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Posts Tagged ‘child poverty’

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

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ministry-of-truth-update

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In the last few years,  my writing has involved a wide range of topics affecting the social/economic/political aspects of our nation. The one common factor in my writing has been the ability to  research facts and figures and put them into some usable context, either for evidential, or high-lighting purposes.

Offering an opinion that the government is hollowing-out Child,Youth, and Family is one thing. Carrying out research; finding information through the ‘net; asking specific questions using the Official Information Act are the means by which hard facts can be mined; refined; and presented to the reader in a form that presents a credible case to the audience. Stories such as  “State house sell-off in Tauranga unravelling?” and “Ongoing jobless tally” are put together using information, quotes, financial and statistical data.

Two stories late last year illustrated how National – with silence or active co-operation by compliant state-sector bosses – has been able to manipulate statistics to present a favourable public perception of it’s management of the country.

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Media stories of the Week - Police Commissioner Mike Bush on dubious police practices

 

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Though occassionally, the truth slips out, as Greg O’Connor revealed on TVNZ’s Q+A on 25 October, last year;

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Weekend Revelations 3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics

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Fudging statistics, numbers, facts, and dollar-figures is not isolated when it comes to this government. Only a few days ago, English was sprung giving false financial information relating to Sue Moroney’s paid-parental leave bill;

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English admits maths error in bill veto defence

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The Radio NZ report went on to state;

Ms Moroney challenged him about the figures in Parliament.

“Does he stand by his statement to Radio New Zealand on 17 June 2016 that extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks would add when it’s fully in place about $280 million a year.”

Mr English admitted he was incorrect and should have used the figures written in the veto certificate he himself had tabled.

“The government currently spends about $280m a year on paid parental leave, Labour’s proposal once fully implemented would cost around $120m per year on top of that – or $100m per year net of tax. Net of tax the proposal would cost $280m over the next four years.”

Ms Moroney then asked how Mr English got it so wrong.

He replied that he did so because he confused the $280m over four years, with $280m a year.

This is our Finance Minister confusing $280 million per year with over a four-year period. No wonder we’re over $60 billion in debt.

National has been crowing for the last few years that “crime has been falling“;

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Offences at 24-year low, crime down for third year running

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Even the Police Commissioner got in on the ‘act’;

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Crime rate falls to 29-year low

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A huge amount of hard work from our Police has gone into achieving these fantastic results,” said Tolley in 2013. “Fantastic” is right – as in fantasy-fantastic.

Because it did not take long before people started realising that the Police stats were dodgy, and most likely bogus.

This was confirmed by  outgoing Police Association President, Greg O’Conner, on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 25 October, in a very candid  interview with Michael Parkin.

On statistics,  Parkin referred  to  National and Police  trumpeting a 30% drop in crime. O’Conner responded wryly;

@3.10

“Well, it’s uh, lies, damned lies, and statistics. If you look at the crime stats, um, which is those recorded stats, you’ll say the government and police administration are right. If you look at the stats around calls for service, they’re the phone calls that police receive in communications centes, etc, and just an example, family violence, domestic disputes; up by 10% a year pretty much, and across the board, 20% increase. So it’s the calls for service, to the extent that the communications centres couldn’t manage last summer. There’s a fear, and we’re obviously we’re trying to make sure it doesn’t happen this year. So the two are going in completely different directions.”

Parkin pointedly asked if the statistics are being manipulated. O’Conner’s response  was startling in it’s honesty;

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“Of course they are. Every government department – I mean, what happens is that, the stats themselves are fair, but I mean I see it as a debate [like] about health, y’know, medical – the waitings lists have going down, but people get kicked of waiting lists and so it’s, you achieve – Put it this way, with crime stats, what we’ve set out to do is the way to cut crime stats is to hit your bulk crime. So if you have any success there, of course, that’s going to be big numbers down. And what you ignore is your small  numbers. You ignore, in fact, interestingly enough you ignore drugs. You ignore a lot of your serious stuff that you only find if you go looking. And in the past that’s got us into real trouble. Got us into trouble with the child abuse files, in particular, and you remember, that they were put aside. Because they weren’t politically known. They were business as usual. All of a sudden we were concentrating on the crime and crash reduction, um, and we ignored that stuff. And so you’ve got to be careful. And this is where the politicisation of policing is really dangerous. It’s not done by the Minister saying ‘you gotta do this and you gotta do that’, it’s done by funding.”

O’Conner’s scorn is confirmed by an event last year where one police district was caught out, red-handed, falsifying crime statistics. Seven hundred burglary offences “disappeared”;

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Police made burglaries vanish - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

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Herald journalist, Eugene Bingham, reported;

“ It transpired others knew about the allegations around the same time, including the local MP and then-Minister of Justice, Judith Collins.”

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Two-year search for 'ghost crimes' truth - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

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A police report “raised questions over pressures to meet crime reduction targets”, but Police were quick to assure that the fudged stats were “isolated“;

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Police deny being caught out by false review claims - greg o'conner - national - crime statistics

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“Isolated”? As far back as 2012, Police were issuing warnings for petty-crime, instead of prosecuting;

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Warnings to petty crims 'freeing up police time'

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Then-Police Commissioner Peter Marshall said;

“ These are 19,000 people who would otherwise go to court, who would clutter up the system in terms of court time, let alone police officers preparing prosecution files and spending time in court.”

So the policy of issuing warnings “freed up police time” and “un-clogged the Court system”?

It also created a drop in crime statistics.

How convenient.

The above Herald story, “Warnings to petty crims ‘freeing up police time’ ” appeared in the Herald in January 2012. So by April 2013, Police Minister Anne Tolley was able to say with (almost) a straight face;

“ These statistics show that our Police are getting it right, and I want to congratulate the Commissioner and all Police staff for their efforts in preventing crime and making communities safer.”

It’s easy to reduce crime. Just “massage” the stats  away.

“Massaging” statistics does not work for long, as current Police Commissioner Bush recently discovered;

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Police concerned at national crime spike

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(Listen also to Radio NZ Checkpoint interview (2′ 39″))

Both Police Minister Judith Collins and Commissioner Bush resorted to old-fashioned “spin” (aka “bullshitry”) to explain away this embarrassing development;

Police Commissioner Mike Bush told MPs at today’s Law and Order Select Committee the jump in crime had to be kept in perspective.

“Burglary rates are some of the lowest rates in over a decade, in recent times there has been an increase – now that concerns me,” the commissioner said.

Police Minister Judith Collins tried to put a positive spin on the jump in crime when speaking to reporters later.

“Well there may have been a slight bump in crime and I think the commissioner said that was most likely so, but I think what we’re seeing is if police go after drug offenders, that’s always going to be counting as offences,” she said.

On this basis, if  Police  did not arrest anyone; nor prosecuted anyone, there would be zero crime in New Zealand. According to statistics, anyway.

So much for one one National’s vaunted, lynch-pin policies;

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National hoarding staying strong on crime

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National’s ministers have never liked statistics. They have a tendency to show up the failings of this inept government. Who can forget then-Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett in August 2012 giving an explanation (of sorts) why her government was not willing to undertake measuring the poverty line;

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measuring-poverty-line-not-a-priority-bennett

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“ There is no official measure of poverty in New Zealand. The actual work to address poverty is perhaps what is most important. Children move in and out of poverty on a daily basis.”

Though how Bennett proposed to “address poverty” when she was fearful of even measuring it has never been fully explained.

But as we know, since Bennett’s decision, poverty has increased and stories of people living in garages, cars, and families crammed into over-crowded houses have come to light. Despite not being measured, poverty refuses to go away.

What an inconvenient, annoying nuisance.

On 29 June 2016, Statistic NZ anounced that it would be changing the manner in which it defined a jobseeker;

Change: Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible.

Improvement: Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.

The statement went on to explain;

Change in key labour market estimates:

  • Decreases in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate

  • Changes to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate range from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points. In the most recent published quarter (March 2016), the unemployment rate is revised down from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent 

  • Increases in the number of people not in the labour force 

  • Decreases in the size of the labour force and the labour force participation rate

The result of this change? At the stroke of a pen, unemployment fell from 5.7% to 5.2%.

Simply because if a person was job-searching using the internet they were “not actively seeking work“.

Which beggars belief as the majority of jobseekers will be using the internet. It is the 21st century – what else would they be using?

In fact, a government website – careersnz – states categorically;

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careersnz - use the internet

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Work and Income’s (WINZ) website states similarly;

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work and income - where to look

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On-line job advertising company, Seek,  reported a sharp rise in job adverts on their websites.

For the government statistician to unilaterally declare that “looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work” beggars belief. One might as well say that if a person admitted to hospital shows no outward signs of serious illness, then that person is obviously not sick.

When most jobs are advertised online – as stated by government agencies!!! – where else would one look for a job? By studying tea-leaves perhaps?

The result of Statistics NZ’s “improvements” by removing online job-hunting as job-seeking is obvious; the rate of unemployment dropped.

How surprising.

Stats NZ actually seemed pleased with the consequence;

Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.

How can “the counts of people unemployed” be “more accurate” if large numbers of unemployed are culled from the count?!?! In what Universe is this an accurate count to include some unemployed, but not others, for the most specious reason?

This makes no sense in terms of accurate statistics. To any sober person, an unemployed jobseeker is one who is;

  1. Unemployment
  2. Job-seeking

There is no rationale for arbitrarily removing job seekers who use the internet to seek work. Especially as two government departments encourage on-line searching because “most jobs in NZ are advertised online“.

There can only be one rational explanation: the unemployment statistics are inconvenient. Therefore change the parameters of the statistics.

This change to Statistics NZ is of considerable benefit to the National government. Their policies have consistently failed to reduced unemployment in a meaningful way.

The perception is that “strings have been pulled”; “whispers made into certain ears”; and Ministers’ expectations made clear to certain senior civil servants.

If all this is true, this would have to be one of the most under-hand things that National has done these last eight years. This would have to be one of the worst.

Aside from the fact that it is another in a long list of lies, bendy-truths, omissions, etc, this one is a wilful attempt to hide the consequences of their failing policies.

It was bad enough when Stats NZ defined being “employed” as;

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

* worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment

* worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative

If working one hour, without pay, is the minimum measure of being “employed”, then what must our true rate of unemployment actually be?

As much as possible, I deal with facts in my writing. But when supposedly independent, non-partisan, ostensibly-accurate data-collection and presentation is no longer a true reflection of reality, then we have reached a point where I am dealing in assumptions, half-facts, and outright distortions.

This government has done what few other Western democracies have achieved; a state of Orwellianism that Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, and other dictatorships required unrelenting brute force to achieve.

When it comes to National, believe nothing; question everything. Misinformation is policy.

Welcome – to National’s “Brighter Future”.

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National-Party-Holds-Conference-Wellington-sJ7OyG8uc6Yl

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Note: Some parts of this story are an excerpt from a previous blogpost,  Weekend Revelations #3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics.

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References

TVNZ: Q+A – Police Association president steps down

Radio NZ: English admits maths error in bill veto defence

Beehive.govt.nz: Offences at 24-year low, crime down for third year running

NZ Herald: Crime rate falls to 29-year low

NZ Herald:  Police made burglaries vanish

NZ Herald:  Two-year search for ‘ghost crimes’ truth

NZ Herald:  Police deny being caught out by false review claims

NZ Herald: Warnings to petty crims ‘freeing up police time’

Radio NZ: Police concerned at national crime spike

Radio NZ: Checkpoint – Police concerned at national crime spike (audio)

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Revisions to labour market estimates

Careersnz: Job hunting tips

Work and Income: Where to look

Fairfax media: Wellington jobs advertised on Seek up 11 per cent over past year

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Definitions

Other Blogposts

Polity: English canards

The Daily Blog: To make the unemployment stats drop, Government now claims anyone looking for jobs on the internet isn’t unemployed

The Standard: The great big list of John Key’s big fat lies (UPDATED)

The Standard: “Post-truth” politics (and false equivalences)

Previous related blogposts

John Key’s “pinch of salt” style of telling the truth

National – self-censoring embarrassing statements?

Weekend Revelations #3 – Greg O’Connor and criminal statistics

Media stories of the Week: Police Commissioner Mike Bush on dubious police practices

The Mendacities of Mr English – Fibbing from Finance Minister confirmed

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: The sale of Kiwibank eight years in the planning?

That was Then, This is Now #28 – John Key on transparency

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dilbert_made_up_numbers

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 July 2016.

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Success for National Govt – new bank opens!

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In 2002, the Labour-Alliance Coalition gave us a new bank;

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Kiwibank_Logo_Wide

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This year, National’s policies (or lack of) delivered us this new bank;

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New foodbank opens in New Lynn - Radio NZ - Generation Ignite - John Campbell

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Nothing quite spells “success”  like a new Food Bank opening in a community near you.

Listen to John Campbell interviewing Jo Noema on her foodbank project, “Generation Ignite“. Truly a remarkable New Zealander.

Generous people like Jo are the reason that disadvantaged, impoverished families are able to survive. They are doing what well-paid, well-resourced National Ministers are tasked to  do, but are failing miserably.

When John Key promised us a “Brighter Future”, I don’t think this  is quite  what we were anticipating.

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References

Radio NZ: New foodbank opens in New Lynn

Additional

Facebook: Generation Ignite

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Dear Leader John Key sitting on his hands - Tremain

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on11 June 2016.

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Letter to the editor – homelessness, class eugenics, and middle class sensibilities

11 June 2016 2 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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The first three paragraphs are brilliant. The next three are a descent into the depths of wilful human blindness. It is tragic how many people feel this way…

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letter to the editor - homelessness - class eugenics - russell vant

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… as if the right to have a family and raise children to be good citizens of this country  is now the sole privilege of the affluent.

So I replied, with my thoughts;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>
date: Sat, Jun 4, 2016
subject:Letter to the editor

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The editor

The Wellingtonian

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Russell Vant’s first three paragraphs of his letter, on homelessness, conveyed the true spirit of Kiwi generosity. (26 May)

But his last three paragraphs appears to make a subtle argument for what can only be described as class eugenics; the elimination of undesirables from society for economic reasons.

Mr Vant demands, “at what point does the collective have a say in the reproductive process, coming together to work out how many children our society can adequately support”?

It is a chilling suggestion that our “reproductive processes” should be pre-determined and enforced like some Kiwi version of China’s one-child policy.

Perhaps his idea is more targetted at a specific group in our society? Not Jews – this time it’s poor families. The suggestion that poor people shouldn’t “breed” because of their financial circumstances is not uncommon.

It is a naive, simplistic response to low incomes and growing poverty since the neo-liberal revolution in 1984.

Addressing the real causes of income/wealth disparity is a complex process. That is no reason to make scapegoats out of those who have been crushed by the cold invisible hand of the so-called “free” market.

The day New Zealand allows only the affluent to raise a family is not a day I want to live to see.

.-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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halloween trickle down - what could go wrong

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 June 2016.

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Letter to Radio NZ – Homelessness, Poverty, and the Final Solution

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Morning Report <morningreport@radionz.co.nz>
date: Wed, May 18, 2016
subject: Homelessness and the Final Solution

Kia ora Suzie & Guyon,

I’ve been hearing some of your listeners making comments that the homeless should not have children.

In effect, what they are doing is blaming the poorest in society for their predicament. Really? When did the poor ever decide economic policy in this country?

What those correspondents are saying is only the well-off should have children.

The only question that remains to be answered is what do working families do when they are made redundant and end up in garages or cars with their children – what method do your correspondents advocate to euthenase those children?

Because that is what they’re advocating; a Final Solution for the Poor.

– Frank Macskasy

 

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National’s Food In Schools programme reveals depth of child poverty in New Zealand

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Recently obtained OIA figures from the Ministry of Social Development reveal that 836 schools currently participate in the Kickstart food-in-schools programme. The programme began in 2009, between Fonterra and Sanitarium, to address a growing child poverty crisis.

According  to MSD’s data, over 100,000 breakfasts  are served to 27,061 children on a weekly basis.

This is in stark contrast to John Key’s claims on 5 November 2014, that hungry children in schools was only a minor problem;

“I do not believe that the number of children who go to decile 1 to 4 schools who do not have lunch is 15 percent. I have asked extensively at the decile 1, 2, 3, and 4 schools I have been to. Quite a number of principals actually even reject the notion that they need breakfast in schools. Those who do take breakfasts in schools tell me that for the odd child who does not have lunch, they either give them some more breakfast or provide them with lunch. But what they have said to me is that the number of children in those schools who actually require lunch is the odd one or two.”

The odd one or two” is contradicted by the ministry’s own figures which states that from 13 December 2013, “more than 5.9 million breakfasts  have been served since expansion“.

This would tally from Key’s own admission, on 18 October 2011, that poverty in New Zealand was continuing to worsen under his administration;

Mr Key made the concession yesterday when asked about progress with the underclass, saying it depended what measures were used but recessions tended to disproportionately affect low income earners and young people.

He said he had visited a number of budgeting services and food banks “and I think it’s fair to say they’ve seen an increase in people accessing their services. So that situation is there.”

National expanded the Kickstart programme in May 2013, in response to growing public disquiet and clamour to address the spectacle of children turning up hungry in our schools. It was also in response to Hone Harawira’s  Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill (aka, “Feed the Kids” Bill), which had been included six months earlier in the private member’s ballot system.

As Harawira explained in May 2014,

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"I know this bill isn't the full answer — that families need more work and better wages to feed their kids every day all week long and that much more needs to be put in place to turn around rising child poverty levels in Aotearoa. "All I want to do with this Bill is make sure our kids get fed while this is being done."

I know this bill isn’t the full answer — that families need more work and better wages to feed their kids every day all week long and that much more needs to be put in place to turn around rising child poverty levels in Aotearoa.
“All I want to do with this Bill is make sure our kids get fed while this is being done.”

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National’s subsequent, watered down programme to feed hungry children was derided by then-Labour leader, David Shearer;

“National’s been dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line on this. It’s only through public pressure and the pressure of Opposition parties like the Labour Party that’s got them there. But overall, it’s good for those kids who go to school hungry.”

In June 2013, then Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, assured Radio NZ that only another hundred schools would take up the expanded Kickstart programme.

By the beginning of 2014, the programme was expanded to include all decile 1 to 10 primary, intermediate, and secondary schools.

However, MSD’s Deputy Chief Executive, Murray Edridge,  revealed that there had been a “47 per cent  increase since the expansion of the programme” in 2013;

“82 per cent of all participating schools are now providing KickStart breakfasts for more than two days per week and 58 per cent of schools are serving breakfasts for all five days of the week.”

This is at variance with Key’s assertions – made as late as 19 March last year – that hungry children going to school was not a problem. In minimising the problem, Key said;

“These are the facts,” Mr Key said. “At Te Waiu o Ngati Porou School, Ruatoria, Decile one, how many children came to school without lunch – answer – zero.”

At Sylvia Park School, decile two – there one or two kids, and at Manurewa Intermediate, a decile one school with a roll of 711, perhaps 12 had gone to school with no lunch.

Yes there is an issue where some children come to school without lunch. That number of children is relatively low.”

The rise in demand for KickStart breakfasts occurred at the same time as those on  welfare benefits was cut dramatically;

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said today the 309,145 people on benefit at the end of the December 2014 quarter was 12,700 fewer than last year.

“This is the lowest December quarter since 2008 and the third consecutive quarter with such record lows,” Tolley says.

Numbers on the Jobseeker Support benefit had fallen by more than 5500 since last year and had declined consistently since 2010, even as the overall working age population increased.

Even children with disabilities did not escaped this government’s culling of welfare recipients;

More than 11,000 disabled children have lost access to a welfare benefit that is supposed to support them, as officials try to rein in previously-ballooning costs.

A Child Poverty Action Group report on disabled children, launched in Auckland today, said children supported by the child disability allowance almost trebled from 17,600 in 1998 to 45,800 in 2009, but were then cut back to just 34,500 last June.

The cut has been achieved both by tightening criteria and by simply not publicising the allowance.

The problem of hungry school children drew John Key’s attention as far back as 2007, when he was still Leader of the Opposition;

National launches its Food in Schools programme
Sunday, 4 February 2007, 1:21 pm
Press Release: New Zealand Government

John Key MP
National Party Leader

3 February 2007

National launches its Food in Schools programme

National Party Leader John Key has announced the first initiative in what will be a National Food in Schools programme.

“National is committed to providing practical solutions to the problems which Helen Clark says don’t exist,” says Mr Key.

During his State of the Nation speech on Tuesday, Mr Key indicated National would seek to introduce a food in schools programme at our poorest schools in partnership with the business community.

Mr Key has since received an approach from Auckland-based company Tasti foods.

“I approached Wesley Primary School yesterday, a decile 1 school near McGehan Close, a street that has had more than its fair share of problems in recent times. I am told Wesley Primary, like so many schools in New Zealand, has too many kids turning up hungry.

“We’re putting Tasti and Wesley Primary together. This is a fantastic first step. In addition to this, Tasti has indicated they may wish to expand their generous donation of food to other schools in need, and we’ll be looking to facilitate that.

“We all instinctively know that hungry kids aren’t happy and healthy kids.”

Mr Key is also inviting other businesses to contact National so it can work on expanding the programme.

“I want this to be the first of many schools and businesses that we put together. I’m interested in what works and I am humbled by the support this idea has received already. We are going to put together the package while in Opposition. We are not waiting to be in Government, because all our kids deserve better.”

According to National,  this was a critical problem in 2007.

Yet, on 19 March, National and it’s coalition supporters voted down Mana’s “Feed the Kids” Bill (which had been taken over by the Green Party after Hone Harawira lost his Te Tai Tokerau seat in 2014). The Bill was defeated 61 to 59, courtesy of National, ACT, and Peter Dunne.

MSD also disclosed that 26 applications for participation in the KickStart programme had been declined. This included Early Childhood Education (ECE) providers. No reason was given despite the OIA request specifically asking the basis for which applications were declined.

This indicates that pre-schoolers are presently attending ECE facilities and going hungry.

The MSD also admitted that Charter Schools – which are funded at a higher rate than State and Integrated Schools – also participate in the KickStart programme. Their information did not reveal how many or which Charter Schools were participating. The MSD statement confirmed that “the provision of the [KickStart] programme  does not affect a school’s funding“.

Kidscan currently lists fourteen schools that are still awaiting “urgent support, that’s 1,661 children waiting for food, clothing and basic healthcare“.

In contrast, several European nations provide free meals to school children;

The school lunch provides an important opportunity for learning healthy habits, and well-balanced school meals have been linked to improved concentration in class, better educational outcomes and fewer sick days. Given the importance of these meals, what is being done across Europe to ensure all children have a balanced and enjoyable lunch?

Many countries in Europe have policies to help schools provide nutritionally balanced meals which also reflect the general eating culture of each nation. Often, lunch is eaten in a cafeteria-like setting where children receive food from a central service point (e.g. Finland, Sweden and Italy).

In Finland and Sweden, where all school meals are fully funded by the government, lunches follow national dietary guidelines including the ‘plate model’. An example meal is presented to guide children’s self-service…

Finland – which consistently scores highly in OECD PISA educational rankings – introduced free school meals in 1948;

Finland was the first country in the world to serve free school meals. 1948 is seen as being the year when free school catering really  started, though catering activities on a smaller scale had been around since the beginning of the 20th century.

[…]

Section 31 of the Basic Education Act states that pupils attending school must be provided with a properly organised and supervised,  balanced meal free of charge every school day.

[…]

The role of school meals is to be a pedagogical tool to teach good nutrition and eating habits as well as to increase consumption of  vegetables, fruits and berries, full corn bread and skimmed or low fat milk.

Interestingly, the Finns describe free school meals as an Investment in Learning;

In Finland, we are proud of our long history of providing free school meals…

… A good school meal is an investment in the future.

With rising housing and rental costs, and wage increases  at or below inflation, not every family can successfully balance budgets to ensure a nutritious meal for their children. When it comes to a decision whether to pay the power bill, or cut back on groceries for the week – it is often the latter that is sacrificed.

The Salvation  Army recently  outlined the problem of the phenomenon known as the “working poor“;

Every week 314 new people contact the Salvation Army for assistance, and those who are currently working are often at risk too.

[…]

The Salvation Army says it is meeting more and more responsible people who have experienced misfortune that has derailed their lives.

It believes the cost of rent is a dangerous factor, even for those working.

“It doesn’t leave a lot of room for something to go wrong,” says Jason Dilger, a representative for the Salvation Army. “I do believe there are a significant number of people out there who are vulnerable.”

It says an increasing number of Kiwis are living pay-by-pay, but ideally everyone would have a financial safety net set aside to help with any unexpected hiccups.

“So many people aren’t even in a position to think that way because they’re just trying to meet expenses week to week.”

In a 2014 report, the Salvation Army stated;

Given the recent growth in the number of jobs available and the gradual decline in levels of unemployment, we should have seen a  tapering off in demand for food parcels from food banks. We have not seen this. Such demand has remained virtually unchanged since 2010, which suggests that many households are still struggling to pay bills and feed their family despite the economy recovery. Overall living costs of low income households appear to be moving in line with general inflation.

Which illustrates that the problems faced by poor, lowly-paid, and beneficiary families is not choices in expenditure – but low incomes which fail to meet the many day-to-day, week-to-week, demands placed on them.

From the 1950s through to the  1970s, a single income was often sufficient to raise a family and pay the bills.

In contemporary New Zealand, this is no longer the case. Falling rates of home-ownership is just one indicator that incomes are not keeping pace with rising costs of living.

Growing child poverty is another symptom of the increase in inequality since the mid-1980s. Prior to the 1980s, food banks were practically an unknown rarity;

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

Shifting responsibility for this ever-growing problem onto  victims of inequality and poverty is a form of denial. It is little more an attempt to evade the problem, especially when no practical solutions (other than class-based eugenics) are offered.

Addressing the real causes of poverty and working-poor will be a tough call. Ensuring that all children are provided nutritious meals at school is the first step down this road.

As John Key said nine years ago;

“We all instinctively know that hungry kids aren’t happy and healthy kids.

… all our kids deserve better.”

Indeed, John. I couldn’t have said it better.

Postscript

The MSD response to my OIA request also confirmed that the increased up-take of the KickStart programme was not restricted solely to low-decile schools;

Since the expansion [in 2013] 170 schools rated decile five or higher have joined the programme.

Which indicates that schools in middle-class areas are now requiring State assistance to feed hungry children.

 

 

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References

Email: OIA Response from Ministry of Social Development

Kickstart Programme: Home

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

NZ Herald: 300,000+ Kiwi kids now in relative poverty

Parliament Today: Questions and Answers – November 5

Scoop media: Hone Harawira – Feed the Kids Bill

NZ Herald: Harawira’s ‘feed the kids’ bill begins first reading

Radio NZ: Govt gives $9.5m to expand food in schools programme

Radio NZ: Government to expand food in schools programme (audio)

Kickstart Programme: FAQ

NZ Herald:  Government votes down ‘feed the kids’ bill

Radio NZ: Parliament rejects free school lunch bills

Fairfax media: Beneficiary numbers fall again: Government

NZ Herald: 11,000 disabled children lose welfare benefit

Scoop media: National launches its Food in Schools programme

Radio NZ: Ministry says charter schools “over-funding” is $888,000

Kidscan: Supporting Schools

European Food Information Council: School lunch standards in Europe

Wikipedia: Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – 2012

NZ Federation of Family Budgetting: Why are so many of us struggling financially?

Child Poverty Action Group: Hard to swallow: Foodbank use in New Zealand

Additional

Fightback: Feed the Kids, end the hunger system

NZ Herald: Number of Kiwi kids in poverty jumps by 60,000

Previous related blogposts

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

National dragged kicking and screaming to the breakfast table

Are we being milked? asks Minister

High milk prices? Well, now we know why

Poor people – let them eat cake; grow veges; not breed; and other parroted right wing cliches

Poor people – let them eat cake; grow veges; not breed; and other parroted right wing cliches… (part rua)

Once were warm hearted

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6a00d83451d75d69e201901cbc5a3c970b

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 February 2016.

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Letter to the Editor – Rightwinger caught out parroting his own garbage

9 January 2016 7 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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From the NZ Herald, ex-ACT leader Jamie Whyte had his usual Right wing nonsense about “no real poverty in New Zealand“;

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Jamie Whyte - Poverty statistics suffer from paucity of common sense

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… 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;

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Jamie Whyte defends 'self-plagiarism' claim

 

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To which I replied with  this letter-to-the-editor;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: Fri, Jan 8, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
NZ Herald

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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.

-Frank Macskasy

 

 

[address and phone number supplied]

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References

NZ Herald: Jamie Whyte – Poverty statistics suffer from paucity of common sense

NZ Herald: Jamie Whyte defends ‘self-plagiarism’ claim

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Hekia Parata breaks law – ignores Official Information Act

7 December 2015 2 comments

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official-information-act-OIA-NZ

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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.

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food in schools

 

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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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.

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Addendum1

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.

From a blogpost published on 18 January 2013;

Muppet #1 – Hekia Parata

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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

See: Parata safe in her job – Key

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.

See: Parata’s job safe in shuffle

*snort!*

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,

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2 October 2012

lesley longstone fronts instead of hekia parata (2)

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3 October 2012

Ministry of Education admits some errors in data

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4 October 2012

Education Minister avoids her critics

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26 October 2012

lesley longstone fronts instead of hekia parata (3)

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29 October 2013

Longstone challenged to find solutions

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14 November 2012

lesley longstone fronts instead of hekia parata (1)

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28 November 2012

lesley longstone Schools still beset by Novopay problems

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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),

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19 December 2012

lesley longstone Education secretary quits

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20 December 2012

lesley longstone Parata, Key refuse to front over education debacle

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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.

See: Education Ministry boss quits after ‘strained relationship’

Hmmmm, judging by Parata not fronting for most of last year, was she on holiday for most of 2012?!

“Smooth communicator…”!?

Ye gods, this deserves a Tui billboard.

Roll on 2013 – it’s going to be a great year.

Addendum2

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;

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government-sticking-with-novopay-for-now

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References

Kickstart Breakfast Programme

Radio NZ: Food in schools ‘could get good results’

Feedthekids: Support grows for MANA’s Feed the Kids Bill

Parliament: Harawira, Hone: Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill — First Reading

Feedthekids: Feed the Kids Bill a “good initiative” – Jamie Oliver Food Foundation

NZEI: Food in schools bill will help children learn

NZ Herald: Food in schools bill delayed for second time

Commissioner for Children:  Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty

NZ Herald: Head boy disappointed in Dunne over food bill

ODT: Joyce to take on handling of Novopay

Every Child Counts

Radio NZ: Government sticking with Novopay for now

Previous related blogposts

Parata, Bennett, and Collins – what have they been up to?

Karma for Key?

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The hypocrisy from world leaders overCharlie begins to rattle observers. NZ's John Key's words of January 8 in particular raised many eyebrows amongst the'4th Estate'. Rod Emmerson 14/01/15

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 December 2015.

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