Budget 2013: Child poverty, food in schools, and National’s response
There is a problem with National’s response to child poverty and meals in schools…
First, to re-cap, there was no announcement made in the Budget on 16 May regarding meals in schools,
Acknowledgment: Fairfax Media – Key tight-lipped on food in schools
Finance Minister Bill English was adamant that any announcement would be weeks away,
Acknowledgment: NewstalkZB – Budget 2013: No food in schools programme
Interestingly, whilst National is luke-warm on the idea of feeding hungry children in our schools, they have little hesitation in throwing our tax-dollars at private, profit-making businesses such as Charter Schools. What next – state subsidies for farmers to produce fatty sheep meat and a butter mountain?
National – the self-professed champion of the free market – throwing taxpayer’s money at private enterprises?
Regarding food in schools, Bill English had this to say about the subject on Maori TV’s Native Affairs last night (20 May),
Mihingarangi Forbes prefaced the interview by reminding viewers of a statement made by John Key with he was leader of the Opposition in 2007,
MIHINGARANGI FORBES: ” [John Key]… from the Opposition benches, promised, a Food In Schools programme. Back then he said he wouldn’t wait because “kiwi kids deserved better (see: National launches its Food in Schools programme). So earlier today I asked Bill English why, after six years, thousands of kids still wait.”
BILL ENGLISH: “[…] but I think we should keep it in perspective. In the budget there was a wide ranges of measures that are going to have a positive impact on the complicated problem of children and families who suffer from persistant disadvantage.”
MIHINGARANGI FORBES: “Can I ask, do you personally support, believe that central government should be providing food for children?”
BILL ENGLISH: “I think we have to deal with the reality that children turn up to school unable to eat, we believe that it’s parent’s respons-, unable to learn.We believe it’s parent’s responsibility to feed their children. And I think we would find that where children are turning up hungry, there’s probably any number of other issues in the life of that family that are difficult and need resolving. But we need these kids to learn, we can’t punish them for the circumstances that they’re born into or living in and so that’s why we support feeding them so they can learn.”
When asked when National would implement a plan, Mihingarangi reminded English that Key had stated that it was just a “couple of sleeps away”, he responded,
BILL ENGLISH: “Well, look, I think you should just wait for the announcements in a couple of weeks.”
Acknowledgment: Maori TV – Native Affairs (20 May 2013)
So what is the problem with National’s response to child poverty and meals in school that I referred to above?
Firstly the Nats appear to having some kind of internal crisis on this issue – leading to Bill English delaying any announcement for two weeks after the Budget was released. (Some have suggested that there is a ‘power struggle’ going on behind the scenes in Cabinet? It has been suggested that an announcement was going to be made on Budget Day – but was pulled at the last minute.)
But the real problem of any food-in-schools programme?
National has not budgetted for it.
The Mana Party “Feed the Kids” Bill is estimated to cost $100 million to implement (see: Mana Party – Fact Sheet). Any plan from National – unless it is half-hearted and watered down – will also require considerable resourcing.
Where is National’s Budget allocation for implementing any meaningful food in schools programme?
There does not appear to be any.
As National continues to dither and delay on this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”), there is a feeling of growing dread within me that National ministers are going to deliver the biggest cop-out to the country since… whenever.
No food, no money, no solutions.
Message to John Key & Bill English
Prove me wrong.
Radio NZ: Labour criticises ‘funny money assumptions’ on surplus (20 May 2013)
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