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Radio NZ: Focus on Politics for 21 February 2014

23 February 2014 Leave a comment

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- Focus on Politics -

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- Friday 21 February 2014  -

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- Brent Edwards -

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A weekly analysis of significant political issues.

Friday after 6:30pm and Saturday at 5:10pm

Disagreement about how to reduce poverty and inequality is looming as one of the big debates of election year.

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Radio NZ logo - Focus on Politics

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Click to listen: Focus on Politics for 21 February 2014 ( 16′ 38″ )

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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TV3 Polling and some crystal-ball gazing

10 February 2014 4 comments

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Red Green Up

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The latest TV3-ReidResearch poll confirms what many are beginning to accept as a growing reality; unless Labour (or the Greens) have a major stumble, there will be a change of government at the end of the year. The only caveat to this is the unpredictable Winston Peters.

Normally, I place little faith in polls other than the Roy Morgan poll (and of course, the only poll that counts: election day) because none of the other pollsters call cellphones. As the Census showed last year, only “85.5% of households had access to a landline telephone at home, down from 91.6% in 2006″.

This means that 14.5% of households did not have access to a landline.

That is quite a chunk of the electorate. Especially when indications are that this year’s election will be a close result between the Left and Right bloc.

Because Roy Morgan is the only polling company that (currently) calls cellphones as well as landlines, it is more accurate than companies that call only the latter.

What makes the TV3-Reid Research poll so interesting is that, this time, it seems to mirror the last Roy Morgan poll taken between 6 January  to 19 January, 2014.

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Roy Roy Morgan poll 6 – 19 January 2014 TV3 – Reid Research Poll 2 February 2014
Right Bloc

National

43.5%

44.05%

Maori Party

2.00%

1.00%

Conservative Party

2.50%

2.10%

ACT

0.00%

0.00%

United Future/Peter Dunne

0.50%

0.00%

Left Bloc

Labour

33.50%

33.50%

Greens

12.50%

12.40%

Mana

0.50%

0.30%

Wild Card

NZ First

4.00%

5.70%

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In both polls, National is losing support, whilst Labour is gaining. (The Greens have lost support in one poll, but gained in another.)

Interestingly, both the Maori Party and Mana poll higher in the Roy Morgan poll. This is unsurprising as the constituents of both parties are more likely to rely solely on cellphone communications rather than landlines, and Roy Morgan is subsequently better placed to poll these voters.

As I wrote on 30 January, though NZ First polled at 4% in the Roy Morgan poll – just under the 5% threshold – this blogger believes Peters will pull his Party up, and return to Parliament. (The only qualifyer to this is if the public are sufficiently  spooked by Peters’ continuing refusal to indicate which Bloc he will support, post-election.)

The TV3 Reid Research poll seems to back this up, though it remains to be seen if this burst in support will be reflected in the next (more accurate) Roy Morgan polling.

Regardless, this blogger believes that NZ First will be returned to Parliament, with between 5% to 7% Party Vote.

National will continue to bleed support as Labour and the Greens present a credible alternative to National’s ad hoc spending decisions (giving money to billion dollar corporations whilst cutting back on public services).

Other factors that will impact on National’s poll rating,

  • rising mortgage interest rates – estimated to reach 7% to 8%
  • rising fuel prices as the global economy picks up, and the demand for oil increases
  • a bounce upward in unemployment, as businesses attempt to cut costs by reducing staff
  • an on-going shortage of affordable housing
  • young New Zealanders forced out of the housing market, due to National’s sign-off on Reserve Bank policies
  • continuing wages lagging behind CPI increases
  • worsening balance of payments and another credit downgrade by Standard & Poors, Moodies, and/or Fitch

In desperation, expect National to,

  • Do deals with Act and the Conservatives
  • Cosy up to NZ First
  • Engage in more beneficiary-bashing
  • Engage in more personal attacks on Labour, Green, and Mana MPs
  • Whaleoil to release nasty ‘dirt’ on various Opposition MPs
  • Suddenly find money to spend on worthy public services
  • Hint at a further round of tax cuts

Barring any more major screw-ups by Labour (or by the Greens), we are on course (as this blogger has been predicting since 2011) for a change of government.

A personal note to David Cunliffe

Labour’s focus on the “Best Start” policy – whilst flawed at it’s release – was an excellent kick-off to the 2014 Election Campaign. In effect Labour and the Greens have set the agenda for this election.

The economy is no longer an election issue – things are bubbling along nicely, according to media reports.

The so-called economic “boom” will be to National’s undoing, as voters expect more to be spent on education, health, housing, and alleviating chronic child poverty. After six years of demanding “where is the money coming from”, National will find itself with a higher tax-take and then explaining why programmes such as universal food-in-schools is still “unaffordable”.

My strongest advice to David Cunliffe is to follow up on the focus on children. With child poverty a massive millstone around this nation’s collective neck, it is a growing social disaster from which we cannot escape unless addressed.

Please, Mr Cunliffe – announce to the Nation at the next appropriate policy release, that when you lead the next government later this year, that you will take on the role of Minister for Children.

Nothing will send a clearer message to the electorate that you are giving this matter the highest priority.

Nothing.

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References

TV3: 3 News-Reid Research poll shows Peters as kingmaker

Previous related blogpost

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (Part rua) (12 December 2013)

Latest Roy Morgan poll bad news for National (30 January 2014)

Other Blogs

Robert Guyton:  Cobbling together a coalition – Key

The Standard: Latest TV3 poll

The Standard: Dear RadioNZ – the largest party does not necessarily win the election

The Dim Post:  Brief thoughts on the TV3 poll

The Daily Blog: Brothers & Sisters of the left, there is no joy in TV3s latest poll

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National Act

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 February 2014.

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Metiria Turei’s Waitangi Day speech on Te Tii Marae at the powhiri for party leaders

- Metiria Turei, Green Party Co-Leader

Metiria Turei.

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Tēnēi au e tū whakaiti nei i raro i a Ranginui, i runga i a Papatuānuku, e titiro kau ana ki ngā maunga whakahi me ngā tini uri o Tane.

Ki a koutou o Ngati Rahiri, o Ngā Puhi-nui-tonu, e rere haere ngā mihi o mātou Te Rōpū Kākāriki ki a koutou mō tō manaakitanga ki a mātou i tēnēi wiki.

Kua tae mai mātou ki te mahara, ki te maumahara, ki te whakanui i tēnēi taonga o a tātou, Te Tiriti o Waitangi me He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga.

Ko te whakahonoretanga o Te Tiriti tētahi wāhanga whakahirahira rawa atu o te kawenata o ngā Kākāriki.

Mihi mai i runga i te kaupapa e whakakōtahi nei i a tātou, arā te oranga o a tātou whānau me te whenua o a tātou tūpuna.

Kua tatanga ahau me tōku pāti ki te noho ki te tepu o te kāwanatanga mō te huanga o tātou te iwi Māori.

Kāore e mutu ngā mihi ki a koutou i tō manaakitanga ki a mātou i tēnēi rā.

He honore nui mōku ki te korero ki a koutou i tēnēi rā ki te whakanui i tēnēi rā.

It is an extraordinary honour to speak here today.

This is an historic opportunity for me, as a Māori woman and political leader and for the Green Party, the most consistent voice in parliament for the interests of Maori over the past 15 years.

Getting our kids out of poverty; protecting the moana from deep sea oil drilling; warm healthy homes for every whānau; honouring te tiriti o waitangi; this is the Green kaupapa, my kaupapa.

And it’s urgent. For every day that goes by more of our kids are being robbed of their future.

Deep sea oil drilling robs our kids. It robs them of a clean ocean, of safe food, of sustainable jobs when they grow up.

The Greens are the leading political voice in the fight to protect our oceans.

The Treaty guarantees our children the right to clean and oil free seas.

The education system still denies rangatahi an education and traps them in poverty, robbing them of a fair future.

The international results showed that only 4.5 per cent of Māori 15 year olds achieved in the top two levels in 2012.

We could gather up the first hundred kids we see running around this atea; we take just five and say “you will achieve and do well”.

The rest, well, some will struggle through. And many will not make it at all.

And it’s getting worse. Our kids are now much less likely to achieve at the top levels of school than they were before National came to power.

National refuses to do anything about the reasons for educational underachievement: inequality and poverty.

And when they are challenged on this failure, they make personal attacks.

But offer no solutions for our kids.

The Treaty guarantees our children the right to an education.

The Greens put kids at the heart of everything we do. And that’s the difference we bring.

We know that if the most vulnerable kids have what they need to do well, like healthcare, free lunch, after school care, then every single one of our kids will have the best chance to be the best they can be.
We will protect our workers, increasing the minimum wage and making industries like forestry safer, so men stop dying trying to make ends meet for their whānau.

We are committed to honouring the treaty, honouring our people and honouring our whenua.

The Green Party will sit at the heart of the next progressive government.

We will have a big role to play in that government.

For Maori, it’s worth remembering that a party vote for the Green Party is the best opportunity you have to have a say at that table and change the government on behalf of our kids.
A vote for the Green Party will not be a wasted vote, like it could be for some of those other parties.

Soon, I will be the only Māori woman leader in parliament.

I help lead a whole team of MPs who are all committed to addressing inequality, righting the wrongs of the past, fighting for clean water and fighting for all our whānau to lead good lives and have a fair future.

The message this election year is clear.
National’s time is up. The time of the radical right making laws for their rich mates is over.

This is the message the country is sending, that Maori are sending.
My presence here today is evidence of that.
The time for our children, for our whānau, for our whenua is here.

National may not like it. They will lash out with venom and bitterness.

They will reduce the most pressing issues our kids face to being about the colour of my suits, but to do so they let all New Zealanders down, particularly Maori, and particularly kids.

But whether the message is delivered by a Maori woman standing in jandals or a Maori woman in a suit, make no mistake, change is coming.

And that change is Green.

Kāore e mutu ngā mihi ki a koutou i tō manaakitanga ki a mātou i tēnēi rā.

He honore nui mōku ki te korero ki a koutou I tēnēi rā. Tena koutou katoa.

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Radio NZ: Nine to Noon – Brian Easton – 7 February 2013

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- Nine To Noon -

 

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- Friday 7 February 2014  -

 

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- Kathryn Ryan & Brian Easton -

 

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Income inequality in New Zealand is set to become a central election issue, but is it really getting worse?

Brian Easton offers a solution how to address income inequality. Listen and find out what he suggests.

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Radio NZ logo -  nine to noon with Brian Easton

 

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Click to listen: Brian Easton, Economist ( 13′ 37″ )

 

 

 

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

(Hat tip: Murray Simmonds)

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Portrait of a Clueless Politician

This is a joy to watch.

A politician is asked a very, very simple question that had never occurred to him.

Perhaps it shows one thing; some politicians enact bad laws and policies based – not on other people’s realities – but on their perceptions and prejudices.

This is what happens when one politician reveals his cluelessness on an issue he is going to legislate on…

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Acknowledgement: Upworth.com

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The same could apply to certain politicians here in New Zealand, whose policies have  not helped the poorest people in this country. Perhaps certain politician’s perceptions and prejudices might be at fault?

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Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Source: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

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Here’s a question for the Prime Minister; could he explain why someone on welfare; a low-wage job; or even an average income,   cannot afford to buy shares in Mighty River Power, Meridian, and Air New Zealand after they’ve paid their rent, power, phone, food, prescription fees, petrol, car rego, car WoF (or public transport), clothing, shoes, etc, etc…? Why can’t we afford to buy our own state assets?

Perhaps this might go some way to explain things. Whilst this is US-based, it most likely applies to New Zealand as well – especially since our wealth/wage gap continues to grow, despite John Key’s earnest promises in 2008,

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Acknowledgement: Upworth.com

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And the real question for the Prime Minister; does he think it is right that  the gap between the rich and the poor is widening? And if not – if he doesn’t think this is  right – why have things gotten worse in the last six years, instead of better, under his watch?

Why?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 January 2014.

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References

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

John Key: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

NZ Herald: Census data revealed: What we earn and how your pay rates

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Radio NZ: Focus on Politics for 31 January 2014

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- Focus on Politics -

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- Friday 31 January 2014  -

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- Brent Edwards -

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A weekly analysis of significant political issues.

Friday after 6:30pm and Saturday at 5:10pm

This week was the time for David Cunliffe to put his mark on the Labour Party just months after taking over the leadership from David Shearer.

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Radio NZ logo - Focus on Politics

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Click to listen: Focus on Politics for 31 January 2014 ( 17′ 18″ )

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Letter to Radio NZ: Key, the flag, and irrelevancies

30 January 2014 2 comments

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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FROM:     "f.macskasy"
SUBJECT:  Flag
DATE:     Thu, 30 Jan 2014 07:53:28 +1300
TO:       Checkpoint RNZ <checkpoint@radionz.co.nz>

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Kia ora Geoff & Simon,

It should be fairly evident to all by the most naive that
raising the flag is Key's juvenile attempt at distracting
voters from the real problems confronting this country.
Chief amongst those is rising child poverty, wage/wealth
inequality; high unemployment; shortage of affordable decent
housing, etc.

With all these problems facing the country, Key focuses on 
irrelevancies and suggests a referendum.

We had a referendum on the sale of state assets and he
ignored the results. So now he wants another referendum and
he'll respect the results of that one?

Pathetic and laughable.

-Frank Macskasy

(phone number supplied)

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vote election 2014

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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“You Break It, We Fix It” – Is That How It Works?

13 January 2014 6 comments

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It all began in 1984…

But first, let’s look at the Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae’s 2014 New Year’s speech,

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"As a nation, and as communities, we need to both celebrate our successes, and examine how we can help those families facing particular difficulties, so every child can grow up in a safe and secure home."

As a nation, and as communities, we need to both celebrate our successes, and examine how we can help those families facing particular difficulties, so every child can grow up in a safe and secure home.”

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My initial reaction upon hearing this statement from the Governor General was, thank god that the issue of deprivation facing children in our country is finally ‘trickling up’  the coridors of The Establishment.

It’s not like we haven’t been banging on for the last few years about the problems confronting us with child poverty; increasing inequality; homelessness; unemployment, under-employment; the growing wage-gap with Australia; etc, etc; etc; etc…

Once upon a time, New Zealand was one of the most equal societies on this planet. And we took great pride in that fact.

But then, something happened. Something disastrous which we were aware of; initially viewed with alarm; and then, like the frog in the pot of water steadily heating up, we got used to it.

We got Rogernomics.

Later followed shortly thereafter by the nastier, “crack-cocaine” version referred to as “Ruthenasia”.

From there, despite all the rhetoric and promises of wealth “tricking down”, things got worse. Much worse.

Sir Jerry’s speech was duly reported in the Otago Daily Times on 1 January;

The release of Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills’ report into child poverty in December found a quarter of Kiwi children were under the standard 60 per cent income poverty line, of which, 10 per cent were in severe and persistent poverty.

The report also highlighted the links between the lack of affordable housing and the preventable diseases spread through overcrowding.

Sir Jerry said while the structure and dynamics of New Zealand families had changed, the desire of parents to raise their children in a caring, loving environment had not.

“I often hear people say that everyone should have a New Zealand childhood.

“The care we provide to our most vulnerable citizens – our children – is a barometer of the wellbeing of our families and our society.”

But not all families could cope with the “inevitable challenges” life threw at them, Sir Jerry said.

IBID

Perhaps families could have coped better had National – not “life” – not thrown these challenges at them;

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English confirms big ACC levy rise likely

Source

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Note how only a month after being elected into office, National was already spinning the public meme that Labour was to blame for the consequences of National’s impending ACC levy-rises? Such would be National’s modus operandi for the following years; everything blamed on the previous Labour government; accept no responsibility whatsoever.

If National wins a third term in office this year (unlikely), will they still attempt to use Labour as a scapegoat for their unsuccessful policies?

In the meantime, National continued their policy of raising government charges and taxes,

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Budget 2010 - Income tax slashed, GST to 15 pc

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English’s promise that income tax cuts would be “more than offset the rise in GST” ended up  hollow when more government charges were further raised;

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Tax hikes disguised as `reinvestment'

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Yet more indirect tax rises were forthcoming;

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Petrol prices creep higher

Source

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And cuts to funding for social services. Again, children were targetted;

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Hundreds march over early childhood cuts

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And hefty user-pays charges implemented and increased;

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Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

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With perhaps this, being the most odious and damaging of all to struggling low-income, poor families;

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Prescription fees increase

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Although NZMA chair, Paul Ockelford, asserted that prescription charge increases were “unlikely to be a barrier for most”, that statement appears to be the kind of arrogant, self-delusional nonsense that people out of touch with reality readily express amongst polite company, at well-laden dinner tables, of the tut-tutting affluent classes.

As writer, Herman Melville pointed out,

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.”

Reality away from the likes of  Mr Ockelford’s genteel circle  is much different, and grimmer;

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Pharmacies carry debt for prescriptions

Source

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From the above Herald story,

Nikki Turner, who works as a GP in Wellington as well as sitting on the Child Poverty Action Group, said any assumption that the $2 increase was a minor issue was not looking at the bigger picture.

“For a lot of people that’s fine, but for many people there are a lot of barriers to access to primary health care.”

New Zealanders on lower incomes, particularly those with large families or complex medical problems, would find the hike in prescription costs as another barrier.

“We know from the Ministry of Social Development’s own data on severe and significant hardship that many families don’t pick up prescriptions because of costs. If they’ve got a small amount of money left over, then prescriptions will go or they’ll delay picking them up,” she said.

Source

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And remember – National presided over two tax cuts in 2009 and 2010. Cuts which benefitted the highest income earners in the country.

It is abundantly clear that those tax cuts were paid for by massive borrowings; state asset (partial-)sales; raising GST; cuts to funding for  state services; and raising user-pays charges for other State services (often for the most spurious reasons).

In simple, easy-to-understand-terms, low and middle income earners (but especially those on low and fixed incomes) ended up paying for tax cuts for the rich,

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Tax cuts - High earners set to benefit most

Source

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This is what National does.

In the meantime, unemployment is still at 7.1% and – according to the Children’s Commissioner, in his first Child Poverty Monitor – child poverty has dramatically worsened,

The 2013 Monitor shows that one in four Kiwi kids are growing up in income poverty and one in six are going without the basic essentials like fresh fruit and vegetables, a warm house, decent shoes and visits to the doctor. Ten percent of children are at the hardest end of poverty and three out of five kids living in poverty will live this way for much of their childhood.

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Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills says the project is about giving New Zealanders the full picture on child poverty rates and to get Kiwis talking about it.

“265,000 New Zealand children are living in poverty. Is this what we want for our kids?

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The Child Poverty Monitor is funded by the J R McKenzie Trust, an organisation with a long history of involvement in important social issues. The Trust’s Executive Director Iain Hines says they initiated this project because they saw an opportunity to make a difference for children missing out.

“We are concerned that the rate of child poverty in 2013 is twice that of the 1980s. We think this is unacceptable. If New Zealand’s road toll was twice that of the 80s there would be outrage and immediate action taken to reduce it. We need the same momentum and action on child poverty.

It is mind-boggling that we have arrived at a state of affairs where child poverty is increasing each year – and successive governments seem unable/unwilling to tackle it.

To our shame, governments seem more interested in throwing money at multi-national corporations and yacht races rather than the nation’s children – our future.

National, in particular stands guilty of inaction.

This was clearly highlighted when it was revealed that the Children Commissioner’s report was funded by a private organisation, the J R McKenzie TrustKey’s government refused point-blank to fund the investigation and subsequent report. Instead, the cost – $500,000 – was paid by the Trust.

By contrast, National found it easier to hand out corporate welfare such as $30 million to the Rio Tinto private aluminium smelter. Or millions to the Rugby World Cup tournament. Even Southern China Airlines got a $4 million tax-paid hand-out, courtesy, National.

One thing is for certain – Dr Russell Wills should not be expecting to be re-appointed Children’s Commissioner when his term is up. Not if the Nats are still in office by then.

Just to remind the reader, in his speech, Sir Jerry said,

“But not all families could cope with the “inevitable challenges” life threw at them.”

Source

Unsurprisingly, I take great exception to Sir Jerry’s comments. It is not “life” that is throwing “challenges” at New Zealand’s families: it is successive government policies and inaction. And nor are they “inevitable”. The sun rising every day is inevitable – government policies are not.

Polices such as these have been carefully planned for years prior to National winning the 2008 election and  have been methodically and unscrupulously executed with deliberate  intent to further an agenda of gradual “transformation” to a user-pays, low-tax, minimal-State economy.

It is shameful and sickening that Sir Jerry now laments that  “not all families could cope”. Once again, those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap are blamed for their precarious position. Unfortunately Sir Jerry, not all of us can live at the Governor-General’s residence at tax-payers’ expense.

Some families, however, can cope better than others,

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The NBR Rich List 2013 - The Rich Continue to Get Richer

Source

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Perhaps equally galling is that even while our social problems worsen and poverty increases, people like John Key and Bill English continue to insist that things will, eventually, get better.

John Key in January 2008,

“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.

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National knows New Zealand has a great future if we embrace good ideas and put them into action. And my sense is that in 2008, New Zealand is ready for those new ideas – ready for a fresh start.

At this election, the National Party has the chance to harness the growing mood for change and march New Zealand towards a better tomorrow.

We know this isn’t as good as it gets.  We know Kiwis deserve better than they are getting.  We are focused on the issues that matter and we have the ideas and the ability to bring this country forward. 

National is ambitious for New Zealand and we want New Zealanders to be ambitious for themselves. “

Five years later, John Key, in December 2013,

“I am passionate about the future of New Zealand, and I’m in politics to make a difference for the better of our society.

By 2038, young people of today will be our leaders – whether it be in politics, business, academia, education, sport or arts.

They will guide the values, principles and direction of the country in years ahead.

One thing I’m sure of is while we will still be a young country, we will be a more confident multicultural country than we are now, a country that was built on a bicultural foundation. And today’s young people will help guide that future.

From the calibre and talent I see in our youth today, there is cause for real optimism about the years ahead.”

According to Key and other right-wing politicians, we just have to keep persevering with their policies.  So that, sometime in the future, things will “get better”.

Even as they get worse.

Getting worse since 1984…

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Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 January 2014.

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References

John Key:  A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Otago Daily Times: English confirms big ACC levy rise likely

Scoop media: Government delivers April 1 [2009] tax cuts, SME changes

NZ Herald: Tax cuts: High earners set to benefit most

Dominion Post: Petrol prices creep higher

NZ Herald: Budget 2010: Income tax slashed, GST to 15 pc

Dominion Post: Tax hikes disguised as `reinvestment’

Sunday News: Hundreds march over early childhood cuts

NZ Herald: Govt borrowing $380m a week

Scoop media: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights – Work-Unemployment

NZ Herald: Prescription fees increase

Radio NZ: Pharmacies carry debt for prescriptions

Otago Daily Times: Governor-General urges Kiwis to care for children

Radio NZ: Challenge to help vulnerable families

Fairfax media: Govt pays $30 million to Tiwai Pt

Scoop media: NZ’s first monitor of child poverty released

Scoop media: Wellington philanthropic trust helping with survey of child poverty

Scoop media/NBR: The NBR Rich List 2013: The Rich Continue to Get Richer

NZ Herald/John Key: Kids of today offer bright future for NZ

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Additional

Facebook: Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

Facebook: Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)

Scoop media: Inequality keeps rising, says UC social research expert

Previous related blogpost

A Blighted Future – the price of an apple

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Journalists encouraging irresponsible government policy?

6 January 2014 1 comment

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John Armstrong - Cutting tax tempting for National

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Sorry, John, but precisely WHO is talking about tax cuts?

Because so far, all I’m hearing is a couple of journos putting the question to Dear Leader and his faithful little side-kick, Lassie Bill English. No one else is seriously contemplating cutting taxes – not when New Zealand’s sovereign debt is now $60 billion as at 9 November this year – and  increasing by $27 million every day since Key’s hopelessly  incompetent government came to power in 2008.

According to Hamish Rutherford, writing for Fairfax Media, this equates to $13,000 for every man, woman, and child in New Zealand – and expected to increase by another $10 billion by 2017.

We need to address this problem – not fuel it by increasing consumption of imported goods, thereby worsening our balance of payments.

For god sakes, stop encouraging National to engage in any further irresponsible slashing of revenue.  National’s two previous tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 did nothing to  help stem the growth in our sovereign debt. Not when revenue fell by up to $4 billion after those tax cuts.

We have other priorities.

For example, why is the Wellington City Mission short of $2 million to carry out it’s valuable work to assist the poorest in our society? It is obscene that the Mission will have to consider reducing some services, as Chief executive Michelle Branney recently suggested.

Why are New Zealand’s poorest families unable to afford basic  medicines since this government-for-the-rich increased prescription charges in January 2013? When National cut taxes, it attempted to make up for the revenue shortfall by raising GST (despite promising in 2008 not to) and increasing government charges such as for prescriptions, Court fees, etc.

Why are New Zealanders needlessly suffering from rare diseases because PHARMAC cannot afford life-giving medication?

Why are poverty-related diseases making a come-back with such a vengeance?

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills…

… report is expected to reveal a 12 per cent rise from 2007 to 2011 in hospital admissions for poverty-related illnesses such as acute bronchiolitis, gastroenteritis, asthma, acute upper respiratory infections and skin infections.

“Most New Zealanders will find the numbers of children affected by disease shocking,” Wills told the Herald on Sunday, “but for those of us working clinically with families in poverty it is not surprising.”

Wills also works as a paediatrician in Hawke’s Bay. He said hospital wards were now full of poor, sick children every month of the year – not just in winter. There was no longer a “summer lull” in diseases.

English found himself so cash-strapped after their tax cut profligacy that, by 2012, he was even reaching into the meagre pay-packets of newspaper delivery boys and girls to grab extra tax revenue.

Instead of frittering away taxes, we need to be looking at the real problems confronting us;

  • Address child poverty problems

When children go to school hungry because families cannot afford sufficient food after paying high rents, electricity bills, etc. then there is something seriously wrong with our country.

Especially when we are now seeing children eating out of rubbish bins because there is no food at home for them. I refuse to believe that most New Zealanders want this kind of society for their children.

This is not the New Zealand I grew up in.

The next Prime Minister must make this a #1 priority, and begin with taking on the role of Minister for Children and implementing a comprehensive Food In Schools programme (not the shonkey half-measures undertaken by National earlier this year).

Next on the agenda; returning welfare payments to pre-1991-slash levels (inflation indexed); reduce prescription prices for medicine;  and implement a massive job creation programme.

  • Pay down debt

From 2000 to 2008, Clark’s administration not only paid down debt, but also posted Budget surpluses,

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Government Debt

New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

Source

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Government Budgets

New Zealand Government Budget

Source

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To be fair, Labour’s Finance Minister, Michael Cullen did not have the Global Financial Crisis to contend with. But by exercising fiscal prudence -  instead of  tax-cut lolly-scrambles demanded by the then-National opposition – he left the country in a fit state to weather the on-coming financial storm that was about to envelope the planet.

By the time National came to power in 2008, the global financial crisis was well and truly upon us, with the collapse of Lehman Bros on 15 September 2008. The GFC had started earlier, and signs were apparent to all but the most intransigent optimist that dark storm clouds were on the horizon.

As unemployment rose and economic activity slowed, National persevered stubbornly with it’s tax-cut programme – a move that would further indebt this country and put our government’s books back into the red again. At one stage, National was  borrowing $380 million  a week to make up for the shortfall.

This despite the fact that it was common knowledge that we were facing a dire crisis, as Tracy Watkin and Vernon Small reported on 23 April 2009,

The recession was expected to blow a $50b hole in the economy during the next three years, plunging the Government further into the red as costs climb and tax revenues fall.

“That’s $50 billion we will not recover as a nation, and $50 billion that cannot be taxed by the Government,” Mr English told a business audience in Auckland.

And yet, despite his own candid admission, English went ahead with tax cuts that we could ill afford, and had to make up with massive borrowings; cuts to government services; increased user-pays; mass sackings of state sector worker, and eventual partial asset sales. Even welfare was targetted for “reforms” (read; cost cutting) to claw back government spending.

Little wonder that by September 2011, credit rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poors had downgraded us.

  • Invest in upskilling the unemployed

Why are we importing tradespeople from overseas when we have 7.1% (153,210) unemployment in this country?

National’s response to the skills shortage was this ideological fob-off from Bill English, in June 2011,

In the first place, it is the responsibility of the companies that expect to rebuild Christchurch to ensure that they have the skills.

And to ensure that everyone understood that National was maintaining it’s long-held tradition of shirking responsibility, he added,

Of course it will be tight, because they are competing with very, very large salaries, particularly those in Western Australia where something like $250 billion worth of capital projects are in the pipeline.”

IBID

That’s the problem with a government that places it’s faith in a free market solution to everything (except corporate welfare) – nothing happens.

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to offer free skills training to every unemployed person in New Zealand, along with subsidised accomodation in Christchurch for workers moving from other towns and cities to take up work offers?

There would have been a cost, to be certain. But that would have been off-set by (a) reduced welfare payments; (b) upskilled workers who would continue to use their new training for subsequent building projects; (c) more taxes paid by more employed workers;  and (d) a flow-on effect to other businesses as income-earning workers spent their wages.

The $4 billion frittered away in tax cuts would have made a considerable dent in our unemployment and given a much needed boost to our economy. And by providing work to the unemployed, the government would have saved millions in welfare.

But by sitting on it’s hands and doing nothing, National has maintained the status quo; 160,000 unemployed wasting their time, and requiring more of our taxes to be paid for the dole.

Is this crazy or what?

Hopefully an incoming Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?)  will have more sensible policies than what we’ve seen thus far from National. (Which won’t be hard to achieve.)

And other areas which desperately require State intervention,

  • A fairer taxation system, including reducing (or even eliminating) GST; introducing a comprehensive Capital Gains Tax;  looking at a Financial Transactions Tax (or “Robin Hood” tax, as Mana refers to it); making the first $20,000 tax free; and increasing tax for the top 1%.
  • A sensible pricing system for electricity especially for low/fixed-income earners.
  • Increase funding for early childhood education.
  • More state housing, so our fellow New Zealanders have a decent roof  over their heads.
  • Invest in public transport, especially in Auckland, before the city grinds to a stop.

Those are the things we need to look at. Not cutting taxes for the well off (which is usually what the Nats end up doing).

These should be the priorities of a sensible government. Anything, everything,  else is grossly irresponsible.

Otherwise, what the hell are we leaving our children?

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debt-mountain-cartoon.

May I have some food, a home, parents

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Postscript

Armstrong’s article on tax cuts features a large image of a smiling David Cunliffe. Note; Cunliffe. Not English, nor John Key.

Is there a subtle sub-text being conveyed here that I’m missing? Perhaps I’m getting the wrong ‘message’ from Armstrong’s piece, especially when he finishes with this intriguing comment,

Overall, English will not want to tie himself to future tax cuts without more solid evidence they can be sustained.”

My… that almost sounds like a veiled warning, doesn’t it?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 December 2013.

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References

Bill English: Dr Cullen maintains tradition of tax-cut denial

Wikipedia: Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers

NZ Herald: Govt borrowing $380m a week

Fairfax media: $50b hole in economy

TV3 News: Double credit downgrade a double blow for NZ economy

Fairfax media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

The Press: Irish rush for quake jobs

NBR: Chch rebuild companies will have to find skilled workers – English

TV1 News: Rise in prescription charges ‘not fair’ – Labour

NZ Herald: Tax cuts: High earners set to benefit most

NZ Herald: Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour

Fairfax media: $4b in tax cuts coming

Dominion Post: Bennett expects welfare reform to save $1.6b

Fairfax media: Public debt climbs by $27m a day

Radio NZ: Pharmacies ‘carry cost’ of increases

NZ Herald: Child poverty ills rising

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Fairfax media: Mum Not Prepared To Wait And Die

Radio NZ: PM defends record of helping poor families

Radio NZ: 5th year in deficit at City Mission

Radio NZ: Funding declined for housing project

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Cutting tax tempting for National

The Atlantic: Tax Cuts Don’t Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-Year Study Finds

Sources

Trading Economics:  New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

Trading Economics: New Zealand Government Budget

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2013 quarter (6 Nov 2013)

Roy Morgan: New Zealand real unemployment down 0.3% to 8.5% and a further 8.6% (down 1%) of workforce are under-employed (5 Dec 2013)

Statistics NZ: 2006 Census

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census

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The REAL reason for the drop in welfare numbers

22 December 2013 22 comments

There is an underlying reason for this headline,

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Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed - 16.7.2013

Source

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In the above July 2013 article, Social welfare Minister, Paula Bennett proudly asserted,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said today there are now 309,782 people on a benefit compared with 320,041 last year.

[...]

That’s a reduction of more than 10,000 on welfare over the past 12 months and I am particularly pleased that 5600 of them are sole parents.”

IBID

Nowhere in the article does it state where those 10,000 welfare beneficiaries ended up.

Was it in paid work?

Did they go back into full-time education or other courses?

Or were they simply dumped from WINZ’s books?  Like the recipient of these letters that were recently provided to me? (We will call him/her “Citizen X” – all identifying details have been redacted to respect his/her privacy and protect him/her from possible reprisals by Bennett, her office, or MSD official. Same for the WINZ officials whose names appear on the letters.)

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WINZ letter dec 2013 (1)WINZ letter dec 2013 (2)

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A few days later, “Citizen X” received this letter. Adding insult to injury, they were demanding that an outstanding amount (an amount between $200 to $300) be repaid;

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WINZ letter dec 2013 (3)

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This was despite that “Citizen X” had had her/his unemployment benefit cancelled – not because s/he had found paid employment (s/he hadn’t) – but because s/he had fallen foul of National’s harsh new welfare laws.

In part, the MSD website states,

On Jobseeker Support for more than 12 months

If you still require Jobseeker Support after 52 weeks you’ll have to re-apply for your benefit. We’ll let you know when you have to re-apply and tell you what you need to do.

When you re-apply, you’ll also need to complete a Comprehensive Work Assessment. This will identify what steps you’ve taken to find work and what help you might need from us to be more successful in getting a job.

Source

In effect, National has placed a one year time limit on all unemployment benefits. They haven’t advertised it as such – they refer to it as “re-applying”.

As Simon Collins reported in the NZ Herald back in January (2013),

The Council of Christian Social Services pointed yesterday to “a growing gap between those who receive a benefit and those in genuine need who are either losing or unable to obtain social welfare assistance”.

Unemployment increased in the two years to last September from 144,500 to 170,000, but those on unemployment benefit dropped by almost a quarter from 65,281 to 50,390.

Sole parents on the domestic purposes benefit have also dropped in the past year. Rules for both benefits were tightened in September 2010, when unemployment beneficiaries had their benefits cancelled if they failed to reapply after a year.

Sole parents were required to look for part-time work when their youngest child turned 6, an age reduced to 5 last October.

Christian Social Services executive officer Trevor McGlinchey said his members were reporting increases in demand for their services as people found benefits harder to get.

[...]

Ironically, the tighter welfare rules may also partly explain the rise in unemployment, as beneficiaries are counted as unemployed only if they are actively looking for work. Employment slipped only slightly from 63.6 per cent to 63.2 per cent of adults in the two years to last September, but the “jobless” rose from 7.1 per cent to 8.4 per cent because those not looking for work fell from 29.3 per cent to a record low of 28.4 per cent.

Source

What this  means is that eventually a significant number of people simply give up re-applying for the minimal amount that the dole pays ($206.21 per week).

Constant, repetitive, incessant demands for information and a less than helpful attitude created by MSD policy create an atmosphere of naked hostility.

The complexity of applying, with the multitude of 73 pages of WINZ  forms and other bits of paper, may also prove to be a dis-incentive for many – especially those for whom English, reading ability, and general low education is a real problem.

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73 pages of WINZ forms

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The massive number of WINZ forms and other documents handed out to applicants has been covered in this previous blogpost; WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers

These are some of the bureacratic barriers which National and MSD have created for the most vulnerable and dispossessed people in our country.

All done to “massage” beneficiary statistics.

As Bennett said, back in July,

That’s a reduction of more than 10,000 on welfare over the past 12 months and I am particularly pleased that 5600 of them are sole parents.”

No doubt, National will use this “success” at the next election and a sizeable portion of the voting population will be sufficiently uninformed and  gullible enough to accept this without question.

It will be up to those who oppose National and it’s virulent brand of right-wing politics to spread the truth; under this party, poverty and inequality will continue to worsen.

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Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Source

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Because even the Prime Minister has had to reluctantly concede the enormity of what we are facing,

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Key admits underclass still growing

Source

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Pushing people off welfare, regardless of whether or not they have jobs to go to, just to massage welfare statistics, is a vile obscenity.

This will not “lift people out of poverty”, as Key has promised.

It is increasing poverty.

How long will it be before this growing poverty, sense of hopelessness, and constant attacks by National and MSD results in the inevitable outbreak of violent civil disturbance? Desperate people tend not to care – especially for the empty promises of well-fed, well-housed, comfortable politicians.

Is this really what New Zealanders want for their country?

The clock is ticking…

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clock.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 December 2013.

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Sources

NZ Herald: Welfare rules force people to struggle on without benefits

Fairfax media:  Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

References

Work and Income:  Jobseeker Support

Additional

Gordon Campbell: Ten Myths About Welfare -The politics behind the government’s welfare reform process

Previous related blogposts

<p>. Source . National today announced that ” href=”http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/random-thoughts-on-random-things-4/?relatedposts_to=8882&relatedposts_order=1″ rel=”nofollow”>How Paula Bennett and National are wasting our taxdollars

Random Thoughts on Random Things #4…

OIA Request points to beneficiary beat-up by Minister Chester Borrows

The REAL level of unemployment

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A short, open letter to the new leader of the Labour Party…

5 September 2013 3 comments

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poverty-pass-it-on

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Kia ora and g’day…

Firstly, congratulations on winning the leadership of the New Zealand Labour Party. With the “primaries” out of the way, it’s now time to knuckle down and work together to throw out this self-serving, incompetent government. A Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?) coalition is a government-in-waiting and there is much work to be done to rebuild our society.

Our first concern should be child poverty. This is a pernicious problem (I refuse point-blank to call it an “issue”) which creates a toxicity that seeps through every aspect of our society and economy. Even National-voting comfortable middle class aspirationists cannot escape the consequences that child poverty creates in our country.

New Zealand once had a great record of being at the top of the OECD for child welfare. (We’re still near the top of the OECD PISA ratings in education, despite what supporters of ACT’s misguided Charter Schools policy might say.)

Some estimates suggest around quarter of a million children living in poverty.

This is unacceptable and it beggars belief that some New Zealanders think it is not their problem. Well, I’ve news for those naive people; it is our problem. Ignoring it will not make it go away. One way or another, we all pay for this ongoing cancer in our midst.

Our current Prime Minister, John “What-me-worry?” Key, is Minister for Tourism. He diligently carries out his duties to promote tourism by lounging on the warm, sunny beaches near his holiday home on Hawaii’s island of Maui. Quite how this benefits New Zealand tourism escapes me… but I’m no expert on this matter.

An incoming Labour Prime Minister can do much better. (In fact, I can’t see how he couldn’t.)

It is my belief that the new Leader of the Labour Party, and incoming Prime Minister, should declare to the country the seriousness of child poverty.

This can best be done by creating a new role of Minister for Children.

It would send a clear signal to every New Zealander that this is our number one priority and that the obscenity of child poverty will no longer by tolerated by decent, fair-minded New Zealanders.

There is no need for a Ministry of Education or any similar bureaucratic body. My suggestion is for an ODESC-style agency comprising  of representatives from various ministries; departments; and NGOs  which would liaise and draft policies and agendas to attack child poverty.

Child poverty is a crisis in our once egalitarian country. There is simply no excuse for a society that considers itself fair and decent to permit this to fester.

As for those who bury their heads in the sand by playing the blame-game – suggesting that parents are at fault for having children when their social-economic circumstances are dire – should reflect on these points;

  1. Children do not choose which families they are born into.
  2. Parents circumstances change. Prior to the global financial crisis, we had low unemployment at around 3.4%. It is now approximately double that. Parents do not choose global financial melt-downs, nor the poverty it creates.
  3. The neo-liberal economic “reforms” of the 1980s and 1990s promised us a “trickling down” of jobs and increased prosperity. None of that has happened and instead wealth has trickled upward. It is now harder and more expensive to raise a family than it ever has been since 1984.

The next Prime Minister of New Zealand will not have the luxury of lying under a Hawaaian sun on a beach in Maui.

As Minister for Children, he will have his work cut out for him. This will be a real working Prime Minister.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 September 2013.

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A Tale of Two Prime Ministers…

What we once had…

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And what we have now…

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Meanwhile…

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Government told there’s no excuse for child poverty

3:23 PM Saturday Jul 20, 2013
Photo / Getty Images  

Photo / Getty Images

The government’s being told there’s no excuse for its failure to act on the high number of children living in poverty.

The Child Poverty Action Group says latest figures show one quarter of all New Zealand children are living below the poverty line.

Its convener, Associate Professor Mike O’Brien, says that hasn’t changed from a year ago.

He says that may not be surprising, as the government hasn’t done anything to make any difference.”We’ve seen enough material from a whole range of sources to know the extent of child poverty and I guess I would have expected there would have been really concerted effort from the government to respond to some of those reports and the data that we now have.”

Dr O’Brien says New Zealand’s high rate of child poverty damages the country’s international reputation.

Source: NZ Herald – Government told there’s no excuse for child poverty

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As the next election looms, it is time to mobilise and fight. We can have a decent society again. And by god, I’ll be doing my bit.

 

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The wealthy pontificating to the poor…

30 June 2013 4 comments

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Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed. - Herman Melville, 1819-1891

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And with that comment in mind, our household watched, and cringed, and boiled with anger, as we watched The Vote on TV3 last Wednesday (19 June).

First of all was the  question that TV3 deemed we should consider and reply to;

Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting. Do you agree? Yes. No.”

What a loaded question!

Why not, “Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s low incomes?

Or, “Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s successive governments enacting neo-liberal policies?

Or – and I personally love this one -  “Our kids: The problem’s not poverty, it’s the middle classes who have grown  comfortable with their lot and have given up on the notion of an egalitarian society?

The problem with the alternative questions is that they involve complex ideas;  recent history; and looking at choices that Middle Class voters have made since 1989. In short, those questions involve thinking.

As the question stood on the night; “The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting” – there was no real thinking involved. It was all about how people  felt on trigger words such as  social welfare; solo-mums; parental responsibility; etc.

Once those trigger words began to percolate through the minds of aspirationist middle class and angry working-class viewers, the results were wholly predictable; 63% voted ‘Yes’. (And the 36% who voted ‘No’ correlates roughly with the percentage of voters who supported Labour and the Greens at the 2011 general election  – 38.54%).

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The Vote 63 - 37

Source: The Vote

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If we were ever truly a caring, sharing, egalitarian society, it’s hard to see  how.

The very nature of the question invited an emotive, rather than an considered, intelligent, response.  It practically demanded plain old repetitive bigotry rather than insight, and the three panellists, Christine Rankin, Bob McCoskie, and Hannah Tamaki – all social conservatives – were more then happy to oblige.

Platitudes; cliches,  mis-information,  and smug instructions on how to feed a family on $20 a week… all came from the well-fed; well-clothed; expensively groomed; healthy; and high-income earning likes of Tamaki, McCoskrie, and Rankin.

It fed perfectly into every stereotype that New Zealanders have seen and heard since Once Were Warriors blew in our faces on our big screens in 1994.

And right on cue, the prejudiced; the mis-informed; and the plain spiteful came out and vented their bile on The Vote’s Facebook page. I was going to provide a  few examples – but why bother? We’ve seen that kind of bigotted response already.

So how accurate was the voting response? There were claims that people could send in multiple votes from the same ‘platform’ (cellphone number, IP number, Twitter account).  If so, the result would be rendered meaningless. One could imagine 3,000 Destiny Church members texting repeated ‘Yes’ votes with unholy speed.

Ten text messages, on average, from each member would equate to 30,000 “votes”. And with texting fees kindly waived by telcos, people could text to their hearts’ content. Free of charge. Ad nauseum.

(By contrast, our household studiously played the game fairly; we each voted once only, by text.)

However an unattributed statement from TV3′s ‘The Vote‘,  on Bryan Bruce’s Facebook page, Inside Child Poverty, stated categorically that “you can only vote once on each platform“.

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The Vote - only voting once

Acknowledgement: Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

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If that is true (and it is by no means a given), then that raises equally disturbing questions about the nature of our society.

If the 63% “Yes” voters are reflective of New Zealanders then that says something about our much vaunted reputation of being a fair-minded, compassionate, egalitarian society.

Perhaps it was never so. Perhaps only a third of us can lay claim to being fair minded and tolerant – whilst the remainder two thirds simply make use of the generosity of their more liberal fellow-Kiwis?

I would like to think that is not true. I would like to think that is not true.I desperately want to believe it is not true.

Instead, perhaps the real emotion at play by those Two Thirds is not hatred of the poor – but fear of becoming like them. Add to that mix an unwillingness by many to even accept that poverty exists – hence endlessly repetitive  cliches such as “Real poverty only exists in Africa” or “They spend all their money on Sky, pokies, booze, and cigarettes”.

It’s all a defense mechanism, of course. By denying a problem, you don’t have to do anything about it. Nor feel guilty at not doing anything about it.

My belief is that the poor are being blamed not simply because they are poor – but because they have not succeeded under neo-liberalism. They are poor despite the promises neo-liberal “Bright New Future” . The architects and builders of this Neo-liberal Nirvana don’t like being shown that their new paradigm is severely flawed not working as it should.

That is why there is so much anger being directed at the poor. They are the proof that the School of Chicago theory of economics – that the Market  shall provide – is a fraud.

Neo-liberalism’s acolytes, the  politically powerful; the wealthy; the aspirationist Middle Classes; the technocrats – all  stand accused of failure  by the poorest; most powerless; most vulnerable people in our society. The mere presence of the poor and dispossed points an accusatory finger at the neo-liberal establishment and those in society who support it.

And doesn’t that just piss them off?

So come 2014 (if not earlier) let’s piss Neo-liberal’s Acolytes off a little further. It’s time for a center-left wing government to take office. Because after my shame, anger, and frustration wore of, I was filled with even more determination to play my part in changing our society.

We need to re-set our nation’s moral, social, and economic compass.

And watching The Vote was just the determination I (and our household) needed. So thank you Ms Tamaki, Ms Rankin, and Mr McCoskrie – I feel more motivated than ever to make New Zealand a decent society again.

We will not surrender.

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We need to give the homeless and other disenfranchised a voice. Homelessness is not a choice, a decision, a lack of effort.

When I first came to New Zealand there were hardly any homeless people but now there are heaps, so where have we gone wrong?” – Simon Buckingham, Auckland Lawyer and one-time homeless person

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Meanwhile, in another Universe far, far away…

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£13tn hoard hidden from taxman by global elite

Acknowledgement: The Guardian – £13tn hoard hidden from taxman by global elite

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 June 2013.

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Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: 126 Meals for $20 – show us how?

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A conversation that never happened…

22 June 2013 3 comments

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There are, unfortunately, people who actually believe this sort of thing…

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louisa Johannes Myburgh

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Let’s put it to the test, shall we?

*ring, ring.

ring, ring.

ring, ring.

ring-*

 

Hullo, welcome to  Meridian Electricity. How may I help you?”

“Hi!   I have a $250 power bill and I’ve run out of money. Can you flag it? I have lots of love in our household and we are very morally upstanding people.”

“That’s no problem. I’ve deleted your bill. Have a nice day.”

“Thank you. God bless.

See? That’s how you deal with poverty.

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Categories: Social Issues Tags:

The Vote, Electricity, and Sex! (That’ll grab your attention!)

18 June 2013 6 comments

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TV3 The Vote  18 June

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Question: How would it feel to be pregnant?

Answer: No idea. I’m not a woman.

Question: How would it feel to be a billionaire?

Answer: No idea. I’ve never had that kind of wealth.

Question: How would it feel to be intellectually handicapped through foetal alcohol syndrome.

Answer: No idea. I’m not intellectually handicapped, nor affected by foetal alcohol syndrome.

Question: How would it feel to be in a warzone, as a combatant, killing people?

Answer: No idea. I’ve never been in a warzone, as a combatant, killing people.

Yet, TV3 is asking viewers – many of whom are reasonably well-off, comfortable, secure, well-fed, warm,  middle class families – to understand the effects that long-term, ingrained poverty has on families?

The question tomorrow (19 June) will be;

Our kids – The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting. Do you agree?

It a ludicrous question, of course.  Those who’ve never experienced poverty have little idea what it’s really like.

What is even more stomach-turning is that the debating team that supports the Question – that The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting – are these following characters,

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The Vote - Bob McCoskrie

Bob McCoskrie

Bob McCoskrie has a background in teaching and accounting, having graduated from Auckland University in 1986 with a Masters of Commerce with Honours, and a Diploma in Teaching from the Auckland College of Education. He lectured in accounting, taxation, and commercial law at Manukau Polytechnic for four years, before becoming Director of Youth for Christ (YFC) South Auckland in 1990. In 1994, he set up the Papatoetoe Adolescent Christian Trust (PACT) working with at-risk youth and their families in schools and the South Auckland community. In 1996 he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. In 2002, he joined the Rhema Broadcasting Group as Breakfast / Talkback Host on their nationwide programme, and Television presenter on their Current Affairs show “NZone Focus”.In 2006 he left RBG to establish the advocacy and research organization Family First (NZ) and is its National Director. Bob is married to Tina, and they have three children.

The Vote - Hannah Tamaki

Hannah Tamaki

Hannah is the co-founder of Destiny Churches New Zealand with her husband, Bishop Brian Tamaki. The church movement possesses one of the largest Maori memberships in the country. In addition to being a grandmother of 10 adoring grandchildren, Hannah’s role involves senior level leadership as well as ground-floor mentoring and counselling with families requirement spiritual and practical input and guidance. Besides running a very successful and well attended women’s ministry, Hannah founded Healing Hands Trust which assists women and their whanau with acute medical conditions requiring urgent surgery, and she has played a lead role in establishing a school and early childhood centre. Hannah’s unwavering passion for people is evident in everything she puts her hands to.

The Vote - Christine Rankin

Christine Rankin

Christine Rankin is a former Families Commissioner, CEO of the ‘For Sake of Our Children Trust’ and has recently taken up the position of CEO of the Conservative Party. Christine was on a Domestic Purposes Benefit and had no University Degree before taking on a temporary job with the Department of Social Welfare in 1978. By 1998 she had worked her way to the top, becoming the youngest director in the country. She was later appointed General Manager and then Chief Executive of Work and Income New Zealand, responsible for around 5500 staff. Christine is committed to the well-being of children and is renowned as a speaker on leadership, culture change and political/social issues, as well as sharing her own story of making it against the odds.

Acknowledegment: TV3 – The Vote

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Why are three middle class, affluent, well-resourced, high-income earning individuals pontificating about the effects of poverty on this country’s poorest people? What the hell would they know?

It’s like having men debating the effects of pregnancy and/or abortion on women’s bodies and minds.

It’s like having white anglo-saxons denying the existance of racism.

And really, none of those three are in any position to moralise.

One is an advocate of beating children and is openly homophobic.

Another has grown bloated-rich on the backs of her poor (often Maori) congregation.

And the last – well, I’ll keep my knowledge of the “Ear-ringed One’s” past proclivities to myself.

The question is utterly meaningless in the wider context, and the “Yes/No” nature denies the complexities of the problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”).

For what it’s worth (admittedlynot much), we’ll be voting a firm,

‘No’

Text 3665.

Or, vote on-line.

If only to show that there is more to this than playing the ‘blame-game’.

As for Rankin, Tamaki, and McCoskie – I don’t expect much from them except tediously-repeated prejudice, rhetoric, and stereotyping.

Prove me wrong, you three.

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Labour promises to cut power prices

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NBR - Power authority head attacks Greens-Labour electricity plan

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Industry critics shocked by chairman's report

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Electricity Authority Chairman, Brent Layton, was a National Party appointment, in October 2010.

Hardly surprising then, that the Nats would prompt him to try to condemn Labour-Greens “NZ Power” single buyer desk.

Unfortunately, Layton cannot ignore the fact the electricity prices have soared since Max Bradford’s “reforms” – by over 75% – and he has done nothing to alleviate price rises.

Ministry of Economic Development (MED) statistics show average power prices rose from 13.9 cents per kilowatt-hour on average in May 2001 to 26 cents in May 2011.

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Power prices double over decade

Low and middle-income families have been the ones paying higher and higher prices – whilst industry and commercial users have had cheaper tariffs. The reality is that, we, the public, have been subsidising business. (On top of which,  electricity costs for business are tax-deductible – unlike for residential users.)

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MED domestic business electricity prices

Acknowledgement: Ministry of Economic Development (MED) – Prices

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The MED graph above is fairly crystal clear.

So much for Layton’s scare-mongering  bullshit – some of which was published on the right-wing publication, the NBR (National Business Review).

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electricity - Electricity Authority - NZ Power - rising power prices

Brent Layton – scare-mongering for his National mates?

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Grey Power is 100% when they state;

“We can argue about the reports and validity of the data but everyone knows electricity prices have continued to rise at an alarming rate over the last decade, and the profits of the electricity sector have been far in excess of what is reasonable and in some cases quite obscene.”

As such Layton, as a government mouth-piece and cadre for the “market”, is part of the problem.

This consumer can hardly wait for NZ Power to come online. It can be funded by getting rid of the useless Electricity Authority – and sacking Layton.

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Sex report slams Kiwi lessons

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Sex report slams Kiwi lessons

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On the issue of  Bob McCroskie and his ultra-conservative, right-wing group, Family First, they have released a report called “R18: Sexuality Education in New Zealand – A Critical Review”.

The report criticises sex education in New Zealand, with the author, United States psychiatrist Dr Miriam Grossman, stating,

A premise of modern sex education is that young people have the right to make their own decisions about sexual activity, and no judging is allowed. Risky behaviours are normalised and even celebrated. Children and adolescents are introduced to sexual activities their parents would prefer they not even know about, let alone practice. It’s reasonable to ask: is the ‘comprehensive sexuality education’ foisted on young people all over the world about sexual health, or sexual licence?

While most of these resources claim to promote sexual health, we find, overall, little encouragement of restraint or self-discipline. Instead, students are informed that at any age, sexual freedom is a ‘right.

The information is not accurate, comprehensive, or up-to-date. Sex is seen as risky only when it’s ‘unprotected’. The efficacy of condoms is overstated, in some cases vastly so. The quantitative data about their use is absent. The vulnerability of the immature cervix and the hazards of anal intercourse are omitted. Chlamydia is incorrectly described as ‘easily cured’. Young people are led to believe that sex is easily divorced from emotional attachment. Worst of all, critical life and death information is distorted or ignored.

Students are left misinformed, and with a false sense of security. Surely this is the last thing parents want.

Acknowledgement: Scoop – Sex Ed Preaches Sexual Licence, Not Sexual Health

The Scoop press release issued by Family First describes Dr Miriam Grossman thusly,

“Miriam Grossman MD is known internationally for her courage in breaking ranks and calling foul on the sexuality education industry. She has lectured at the British House of Lords and the United Nations. Dr Grossman is board certified in psychiatry and in the sub-specialty of child and adolescent psychiatry. Dr Grossman visited New Zealand last year.”

Acknowledgement: IBID

So who is Dr Miriam Grossman? And why has she provided an anti-sex education report for the ultra-conservative Family First?

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Dr Miriam Grossman - anti-sex education, ultra-conservative

Dr Miriam Grossman – anti-sex education, ultra-conservative

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Because Dr Miriam Grossman herself is an  anti-sex education, ultra-conservative.

Without re-writing what has already been written about this person, instead I will quote from GayNZ. Their comments mirror mine precisely,

For a change, Grossman isn’t a fundamentalist Protestant or conservative Catholic- although she is a religious social conservative, namely an Orthodox Jew. It should be noted that not all Orthodox Jews subscribe to co-belligerency with the Christian Right, wary of the troubled fundamentalist and Catholic pasts insofar as anti-Semitism is concerned. However, Grosssman doesn’t fall into that category- she is a regular guest of US Christian Right organisations like Focus on the Family and participates within the World Congress of Families, a US Christian Right-centred international networking annual conference, to be held in Madrid in May 2012 this year.

And as one might guess, the “World Congress of Families” is fixated on a narrow range of religious social conservative obsessions- opposition to feminism, opposition to LGBT legislative reform, opposition to abortion rights, opposition to comprehensive sex education and nothing that really affects real families all that much. According to the March 2012, our own beloved Family First isn’t a ‘partner’ like notorious antigay organisations Americans for “Truth” about Homosexuality, Focus on the Family and Family Research Council (US), Christian Concern (UK), Endeavour Forum and the Australian Family Association (Australia), REAL Women (Canada), Human Life International and Tradition Family and Property.

Grossman’s forte is attacking comprehensive sexuality organisation as produced by mainstream evidence-based organisations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation and our own Family Planning Association. This involves indoctrinating young women with propaganda about STIs and psychological stresses involved with initiating and maintaining sexual relationships, while neglecting important correlates like self-esteem education and information about contraception. These ‘fear-based curricula’ don’t actually prevent teenagers from having sex, and they do lack information about how to protect oneself from HIV/AIDS and STI through condoms and other forms of contraception. Needless to say, Grossman toes the religious social conservative party line when it comes to homosexuality too- on the basis of extremely biased ‘evidence’ from the exgay NARTH organisation, she argues that sexual orientation can be easily modified. She herself is associated with the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute, a US antifeminist research organisation. People For the American Way has excellent articles on insight into their agenda on their website, which provide useful rebuttals of the ‘science’ involved.

It’s easy to speculate what sort of ‘research’ will be cited at this event. We are supposed to be blinded by the fact that Grossman has professional qualifications without asking whether her particular opinion is congruent with evidence-based research and practise from mainstream professional opinion and practise. Whenever one encounters religious social conservative professionals, one is met with badly designed ‘research’ methods and practise, selective citation or distortion of others research if it contradicts religious social conservative dogma and ‘cherry picking’ of selective data sets compared to a wider body of research that shows some inconvenient conclusions that refute their case. In two words, junk ‘science’

No wonder Family First invited her to their Forum. I would also hazard a guess that her involvement suggests that Family First may be becoming increasingly dependent on the US Christian Right and its Canadian, British and Australian satellites for its survival in terms of propaganda, tactics and strategy. I could only count four fundamentalist small business donors for the Forum this year- Business and Tax Advisors, FetchALamp, Pharmabrokers and Leaning Options. Obviously, the recession is biting deep into their pool of available donors, judging from the meagre nature of this list. Family First is also actively involved in propagandising for one of her books, of which there are two, published by conservative US imprints Regnery and Sentinel.

How convenient to be so forewarned.

Acknowledgement: GayNZ – Who is Miriam Grossman?

Dr Miriam Grossman, Family First, and Bob McCoskrie – all advocating that when it comes to sex education, ignorance is bliss.

And McCoskrie is appearing on Third Degree The Vote, tomorrow night, debating against the concept of poverty’s affect on children?

More ignorance is bliss no doubt.

Other blogs

Ideologically Impure: Dr Miriam Grossman: when you want some fear-mongering in your sex ed

Frogblog: Family First gets it wrong on sexuality education also

Herstory: Dr Miriam Grossman, lies, bent truths, and irresponsible medicine

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= fs =

Electricity Authority Chairman, Brent Layton, was a National Party appointment. Electricity Authority Chairman, Brent Layton, was a National Party appointment.Hardly surprising then, that the Nats would prompt him to try to condemn Labour-Greens “NZ Power” single buyer desk.Unfortunately, Layton cannot ignore the fact the electricity prices have soared since Max Bradford’s “reforms” – by over 75% – and he has done nothing to alleviate price rises. Low and middle-income families have been the ones paying higher and higher prices – whilst industry and commercial users have had cheaper tariffs. As such, we, the public, have been subsidising business.As such, Gre Power is 100% when they state; “”We can argue about the reports and validity of the data but everyone knows electricity prices have continued to rise at an alarming rate over the last decade, and the profits of the electricity sector have been far in excess of what is reasonable and in some cases quite obscene.”As such Layton, as a government mouth-piece , is part of the problem.This consumer can hardly wait for NZ Power to come online. It can be funded by getting rid of the useless Electricity Authority and sacking Layton.Hardly surprising then, that the Nats would prompt him to try to condemn Labour-Greens “NZ Power” single buyer desk.Unfortunately, Layton cannot ignore the fact the electricity prices have soared since Max Bradford’s “reforms” – by over 75% – and he has done nothing to alleviate price rises. Low and middle-income families have been the ones paying higher and higher prices – whilst industry and commercial users have had cheaper tariffs. As such, we, the public, have been subsidising business.As such, Gre Power is 100% when they state; “”We can argue about the reports and validity of the data but everyone knows electricity prices have continued to rise at an alarming rate over the last decade, and the profits of the electricity sector have been far in excess of what is reasonable and in some cases quite obscene.”As such Layton, as a government mouth-piece , is part of the problem.This consumer can hardly wait for NZ Power to come online. It can be funded by getting rid of the useless Electricity Authority and sacking Layton.

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

11 June 2013 3 comments

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Free Milk - Auckland School Children 1939c free milk 1937-1967 ATL

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1. We’ve had the ‘chat’

We should all know the facts and stats by now;

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)

The same UNICEF report rated our country  third for clean air and fourth for children’s education outcomes in reading, maths, science and literacy. I’m sure clean air and high achievements in readin’, writin’, ‘n ‘rithmetic, will mean a lot to young chldren going to school with empty bellies… (Note sarcasm.)

In 2011, Dennis McKinlay, executive director at Unicef New Zealand, said,

New Zealand currently spends US$14,600 ($17,500) per child whilst, in comparison, Scandinavian countries spend US$50,000 per child under six. Other countries, like the Netherlands, spend less but have better outcomes. The stark reality is that poor outcomes for children are costing New Zealand $6 billion per year in areas such as health, welfare services, crime and justice.

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Study: Quarter of NZ kids in poverty

McKinlay was 100% on the mark when he said spending  on children should not be considered as a social cost but as an economic investment for the future of the country.

We have lost our moral compass when we demand tax cuts ahead of good policies that benefit our children.

The situation is so dire for many families that their households are often empty of food. After rent, power, and other fixed costs are  taken out of their meagre incomes, there is simply not much left for discretionary spending on things  like food, medication, clothing, etc.

As a blogger, “Burnt out Teacher” (Amanda Kennedy),  recently wrote on The Daily Blog,

You have $440 dollars after tax from your minimum wage job. $290 of it goes on your rent. You have $150 left. You pay $198 towards your power bill. Your car needs registering at a cost of $290.97. You owe Watercare $58.20 for last month. You need at least $15 of petrol to get to the doctor and back (the doctor will cost another $20 per child) because your children have asthma and your house is damp and cold. Both kids need new shoes for winter. Your boyfriend just beat you up. You are crying. How much debt are you in, and what are your kids going to eat today?

Acknowledgement:  The Daily Blog – Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director

To those who care enough, I encourage you to read “Burnt out Teacher’s” full blogpost. It makes for sobering reading.

2. More ‘chat’?

On 7 May, Children’s Commissioner, Dr  Russell Wills, wrote an op-ed piece for the Dominion Post;

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Time for a chat on food in schools

Acknowledgement: The Dominion Post – Time for a chat on food in schools

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As Dr Wills said,

We need solutions that recognise the many complex causes of child hunger and poverty if we are to use the limited resources we have to make a real difference to children’s education and health outcomes.

Blaming parents is unhelpful and simplistic.

So far, so good.

However, in the next sentence from Dr Wills gave cause for concern,

I am not a fan of overseas models of fully state-funded school cafeterias. They tend to provide poor food, assume state responsibility for a parent’s role, create dependence, cost a lot of money that could be better spent elsewhere, take up school management time, and provide no role for parents, business or community organisations.

Dr Wills may or may not realise that by  issuing the statement that “fully state-funded school cafeterias… tend to provide poor food, assume state responsibility for a parent’s role, create dependence…” – he is perpetuating several unhealthy prejudices which the politically rightwing and conservative religious groups use to oppose food in schools for children.

Namely the extremist neo-conservative group, the so-called “Family First”, which also stated,

It also creates a dependence on a service which may not always be able to be provided…

[...]

It also creates a dependence on a service which may not always be able to be provided.

Acknowledgement: “Family First’: Food In Schools Will Feed The Problem

Hopefully it is a mere coincidence that Dr Wills’ comments seem to mirror the extremist views of “Family First”.

Where Dr Wills’ op-ed piece falls down is his proposals for how to provide food in schools. Dr Wills proposed that schools be responsible for growing their own food, and to operate in partnerships with businesses. He promoted philanthropy rather than state intervention.

I asked for feedback from the principals of  two low decile schools, and from Bryan Bruce, documentary-maker,  child poverty campaigner,  and producer of  the documentary, “Inside Child Poverty“, on Dr Wills’ proposals.

I first asked all three;  having read Dr Wills’ op-ed piece, “Time for a chat on food in schools”, what was their overall view on the points he had made?

Ruth O’Neill
Principal, Cannons Creek School

The points he makes are quite valid. I think he is right that we do need a different approach to the way cafeteria type models run overseas.  NZ general has its main meal in the evening – however in saying that these children often only eat what they are given at school and don’t eat much in the evening. To form a group to look into the best way to supply food is a good idea.

Mike Fackney
Principal, Taita Central School

 

Overall, his comments are generally valid and his suggested solutions have merit – but only if you regard the solutions as short-term solutions. The real solution to child poverty is for structural changes to NZ society and changed government policies, particularly ensuring a decent living income for all. With this approach, all families would be able to afford the food, afford the time to put into their kids (not working 2 jobs, or working early morning shifts, etc). Education for parents to help with budgeting, cooking, etc would also fill a gap. Without this approach, the proposed solutions rely on businesses, charities, and schools.

I then asked, what was their view on Dr Wills’ suggestions that,

I am not a fan of overseas models of fully state-funded school cafeterias. They tend to provide poor food, assume state responsibility for a parent’s role, create dependence, cost a lot of money that could be better spent elsewhere, take up school management time, and provide no role for parents, business or community organisations.

Ruth O’Neill
 

I think he is right.  We need to look for a nutritious alternative that does not take school time – we are there to provide education not food.  The food needs to be provided by an independent source that is reliable.

Mike Fackney
 

I worked in UK schools for 4 years from 1999-2002, and saw the ‘school dinners’ (lunches) programme in operation. I don’t know about the cost to the authorities, but I don’t think it took up much school management time. The food quality was variable, but this is easily changed with the right will, as showed by Jamie Oliver’s crusade to make school dinners healthy.

Bryan Bruce
Documentary Producer

You can find good and bad examples of state funded cafeterias. So we know how bad it could be – let’s regulate the process from the start and model ourselves on the best ones – like the one I visited in Sweden . It is in a migrant area and the food was nutritious, tasty and much enjoyed by the kids .

My next point;  Dr Wills suggested that, “in some schools parents and whanau are encouraged to help garden, harvest veges, cook and serve the food. This teaches gardening and cooking skills, and helps build relationships between parents, whanau and teachers

Ruth O’Neill
 

This is a glorious hope – but it wont work in the long term.  Yes it is great to grow veges and encourage parents to be involved but this won’t supply the lunches everyday. The parents are not reliable enough to turn up everyday and make lunch – for it to work properly it needs to be a commercial venture.  Schools have to have a fully guaranteed liunch programme everyday that they don’t need to worry about.

Mike Fackney
 

Great if it works. Problems include vandalism to gardens, and difficulty to have parents regularly available. Yes it may help with relationships but not necessarily – relationship are better built over students’ education.

Bryan Bruce
 

While I think its a very good idea to teach kids how to grow food, but the idea of sustaining a school food programme on a grow your own basis would take up most of the playing fields and leave the kids with little time for anything else .

I then asked, is this practical practical in the short term? Long term? Would gardening, harvesting veges, cooking and serving the food be more time consuming than the provision of fully state-funded school meals?  Where would vegetables be cooked?

Ruth O’Neill
 

I have no idea where the food would be cooked on a large scale.  You have to employ people who have the skills to provide food on a large scale everyday.  We would have nowhere at present that you could cook or eat on a large scale.

Mike Fackney
 

I believe it would be [more time consuming than the provision of fully state-funded school meals].

With the UK school dinners, the schools have commercial kitchens. This school [Taita Central School] certain doesn’t have the necessary kitchen facilities.

Bryan Bruce
 

Food is a fundamental health need. Let’s put in the Swedish model – full time caterers and school restaurants. This will create jobs, ( for chefs, cooks, builders) which will stimulate our economy, reduce our health spend on crisis care for obese, diabetic and future adults with dodgy hearts.

Dr Wills further claimed that,  “teachers involve students in the growing, harvesting and preparation of the food, so the programme is linked to learning goals. In many cases NGOs partner schools and businesses to provide the programme.”

Is a Public Private Partnership a desirable proposal? Or reliance on a a current ideological fad?

Does reliance on “teachers involve students in the growing, harvesting and preparation of the food” take students away from an already packed curriculum and place more demands on teachers and other staff?

Ruth O’Neill
 

Teachers do not have time to do this on the scale that is needed to feed the whole school.  Being out in the sunshine gardening is lovely – but what about winter!!!  We won’t get to National Standards in Reading, Writing, and Maths if we are out gardening all day.  To have small class gardens that we have where children grow vegetables and take them home is great and teaches the skills of growing food but this won’t work on an everyday basis to feed everyone.

Mike Fackney
 

To Dr Wills suggestion that  “teachers involve students in the growing, harvesting and preparation of the food, so the programme is linked to learning goals. In many cases NGOs partner schools and businesses to provide the programme” – Mike Fackney responded,

This is fine, but not something which can really continue on an on-going basis, particularly with all the other expectations the government has on schools.

And when asked “Is a Public Private Partnership a desirable proposal? Or reliance on a a current ideological fad?” – he replied,

It’s never really a desirable proposal for schools to rely on private support.

Bryan Bruce
 

Bryan Bruce was even less enthusiastic at Dr Wills’ proposals,

We seem to be going back to the 19th Century idea of relying on charities and volunteers to look after the poor. Haven’t we learned anything ?

In my view it’s like this – teachers are not hired to be caterers. They are doing it out of compassion. Are we now asking them to be full time gardeners as well.

Dr Wills also said ; “In many cases NGOs partner schools and businesses to provide the programme… It gives businesses an opportunity to give back to their communities, the cost to the taxpayer is reduced and the food is nutritious. Notice that these models leave responsibility for running and funding programmes with communities.”

He also states,

However, I think there could be two potential roles for government funding. First, there is a place for a co-ordination role to bring together schools and businesses, and manage the programme and the workload for principals and business owners.

Second, there is an argument to match government funding to philanthropy on a sliding scale.

For example, $3 for every $1 raised in a decile 1 school, decreasing for better-off schools.

Matched funding like this encourages communities to build and own their own solutions, and incentivises businesses to give to their communities rather than replacing philanthropy with taxpayer funding, which has the opposite effect. Funding could be made available only to programmes that adhere to agreed standards, raising the quality of programmes. None of this requires legislative change.”

Dr Wills appears to be promoting a State/Philantropy Partnership policy. Is this a practical means by which to promote food in schools, or is it an abrogation of duties which should be the State’s responsibility on this issue?

What happens where businesses or private philantropy is not forthcoming – especially in poorer areas with high unemployment and few businesses? And would private businesses expect a quid pro quo, ie, advertising on school grounds?

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Upper Hutt School

Photograph:  Upper Hutt School, Upper Hutt

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Ruth O’Neill
 

This again puts pressure on schools to spend time on activities other than teaching children!!  There is no money in the community. $10 is alot of money in Cannons Creek.  We do not charge more that $2 or $3 for a school trip and subsidise the rest with school money. We have no school fees and provide such things as sunhats, beanies, shoes, socks, etc ourselves.  I think there needs to be further investigation into how poor is poor.  It may only be small groups of decile 1 schools that need this support.

 

Mike Fackney
 

To Dr Wills’s comment that  “in many cases NGOs partner schools and businesses to provide the programme… It gives businesses an opportunity to give back to their communities, the cost to the taxpayer is reduced and the food is nutritious. Notice that these models leave responsibility for running and funding programmes with communities.”

Mike  replies,

A far easier way is that it’s organised through the taxation system (i.e. a fairer taxation system) and provided by government – as schools are.

As for the rest of Dr Wills’ comments above, Mike says,

All of this sounds like an organisation nightmare.

Bryan Bruce
 

If we want to rebuild a fair an equitable society where every child gets a fair go you can’t have kids in poor schools gardening to grow their dinner while kids in rich schools get their lunch provided and spend their school time doing maths and reading. If the public school system does not treat every child equally (and it already isn’t) then watch the gap between the rich and the poor get bigger and bigger.

Dr Wills also suggests that ,  “ … we need a small project to bring together schools, NGOs, officials and experts to reach a consensus on what food in schools done well looks like. From there we could develop guidelines and standards for food in schools programmes.
Is this a viable, necessary step? Or a case of “talking heads around a table” whilst the problem of hungry children goes unaddressed?

Ruth O’Neill
 

This sounds like a great idea – count me in. If this is going to be addressed properly and a long term healthy solution found then it needs a focused approach. With the right people and funding it could move quite quickly.

When I asked, can we afford Dr Wills’  suggestion “Maybe it’s time for a cup of tea on food in schools?“, Bryan Bruce was less than impressed,

Bryan Bruce

 

Forget the cup of tea and the charity and poor kids being constant gardeners – let’s get on and feed our kids properly so the teachers are freed to do their job and our kids can learn the 21 st Century skills they will need to earn money, pay their taxes and grow our economy.

Ruth also offered her thoughts on  matters arising  from Dr Wills’ ideas.
Questons such as; who cares and tends to the gardens during school holidays? Are school staff expected to tend to garden plots during holidays?

Ruth O’Neill

I can tell you that the class gardens all go to seed over the xmas break and then it takes all of term 1 when the soil is rock hard to get them up and running again.  Then in the winter they are like a bog!!! On any given weekend people will come into the grounds and trash them, throw alcohol and broken glass bottles in them. Urinate in them – would you want your child doing the gardening?? Or people steal the veges.

What about schools that have little or no spare land for gardens?

 Exactly??? Or who have high vandalism.

I then asked how much food can be grown to sustain anywhere from thirty to a few hundred school children in any given school? The respone from Ruth was fairly predictable,

You could not grow enough food to maintain the whole programme. It is also a question of having the right veges on the right day to make the soup or the sandwiches. You need lettuces and tomatoes everyday!!

And of course the also-obvious question which I put to Ruth -  what do children eat whilst crops are growing?

Exactly – totally impractical unless it is on a massive commercial scale for a big group of schools and the funding to buy in produce when needed to supplement supplies.

 

And is a “chat”  really necessary – or is it time to Just Do It; to get on with feeding our children and leave the “conversation” to some other time? (It’s easy for middle class professionals to want to engage in public debate. Especially on a full belly.)

Ruth O’Neill

It needs addressing and in a timely manner – the chat would need to lead to actions and funding.

Mike Fackney

All of the above are very valid concerns.

This blogger concurs with Bryan, Ruth, and Mike; Dr Wills has suggested some positive ideas – but the prospect of turning our schools into vast agricultural plots to feed hungry child is simply not practical.

Children go to school, first and foremost, to learn.

Those children from low-income or impoverished families should not be made to become mini-farmers.

Teachers go to school, first and foremost, to teach.

They do not expect to add Farm Manager to their C.V.

Child poverty is here, in our country. Whilst right wing conservatives  ‘tut-tut’ and wag their judgemental fingers at the problem (I refuse point-blank to call it an “issue”), children through no fault of their own are going hungry and their  learning experience is diminished.

As a nation, it is almost as if we have embarked on a deliberate course of increasing poverty and ensuring the advent of the next generation of impoverished New Zealanders.

If that is our aim, then we are exceeding all expectations. The UNICEF report referred to above proves that poverty is a growth industry in this country.

The time for “chat” is over.

3. “Feed The Kids” Bill in Parliament – Chat with MPs

The Mana Party in Parliament has a Bill before the House. The bill is designed to fund nutritional breakfasts and lunches to all their students in decile 1 and 2 schools.

For more info, see: Feed the Kids Bill

As their website points out,

  • Feeding the kids should be our first priority as a nation.
  • The Bill aims to set up government funded breakfast and lunch programmes in all decile 1-2 schools.
  • It’s a simple, easy and immediate way to address growing levels of child poverty in Aotearoa and has been a key recommendation of leading organisations such as the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty.
  • The Bill is expected to come before Parliament for its first reading on Wednesday 5 June. So far Labour, Greens, Maori Party, NZ First, and Independent MP Brendan Horan have agreed to support it.
  • We need one more vote to get it passed and to a select committee for further consideration.

One more vote.

That’s all it will take.

Accordingly, Documentary-maker and child poverty campaigner, Bryan Bruce, is encouraging people to write to all MPs, asking that they vote for the Bill. As Bryan wrote on his Facebook Page,

You’re 7 years old. It’s winter. You haven’t had breakfast and you’re hungry. What do you want to hear?

“Why doesn’t your Mum feed you in the morning? I hope you’re not going to grow up to be a bad parent like her?”

OR

“Hey! Here’s some Milo. There’s toast over there and weetbix , milk and fruit on the table. Help yourself.”

We can’t change tomorrow if we don’t do the right thing today.

Please contact your local MP and ask them to support the Feed The Kids Bill. You will find their email addresses here:

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/MPP/MPs/MPs

Bryan even suggests a pre-formatted letter to send,

Dear [or Kia ora]  (name of MP)

My name is…………. I live in your electorate . I urge you to commit to cross- party talks on how to end Child Poverty in New Zealand.

Please begin by agreeing to Cross-Party discussions on how we can implement a policy of supplying healthy meals in schools and show good faith by supporting the Feed The Kids Bill as a first step.

Yours faithfully………

Even something as simple as,

Dear [or Kia ora]  (name of MP)

Please support the Feed the Kids Bill. Nothing is as important as ensuring that all children have a decent chance in life.

Yours faithfully………

Or,

Dear [or Kia ora]  (name of MP)

Please support the Feed the Kids Bill. This is so important to me that I’ll be basing my vote at the next election for those candidates/parties who support this Bill.

Yours faithfully………

The MPs email addresses,

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Adams, Amy National Party, Selwyn
Ardern, Jacinda Labour Party, List
Ardern, Shane National Party, Taranaki-King Country
Auchinvole, Chris National Party, List
Bakshi, Kanwaljit Singh National Party, List
Banks, John ACT New Zealand, Epsom
Barry, Maggie National Party, North Shore
Beaumont, Carol Labour Party, List
Bennett, David National Party, Hamilton East
Bennett, Paula National Party, Waitakere
Blue, Jackie National Party, List
Borrows, Chester National Party, Whanganui
Bridges, Simon National Party, Tauranga
Browning, Steffan Green Party, List
Brownlee, Gerry National Party, Ilam
Calder, Cam National Party, List
Carter, David National Party, List
Clark, David Labour Party, Dunedin North
Clendon, David Green Party, List
Coleman, Jonathan National Party, Northcote
Collins, Judith National Party, Papakura
Cosgrove, Clayton Labour Party, List
Cunliffe, David Labour Party, New Lynn
Curran, Clare Labour Party, Dunedin South
Dalziel, Lianne Labour Party, Christchurch East
Dean, Jacqui National Party, Waitaki
Delahunty, Catherine Green Party, List
Dunne, Peter United Future, Ohariu
Dyson, Ruth Labour Party, Port Hills
English, Bill National Party, Clutha-Southland
Faafoi, Kris Labour Party, Mana
Fenton, Darien Labour Party, List
Finlayson, Christopher National Party, List
Flavell, Te Ururoa Maori Party, Waiariki
Foss, Craig National Party, Tukituki
Genter, Julie Anne Green Party, List
Gilmore, Aaron National Party, List
Goff, Phil Labour Party, Mt Roskill
Goldsmith, Paul National Party, List
Goodhew, Jo National Party, Rangitata
Graham, Kennedy Green Party, List
Groser, Tim National Party, List
Guy, Nathan National Party, Otaki
Hague, Kevin Green Party, List
Harawira, Hone Mana, Te Tai Tokerau
Hayes, John National Party, Wairarapa
Heatley, Phil National Party, Whangarei
Henare, Tau National Party, List
Hipkins, Chris Labour Party, Rimutaka
Horan, Brendan Independent, List
Hughes, Gareth Green Party, List
Huo, Raymond Labour Party, List
Hutchison, Paul National Party, Hunua
Jones, Shane Labour Party, List
Joyce, Steven National Party, List
Kaye, Nikki National Party, Auckland Central
Key, John National Party, Helensville
King, Annette Labour Party, Rongotai
King, Colin National Party, Kaikoura
Lee, Melissa National Party, List
Lees-Galloway, Iain Labour Party, Palmerston North
Little, Andrew Labour Party, List
Logie, Jan Green Party, List
Lole-Taylor, Asenati NZ First, List
Lotu-Iiga, Peseta Sam National Party, Maungakiekie
Macindoe, Tim National Party, Hamilton West
Mackey, Moana Labour Party, List
Mahuta, Nanaia Labour Party, Hauraki-Waikato
Mallard, Trevor Labour Party, Hutt South
Martin, Tracey NZ First, List
Mathers, Mojo Green Party, List
McClay, Todd National Party, Rotorua
McCully, Murray National Party, East Coast Bays
McKelvie, Ian National Party, Rangitikei
Mitchell, Mark National Party, Rodney
Moroney, Sue Labour Party, List
Ngaro, Alfred National Party, List
Norman, Russel Green Party, List
O’Connor, Damien Labour Party, West Coast-Tasman
O’Connor, Simon National Party, Tamaki
O’Rourke, Denis NZ First, List
Parata, Hekia National Party, List
Parker, David Labour Party, List
Peters, Winston NZ First, List
Prasad, Rajen Labour Party, List
Prosser, Richard NZ First, List
Robertson, Grant Labour Party, Wellington Central
Robertson, Ross Labour Party, Manukau East
Roche, Denise Green Party, List
Ross, Jami-Lee National Party, Botany
Roy, Eric National Party, Invercargill
Ryall, Tony National Party, Bay of Plenty
Sabin, Mike National Party, Northland
Sage, Eugenie Green Party, List
Shanks, Katrina National Party, List
Sharples, Pita Maori Party, Tamaki Makaurau
Shearer, David Labour Party, Mt Albert
Simpson, Scott National Party, Coromandel
Sio, Su’a William Labour Party, Mangere
Smith, Nick National Party, Nelson
Stewart, Barbara NZ First, List
Street, Maryan Labour Party, List
Tirikatene, Rino Labour Party, Te Tai Tonga
Tisch, Lindsay National Party, Waikato
Tolley, Anne National Party, East Coast
Tremain, Chris National Party, Napier
Turei, Metiria Green Party, List
Turia, Tariana Maori Party, Te Tai Hauauru
Twyford, Phil Labour Party, Te Atatu
Upston, Louise National Party, Taupo
Wagner, Nicky National Party, Christchurch Central
Walker, Holly Green Party, List
Wall, Louisa Labour Party, Manurewa
Wilkinson, Kate National Party, Waimakariri
Williams, Andrew NZ First, List
Williamson, Maurice National Party, Pakuranga
Woodhouse, Michael National Party, List
Woods, Megan Labour Party, Wigram
Yang, Jian National Party, List
Young, Jonathan National Party, New Plymouth

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I leave the final word to Bryan, from 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 Significance? 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 :

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/MPP/MPs/MPs

Thank you,
Bryan

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 May 2013.

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Acknowledgement

My sincerest appreciation and thanks go  to Bryan Bruce, Mike Fackney, and  Ruth O’Neill for taking time out of their busy schedules to respond to my questions.

Other Blog Posts

The Daily Blog: Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director

References

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key (17 Feb 2011)

Scoop: Government Policy Impacting Child Poverty Levels   (30 May 2012)

NZ Herald: Poverty not only reason for suicide spike, says Key (30 Oct 2012)

Fairfax Media: Time for a chat on food in schools (7 May 2013)

Additional

Mana Party: Feed the Kids #fact sheet

Feed The Kids

Facebook: Community Campaign for Food in Schools – NZ

Ten Myths About Welfare

The Children’s Social Health Monitor: Child Poverty and Living Standards

Other blogposts

The Pundit: Children’s Commissioner fronts for Nats on food in schools: Corporate agenda rules

And from the nasty side of Conservative Rightwing politics

“Family First’: Food In Schools Will Feed The Problem

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Shock News: Roy Morgan predicting change in government!!!

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Red Green Up

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A current shock Roy Morgan poll predicts a  change in government, if the results are carried through to the next general election.

The poll results are as follows;

National: 41% (down 3%)

Labour: 35% (up 3%)

Greens: 12%  (unchanged)

NZ First: 4.5% (down 0.5%)

Conservative Party: 2.5% (up 1%)

Maori Party: 2% (unchanged)

ACT:  0.5% (down 1%)

United Future: 0.5% (unchanged)

Mana Party: 0.5% (down 0.5%)

A Labour-Green Bloc together would win 47%  of the Party Vote – beating National’s 41%.

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Latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll

Acknowledgment: Roy Morgan

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What makes this poll stand out above recent television and Fairfax-IPSOS polls are;

  1. The poll results appear more realistic in terms in terms of negative public sentiment to National’s policies,
  2. Roy Morgan polling has been more consistent,
  3. The polling takes into account respondents contacted via cellphone – a major criticism of other polls which only contact landlines.
  4. The figure of 41% echoes a comment made by National Party supporter and right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooten, on Citizen A on 16 May.

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The fact that polling is including respondents who may rely solely  cellphones gives Roy Morgan an added advantage over other pollsters, who only call land-lines.

As Statistics NZ tabulates it’s recent census data, we will soon have a better understanding of how many households rely solely on cellphones, with an absence of landlines. (See related blogpost: Census, Surveys, and Cellphones)

As well, note Matthew’s comment at 27.15, where he says,

“The impact of gay marriage. The private polling by the major parties shows both National and Labour sharply down. National in one private poll has a poll number with a ’3′ in front of it…”

His ‘slip’ (?) and reference  to “a poll number with a ’3′ in front of it” backs up Roy Morgan’s poll results perfectly.

The National Party hierarchy must be fully aware that the TV and Fairfax polls are inflated and unrealistic. Which is one reason why the Nats recently ‘caved’ to public pressure and implemented a restricted ‘Claytons‘   food-in-schools programme.

National’s support of State provision for  feeding children came as a bizarre  after-thought to the main Budget, and it could only have occurred if massive public pressure had been brought to bear. This kind of socialised service provision does not come naturally to a right wing Party like National.

Keep an eye on future Roy Morgan polls.

We are witnessing the inexorable decline of one government – as the next,  government-in-waiting, prepares to take the reins.

However, one Big Question remains: what will a new, left-wing, Labour-Green government do, once in power? For a further viewpoint on this vexing issue, read Morgan Godfery’s blogpost; What the left can learn from Lusk.

Do we unpick and wind back neo-liberalism? Or should we be content merely to ‘contain’ it?

NZ Power was a good start and received favourable support from the electorate. But that is only a start.

After thirty years of failed neo-liberalism, and with around 270,00 children living in poverty, there is much work to do.

The rebuild of Christchurch is under way.

The re-build of New Zealand is yet to begin.

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Previous related blogposts

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones

References

Roy Morgan Poll 29 May 2013

Citizen A 16 May 2013

Other blogposts

What the left can learn from Lusk

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Budget 2013: Child poverty, food in schools, and National’s response

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Maria and the children of the poor - "Metropolis" (1927)

Maria and the children of the poor – “Metropolis” (1927)

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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,

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Key tight-lipped on food in schools

Acknowledgment: Fairfax Media – Key tight-lipped on food in schools

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Finance Minister Bill English was adamant that any announcement would be  weeks away,

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food in schools

Acknowledgment: NewstalkZB – Budget 2013: No food in schools programme

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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.

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Leaving the Rich untouched

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References

Mana Party: A MANA Analysis of the 2013 Budget:  Increasing Poverty, Not Reducing Poverty

Scoop: National launches its Food in Schools programme ()

Radio NZ: Labour criticises ‘funny money assumptions’ on surplus (20 May 2013)

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Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

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state housing new zealand

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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

Some facts;

  1. 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)
  2. 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).
  3. 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)
  4.  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,

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state house new zealand nz

Acknowledgment: NZ History Online – Inside a state house

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Or this,

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homelessWoman

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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;

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State tenants face 'high need' review

Acknowledgment: State tenants face ‘high need’ review

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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.

Acknowledgment: IBID

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;

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child poverty - social housing

Acknowledgment:  CYF lost track of neglected children

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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.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

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.

Acknowledgment: IBID

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,

National: 1,058,638

Labour: 614,936

Greens: 247,370

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”.

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References

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)

Additional

Previous related blogposts

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On child poverty, to the Sunday Star Times…

A letter to the editor of the Sunday Star Times, based on a response on a previous blogpost, National on Child Poverty?!

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from:     Frank M <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Sunday Star Times <editor@star-times.co.nz>
date:     Wed, May 15, 2013 at 11:28 AM
subject:     letters to the editor

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The Editor

Sunday Star Times

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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.

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-Frank Macskasy
(phone number and address supplied)

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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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National on Child Poverty?!

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Poverty among Budget targets

Acknowledgment: Dominion Post – Poverty among Budget targets

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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;

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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 :

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/MPP/MPs/MPs

Thank you
Bryan

Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

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(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.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

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;

  1. A firm “no” by National to Mana’s initiative
  2. A firm “no” by Peter Dunne to Mana’s initiative  (Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”)
  3. 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;

  1. 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.
  2. 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”.
  3. A commision of enquiry of some description.
  4. 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.
  5. No increase in welfare assistance; no food in schools; but a form of food vouchers making up a portion of a beneficiaries overall entitlement.
  6. 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.

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References

NZ Herald: Strong reaction to damning TV child poverty doco (23 Nov 2011)

Feed The Kids website

Previous related blogpost

Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

Other blogs

The Daily Blog: Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director

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Citizen A – 14 February 2013

15 February 2013 Leave a comment

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- Citizen A -

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- 14 February 2013 -

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- Matthew Hooton & Keith Locke -

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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?

Citizen A broadcasts on Auckland UHF and will start transmitting on Sky TV on their new public service broadcasting channel ‘FACE Television’ February 7th February 2013.

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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

Tumeke

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Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – inequality & poverty

9 January 2013 3 comments

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..

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Inequality & Poverty

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give the rich tax cuts

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The rhetoric:

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.

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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

See: Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon

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

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

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

See: IBID

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

See: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

I’m a product of the welfare state – there hasn’t been any great secret about that.” – John Key,  27 Aug 2011

See:  ‘Socialist streak’ just means we have a heart, says Key

The results:

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.)

Tax cuts:

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,

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tax-cuts-april-2009

Source

Additional info

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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.”

See: TheyWorkForYou Blog – Tax Cuts—Implementation

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%,

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Budget 2010 - What the tax cuts mean for you

Source

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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.

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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.”

See: National – Tax Policy

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).

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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.

Source: MSD

OECD: Growing Income Inequality in OECD Countries: What Drives it and How Can Policy Tackle it ?

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Over the two decades to the onset of the global economic crisis, real disposable household incomes increased in all OECD countries, by 1.7% a year, on average (Table 1). In a large majority of OECD countries, household incomes of the top 10% grew faster than those of the poorest 10%, leading to widening income inequality. Differences in the pace of income growth across household groups were particularly pronounced in some of the English-speaking countries, some of the Nordic countries and Israel. In Israel and Japan, real incomes of people at the bottom of the income ladder actually have fallen since the mid-1980s.

Over the two decades to the onset of the global economic crisis, real disposable household incomes increased in all OECD countries, by 1.7% a year, on average. In a large majority of OECD countries, household incomes of the top 10% grew faster than those of the poorest 10%, leading to widening income inequality. Differences in the pace of income growth across household groups were particularly pronounced in some of the English-speaking countries, some of the Nordic countries and Israel. In Israel and Japan, real incomes of people at the bottom of the income ladder actually have fallen since the mid-1980s.

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Source: OECD

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At present, across OECD countries, the average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10%. While this ratio is much lower in the Nordic countries and in many continental European countries, it rises to around 14 to 1 in Israel, Turkey and the United States, to a high of 27 to 1 in Chile and Mexico. The Gini coefficient, a standard measure of income inequality that ranges from zero (when everybody has identical incomes) to 1 (when all income goes to only one person), stood at 0.28 in the mid-1980s on average in OECD countries; by the late 2000s, it had increased by some 10%, to 0.31. On this measure, income inequality increased in 17 out of the 22 OECD countries for which data are available (Figure 1, left-hand panel). In Finland, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the Gini coefficient increased by more than 4 percentage points: and only five countries recorded drops, albeit small ones .

Source:  IBID

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[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).

Source:  IBID

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.

Source:  IBID

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.

See: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter

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;

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2012 MSD Household Incomes Report ‘Summary’

  1. 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,
  2. 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,
  3. Income inequality grew very rapidly from 1988 to 1992, followed by a slower but steady rise through to 2004,
  4. From 2004 to 2007 inequality fell mainly as a result of the WFF package,
  5. Median Household  incomes fell 3% in real terms after little change (+1%) from HES 2009 to HES 2010,
  6. 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,
  7. Incomes fell for deciles 3-6, but rose for the top decile especially,
  8. 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),
  9. 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,
  10. 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),
  11. The 2009 child poverty rate is almost double the rate that prevailed in the early 1980s,
  12. 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,
  13. 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,
  14. 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.
  15. In 2009, between 460,000 and 780,000 people were in households with incomes below the low-income thresholds (ie ‘in poverty’),
  16. 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,
  17. 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),
  18. 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,
  19. 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),
  20. 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%),
  21. 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,
  22. 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’,
  23. The 2009 child poverty rate is almost double the rate that prevailed in the early 1980s,
  24. 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,
  25. 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,
  26. The value of New Zealand Superannuation (NZS) fell further below the median household income from 2007 to 2009,
  27. 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.
  28. 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,
  29. 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’,
  30. 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,
  31. 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 Real equivalised household incomes (BHC) decile boundaries, 1982 to 2009   .
  32. 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,    Real equivalised household incomes (AHC) decile boundaries (2009 dollars)  .

  33. 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.
  34. 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)
  35. 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.
  36. 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,
  37. 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,
  38. 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,
  39. 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),
  40. 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

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

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,

  1. An irrational prejudice against the poor
  2. 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,

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Key admits underclass still growing

Full story

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Addendum 1

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.

Addendum 2

It is worth noting that the GINI Coefficient – which is one method by which to measure income inequality – shows interesting figures for New Zealand,

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OCED_New Zealand_GINI_coefficient 1970s_late_2000s

Source: OECD Income distribution – Inequality (GINI co-efficient)

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?

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working for families

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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)

HES year

Before taxes and transfers (market income)

After taxes and transfers (disposable income)

Reduction (%)

1986

36.4

26.4

27

1991

42.4

31.3

26

1996

43.1

32.9

24

2001

43.1

33.1

23

2004

41.7

32.9

21

2009

40.3

32.3

20

2010

38.3

30.2

21

2011

42.2

33.5

21

 Source: MSD - Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

Additional

Dominion Post:  Children need changes now – commissioner

 

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Inequality and poverty

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=fs =

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – the social welfare safety net

9 January 2013 3 comments

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..

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Social welfare safety net

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On the other hand this is still the best country imn the world to be raised as a child - yeah, right.

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The rhetoric:

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

See: Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon

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

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

Key even seemed to “steal” policies from the centre-left Labour Party,

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National launches its Food in Schools programme

Full story

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Perhaps National, under Key’s leadership, had learnt from it’s mistakes in the 1990s?

No such luck.

The Reality:

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.

See: Baby boomers clogging the job market

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.

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new zealand unemployment numbers jan 2007 - jan 2012

See: tradingeconomics.com – Unemployment numbers

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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

See: Key Notes: Honouring our fallen soldiers

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)

Minister spells out $43,000 ‘salary’ claim for solo mum (21.2.2012)

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,

Man who fathered 30 kids says he needs a break – on child support (21 May 2012)

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,

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate jan 2012 - dec 2012

Source: Trading Economics – Unemployment

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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,

Hatred of those on benefits is dangerously out of control (18 May 2012)

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)

Ministry memo critical of plan to drug test beneficiaries (17 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;

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Numbers of working-age clients1 receiving main benefits at the end of September, 2002 – 2012

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End of quarter

Unemployment Benefits 2 Domestic Purposes Benefits 3

Sickness Benefits 4

Invalid’s Benefits Other main benefits 5 All main benefits
September 2002

112,147

109,078

37,275

64,596

21,613

344,709

September 2003

94,527

109,366

40,802

68,361

19,366

332,422

September 2004

65,764

109,021

44,110

4,067

17,624

308,158

September 2005

50,153

105,692

46,067

73,813

16,440

292,165

September 2006

41,027

100,579

47,527

75,988

17,026

282,147

September 2007

23,158

96,673

48,995

78,268

16,140

263,234

September 2008

23,273

98,473

48,208

83,618

16,036

269,608

September 2009

60,660

107,658

56,384

85,015

17,094

326,811

September 2010

65,281

112,765

58,661

85,305

16,200

338,212

September 2011

55,661

114,147

58,651

84,524

15,513

328,496

September 2012

50,390

110,738

59,595

83,570

16,649

320,942

Notes:

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

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Graph shows the rise in the total number of people receiving a main benefit through to 1994, the further rise through to 1999, the steady decline to June 2008, and the rise through to June 2009 reflecting the recession and the international financial crisis.  Numbers in receipt of the unemployment benefit follow a trend that is a rough mirror image of the employment rate.

Graph shows the rise in the total number of people receiving a main benefit through to 1994, the further rise through to 1999, the steady decline to June 2008, and the rise through to June 2009 reflecting the recession and the international financial crisis. Numbers in receipt of the unemployment benefit follow a trend that is a rough mirror image of the employment rate. The rising red line, signifying Sickness/Invalid beneficiaries is linked to ACC discharging it’s clients onto welfare, to make their own books “look good”.

Source: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

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Correlation between Global Financial Crisis, leading to NZ recession, leading to higher unemployment. (For the benefit of low-information National Party voters.)

Correlation between Global Financial Crisis, leading to NZ recession, leading to higher unemployment. (For the benefit of low-information National Party voters.)

Source: IBID

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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.

Addendum 1:

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,

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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.

See: More ACC clients going on to welfare

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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.

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Benefit myth busting

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Addendum 2:

National’s response to unemployment is the introduction of “reforms” to social welfare legislation,

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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.

See: Bennett expects welfare reform to save $1.6b

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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. “

See:  TVNZ  Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

The question that begs to be asked: how many new jobs will this create?

Addendum 3:

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,

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Key in poverty 'la la land'

Full story

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Govt guarded on free school meals

Full story

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But then, going from Opposition to Government will do that to politicians.

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Social Welfare Safety Net

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Guest Author: responding to Michael Laws

- Bryan Bruce, Inside Child Poverty

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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.

- Bryan

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Other Blogs

Chris Trotter: Not So Great Expectations

Important links

Campbell Live and KidsCan present Lunchbox Day

Campbell Live raises $300,591 for KidsCan

Child Poverty Action Group

Documentary: Inside Child Poverty

Kidscan

Additional

NZ Herald: UN urges Govt reforms to not target beneficiaries

Fairfax Media: Inequality is now at its highest level

Fairfax Media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

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