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

5 March 2016 4 comments

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Award for Idiot Comment of the Year – And the winner is…

19 September 2015 3 comments

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Foot In Mouth Award - john key

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As international prices for milk-powder plummet to historic lows, wiping billions from Fonterra’s pay-out to farmers; the economy; and tax revenue;  sending farms to the wall and collapse; and pushing New Zealand closer to recession – our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, had this to say about the downturn;

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"I mean - yes dairy prices are down a little bit..."

“I mean – yes dairy prices are down a little bit…”

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Dairy prices are down a little bit…”?

And I suppose World Wars 1 and 2 were “nations disagreeing a little bit“.

You can always count on the sky on Planet Key being warm and rosy.

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Contrast Key’s disingenuous, Pollyannarish positivity, with former Finance Minister, Dr Michael Cullen’s, warnings about the Global Financial crisis in June 2008, and how it was impacting on New Zealand’s economy;

“In 2008, New Zealand’s economy has begun to feel the effects of a challenging global environment. Global increases in commodity prices have seen the cost of food and petrol increase significantly here at home. Internationally, there are fears that these increases could impoverish tens of millions of people in developing countries.

The continued fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States and the resulting global credit crunch have led to higher mortgage rates and a weakening of the housing market domestically, squeezing the budgets of existing homeowners and reducing household spending and investment growth. The weakness of the United States Dollar has been an important driver of a very strong New Zealand Dollar, making life difficult for some exporters. Adding to this, farmers are battling drought in a number of regions and GDP growth will slow as a result.

While these challenges are not of New Zealand’s making, they are affecting New Zealanders today. And while the New Zealand Government cannot single-handedly bring down food and petrol prices or end the credit crunch, we have a responsibility to manage our way through these difficulties while protecting families from the harsh edges of any downturn.”

Cullen was up-front with New Zealanders, warning of tough times ahead.

Key treats us like children, because deep down, his barely-disguised arrogance taints and defines his view of New Zealanders.

Sometimes, though, the disdain he holds for ordinary Kiwis pokes through his public persona of “likeable blokiness”, and becomes manifested in sneering derision. As he has done with anti-TPPA protests and opposition to the partial-privatisation of state assets;

 

They don’t fully understand what we’re doing. My experience is when I take audiences through it, like I did just before, no-one actually put up their hand and asked a question.” –John Key, 27 October 2011

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“Well, the numbers don’t look like they’re that significant. I mean at the moment it’s sitting at around about 40 per cent. That’s not absolutely amazing, it’s not overwhelmingly opposed. But the people who are motivated to vote will be those who are going to vote against.” – John Key, 14 December 2013

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“They were expecting a big turnout, they were expecting a big vote in their favour and they didn’t get either of those. Overall what it basically shows is that it was a political stunt.”
John Key, 13 December 2013

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There’s three groups – some are Jane Kelsey and her people; she’s been opposed to every single free trade deal… she’ll never agree. The second group are the Labour and the Greens people; they are there with all sorts of stuff… Labour in their heart of hearts are actually in favour, but they’re in that oppositional mode at the moment where they’re opposed to everything… then you get to the third bit with people who are genuinely protesting, but I think protesting on quite a bit of misinformation.” – John Key, 17 August 2015

With each passing year, it gets harder and harder to hide the real John Key from public gaze.
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References

Radio NZ: PM shrugs off worries about economy

Treasury: Budget 2008

TV3 News: Key – TPPA protesters ‘misinformed’

Fairfax media: Asset sales promoted to seniors

NZ Herald: Asset sales proceed in spite of referendum

Fairfax media: PM playing down voter turnout

Previous related blogposts

Patrick Gower – losing his rag and the plot

Another media gaffe – this time it’s TV3’s Brook Sabin

John Key’s foot-in-mouth syndrome

National Minister refers to PM as “Wild Eyed” Right-Winger!

National Minister refers to PM as “Wild Eyed” Right-Winger!

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don't ruin my hawaiian holiday - john key

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 September 2015.

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Letter to the editor – A right to know?

12 March 2015 3 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Wed, Mar 11, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
Dominion Post
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So let me see if I’ve got this straight…

When the so-called “agri-terrorist” threatened Fonterra with lacing baby formula powder with 1080, our trading partners were informed very smartly.

Meanwhile, New Zealand mums and dads were kept in the dark for nearly four months, with our esteemed Prime Minister, saying;

“I want to reassure parents that every step possible has been taken to respond to the threat, to ensure the ongoing safety of our food products.”

 

No, not every step. Parents were not informed at the beginning so they could take elementary precautions such as checking that containers had not been tampered with.

Far from being “open and transparent” as Key likes to describe his administration, this is one of the most secretive governments we have ever endured.

This time, though, he has gone too far.  Keeping something as potentially deadly as poison-laced baby powder a secret for four months was irresponsible.

We have lambasted closed societies such as the former Soviet Union for not disclosing critical problems as early as possible. We should expect no less from our own supposedly democratically elected government.

 

Parents have a right to know. Not just our trading partners.

-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]


 

References

NZ Herald:  From parents to politicians, outrage at threat to baby formula

 

 

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Radio NZ: Focus on Politics for 9 August 2013

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– Focus on Politics –

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– Friday 9 August 2013 –

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– Brent Edwards –

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A weekly analysis of significant political issues.

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

This week the Government has been battling the fall-out from the Fonterra contamination scare.

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Radio NZ logo - Focus on Politics

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Click to listen: Focus on Politics for 2 August 2013 ( 17′ 22″ )

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams

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– Politics on Nine To Noon –

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– Monday 12 August 2013 –

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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Radio NZ logo - Politics on nine to noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (24′ 26″ )

Discussing,

  • the government’s recent housing announcements and changes to Kiwisaver,
  • the multiple inquiries into the Fonterra food safety scandal,
  • and the government backdown over proposed changes to fishing regulations.

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams

5 August 2013 4 comments

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– Politics on Nine To Noon –

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– Monday 5 August 2013 –

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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Radio NZ logo - Politics on nine to noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams (27′ 40″ )

  • Discuss the current Fonterra food safety scare;
  • the continuing scandal surrounding the GCSB emails;
  • Labour’s affordable housing policy,
  • and recent positive poll results.

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

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National dragged kicking and screaming to the breakfast table

23 June 2013 3 comments

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We all instinctively know that hungry kids aren’t happy and healthy kids.  I want this to be the first of many schools and businesses that we put together.  I’m interested in what works and I am humbled by the support this idea has received already.  We are going to put together the package while in Opposition. We are not waiting to be in Government, because all our kids deserve better.”  –  John Key, 4 February 2007

Mounting pressure on National has finally yielded results; Prime Minister Key today announced that funding would be provided for some food in schools.

It’s a limited programme;

  1. Increasing the ‘KickStart’ School breakfast programmes from two to five days a week
  2. $9.5 million over five years from the State
  3. A further $9.5 million to be sought from Fonterra and Sanitarium
  4. $1.5 million to Kidscan over three years to provide clothes, health and hygiene products to children from poor families
  5. Targetting  schools with decile rating 1-4. (“Higher decile schools that want and need it, can opt in during 2014“, says Paula Bennett. see:  Breakfast programme part of the solution)

It’s a basic breakfast, weetbix and milk. But it’s a damn sight better than nothing. Anything that gives hungry children a better chance at some basic nutrition and a better chance at learning, has to be welcomed.

Never mind National’s core-support naysayers. They most likely never had to endure any degree of hunger (except maybe getting home late to a dinner of salmon, courgettes, greek-style salad, with a decent pinot gris).

The only thing that worries me is that this $19 million programme relies heavily on support from private companies; Fonterra and Sanitarium. Either one of those companies could pull the plug, citing commercial reasons; shareholder dissatisfaction;  or no particular reasons at all.

This happened in mid 2011, when the Countdown Supermarket chain withdrew it’s support from a Red Cross-operated programme. As the Herald report on 27 May 2011;

Child poverty campaigners want the Government to take over feeding hungry children in low-income schools after the supermarket chain Countdown torpedoed a Red Cross breakfast programme.

[…]

Countdown spokesman Luke Schepen said the supermarket chain gave more than $1 million in food and other help to the Red Cross breakfast programme from its start in 2007 until the end of last year.

It advised the schools to apply to the Kickstart programme run by Fonterra and Sanitarium, which provides milk and cereal to more than 400 schools twice a week.

Acknowledgment – NZ Herald – Govt urged to take over school food programme

It’s interesting that Countdown began it’s assistance in 2007. That was the year that then-leader of the Opposition, John Key, launched National’s own Food in Schools  initiative;

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National launches its Food in Schools programme

Acknowledgment – Scoop – National launches its Food in Schools programme

Two years after Key released the policy statement above, Countdown withdrew from the programme. A cynic might suggest that Countdown had fulfilled it’s bargain with National and could safely walk away.

Is that what we’ll see with Fonterra and/or Sanitarium? That, after a couple of years, when the issue of hungry kids has faded from public consciousness, Fonterra and/or Sanitarium will announce their withdrawal from the ‘KickStart’ programme?

Considering that Fonterra is a farmers co-op and the rural community have traditionally voted National; and considering that the Seventh Day Adventist church is a conservative religious group, whose members most likely also vote National – these are natural allies to the Tories.

Let’s hope that this is not a cunning trick by National to down-play this problem and  create a false assurance to the public that the government is “doing something”. That really would be cynical.

Some final points…

The Polls

Of all the reassuring events recently, two polls on TV1 and TV3 reconfirmed my faith in the generosity of most New zealanders. Both  showed over-whelming support for introducing food in schools;

TV1

In favour: 70%

Opposed: 26%

Undecided: 4%

TV3

In favour: 74%

Opposed: 23%

Undecided: 3%

Most surprisingly, Patrick Gower revealed that 66% of National voters were in favour of a Food In Schools programmes, with only a “hard core” of one third opposing it.

Well done those 66%. You folk still have a soul and a heart.

The Naysayers

Your naked selfishness and utter  lack of empathy verges on the  sociopathic. You would condemn innocent children to hunger simply because of some twisted, perverted desire to punish  parents who don’t measure up to your own precious ‘standards’.

Really, go fuck yourselves.

The Public

As Hone Harawire pointed out yesterday (27 May) on TV3, it was public pressure that forced National to pay attention to this growing problem in our society, and to come up with something – anything! – as a solution.

It is inconceivable that we  cannot do something for the children of the poorest families in our own country. Especially when Sweden, the UK, Canada, etc, already offer this most basic service.

Why do we call New Zealand “Godzone” if not to practice what we preach in terms of egalitarianism and helping one another.

This achievement was the result of  a broad people’s movement. Whether it was Bryan Bruce and his incredible  documentary, “Inside Child Poverty“- or individual citizens such as this Facebook user wrote,

The simplest way to address this would be to increase the minimum wage, my wife teaches in a decile 1 school many parents who are working are struggling. Living in the eastern bay of plenty average incomes here are the lowest in NZ. Parents working as pickets or packers in the kiwifruit industry earn bugger all. The myth that those struggling to feed their kids are on the dole is exacting that, many are working long hours , but if you are on the minimum hourly rate in NZ, you only need a doctors bill, or. Car repairs and your family budget is negatively impacted. The concentration of wealth in New Zealand was never better illustrated, than when recently it was revealed that, the CEO of solid energy NZ was suspended on indefinite leave on full pay at home gardening on $5,000 a week. Contrast that with people working 40 hours plus a week and end up with less that $350.00. Lift the minimum hourly rate so working parents don’t have to struggle to put food in the table…” – Alex Dobie

– Thousands of New Zealanders put unrelenting pressure on National and sent one, simple, message to John Key; do the right thing.

The Message

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from:     Frank M <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date:     Tue, May 28, 2013 at 12:36 PM
subject:     Letters to the editor

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The Editor
SUNDAY STAR TIMES
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Sir/madam,

National’s “food in schools” programme relies heavily on the private sector (Sanitarium, Fonterra, etc) to provide breakfasts in schools.

The problem with this policy is that a private business offering charity can walk away any time it decides, leaving the programme unsupported.

Prime Minister Key says,

“This is something that corporates do because they have a corporate social responsibility. So I’d imagine there are situations where they could walk away but they’re pretty unlikely to because it’s pretty good for their brand – because it’s genuinely a nice thing that they’re doing.” (28 May)

“Pretty unlikely”? Really?

That is precisely what happened in mid-2011 when the Countdown supermarket chain withdrew contributing to the Red Cross’s food in school programme.

Let’s hope we don’t see a replay of that event.

On a related note, it is appropriate for Sanitarium to be contributing to a Food in Schools programme. Being owned by the Seventh Day Adventist church, Sanitarium pays little or  no taxes because it’s owner (the church) has charity status.

At least now Sanitarium can put something back into the community.

-Frank Macskasy

(address and phone number supplied)

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The Children

Whatever reservations I might have on National’s motivation and long-term agenda, the main thing here is that more children will  be fed at schools. That is a positive step, and one to be encouraged.

Until a Labour-Greens-Mana coalition can implement Hone Harawira’s Food In Schools Bill, National’s programme is better than nothing.

At least it will put nutrition into young, empty bellies. And really, that is what counts.

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“Please, Mr Key, sir, may I have some more?”

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 May 2013.

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Previous related blogposts

National on Child Poverty?!

On child poverty, to the Sunday Star Times…

Budget 2013: Suffer the little children… to starve

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

References

Scoop:  National launches its Food in Schools programme  (

NZ Herald: Govt urged to take over school food programme (27 May 2011)

Beehive: Breakfast programme part of the solution (28 May 2013)

Dominion Post:  Key: Food in schools here to stay  (28 May 2013)

NZ Herald:  Schools gets $9.5m breakfast funding boost (28 May 2013)

Radio NZ:  Govt gives $9.5m to expand food in schools programme (28 May 2013)

Dominion Post: Govt rolls out expanded food in schools (28 May 2013)

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National on Child Poverty?!

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Poverty among Budget targets

Acknowledgment: Dominion Post – Poverty among Budget targets

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At first glance, it appears that National has recognised that a crisis exists in our country; a crisis involving 275,000 children living in poverty.

Without doubt, this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”) hit the public’s collective consciousness on 22 November 2011, when Bryan Bruce’s sobering documentary,”Inside Child Poverty” hit our television screens (see:  Strong reaction to damning TV child poverty doco).

Since then, the problem has become a major concern concern throughout the country.

More and more organisations, schools, political groups, etc, are adding their voice to a growing clamour for action. Most New Zealanders – those with eyes to see; ears to listen; and a mind to understand – want action. They want kids fed, so that they can attend their schools and learn and get a decent chance at life.

This is what Bryan Bruce, the documentary-maker of Inside Child Poverty wrote on his Facebook page;

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OK, let’s get some things straight about providing free healthy meals in schools.

1. First of all let’s decide on the principle before arguing about the detail.

Let’s admit there is a significant problem of children turning up to school hungry and that a lot of kids are eating low cost foods that contain a lot of sugar and fat , causing obesity , diabetes and long term health problems.

And at least get the Feed The Kids Bill to Parliamentary Select Committee. You can argue all you want about how it should be funded or what’s going to be on the menu there.

If you don’t think we have a community responsibility to feed children and/or educate their palates to healthy eating habits – then read no further it will only make you angry.

2. It doesn’t fill a hungry kids tummy to point at their parents and shout “Your problem is you have bad parents”. This page takes the view that kids don’t get to choose their parents and we have a community responsibility to ALL our kids to make sure they grow up healthy. And if that means feeding them for free- then that’s what we do.

3. No one is going to force feed any child food they don’t want to eat or is culturally inappropriate. If you watch the video below which I filmed in Sweden for the documentary you will see children from multi -cultural backgrounds CHOOSING their food. And Yes children with allergies are catered for and Yes children can still bring their own lunch prepared by the parents .

4.Free healthy school meals can be paid for without raising taxes. We just choose to re-distribute the existing pool of tax payer money and give up on some other things. Here are some suggestions, I’m sure you can think of other ways we could spend smarter.

(a) We could fund school meals out of the Health vote rather than the Education vote. In a document released under the Official Information Act I revealed that children under 14 receive 10% of the money set aside for health care. But children under 14 represent 20% of our population. So we could fund some of it – if not all of it – by giving kids their fair share.

(b )It is a well accepted health statistic that for every $1 we spend on preventing disease we save $4 in expensive hospital cure. So within a few years the scheme will fund itself out of what we save. If we DON’T do it, taxpayers will be spending much more than they are now on the Health budget in the future.

(c) We could make children a spending priority. National plans to spend a billion a year on Roads of National Significance over the next 10 years. What about Children? – aren’t they of National Signifcance? I’d much rather feed our kids than be able to by – pass small towns while driving to Auckland .

(d) We could pay the pension to people when they actually stop working and not just because they reach 65.

(e) We could spend more energy making sure people paid their taxes . Last year the IRD detected about a Billion dollars worth of tax evasion mostly by businesses. It’s estimated that the real tax evasion in NZ is between 4 and 5 Billion.
If you pay PAYE you can’t cheat your taxes. So we could easily pay for free school meals if more adults played fair.

Let’s impose greater penalties for tax evasion, and let’s stop thinking of tax as a bad thing. Tax is a good thing – it’s giving to ourselves. That’s how we can have schools and hospitals and yes even Roads Of National significance. Tax is the price of civilisation. Get over it.

Now whether you agree with some of the above, all of the above or none of the above , let’s at least agree that The Feed The Kids Bill should at least go to Select Committee after its First Reading so the issue can be properly debated.

Please contact your local MP today and urge them to support the Feed The Kids Bill.

You can find their contact details here, just click on their name :

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

Thank you
Bryan

Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

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(Please give Brian support by going to his Page and “liking” it. The bigger the numbers, the more ‘clout’ he has.)

It’s fairly obvious to all by the most stubborn-minded that a malnourished child is not well pre-desposed to learning well. A child who cannot focus on his or her lessons and falls behind, eventually becomes alienated and disenchanted. The cycle of poverty, hopelessness, and anger perpetuates.

The Mana Party introduced a “Feed The Kids” Bill – aka the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill – into Parliament last year, on 8 November 2012. The Bill is scheduled to come before Parliament for its first reading on 5 June this year.

With pressure coming hard and fast on Key and his increasingly shakey,  poll-driven,  ‘government’, their strategists are planning to end National’s destructive austerity Budgets and begin spending on essential social services that are critical to the well-being of our communities.

Part of this is Key’s stated intention;

Children who aren’t fed become victims and the Government has to deal with that, Prime Minister John Key says.

His comments come as action on child poverty is tipped to be the surprise package in Finance Minister Bill English’s fifth Budget on Thursday.

“The vast overwhelming bulk are [fed] in New Zealand, but if a child isn’t fed then actually they become a victim and whatever we think of that we need to try and deal with that issue.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

At his regular press conference,  Key was coy at whether National would  rule in or out a  food in schools programme – but was more candid in ruling out support for  Mana’s “Feed the Kids” member’s bill.

So. What we have is;

  1. A firm “no” by National to Mana’s initiative
  2. A firm “no” by Peter Dunne to Mana’s initiative  (Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”)
  3. A vague committment;  “The vast overwhelming bulk are [fed] in New Zealand, but if a child isn’t fed then actually they become a victim and whatever we think of that we need to try and deal with that issue.”

Now, call me a cynic if you like, but National has a fairly poor track record on dealing with social matters, whether it be unemployment, solo-mothers, worker’s rights and conditions, etc.

To give an example; our high unemployment.

Unemployment is high.

Jobs are scarce.

National’s ‘solution’; “reform” social welfare and make it harder for the unemployed to access welfare support, or to retain it. Additional ‘solution’; demonise the unemployed and infer that that are bludging. Ditto for solo-mothers.

That was National’s ‘solution’; force people off welfare and make the numbers look good. (see: Bennett trumpets 5000 fewer on DPB, see: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply, see: Welfare rules force people to struggle on without benefits)

I hope I’m wrong, but my gut feeling is that the Nats plan to pull a “swiftie”. We’re going to see something along these lines;

  1. A WINZ-based “targetted” approach where families that cannot afford to buy adequate food will have an increase in their food grants – but will probably have to re-pay it from their weekly welfare assistance.
  2. A reliance on some form of “PPP”-style programme, such as Fonterra’s milk-in-schools programme. There will be nothing concrete – just a “promise” to “investigate possible options”.
  3. A commision of enquiry of some description.
  4. An increase for school budgets to buy food, but which will be limited; capped; and money will be taken from elsewhere in Vote:Education to fund this.
  5. No increase in welfare assistance; no food in schools; but a form of food vouchers making up a portion of a beneficiaries overall entitlement.
  6. A limited “trial” food-in-schools programme – for a handful of schools only.

Far from addressing this crisis, National, ACT, and Peter Dunne will apply a band-aid “solution” and present it to the public of New Zealand as “Mission: Accomplished”.

It will be nothing of the sort.

Only one thing will begin to address this problem – a change of government.

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References

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

Feed The Kids website

Previous related blogpost

Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”

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

Other blogs

The Daily Blog: Hungry Kids Annoy Frazzled Lobby Group Director

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Once Were Warm-hearted…

16 December 2011 14 comments

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Source

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Once upon a time…

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1935 First Labour government takes office

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The first Labour government assumed office as a result of its landslide victory in November’s general election. Led initially by the charismatic Michael Joseph Savage, it is best remembered for its landmark social welfare reforms.

One of the most significant aspects of this welfare policy was the 1938 Social Security Act, which has been described as ‘the greatest political achievement in the country’s history’. The Act combined the introduction of a free-at-the-point-of-use health system with a comprehensive array of welfare benefits. It was financed by a tax surcharge of one shilling in the pound (5%). The family benefit was extended to all mothers irrespective of the family’s income, increasing the number of allowances overnight from 42,600 to 230,000. This policy, which was often described as looking after New Zealanders from the ‘cradle to the grave’, was a key factor keeping Labour in power until 1949.

nzhistory.net.nz

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Which led to the beginnings of our modern society – a society which placed a high value on fairness; healthy families; and giving children every opportunity to grow up healthy. It truly was a concept of “no child left behind” – but put into practice and not just empty rhetoric,

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The family in the 1930s and ’40s

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The need for the New Zealand government to promote national interests during the Depression and the Second World War created a renewed appreciation of the role of the family within society. From 1935 the Labour government’s social policies supported young families with children, and from the 1940s there was an emphasis on preventative child welfare.

Much of this concern for children and their families stemmed from the perceived need to maintain a healthy nation: one capable of providing robust workers and, if necessary, soldiers for defence. It was also felt, in the spirit of egalitarianism, that everyone should have access to the nation’s resources.

Housing

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By the early 1940s there was a serious shortage of adequate housing in inner-city areas. A ‘needy families’ scheme, administered by the Child Welfare Branch, was set up in 1941. This provided assistance, primarily by re-housing large or poor families to maintain the household unit. By 1946 the scheme had helped over 900 families and more than 5000 children.

The Family Benefit

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In October 1945, Deputy Prime Minister Walter Nash introduced legislation for the Universal Family Benefit. The maternal figure of the family was to be sole beneficiary. William (Bill) Parry, Minister of Internal Affairs, explained: ‘We have to create such enthusiasm for the service the mother renders, that it will be lifted to the highest pinnacles of service in the nation.’ This benefit and other measures such as cheap housing and a well-funded health system did much to contribute to stability of household income and, in turn, to raise living standards.

nzhistory.net.nz

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Which in turn led to this, perhaps one of the most ambitious programmes to lift the health of our nation’s children,

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1937: Free Milk Every Morning

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Young New Zealanders once lined up for a free bottle of milk at school every morning. This scheme was introduced in 1937 to help children who had become undernourished during the Depression. It was also enthusiastically supported by famous dramatist, George Bernard Shaw, when he visited this country in 1934. And so, for the next 30 years, school children sat down for their daily half-pint. Crates of bottles were carried into the classroom by official milk monitors, who were also responsible for collecting up the empties after the session. Occasionally, an older amber glass bottle would arrive with the morning delivery and prove an attraction for keen consumers.

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Linton schoolboys delivering the school milk c. 1941.

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School milk bottles in the 1950s had cardboard tops which had a small hole for the straw and were often put to further use. Lengths of colourful wool were wound tightly around a pair of these cardboard discs to produce a decorative pom-pom.

In the 1960s 3,500,000 gallons of milk was distributed to the schools of New Zealand each year, but the value of the scheme was now being questioned. There were mixed views on the matter; some felt it had become unnecessary and was a disruption to the class, while others claimed that a number of New Zealand children still came to school without an adequate breakfast…

kiwianatown.co.nz

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1967: End of free school milk

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…  The scheme was a world first. Each day, milk monitors supplied a half-pint (284 ml) of milk to each pupil. By 1940, the milk was available to over 80% of schoolchildren. For a few years during the Second World War, pupils also received an apple a day.

The scheme lasted until 1967, when the government dropped it on cost grounds — and because some people were starting to question the benefits of milk…

www.nzhistory.net.nz

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I’m of the age where I can vaguely recall the crates of milk left in the concrete “pill-box” at my Primary School. I recall the “powerful” position of the Milk Monitor… and using the straws as make-shift blow-guns to fire small paper darts at my near-by class-mates.

It is interesting to consider that by 1967, the government-of-the-day decided that school milk was no longer required. Perhaps Keith Holyoake, the Prime Minister of the day, considered that it was a relic from a by-gone age of Depression, poverty, and extreme childhood health-problems that by the mid-1960s were but a distant memory.

New Zealand in the 1960s was healthy; single-incomes were sufficient to live on; and the country exported more than it earned because of our special relationship with Great Britain. But all this was to change…

  • Britain entered the EEC in 1973, impacting on our sheep-meat trade with that country. Suddenly we had lost our  major export market.
  • The oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 drove our balance of payments into the red, as we struggled to cope with  higher and higher fuel-prices.
  • Property prices skyrocketed in 1979, as people abandoned the outer suburbs and satellite-towns, in favour of inner-suburbs, to cut down on fuel costs.
  • Inflation soared, unemployed rose.
  • And in 1984, New Zealand elected a Labour Government with a secret agenda to implement neo-liberal “reforms” to create a free-market; reduce and eliminate trade trariffs; implement a  massive programme to sell state assets; and “reduce government expenditure” (ie; cut services).

We were assured that the implrementation of these “reforms” would generate wealth and that this would “trickle down” to lower socio-economic (ie, poor people) groups in our society.

The rest, I think, we can all remember without too much trouble.

“Trickle down” has proven to be a singularly poor joke – without much of a punch-line.

Wealth has certainly been generated – at the top.

We went from one income to double-incomes to maintain a household. Now even that is insufficient for many families.

Seven tax cuts have benefitted mainly high-income earners and the wealthy.

And wealth disparity has become so bad that even the OECD has taken notice and commented on it, in a recent report.

The Prime Minister, meanwhile, has his own thoughts on why we having worsening poverty in our once egalitarian country,

But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.

“And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.” – John Key, 17 Feb 2011

Thank you for that, Dear Leader.  By the way, how is your  pay increase of $11,000 p.a. that you were recently given?

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How is it that we have arrived at a situation where, once again, we are returning to 1937 – and having to resurrect milk-in-schools?

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Full Story

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Full credit and kudos to Fonterra for going ahead with this plan.  There are many low-income families that find it hard to buy sufficient quantities of good, wholesome, nutritious food for everyone. After rent, power, rates, phone, etc, is paid for, food is usually at the bottom of the list.

This is especially so for the 90,000+ people who have lost their jobs in the last four years as the global recession hit our economy and impacted on communities.

However, ingrained poverty has been with us since the 1980s, and many of the gains of the last century have been lost.

Little wonder that Bryan Bruce’s recent documentary, “Inside NZ: Child Poverty” generated such a heavy, nationwide response.  Bryan Bruce laid it out for all to see, that poverty had returned to this country and that governments had no idea how to address this growing crisis. Or were unwilling to.

Clearly, we have a choice in front of us. Do we continue down our present course, and keep hoping for the best? Or admit that policies over the last thirty years have been a failure;  change tack; and proactively address the root causes of wealthy disparity and income gaps?

If the latter, then we have the wrong government in power to make good on three decades of failed economic policies.

Bill English was interviewed on Radio NZ this morning (16 December), and his responses to Kathryn Ryan’s questions were not reassuring,

Bill English and the new ministerial committee on poverty

This excerpt from the interview was most telling,

RYAN: “It’s to report every six months, the committee. What measures will it use?”

ENGLISH: “Well, look, we won’t  spend a lot of time arguing over measures, there’s any number  of measures out there ranging from gini co-efficients  to kind of upper quartile [and] lower quartile incomes. Lot of of that is already reported in the MSD social report that it puts out each year…”

If the Committee doesn’t monitor itself, how will it be able to measure it’s success (or fail) rate?

Why has the government not set measures in place – that it expects of every other government department to assess what value they give back to taxpaters?

And how does English’s rejection of measures compare with the National-ACT coalition agreement which stated, in part,

Key features of the agreement are:

• Continuation of ACT’s focus during the last term on publicly monitoring progress on improving the country’s economy wide performance using international benchmarks, and building on the work of the 2025 Taskforce, with a requirement for Treasury to report annually on the progress being made to improve the quality of institutions and policies, raise productivity, and reduce the income gap with Australia.Source

So the “country’s economy wide performance” will be measured using “international benchmarks” – but the Ministerial Committee on Poverty “won’t  spend a lot of time arguing over measures“?

Ok, got it.

We’ve got that, if anything, it is apparent that the so-called “Ministerial Committee on Poverty” is simply going to be another talk-fest, along the lines of the “Jobs Summit” in early 2009. Does anyone recall how many jobs came out of that “summit”? Perhaps this many.

At most, the so-called “Ministerial Committee on Poverty” appears to be little more than a sop to  Maori Party members, to justify the decision of party leaders to coalesce with National.

So here we are: New Zealand, circa 2011A.D.  Poverty. Low incomes. School milk. Growing wealth gap. New Zealanders migrating en masse to Australia. And paralysis/inertia in  our political leaders.

Seventysix years after Michael Joseph Savage implemented radical, bold, policies to create a new, egalitarian society – we are back at Square One.

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SAD STATISTICS

Children who go to school without breakfast – 17 per cent.

Households with children which run out of food – 22 per cent.

Households with children who use food banks – 10 per cent.

Source: Ministry of Health 2003 survey of 3000 children aged 5-14

Source

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Postscript

To all the food-faddists, right wing reactionaries and Me First people – your negative reaction to Fonterra’s plan to reintroduce milk to low-decile schools is simply apalling. Your knee-jerk hostility is not only unhelpful – but is a stark illustration as to why this once healthy and wealthy country is slipping further down on nearly every international and local  indicator-ranking.

Food faddists:  If you think milk is evil – fine. Don’t drink it. But leave our kids alone. They have the rest of their lives to live, whilst your particular food-fetishes come and go with the latest seasonal-fad. Their growing bodies need the calcium, vitamins A, D, etc, and other nutritional benefits of this simple food. Children cannot live on fresh air and sunshine  alone.

Right wing reactionaries: New Zealand has been the experimental “hot house” for neo-liberal, free market policies, since 1984. That’s about 28 years. In that time, the top income earners and 150 Rich Listers have increased their wealth. The rest of society has stayed still or gone backwards.

Latest reports confirm that the wealth-gap continues to widen – and you can’t dismiss  the OECD as some dastardly socialist satrap.

How much longer before this experiment is labelled a failure?

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Additional

Govt likely to back milk inquiry

Minister seeks parliamentary milk price probe

Woolworths lifts NZ supermarket earnings

Special inquiry into milk prices opens today

Soft drinks win in milk debate

Rolls Royce sales rocket as super-rich drive in style

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Labour on farm sales – NOT good enough!

21 October 2011 1 comment

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Full Story

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Labour has stated that,

A Labour government would ensure sales were declined unless potential foreign buyers of farm or forestry land also invested in new processing or other related jobs.Source

Sorry, Mr Goff, but that is totally unacceptable and is merely ‘tinkering’ with the problem.

The sale (or leasing) of our productive farmland means that we lose profits to overseas investors. It means that a foreign owned farm will (a) export their produce (b) make a profit (c) remit much of that profit back to overseas investors, who look for returns on their investment.

It means that New Zealand farmland is priced out of reach of our own people, who cannot hope to compete with Americans, Germans, Chinese, etc. The purchase of the Crafar  farms by Shanghai Pengxin’s over a Michael Fay-led local consortium should ring alarm bells in our heads.  (More here)

Labour needs to lift it’s game on this issue.

There has to be a total ban on the sale/lease of farmland to anyone who is not a New Zealand citizen.  Anything less will ultimately undermine our long term prospects for wealth-generation and prosperity.

We would end up tenants in our own country.

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Are we being milked? asks Minister…

7 August 2011 3 comments

So the Commerce Commission decided not to hold an inquiry into milk pricing in New Zealand?

But Minister of Agriculture, David Carter, still wants a Parliamentary inquiry to investigate the matter?

Hmmmm…  it’s not because the election is only three months away, and National is fearful that Labour and the Greens will be making this an election issue? Surely, politicians can’t be that cynical and manipulative?

Of course not.

What was I thinking.

Perhaps if I might be so bold, and offer Mr Carter a word of explanation as to milk pricing. The price of milk is determined by the free market. The same free market that National endorses, advocates, and embraces with all it’s manly  ‘love’.  The same free market that National has ordered TVNZ to pursue, by cancelling it’s Public Charter. The same free market it chases with the Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations.

Yes, National is the party of the Free Market. As John Key told our American cuzzies on 22 July,

“At the most basic level, we share a commitment to the democratic, capitalist system.”

So there you have it, folks.  In a nut-sell. Or milk bottle, if you prefer. We are a capitalist system,which means that the price of milk is determined by what you, the public, are willing to pay for it.

Something to consider of 26 November – Election Day.

As for Mr Carter’s call for a  Parliamentary Inquiry – my money is on nothing ever coming off it. Much like National’s much-vaunted Jobs Summit in February, 2009.

Remember that little farce?

Postscript #1;

On TVNZ’s Q + A,  David Carter was interviewed by Guyon Espiner, who asked the Minister if two supermarket chains offered enough competition at the retail end of milk distribution. Carter replied that there was competition and said,

“Well, if people want to buy the expensive brands, they can pay $4.80 up to $5.40. They can buy a cheaper brand at that supermarket for $3.30. They can go round the corner to a dairy, quite often, depending on where they live, and perhaps buy that for $2.90. What I’m saying is there’s a big variation on the retail price of milk.”

‘Scuse me?!?!

Milk is cheaper at corner dairy’s, and on sale for $2.90?!?!

Pray tell, Mr Carter – what colour is the sky on your planet? Because on our world, corner dairy-stores are the more expensive option to buy goods.

National members of parliament – out of touch with reality since 1936.

Full transcript of interview

Postscript #2;

Postscript #3;

*sighs* I didn’t have to be Ken Ring to know this was going to happen (though Ken would’ve been a month wrong in his predictions).  It’s Election Year. This is when politicians play silly buggers up to November 26th…