea is a prominent figure in the National Party. He is not just the regional deputy chairman of the National Party – but is also John Key’s electorate chairperson in the National Party Helensville Electorate branch,
McElrea is obviously well connected.
So it is not surprising therefore, that NZ on Air’s Board, which is already heavily stacked with National-friendly businesspeople, has issued an unprecedented condemnation of TV3′s decision to broadcast Bryan Bruce’s document, Inside Child Poverty last year, in the week leading up to the Election.
For those who have not seen Bryan Bruce’s excellent, thought-provoking documentary, it is something worth watching. It is highly critical of New Zealand’s growing poverty which is having far-reaching, dire effects on our country’s children. The documentary looks at Sweden, and how the Swedish society ensures that problems such as poverty-related diseases, hunger, damp housing, etc,are not allowed to affect children.
And it looks at how New Zealand society has arrived at a stage where children go to school hungry, bare-foot, and sick with disease caused by poor housing; poor nutrition; over-crowding…
“We used to think of New Zealand as a great place to bring up kids. Not anymore.
Multi-award winning documentary maker Bryan Bruce spent 6 months investigating why the current state of child health in New Zealand is so bad and what we can do about it. This is his controversial report.
What’s gone wrong and how can we fix it?
His journey begins in East Porirua, just 15 Km from Parliament to discover what the Free Market economy has done to the health of children living in lower income families.
Skin infections and respiratory illnesses he discovers are rife. Children living in damp moldy rental houses are suffering the highest rate of Rheumatic Fever in New Zealand.
In search of an answer Bruce travels to Sweden to find out why they are Number 2 in the OECD for child health and we are third from the bottom.
“What I discovered” says Bruce “ is that they work smarter. They know that for every dollar they spend on prevention they save about $4 on cure. They have a completely free health care system for children and they feed every child a free, healthy lunch, everyday. For the Swedes child health is a moral responsibility not a political issue.”” – Source
The documentary does not (if I recall correctly) attack any parfticular political party.
That has not stopped NZ on Air from attacking the timing of TV3′s broadcasting of “Inside Child Poverty“, stating,
“”We are barred by legislation from seeking to influence editorial content of the programmes we fund.
“We’re very conscious and very respectful of the freedom of expression provisions of the Bill of Rights, but in this case we felt that we’ve been dropped in it by the decision to put that particular programme on just days out from voting.“” - Source
When someone sez, “we’re very conscious and very respectful of the freedom of expression provisions of the Bill of Rights, but—” - what they’re actually saying is that the preceding part of their statement (the bit before the “but” is about to be trashed.
It was fairly obvious that the documentary had political content. It’s also fairly obvious that the issue of child poverty transcends pilitics, and is probably the most important socio-economic crisis facing this country.
It is the most pressing crisis we face, not because of it’s far reaching consequence (which are many) – but because as a nation we seem spectacularly inept at (a) recognising that the problem exists (b) creating a plan to fix this problem, and (c) doing it.
We’re more pre-occupied with penguins, tax cuts, and victim-blaming.
This is cause for deep concern,
“The minutes of the NZ On Air board’s meeting in December says it is now considering adding a clause to the broadcast covenant requiring broadcasters not to screen programmes likely to be an election issue during the election period.” – Source
It is preposterous and arrogance in the extreme that a tax-payer funded, state organisation is attempting to set itself up to determine when it shall be appropriate to broadcast a programme. Especially one that is extremely relevant to our society.
It is even more outrageous that this is apparently a blatant, unconcealed, attempt by a National Party functionary to make this happen.
It is obvious to all but the most staunch National Party apparatchik or supporter, that NZ on Air’s attack on TV3 and Bryan Bruce is politically motivated. The nice, pretty words of taking its “political impartiality very seriously and now stands accused of political bias” is bullshit.
No one has accused NZ on Air of any such thing (to my knowledge), and if complaints were laid to the Broadcasting Standards Authority and/or Electoral Commission - relating to the timing of the documentary – those were most likely undertaken by National Party supporters. The Nats have a habit of deriding and being dismissive of criticism.
One wonders how NZ on Air reconciles it’s critricism of the timing of the documentary’s broadcast, when current affairs programmes such as “Q+A” and “The Nation” were being screened into the living rooms of our country from Kaitaia to Stewart Island, almost up to Election Day?
Will NZ on Air be reviewing the timing of those programmes as well?
Perhaps we shouldn’t have any documentaries at all – especially if it might be seen as critical of the government-of-the-day? (Not that there are very many docos left on our free-to-air TV anymore… )
Who’s up for another re-run of “FRIENDS“?
The law of the land is crystal clear on the broadcasting and transmission of political matters. Political issues can be discussed in the media, and by political parties, right up until midnight on Friday, on the day before Election Day.
NZ on Air has no mandate to determine when documentaries shall be broadcast. It cannot and should not have a say in TV or radio programming. (At best, this is a matter from the Electoral Commission to assess, not NZ on Air.)
NZ on Air is not the arbiter of the public’s right-to-know.
And NZ on Air is not an arm of the National Party.
When a government attempts to dictate to independent media what they may/may not broadcast, and when, then it is apparent that state interference in our lives has transcended any quaint notions of “nanny statism”. This is pretty darn close to fascism.
At the very least, it is blatant political interference when Stephen McElrea writes, in his capacity as a NZ on Air board member,
” “Was NZOA aware that this doco was to be scheduled 4 days before the election? If not, should we have been? To me, it falls into the area of caution we show about political satire near elections.” ” – Source
It is fairly apparent that the entire system of political appointees to various state bodies must be reviewed. A system of impartial appointees must be looked into – because it appears that National’s influence has gone too far, this time. (Plus, it seems fairly bizarre that a National Party official considers a documentary on child poverty, as “satire“?!)
This is entire disgraceful affair has been a politically-motivated attack on Bryan Bruce, and TV3. It is obviously that Stephen McElrea’s position on NZ on Air‘s Board is untenable. He has lost all credibility as an impartial member of NZ on Air’s board and any decision from that body is now highly suspect.
As McElrea himself said,
“Other than this, the Government should butt out of television broadcasting and leave it to the industry. ” – Source
Stephen McElrea has no other option: he must resign immediatly.
Related blog story
One thing that I find about writing this Blog, is reporting on all the unpleasant things that are happening in our country; our communities; at this very moment. Whether it’s high unemployment; pollution in our rivers and coastline; constant attacks on welfare beneficiaries; racism; cutbacks in our social services; the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor; a rather nasty anti-union campaign on Auckland’s waterfront… after a while, I can fully understand why 100,000 of my fellow New Zealanders shipped off to Australia.
Half the time I wonder why I’m still here.
Nah, I ain’t going anywhere. It’s too hot over there; they have snakes; crocodiles; spiders the size of a small car; dinosaurs, mutant kangaroos, and god knows what else. Plus, they speak funny. (It’d take too long to teach our Aussie cuzzies how to speak proper English – like we Kiwis do.)
Anyway, every so often, there is a ray of sunshine that pokes through the gloom of bad news. Like this one, the story of Ms Jazmine Heka. She’s 16 years old. And she has more compassion and wisdom than half the adult population in this country. She certainly shows greater awareness than our current batch of political leaders.
Because Jazmine Heka, at age 16, and when other young women her age are out flirting with post-adolescent boys with acne and over-powered cars, is different.
Jazmine Heka cares.
Jazmine watched Bryan Bruce’s document, Inside Child Poverty – and came away disgusted; angry; and confused as to how something like this could be happening in our own country. And well she might; New Zealand was supposedly a wealthy country with an abundance of food and resources.
What has gone so terribly wrong?
Jazmine’s response to the documentary was perfectly normal. Any sane, compassionate, person would have viewed Bruce’s documentary about our crisis in poverty, with similar feelings of outrage and disgust.
Those that viewed it – and simply shrugged it off – did so because they have become inured to life’s hardships and uncertainties. For many of us, poverty and other social ills have become a normal aspect to everyday life. For many well-off, middle-class folk, poverty is “somewhere over there” and “beyond our ability to deal with“.
For many of us, we have “normalised” poverty; inequality; poor housing; lack of food; lack of adequate incomes; and lack of hope.
Those living in poverty live the same “train wreck” of their lives; day-after-day; week-after-week; their families; their community – and no hope of ever getting out. For these families, a life of poverty is also “normalised“.It’s all they’ve had and all they are likely to ever have.
Meanwhile, products and images of products of a wealthy, consumerist society is all around these poverty-trapped families.
Eventually, those who suffer such hardship cannot cope any further with the constant stresses, of their dismal lives. Some cease to care. Others lose themselves in anger, fueled by cheap, plentiful alcohol and drugs. Brutalised beyond any measure of comprehension by Middle New Zealand, they commit acts of self-harm and violence to others that the rest of us find inexplicable.
Try to explain to Middle New Zealand why a bunch of young people would torment an infant until it died from it’s injuries and internal bleeding – and you’d get a blank look.
Or, most likely, it is blamed upon the parent(s) and immediate family for abusing to death their child. Only then do we, as a society, take an interest in that family, as they are put through the Court system; paraded on our television “news” each night; and we shake our collective heads in dismay and wonder what kind of “animal” kills it’s own young.
A stressed, abused, mal-treated “animal” – that’s what kind.
When things go terribly bad in poverty-stressed families, it is not the start of a crisis – it is the end-result; a culmination, of years of living in squalid conditions that few of us have ever experienced.
That is poverty. Or, at least, a visible part of it.
Most families, of course, don’t end up killing or bashing their children. As Jazmine quoted, 22% of children in New Zealand live in poverty. And most families do the best they can, with limited money, and constant demands for that money; rent, electricity, food, medical bills, school costs, transport…
Most families survive. Even our Prime Minister grew up as a child to a solo-mother in State House. Of course, John Key not only had a state house over his head, but had the benefit of a free, tax-payer funded tertiary education.
That’s right folks. Mr Key went to University prior to 1992, before student fees were introduced. He may even have had access to a student allowanvce that was commonly accessible those days. And his mother didn’t have to pay for prescription medicines – those were free, before Rogernomics came into play.
State house. Free education. Free prescription medicines.
That was all replaced with User Pays. National sold off about 13,000 state houses in the 1990s. And medical care became more and more expensive.
At the same time, taxes were cut seven times since 1986; gst was introduced; and User Pays and higher government charges made living more and more expensive for those on low incomes.
As the economy was de-regulated in the late 1980s, factories that had once employed locals to produce locally made goods closed down – and instead we had them produced and imported from China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Fiji, and other low-wage economies.
That’s called “exporting jobs”.
In return, we got cheap shoes from China – and growing poverty in New Zealand. Most unfair of all, it is children growing up in poor families that bear the brunt of our 27 year old free market economy.
Though that’s not to say there haven’t been success stories. For a few, anyway,
It’s not hard to see who benefitted most from seven tax cuts in the last 26 years.
In turn, Fonterra plans to re-introduce milk in low-decile schools – something not seen in New Zealand since 1967. A return to school milk seems indicative where we have arrived as a nation: full circle since 1937, when free milk was first introduced in schools throughout the country to fight poverty’s effects on children.
And here we are – back again.
Even National was promising something similar, in February 2007, when John Key was Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps this was a political “stunt” – who knows,
But it’s even more of a harsh reality now.
I’ve even emailed John Key, to ascertain what happened, to his “Food in Schools” programme,
to: Prime Minister John Key <firstname.lastname@example.org>
date: Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 9:16 AM
subject: National launches its Food in Schools programme
On 4 February 2007, you released a Press Release headed, “National launches its Food in Schools programme”.
As outlined in Bryan Bruce’s document, “Child Poverty”, there is a growing problem of poorly fed, malnourished children in NZ. Could you please advise what progress your government has made in the area of providing meals for children in low-decile schools?
This issue is a critical one. Poorly fed children do not do well in the classroom, and this results in difficulties further along in their lives, including social dislocation; poor education; unemployment; and more expensive interaction with government services.
Thankyou for your time,
Blogger, “Frankly Speaking“
I’ve received an acknowledgement and that the email was passed on to Education Minister Hekia Parata. But nothing further.
This, to me, is why it is so important that good men and women like Bryan Bruce, Jazmine Heka, Kidscan, Child Poverty Action Group, etc, raise our consciousness on these matters. These problems will not go away by themselves. They must be resolved with planning, determination, and money.
But more importantly, Bryan Bruce and Jazmine Heka need our collective voices to aid them, and to back them up. Bryan and Jazmine and many others are working to fix a problem that should never have been allowed to grow and fester. But it’s here now, and we have to deal with it.
As Judy Callingham wrote on Brian Edwards’ blog,
“The government has prioritised a number of policies to stimulate the economy in an effort to get us out of the current recession. None of these policies, to my mind, tackles head-on the most urgent task of all – eliminating ‘child poverty’.
This should be the number one priority. Nothing is more important. Nothing is going to stimulate the economy better in the long run than having our kids grow up healthy and well educated. It’s a damn sight more important than ultra-fast broadband and super-highways.”
“I think it’s amazing what you’re doing. A lot of our people are disheartened, they’ve given up. The standard of living of people in New Zealand is shocking, people are struggling. It’s something the government needed to address a long time ago. If adults say it they think we’re just complaining, or it’s our own inadequacies. Her voice will get through, that’s the cool thing. “
Last year, the combined raised voices of Wellingtonians stopped the Wellington Airport from erecting a silly sign on the Miramar hillside. (Instead, they erected a marginally less-silly sign.)
And the year before that, in 2010, the collective anger of New Zealanders stopped the National government dead-in-its-tracks to mine on Schedule 4 Conservation lands.
I believe that with the same support for Bryan, Jazmine, and other community groups fighting poverty, that this government can be made to pay attention to this problem.
I believe that, acting together, there is no reason why we cannot achieve our common goal of beginning to solve this growing crisis in our communities. None whatsoever.
So let’s help Jazmine to help New Zealand.
Snailmail: PO Box 585, Whangarei 0140.
I don’t think there’s much question that serious social problems in this country are not being addressed in any meaningful way by this current government…
So is the Prime Minister, John Key, really aware of what is actually going on in New Zealand right now? Well, judge for yourself…
So what is National doing about soaring youth unemployment?
At their recent Conference, held in Wellington, they came up with this…
They’re going to clamp down on booze and cigarettes?!?!
Oh good lord! And people thought that Labour was “Nanny Statist”?!?!
I wonder who will be next to feel the iron fist of National’s Polit-buro state control? The retired? Civil Servants? Anyone using state hospitals???
Congratulations, my fellow New Zealanders: we have gone past Nanny State to Big Brother.
It might be worthwhile considering that,
- Not all unemployed youth smoke
- Not all unemployed youth drink
- Even if they do, Key says that they will still receive “a limited amount of money for young people to spend at their discretion“. Like… on booze and ciggies?!
- Even if they won’t have enough “discretionary pocket money” – what is to stop them stealing it? Or selling their Food Card for cash, and then buying ciggies and booze?
In the meantime, how many jobs will this piece of neo-Nanny Statism create?
Even the NZ Herald was quick to acknowledge this simple fact in their August 16 editorial,
“Yet there is also nothing in the Prime Minister’s announcement that creates jobs for young people. There, the Government still has work to do.”
Meanwhile, as National blames the young unemployed of this country for the world recession, and proposes to penalise them by tinkering with their only means of survival – the problem continues unabated,
The last time youth unemployment was this high was in 1992…
Wasn’t that the previous National government led by Jim Bolger, with Ruth Richardson as Minister of Finance? And didn’t she implement a slash and burn economic policy in her “Mother of All Budgets” that resulted in unemployment reaching over 10%?!?!
Why, yes. It was.
Are we starting to see a pattern develop here, folks?
It is abundantly clear that National has no clue how to address this problem. Attacking welfare benefits which keep people from starving to death, or more likely, breaking into our homes to find food, is not an answer. It is a cheap shot geared toward winning votes from uneducated voters who hold the illusion that living on a benefit is a cosy arrangement (it is not).
There are no policies being announced to create jobs, or to train young people into a trade or profession.
National should be throwing open the doors of our polytechs to train young people into tradespeople that the community desperately needs. With the re-building of Christchurch shortly to commence – where are the necessary tradespeople going to come from? (Most have buggered of to Australia.)
If this is the best that National can come up with, then, my fellow New Zealanders, we are in deep ka-ka.
Dr Mapp said the research science and technology was the way to create jobs, economic growth and a higher living standard for the country.
“To that end, it is vital that high-tech, exporting companies maintain their competitive edge in global markets.”
The grants range from $300,000 to $5.9m and run for three years.
They are valued at 20 per cent of the research and development spend in each business and provide a maximum $2.4m a year for three years.
Dr Mapp said they provide the businesses involved with more financial security over that period.
Businesses to get grants in the latest round were involved in software development, biotechnology, manufacturing and electronics.
Wellington companies which received grants:
Core Technology: $629,400
Open Cloud: $2,394,920
Xero was founded by Rod Drury in 2006, who made $65 million in the same year after selling his email archiving system AfterMail. Xero purchased Australian online payroll company, Paycycle, in July of this year for A$1.5 million.
Which begs the question as to why the government has given away $4 million of tax-payers money when the owner is ‘flush’ with $65 million and has enough capital to buy off-shore companies elsewhere.
Is this a prudent use of tax-payers’ money, especially when,
* government is cutting back on social services?
* government has cut back on youth training programmes?
* government is borrowing $380 million a week, and telling the rest of us to “tighten our belts”?
At a time when government is berrating unemployed 16 and 17 year olds for being on the dole and “smoking ciggies”, instead of providing meaningful training and/or employment, it seems that National is still “picking winners” in the field of commerce.
$4 million could go a long way in providing training, and a future, for many 16 year olds.
By contrast, how much do young people, living away from home, recieve from WINZ? It must be a grand sum, to earn the Prime Minister’s stern attention. The answer is:
It’s a shame they’re not “picking winners” with our unemployed youth.
For a better New Zealand…
~ Cleaner rivers
~ No deep-sea oil drilling
~ Less on Roads - more on Rail
~ Minimum wage @ $15 p/hr
~ Marriage equality
~ Strong, effective Unions
~ No secret free-trade deals
~ Breakfast/lunches in our schools
~ Introducing Civics into our school curriculum
~ Cut back on the liquor industry
~ A fairer, progressive tax system
~ Fully funded, free healthcare
~ Ditto for education, including Tertiary
~ Fund Pharmac for Pompe's Disease medication & other 'orphan' drugs
~ No state asset sales!
~ Rebuild public TV broadcasting!
~ Keeping farms in local ownership
~ Reduce poverty, like we reduced the toll for road-fatalities
~ Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!
~ Being nice to each other
- Mining, Drilling, Arresting, Imprisoning – Simon Bridges
- A letter to the Dominion Post on the GCSB…
- The GCSB law – vague or crystal clear?
- Budget 2013: Child poverty, food in schools, and National’s response
- Corporate Welfare under National
- Budget 2013: petrol taxes
- Budget 2013: Student debt, politicians, and “social contracts”
- The Right has a new media voice
- Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor
- Budget 2013: Radio NZ and politicians
- Budget 2013: Suffer the little children… to starve
- Brain fades and balls ups
- Citizen A: With Martyn Bradbury, Keith Locke & Matthew Hooton On Budget + Key’s Deal + Gilmore Wrap
- Budget 2013: How NOT to deal with Student loan defaulters
- Meridian Power?
- *** UP-DATED! *** NEWSFLASH!!! *** On TV3′s Campbell Live Wednesday night!
- John Key advocates theft by banks?
- On child poverty, to the Sunday Star Times…
- National on Child Poverty?!
- ***Breaking News*** Judith Collins issues decision on MMP Review!
- Binding future governments – a question.
- Skycity: National prostitutes New Zealand yet again
- Why a Four Year Parliamentary Term is not a Good Idea
- National Party Corporate welfare vs real welfare
- The NZ Taliban – quietly safeguarding our morals