From the NZ Herald, ex-ACT leader Jamie Whyte had his usual Right wing nonsense about “no real poverty in New Zealand“;
… and the usual cliches, prejudices, and other garbage spouted by a man who has little inkling what poverty is like, and how it crushes the human spirit.
Then came this startling revelation;
To which I replied with this letter-to-the-editor;
from: Frank Macskasy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to: NZ Herald <email@example.com>
date: Fri, Jan 8, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor
.The editorNZ Herald
Regarding former ACT-leader, Jamie Whyte’s self-plagiarism (“Jamie Whyte: Poverty statistics suffer from paucity of common sense”, 7 January) – the fact he re-used a ten year old piece he’d written previously, and simply changed a few key identifiers, speaks volumes about his view on poverty.
It implies that he is not so much interested in looking at the facts and data, as simply re-stating his prejudices. His use of two boys (10-year-olds “Jimmy” and “Timmy”) who are inter-changeable between Britain and New Zealand, implies that his examples are made up fantasies, plucked from his imagination, and little else.
The real problem here is that after thirty years, the Right cannot admit that poverty exists in New Zealand. Nor that it has increased since the late 1980s.
To do so would be a tacit admission of failure, and that the whole “trickle down” notion is a fraud.
That is why the Right will argue, like AGW skeptics, that poverty exists.
Because to admit it, the next question must logically follow: what to do about it.
[address and phone number supplied]
NZ Herald: Jamie Whyte defends ‘self-plagiarism’ claim
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A formal complaint has been laid with the Ombudsman’s Office after Education Minister, Hekia Parata, failed to comply with the Official Information Act.
A OIA request was lodged with the Minister’s Office by this blogger, seeking details of National’s Food In Schools programme, which was announced in May 2013. The limited programme, costed at $9.5 million, offered low decile 1-4 schools free milk and Weet-Bix throughout the school week. It would be run in conjunction with Fonterra, Sanitarium and children’s charity KidsCan.
The $9.5 million would be spread over a five year period, from 2013 to 2018.
More critically for National, the expanded “Kick Start” breakfast programme was promoted to directly counter Hone Harawira’s more comprehensive Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill which at the time was rapidly gaining traction throughout the country.
Acknowledgement: Radio NZ
Mana Party leader and then-MP for Te Tai Tokerau, Hone Harawira, said on 24 January, 2013;
“It’s a pretty simple bill really. Invest in making sure the 80,000 kids going to school hungry each week are fed and ready to learn and realise the benefits in better educated and healthier school leavers down the track”.
In Parliament, Harawira was clear on the benefits of his Food in Schools Bill;
It is nice to know that KidsCan feeds some 10,000 of them on most days, and that the KickStart Breakfast programme feeds about 12,000 a day, but the reality is that even with the Government’s announcement in last year’s Budget, nearly 80,000 children are still going to school hungry in Aotearoa every single day. Yes, schools around the country have started their own breakfast clubs with support from teachers, students, parents, local businesses, and the wider community, but they tell us that it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of goodwill to keep them going, and that having secure funding would be a godsend.
The really embarrassing thing is that nearly every country in the OECD, apart from us, already runs programmes to feed kids at school. Some countries like Finland and Sweden provide fully State-funded meals to every school student as part of a wider framework of child well-being. It is a commitment that sees them regularly top the international surveys in child health and educational achievement. Some countries provide free meals to kids with parents on low incomes, and others provide free meals to schools in areas of high deprivation. But although the approaches differ, they all share the same view, backed up by the same kind of research and information from teachers, doctors, nurses, and policy analysts that is available to us here: kids need a good feed every day if they are to develop into healthy and well-educated adults. New Zealand really needs to join the rest of the enlightened world and make a commitment to feeding our kids, starting with those in greatest need, to help them to grow well and learn well.
Harawira’s Bill was supported by a range of diverse groups and individuals ranging from Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation, the NZ Educational Institute, as well as Child Poverty Action Group, Every Child Counts, Unicef NZ, Save the Children, IHC, Poverty Action Waikato, the Methodist and Anglican Churches (Methodist Public Issues and Anglican Action), Te Rōpū Wāhine Māori Toko i te Ora (Māori Women’s Welfare League), PPTA, NZ Principals’ Federation, CTU Rūnanga, the NZ Nurses’ Organisation, and Te Ora – the Māori Medical Practitioners’ Association.
Harawira’s Bill was estimated to cost upwards of $100 million.
This contrasts with the Children Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty, which reported in December 2012 that the total economic costs of child poverty ranged up to $8 billion;
Currently, the economic costs of child poverty are in the range of $6-8 billion per year
and considerable sums of public money are spent annually on remedial interventions. Failure
to alleviate child poverty now will damage the nation’s long-term prosperity. It will also
undermine the achievement of other important policy priorities, such as reducing child abuse,
lifting educational attainment and improving skill levels.
In July 2013, Herald journalist, Kate Shuttleworth, reported;
In December 2012 the Expert Advisory Group on solutions to Child Poverty – a group comprising policy, public health and law experts – recommended that a food programme starting with decile 1-to-4 primary and intermediate schools, be implemented as one of their six initial priorities for immediate release.
Figures show 270,000 children in New Zealand – one in four – live in poverty.
Dennis McKinlay, Chairman of ‘Every Child Counts‘, stated that 169 countries had a food in schools programme.
Shockingly, the Bill was eventually defeated in a Parliamentary vote of 61 votes to 59, with ACT and Peter Dunne also voting against it. The New Zealand government spends billions on school infra-structure, but not to feed hungry school-children from poverty-stricken families.
On 27 October, this blogger lodged a OIA request with Education minister, Hekia Parata. The request sought answers to the following;
1. How much has been spent on the programme since 28 May 2013?
2. Is the funding still set at $9.5 million, over a 5 year period from 2013 to 2018?
3. How many schools are part of the programme?
4. It was initially available in decile 1 to decile 4 schools. Higher decile schools would be able to opt in from 2014. How many other, higher decile schools have opted into the programme?5. Are there any figures as to how many children are participating in the programme? If so, what is that data?
6. Is there a time limit as to the length of time a school can participate in the programme?
7. Have any schools been declined participation in the programme? How many? For what reason?
8. Are Sanitarium and dairy cooperative Fonterra still participating in the programme? Have any other companies joined in?
9. Does the KickStart programme in any way affect a schools allocated budget?10. Have any Charter Schools requested to join the programme? If so, how does this affect their funding?
By 12 November, after no response or even an acknowledgement, this blogger wrote again to Minister Parata;
On 27 October, I lodged this OIA request with your office. I have recieved no reply or even an acknowledgement.
Please advice whether or not you intend to respond to my OIA request. If not, I will proceed by laying a complaint with the Ombudsman’s Office.
As at 29 November, no response had been forthcoming from the Minister’s office, and a complaint was laid with the Ombudsman’s Office. As this blogger pointer out in the complaint;
I do not believe it is satisfactory that a Minister of the Crown wilfully ignores the law and fails to follow her obligations under the Official Information Act.
Readers of The Daily Blog will be kept updated as this issue progresses.
Parata has apparently “gone to ground” on this issue. It is not the first time she failed failed to respond to media enquiries; requests for interviews; or fronted at events for which she has direct responsibility.
Muppet #1 – Hekia Parata
“I actually think she’s a very effective communicator; in fact if you look at her history in politics, she’s been one of the smoothest communicators we’ve actually had.” – John Key, 18 January 2013
Prime Minister John Key says Education Minister Hekia Parata will be safe in an upcoming Cabinet reshuffle, … because she is hugely talented and one of National’s best communicators.
I’d be a happy chappy if the Nats DID have more like her in Cabinet!!
If she’s one of the Nat’s “best communicators”, I’d luv to know why she’s kept ducking calls for media interviews and instead sent Lesley Longstone to cover for Parata’s f**k-ups,
2 October 2012
3 October 2012
4 October 2012
26 October 2012
29 October 2013
14 November 2012
28 November 2012
When Lesley Longstone’s resignation was announced last year on 19 December, Hekia Parata was still nowhere to be seen. The announcement was handled by State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie (see: Education secretary quits),
19 December 2012
20 December 2012
Parata’s office explained why she couldn’t front,
Parata is currently on holiday and has refused to front on Longstone’s resignation, but in a statement released this afternoon she thanked Longstone for her efforts in leading the Ministry.
Hmmmm, judging by Parata not fronting for most of last year, was she on holiday for most of 2012?!
Ye gods, this deserves a Tui billboard.
Roll on 2013 – it’s going to be a great year.
In January 2013, Hekia Parata’s responsibilities surrounding Novopay were transferred to Minister For Everything, Steven Joyce. Joyce was not above publicly denouncing those responsible for the Novopay debacle;
Radio NZ: Food in schools ‘could get good results’
Feedthekids: Support grows for MANA’s Feed the Kids Bill
NZ Herald: Food in schools bill delayed for second time
Commissioner for Children: Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty
Radio NZ: Government sticking with Novopay for now
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 December 2015.
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“Housing is a basic human need and access to decent quality, affordable and safe housing should be seen a human right. This means that our society and more specifically the State has an obligation to ensure that everyone living in New Zealand always has access to adequate and secure housing. We further believe that this obligation means that housing needs to be considered as more than a commodity whose allocation is decided entirely by markets and the profit motive.” – Hikoi for Homes/Child Poverty Action Group
Wellington, NZ, 21 November – Around two hundred people gathered in Cuba Mall, central Wellington, as part of a nationwide day of protest at growing homelessness; poor standards of housing; state house privatisation, and lack of long-term stability in rental accomodation;
After safety instructions were issued by Ian Harcourt, one of CPAG’s march organisers, the protesters set off through the streets of Wellington, headed to the Civic Square;
Throughout the entire event, there was only a brief, sole police presence as one lone police car halted traffic to allow marchers to cross a busy intersection;
Greeting the marchers at Civic Square, Nigel Parry and Ruth Prentice, sang a song dedicated to Emma-Lita Bourne, who perished in August 2014 whilst living in a damp, cold house infected with toxic mould. Nigel and Ruth page tribute to Emma-Lita, and to the coroner, who had the guts to speak the truth as to why Emma-Lita died needlessly;
The number of protesters had swelled to around 300 people and constituted a wide cross representation from the community, including many families with children. These were citizens concerned at the direction New Zealand was heading toward;
Banners flew from the various groups involved with the day’s event, including UNICEF, one of the organisers;
Labour’s Grant Robertson was present;
The first speaker, Dr Nikki Turner, from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), addressed the crowd;
Dr Turner reminded people that twenty years ago, New Zealand signed the UN covenant on the rights of children. She said this included a duty of care to ensure safe, decent housing for children. She asked, “so why are we here today?”
She said that this is a national shame that New Zealand are not providing basic human rights for families in need.
Dr Turner said that as a General Practitioner she was seeing people turning up at her clinic daily, sick, from unsafe houses. They were “sick and recurrently sick, because the houses were not adequate“.
Dr Turner listed poverty-related diseases that were common to people living in damp, cold houses; asthma, colds, chest infections, pneumonia, rheumatic fever, chronic lung diseases, saying that “our housing makes our children sick“. She said cold affects our immune systems, making people more vulnerable to moulds and diseases shared through over-crowding.
“If we fix our housing, we’re going to go a long way to improving our health in New Zealand,” said Dr Turner.
Dr Turner then listed seven issues necessary for government to implement, saying they were achievable;
- To stop the sale of all state and council houses,
- A one billion dollar provision to build more public and social housing,
- Minimum standards for all rental houses,
- Greater tenure protection for all tenants,
- A rent freeze for five years,
- A statutory right to be housed, as a human right,
- State subsidies for modest income-earners for home-ownership, as New Zealanders had a right to a home.
Dr Turner said that the current situation was unfair; costly; and affecting our children. She said that many of the medical problems caused by inadequate housing led to permanent, on-going crippling that would last throughout their lives. “We need to fix this for the future of our community.”
Dr Turner was followed by Dr Philipa Howden-Chapman, from Otago University’s Department of Public Health;
Dr Howden-Chapman pointed out that about a third of New Zealanders lived in rental accomodation. She said that many rental homes were cold and damp, far colder than what was recommended by the UN. She said “they were built in another age, when someone was home most of the time, ventilating the house, and keeping the fires going“.
Dr Howden-Chapman said many homes were between 12 to 16 degrees, making them no warmer inside than outside. She said babies were particularly susceptible, being unable to shiver, and losing heat much faster than an adult. Older people also got colder faster than fit, younger people.
Dr Howden-Chapman said that around a third of houses had mould growing in them. She said that mould at certain times of the year release spores and toxins, some of which were the most dangerous substances known.
According to Dr Howden-Chapman, New Zealand spends $3 billion per annum maintaining the roading network. But there were no equivalent regulations required to maintain rentals at a set standard or provide adequate heating or ventilation. She said Emma-Lita Bourne‘s family had an insulated house, but could not afford heating. By contrast, Europe had solar-heating on houses that constantly prevented homes from dropping below 18 degrees.
“But we don’t do any of that.”
Dr Howden-Chapman asked why we have Health officials going around coffee-bars to check on hygiene or WoF mechanics to check the brakes on our cars, but no one is responsible to check on the quality of rental housing.
It was pointed out that a third of housing-related ACC costs could be saved if unsafe steps and other parts of houses were fixed.
She asked “does this government care”?
Dr Howden-Chapman said it was disgraceful that Bill English admitted that the National government was the “biggest slumlord in the country“ and could “dismiss the whole housing stock”.
She said that a small country of 4.4 million people should be able to work together, with government, local bodies, and NGOs co-operating so that everyone had access to warm, dry, safe housing.
Dr Howden-Chapman decried New Zealand in the 21st century where children were found to be living in cars, camping grounds, homeless in the streets, or containers, or crowded houses. She said it was no accident that children regularly miss school and fall behind in their studies, or end up in hospital Intensive Care, where many die.
She said “we can do better, we must do better“.
Dr Howden-Chapman demanded security of tenure for tenants so that the problem of transient families could be reduced. She said families in Housing NZ homes should be able to stay in one house for as long as their children were at school. Dr Howden-Chapman said it was vital that families moved from a state house be re-housed in the same neighbourhood so that their community links with other people could be maintained, as well as allowing children to remain in the same school.
She acknowledged that many New Zealanders cared about this pressing social problem and asked the government, “do you care?”
Ian Harcourt introduced a musical group, ‘Choir, Choir, Pants On Fire‘. He said that while this protest was about speaking truth to power, that they the singers he was introducing were here to “sing truth to power”;
One of the group’s “novel” acts was to engage the audience with participation; to ask us to raise our hands; extend two fingers; and wave it in the direction of Parliament;
‘Choir, Choir, Pants On Fire‘ was followed by Ariana, from the State Housing Action Network;
Ariana spoke of the formation of the State Housing Action Network as a response to Bill English’s announcement that National was looking at selling up to eight thousand state houses. She called the move despicable, given that there was a critical shortage of state housing in New Zealand.
Ariana announced a petition calling for a halt to forced evictions from state houses, calling it a form of social cleansing. She described the privatisation of state housing as National’s determination to make a profit from the sales. Ariana warned that if National had their way, they would sell the entire housing stock, worth around $15 billion.
Ariana described National’s rationale for the sale, based on the properties being “run down” as just an excuse and nothing more. She said that National had a “track record of selling state houses”. She also pointed out that lack of maintenance of state housing had been caused by successive governments.
Ariana said that it was important that not only new state houses were built, but that the current stock should be brought up to standard.
Ariana congratulated the good work done by CPAG and UNICEF, as well as political parties like Labour, Greens, and Mana giving support. She said we have to work together on this problem by forming a strong coalition to oppose the neo-liberal agenda.
Ariana further stated that when market rents for state houses were introduced in the 1990s, it was predicted that it would be the single biggest cause of poverty increasing. She said that current policies by National were an extension of the 1990s.
She condemned taking money from those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap, and transferred to those who were already wealthy.
Ariana called for an introduction of a capital gain tax instead of taking money from those who could least afford it. She said National agenda would eventually lead to charities taking over the role of providing for the poor, as in Victorian times.
Ariana said that the State Housing Action Network strongly endorsed the seven points put forward by Dr Nikki Turner (see above).
Ariana then led a chant,
“Everybody deserves a home!”
Following Ariana, was Martin, a state house tenant, with Kyrie in his arms (who seemed totally fascinated by the microphone in front of him);
Martin described a state house with nine people living in it’s three bedrooms. He said there was now seven people living in that house, including five adults. Of those people, Kyrie, the little boy in his arms, had athsma. He said such over-crowding was not conducive to good health.
He said he contacted Social Housing Minister, Paula Bennett, to complain of an open drain that was outside the property; the rotting windows inside; and the general state of disrepair. He said Paula Bennett passed him on to Building and Housing Minister, Nick Smith. Martin said Nick Smith advised him to take his case back to Paula Bennett.
Martin invited Paula Bennett to visit Kyrie’s delapidated state house to look at the problems herself. Martin said she refused. (Though this blogger can report that Bennett is not averse to visiting state or social housing when there is a photo-op involving a “good news” story.)
Martin said he had to phone his local MP, Annette King, to try resolve the problem. He said that remedial work was undertaken, but that it was “cheap and shoddy, and they’ve done repairs that are of no fit standard for people to live in“.
He said this was happening all over New Zealand and would be our future. He said Kyrie deserves better.
He encouraged people to stand together; stand strong, and to hold this government to account.
Following Martin, ‘The Ruths‘, entertained the crowd with some beautiful singing. The songs were delightful, as well as political in flavour, in the best tradition of 1960s singer-activists such as Joan Baez. Ruth Mundy on guitar, with Ruth Prentice on violin;
Following ‘The Two Ruths‘, Paul Barton, from the Christian Council of Social Services addressed the crowd;
Paul spoke on behalf on the Living Wage movement, describing it as a response to the growing gap in our society between the rich and the poor. He spoke of the top 10% over the last thirty years having enriched themselves at the expense of the rest of us who have been told “we can’t afford higher wages“.
He said that the wealth gap is shown in the housing crisis where “literally, this hits home”.
Paul said that the Kiwi dream of home ownership is fast evaporating with house prices rising and a growing number of the population resorting to renting. He pointed out that half the population now lives in rented housing. He said renters tended to be younger, poorer, and families.
It was pointed out that the housing and wealth inequality problem was not due to “mysterious forces beyond our control”. He said it has been a direct result of decisions our society has made how we share the bountiful wealth we have in this country. He said we needed to find ways to do things differently.
Otherwise, Paul said, we run the risk of a generation left behind in sub-standard housing.
Paul said the living wage was one response to this problem, where employers paid an income to live, not just “get by”. He said a Living Wage would not only allow people to pay their rent, but also save to buy their own home.
“And that way, paying a living wage overcomes part of the housing affordability problem.”
Paul congratulated the Wellington City Council for having the courage to pay it’s staff and security contractors the Living Wage. He said over 500 workers had had their wages increased from just above the minimum wage, to the Living Wage. He hoped that soon cleaning and recycling-collection contractors would also soon be covered by the Living Wage.
Paul related how workers and their families who had their wages lifted to a Living Wage were motivated to persist to make their lives better.
He added that the Living Wage has not happened “by chance” and that it was the result of a building movement for change. He pointed to the “wonderful support from you people here in Wellington” and said,
“We can achieve change but we need to work together.”
Paul said that people and organisations can work together to make a difference and reduce inequality, and that we did not need to wait for a change of government or change the law.
He said that local authorities like the Wellington City Council played a major part in the Living Wage movement, and were an important part of our daily lives. Paul said that Wellington City Council had a role in the kind of housing that we live in. He said that at the last 2013 local body election it was the Living Wage and building warrant of fitness that were the main political issues.
Paul encouraged Wellingtonians that next year’s local body elections also made housing, warrant of fitness, and social housing a major political issue. He encourage people to get involved in “overcoming this awful housing problem“.
“Don’t say we can’t do something, because we know we’ve already proved we can make a difference.”
Deborah Morris-Travers from UNICEF and ‘Make our Future Fair‘ was the last speaker;
The former Parliamentarian and currently National Advocacy Manager at UNICEF NZ, told the crowd that, as part of the United Nations, her organisation was mandated to stand up for children’s rights all around the world
Deborah stated that New Zealand Aotearoa was currently breaching the rights of its children by not providing an adequate standard of living, of which housing playing a major part.
She said that we all have a part to play in creating a nation that grants all New Zealanders safe and adequate housing, that lays the foundation for our communities and our society. She encouraged people to keep working together on these issues.
Deborah revealed that “the government is madly polling and running focus groups. They’re sensitive to the mood of the public.”
She said we have to keep building the public mood to ensure that our families are kept safe.
Deborah announced that UNICEF was launching the Fair Future Campaign and said that Radio NZ would be airing a story on children’s rights. She said that UNICEF would be working hard on this issue as National was about to start work on it’s next Budget.
“We have got to keep the message upfront in the news media, in social media, in our families, in our communities, that we will not tolerate our children being left behind.”
She said that every year $10 billion was spent on “picking up the cost of child maltreatment and child poverty.” Deborah said this was unsustainable as well as being unjust.
Deborah asked, “What do we value in Aotearoa-New Zealand? What do we stand for? Surely it is be a fairer future.”
She said, “Housing is a fundamental human right. This about rights, not favours!”
As the event concluded, a reporter from Radio NZ interviewed one of the participants;
As far as could be determined, Radio NZ was the only msm that sent a reporter to cover the event. Apparently TV1, TV3, print media, commercial radio, et al, were too busy still dealing with the global fall-out from Ritchie McCaw’s resignation from the All Blacks.
As the protest event came to it’s conclusion, this blogger turned to look up at the sky which had darkened with ominous grey clouds. Fluttering atop the Wellington Civic Building were the five flag-options for the present Flag Referendum;
It was a sobering moment when one considered the symbolism of those five flags.
Notably the $26 million price tag that went with the Referendum.
Fairfax media: Damp state house played part in toddler’s death
Fairfax media: Social housing rollout opens doors for the disabled
The Standard: Hikoi for Homes
Previous related blogposts
Copyright (c) Notice
All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,
» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 November 2015.
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I was reading Simon Collins’ piece on child poverty in the Herald, and a small advert caught my eye… (See image above)
I’m not sure if Mike Hosking wants to be associated with our mounting child poverty crisis. It’s simply not his style. More accurately, it makes people like him feel queasy and uncomfortable. Rich people don’t like feeling uncomfortable – that is what wealth is supposed to eliminate. It reminds Hosking, and others like him, that whilst he is enjoying their wealth, others are surviving their poverty.
That sticks in his mind, deep down, somewhere, in the places where his parents tried to instill values of fairness in him when he was a child. That makes him resentful.
That is why the affluent; the rich; the powerful; the Comfortable Classes, hate the poor so much. Otherwise, why do they invest so much time writing so defensively and caustically, when a blogger like Chloe King airs her views, in defence of the poor and the powerless? What is Chloe King to them?
Because they feel guilty.
Especially when she reminds them why they should be feeling guilty.
When Mike Hosking made his views on child poverty perfectly clear on 9 April;
“Children cost money. If you can’t afford it, don’t have them. It’s not hard.”
– he was in full vengeful retaliation mode.
This was Mike Hosking – mouthpiece for the Comfortable Class – sheeting blame for poverty to the victims who have to endure it.
It would be like the victims of the Great Depression being blamed for being out of work; no money; and relying on soup kitchens to survive each day.
Now, when I was young, growing up, we lived off my dad’s sole income; mum stayed home and herded us kids. Dad’s income paid for the mortgage, food, power (a bill once every two months!), fuel for the car (an American gas-guzzling, noisy, metal beast that I swear was a reincarnated T29 Soviet tank in a former life), insurance, doctor’s visits (medicine was free – remember that?), and even a camping holiday to Taupo or somesuch place. We weren’t rich by any means. But dad’s income was sufficient for the things that average Kiwi families enjoyed.
And funnily enough, we didn’t need mass consumerism or seven day shopping and other such nonsense to get by.
The point is this; not being able to “afford kids” is like telling someone they are not worthy to breathe the air or drink water.
When did an act of nature become dictated by the amount of money a person had? Especially in New Zealand – a country once upon a time we thought to be egalitarian?!
If our fellow New Zealanders “can’t afford” to have children, I suggest it’s not the cost of having children that is the problem. It is the inadequart income being earned by New Zealanders that is the core problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) here.
In his article, Simon Collins presented two charts showing the growth (or lack thereof) of incomes since 1982;
Notice how incomes for the lowest paid have stayed low – even after Working for Familes was introduced in 2004? The lowest ten percent have moved from $15,400 to $17,700. Last year, they failed to be counted as Collins pointed out;
The report does not include figures for the poorest 10 per cent of households, who include most beneficiaries, because the names of benefits changed in 2013 and some beneficiaries appear to have reported only how much they received since the new benefit names were created, missing out their incomes for the first half of the 2013-14 year.
Very convenient for the government, no?
Meanwhile, the top ten percent have increased their income by fifty percent, from $50,200 in 1982 to $75,400, last year.
Let’s be clear here. When right-wing ‘pundits’ and cheerleaders for the rich deride the poor for having children, this is barely-coded moralism and victim-blaming.
It is attempting to paint the poor as suffering “deeply flawed character”, almost to a DNA-level.
In fact, many right-wingers openly refer to welfare recipients as “inter-generational”; the subtle nod to ‘bad DNA’ being made without recourse to the more clumsy eugenics policies of you-know-who.
By blaming the poor for the temerity to have children, the Right shift the blame and deflect attention from the real question; why are people so poor that they cannot afford to raise a family as we used to, before the advent of Rogernomics?
Is it because, since 1986, Baby Boomers have voted seven tax cuts for themselves?
Is it because, as taxes were cut, GST was introduced and increased, as was user-pays in areas such as education?
Is it because simple things like medicine has gone from being free – to five dollars for each item?
Is it because trade unions are no longer able to advocate for their members, and wages have not kept pace with productivity, as this chart from the New York Times showed for US workers (and most likely applies here as well)?
Yes. All of the above, and more.
The next time a right winger is ranting on about the “breeding poor”, remember that what they are really trying to say is;
… it’s their fault they are poor; they are unfit humans. Their bank accounts prove it.
… it’s not my fault I’m paying less tax than my counterparts did, thirty years ago. I just voted for it.
… only the Comfortable Class should breed. For we are superior because we have the moral fortitude (and good genes) to make money and keep it.
… don’t bother me about the poor. I’m trying to enjoy my Beluga caviar and Bollingers, thank you, without being reminded…
Well, too bad.
We will continue to remind you.
Don’t choke on your bolly.
“Create a society that values material things above all else. Strip it of industry. Raise taxes for the poor and reduce them for the rich and for corporations. Prop up failed financial institutions with public money. Ask for more tax, while vastly reducing public services. Put adverts everywhere, regardless of people’s ability to afford the things they advertise. Allow the cost of food and housing to eclipse people’s ability to pay for them. Light blue touch paper.” – Andrew Maxwell, Irish comedian
NZ Herald: 300,000+ Kiwi kids now in relative poverty
The Daily Blog: Now we got bad blood – being poor in a rich world
Newstalk ZB: Mike’s Editorial – The cost of a child
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 August 2015.
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Poor people – let them eat cake; grow veges; not breed; and other parroted right wing cliches… (part rua)
When the so-called “reforms” of Roger Douglas – lovingly referred to as “rogernomics” – swept the country; privatising publicly owned assets; cutting state services; introducing user-pays; down-sizing the state sector; closing post offices in small towns and large cities; and witnessing the wide-spread creation of Food Banks for the first time since The Great Depression, we were told that the restructuring of our economy would pay off with a higher standard of living.
Instead, we ended up with this;
“It is not only the government’s figures that reveal alarming levels of poverty. On top of the surge in demand for Income Support grants is an explosion in food bank usage. Food banks have been described as the most visible face of poverty in New Zealand. They are the only banks we now own. Only a few food banks existed before National’s election in 1990 on the hollow promise of a ‘Decent Society’. The first food bank in Auckland appeared in 1980, although researcher Adrian Whale noted in a 1993 thesis that throughout the 1980s, food banks were ‘predominantly small scale appendages to welfare services offered by city missions and other voluntary organisations’. But in the early 1990s, food banks established a ‘significant presence among the range of welfare providers in the community’. At least 70 percent of food requests to the Salvation Army in 1992 were to support families with children. Figures from Presbyterian Support Services show that the number of food banks in the Auckland metropolitan area grew from 16 in 1980 to 130 in 1994.” – Mike Moore, “Children of the Poor”, 1996
Ten years ago, the Child Poverty Action Group reported;
“Nationally, the number of foodbanks exploded following the 1991 benefit cuts, and the passage of the Employment Contracts Act (ECA). For those in already low-paid and casual jobs, the ECA resulted in even lower wages (McLaughlin, 1998), a situation exacerbated by the high unemployment of the early 1990s (11% in 1991). The benefit cuts left many with debts, and little money to buy food (Downtown Community Ministry, 1999). In 1992 the introduction of market rents for state houses dealt another blow to state tenants on low incomes. By 1994 it was estimated that there were about 365 foodbanks nationally, one-fifth of which had been set up in the previous year (Downtown Community Ministry, 1999).” – “Hard to swallow – Foodbank Usage in NZ”, Child Poverty Action Group, 2005
In December, last year, the Waikato Times published a story on the growing need for foodbanks in their community. One particular comment stood out;
Humphry has worked with the Christian Combined foodbank for “so many years I can’t remember when I started”, but remembers when it opened in 1998.
“I can’t remember who the prime minister was at the time, but someone [from the prime minister’s office] came and opened the foodbank [in Hamilton] and I remember he said, ‘This will only be a short-term thing, people will only need the foodbank for a few months’.”
If the free market “reforms” of the 1980s and 1990s were such a success, one has to ask the obvious question; why do food banks still exist?
Mike Moore was correct when he pointed out nearly twenty years ago; “Food banks have been described as the most visible face of poverty in New Zealand.”
New Zealand’s poverty – like our domestic violence and child abuse – is best done privately, behind closed doors, and out of sight. The middle classes get queasy at the sight of poverty.
Little wonder that when Bryan Bruce’s sobering documentary, Inside NZ: Child Poverty was broadcast in November 2011, it raised a howl of furious indignation (mostly from the Right) that the election had been “politicised”.
Bryan Bruce reminded us just how far we had come, in the last few decades;
“I’m a baby boomer. I went to primary school in the late 50’s when they gave us free milk, free health care and a free education. In those days, Kiwi’s were able to boast that New Zealand was a great place to bring up kids. So when I learned that we’d dropped to number 28 on the list of 30 OECD countries for child well being, with just Mexico and Turkey behind us, I decided to find out what’s gone wrong and what we have to do to fix it.”
Someone in history (the actual utterer remains uncertain) once said of the poor who could not afford to buy bread;
“Let them eat cake.”
Today, in 21st Century New Zealand, it is more like;
“Let them drink coke.”
It certainly is cheaper, as my trip to a local supermarket on 29 June demonstrated;
One of the most common moralistic exhortations by the Right is that the poor should be able to feed themselves and their families. They just need to “budget more prudently”.
Well, at 95 cents per 1.5L bottle of soft-drink, the poor have a much cheaper alternative than the more pricey (and healthier) option of milk.
It’s just a shame it will probably kill them through obesity-related diseases.
Is this what Roger Douglas really intended for his country, back in 1984?
There are six policy reforms which, if carried out, would go a long way to reversing the ingrained poverty caused by forty years of a failed free-market experiment;
1. Reverse the 1991 benefit cuts. This would allow the poorest families in New Zealand to at the very least buy milk instead of teeth-rotting soft-drinks, and turn the heaters on in winter.
2. Take GST of basic foods – fruit, vegetables, bread, milk, meat, fish, et al.
3. Raise the minimum wage to the Living Wage ($19.25/hr). The increase in take-home pay would be a boon to low-income families, as well as benefitting businesses throughout the country, as expenditure increased. As business turn-over increased; they would hire more people; leading to less paid in welfare, and more paid to the State in PAYE tax (helping Bill English finally balance those pesky fiscal books).
4. Implement Hone Harawira’s ‘Food in Schools’ Bill immediatly. Well-fed children learn better; succeed better; and contribute to society much better. If our Scandinavian cuzzies can do it, so can we.
5. Build more State houses, and stop flogging them off to every Tom, Dick, and Harriet who comes knocking on Bill English’s door.
6. Free healthcare for all children 13 and under.
Can we do it?
Of course we can. If we can implement radical policies that changed New Zealand from a Fortress Economy (ex Muldoon) to one of the planet’s most open economies (ex Douglas) – then we can implement social policies that will make us a better, fairer, safer country.
Because it’s the right thing to do.
Child Poverty Action Group: Hard to swallow: Foodbank use in New Zealand
Waikato Times: Big demand puts pressure on foodbank
J R McKenzie Trust: Child Poverty Monitor
NZ Council of Christian Social Services: Facts about poverty in New Zealand
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 June 2015.
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One of the most constant cliches spouted by the naive; the well-meaning; and down-right simple-minded Right, is that the poor should be able to supplement their income by growing their own food.
This tenants in this house, located in one of Wellington’s inner suburbs, grew their own vegetables and raised chickens. The planter-boxes were well-tended, and were well-filled with a variety of vegetables.
One day, a couple of months ago, I noticed that the furniture in the house was gone and the sound of the chooks was no longer evident.
This is what the once well-tended vege-garden looks like now;
Weeds have become the dominant plants in the garden;
“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.”
So said Herman Melville, author of ‘Moby Dick‘.
Lecturing the poor to grow their own food becomes a fatuous exercise when the poor generally do not own their own homes, and are subject to eviction at whatever whim takes the landlord. The tenants move on; the food is left behind; and goes to seed and rots.
When confronted with the problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) of poverty, the response from the well-meaning or politically deluded for the poor to produce their own food is little more than buck-passing. It is a barely-concealed attempt to salve their consciences by pointing the finger back at the poorest in our society, and blame them for their lot.
After all, if the poor are poor by their own lack of determination, then the rest of us don’t have to consider the problem at all. It’s their fault, not ours.
After all, why shouldn’t they be able to grow their own food?
They just need to buck their ideas up. And buy a house.
J R McKenzie Trust: Child Poverty Monitor
NZ Council of Christian Social Services: Facts about poverty in New Zealand
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 June 2015.
= fs =
On TVNZ’s Q+A, on 21 June, political reporter Corin Dann interviewed Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley. To describe the interview as pathetic would be generous.
To describe it as illustrative of how National views the poorest people of this country with barely-concealed disdain would be an understatement.
Tolley was former Minister of Corrections and Police, from 2011 to 2014. Her crowning “achievement” was showing off the destruction and compacting of a seized motor vehicle;
Her other “achievement” was over-seeing the awarding of a twentyfive year long contract to multi-national company, Serco, to manage the newly opened 960-bed Wiri Prison. That contract will sting tax-payers to the tune of $900 million – almost a billion tax-dollars over quarter of a century.
Tolley’s latest ministerial ‘gig’ is to hold the portfolio of Minister for Social Development.
Last year, two year old old Emma-Lita Bourne died last year from a brain haemorrhage. Emma-Lita had been suffering from a pneumonia-like illness in the final days of her short, misery-filled, life, leading up to her death.
In a coronial inquest, Coroner Brandt Shortland concluded;
“I am of the view the condition of the house at the time being cold and damp during the winter months was a contributing factor to her health status.”
Corin Dann pointedly asked Tolley about Emma-Lita’s death;
@ 6.35 –
“Some would argue with the recent case, for example, with Emma-Lita Bourne who died in the state house, [a] damp house, why not just give those families more money to pay their power bill, rather than give the organisations money to come in and work and all the rest of it?”
@ 6.54 –
“And, and, when you look at something like Whanua Ora, they are doing some of that. See, see, what we’ve got with the focus on individual programmes and agencies working in silos, families don’t work like that. They’re very complex issues so if I don’t know the details of that particular family…”
Tolley admitted not knowing the details of that particular family!
- This was a family living in circumstances within her ministerial ambit.
- A child died from illness which the coroner has stated was, at the least, exacerbated, by her living conditions.
Any normal, rational individual in a position of responsibility in such a situation would have called for a full report on the incident, as well as a copy of the coroner’s findings.
Yet, according to her own statement, Tolley has evidently not done so.
She does not “know the details of that particular family”.
Dann suggested to the Minister “in charge” of Social Development that a solution would be to provide heating for cold, damp State houses;
“One solution though, one solution at least is that the child, if there are children in that family, they get a guarantee of a warm house.”
Tolley’s response was dismissive, followed by bureacratic gobbledegook double-speak;
“Well, not necessarily. Not necessarily. Um, and, and, you can have a warm house that is completely enclosed, that is high moisture content, and you can have related illnesses to that as well.
So what I’m saying is, one part of that, you can solve one part of that. But actually all the other problems are going to continue. And what we’re trying to do is get, um, much more joined up work from the State agencies, but our focus [is] on actually changing the outcomes for those families.”
So, there you have it.
Heating cold, damp houses is “not necessarily” a solution.
But “joining up State agencies” will somehow provide the warmth to keep children out of hospitals.
This is ‘Pythonesque’ humour at it’s darkest and comes at the expense of sick and dying children.
No wonder Tolley made this eye-brow-raising comment a few minutes into the interview;
“I liken it to National Standards.”
National Standards – another of National’s misguided, moronic, and messy experiments.
Perhaps the most jaw-dropping comment from Tolley also came at the very beginning of the interview, when she complained;
“One of the main difficulties that we have is that we don’t know what works. We haven’t got good evidence. We haven’t got good data.”
There is good reason why we do not have “good evidence” and “good data” – because former Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett did not want it;
Because having hard data on poverty means government having a measurable, defined problem dumped into its lap. And three years ago, Bennett was having none of that.
As Labour MP, Jacinda Ardern, said at the time;
“The message is clear. Either Paula Bennett doesn’t want to admit to the scale of the problem, or she is afraid of exposing her government’s lack of progress in fixing it.”
Bennett’s excuses ranged from this;
“One week they can be in poverty, then their parent can get a job or increase their income and they are no longer in poverty … This is the real world, and actually children move in and out of poverty at times on a weekly basis.”
… to parroting neo-liberal clap-trap like this on TVNZ’s Q+A, in November 2013;
“At the end of the day, what is going to make the biggest difference for child poverty, in my opinion and this government’s opinion, and it is tackling the tough stuff. That is long-term welfare dependence. It’s actually more jobs, yeah, so that’s business growth. It feels like to me that Labour’s more interested in welfare growth and not business growth, and as a consequence, are we ever going to agree on that? Probably not.”
… and finally, this garbled ‘gem’ for why she refused to measure child poverty, in the same interview;
“So why do an official measure that then by very definition still has, quite frankly, you know, it’s, sort of, wherever you put the measure, you’re always going to have people in poverty, because you’re taking a median income, taking housing prices off it, so there’s always going to be people- “
Hopefully Minister Tolley will read this and understand why the department she inherited from her predecessor (Paula Bennett) has no “good evidence” or “good data”.
As for solving the life-threatening problem of cold, damp houses that are killing our children – Tolley’s plans to ‘re-jig’ government departments and NGOs will not heat one single house.
Not. One. House.
But it will result in more children becoming ill, and dying.
This is happening on your watch, Minister Tolley.
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 June 2015.
TVNZ Q+A: Revolutionary changes in store for social services (14:11)
Green Party: $900 million for empty beds
NZ Herald: Ana Apatu – Disempowered living in poverty
NZ Herald: Bennett slammed over child poverty claim
Previous related blogposts
= fs =
For a better New Zealand…
~ Cleaner rivers
~ No deep-sea oil drilling
~ Less on Roads - more on Rail
~ A Living wage at $19.25/hr
~ Marriage equality - Yay! Got that one!
~ Strong, effective Unions
~ No secret free-trade deals
~ Breakfast/lunches in our schools
~ Introducing Civics into our school curriculum
~ Cut back on the liquor industry
~ A fairer, progressive tax system
~ Fully funded, free healthcare
~ Ditto for education, including Tertiary
~ Fund Pharmac for Pompe's Disease medication & other 'orphan' drugs
~ No state asset sales!
~ Rebuild public TV broadcasting!
~ Keeping farms in local ownership
~ Reduce poverty, like we reduced the toll for road-fatalities
~ Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!
~ Being nice to each other
- Citizens present petition at Governor General’s gate
- Letter to the Editor: Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Year
- Hekia Parata breaks law – ignores Official Information Act – claims emails “not found” – and it gets worse!
- 2016 – Ongoing jobless tally
- Dumber and dumber, scarier and scarier
- The Mendacities of Mr Key # 15: John Key lies to NZ on consultation and ratification of TPPA
- David Bowie – returning to the stars
- Letter to the Editor – Rightwinger caught out parroting his own garbage
- The Best Laid Plans of Mice, Men, and Mechanoids…
- Letter to the editor – Donald Trump and the lessons of history
- Welcome back, Collins
- Hekia Parata breaks law – ignores Official Information Act
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- Media stories of the Week: ISIS revealed by Middle East expert
- Media stories of the Week: US Ambassador dismissive of our laws
- Wellingtonians say; “Everyone deserves a home – no more homelessness!”
- The slow starvation of Radio NZ – the final nail in the coffin of the Fourth Estate?
- Citizens march against TPPA in Wellington: Did Police hide tasers at TPPA march?
- Citizens march against TPPA in Wellington, send message to National govt: “Yeah, nah!”
- Andrew Little: if you want to send a really strong message to New Zealanders…
- Big Bro’ is Watching You!
- A picture sheds a thousand tears…
- A Tale of Two Head Coverings – a personal-essay
- Unemployment, Christchurch, dairy prices – Bill English confirms blogger’s analysis
- 2015 – Ongoing jobless tally
- State houses – “wrong place, wrong size”?
- Weekend Revelations #3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics
- Weekend Revelations #2 – Michelle Boag has a whinge
- Weekend Revelations #1 – Dr Jonathan Coleman
- The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation?
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