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The Free-market, Hyper-individualism… and a Culture of Cruelty?

15 July 2018 3 comments

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Up till recently, I had believed that there were two facets comprising to create a  neo-liberal economy (not “society” – neo-liberalism does not recognise community or society where individuals organise for a greater collective good).

The first was a free market predicated on minimal regulation; reduced government; greater reliance of private enterprise to deliver services; and a lower tax-take which forces future left-leaning governments to curtail vital infra-structure and social-spending.

As Coalition Finance Minister, Grant Robertson clearly told the told the country in March this year;

“We’ve put aside $42bn over the next four years for capital investment but you know what? It won’t be enough. We understand that we need to take a more innovative approach to the financing of infrastructure.”

Which was well understood by National’s former Finance Minister, Steven Joyce,  when he accused Labour of a so-called “$11.7 billion fiscal hole” in their pre-election costings.

National’s tax cuts of 2009 and 2010 were not just an election bribe at a time the country could ill afford them – they were a strategic move to constrain a future Labour-led government in a tight fiscal straight-jacket.

Then-Finance Minister, Bill English, said that the 2009 tax cut represented a $1 billion loss of revenue to the National government;

“About 1.5 million workers will receive a personal tax cut, injecting an extra $1 billion into the economy in the coming year.”

The following year, National’s tax would be estimated to cost the State at least $2 billion in lost revenue.

This was well-under-stood by commentators, analysts, politicians. National-leaning John Armstrong explained this in straight-forward terms;

The message is Labour – if it wins – is not going to spend money the new Government will not have…

… is not going to make promises in advance he cannot keep.

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The yawning chasm of the Budget deficit meant there was no new money to spend. Some cherished policies would have to be introduced progressively – rather than in one go. Savings would have to be found; sacrifices would have to be made. And so on.

That was penned by Mr Armstrong in 2011. It still holds true today.

The second facet of neo-liberalism is promulgation and amplification of the Cult of the Individual. Whether this means cheaper imported goods at the expense of local industry and jobs; doing away with retailing restrictions (or even planned, deliberate breaking of the law); easier access to alcohol and subsequent social impacts; the primacy of the Individual’s rights for self-interest and gratification would trump communities expectations of collective  responsibility; social cohesion; the health and wellbeing of the population, and the greater good.

For example, attempts by communities to restrict and reign in plentiful availability of cheap alcohol is usually  met with a predictable vocal chorus of indignant outrage from people for whom the Right To Buy When/Where-ever supercedes any societal problems. The most spurious arguments are presented, attempting to portray consumers as hapless “victims” of “bureaucracy-gone-made”. Or “Nanny statism”.

Yet, the cost of alcohol abuse was estimated to be approximately $5.3 billion in 2016. That’s $5.3 billion that could have been invested in education, health, public transport,  housing, conservation and pest control, increased research in green technologies, etc.

The heavy  costs of alcohol abuse is socialised, whilst profits are privatised to business and their shareholders. For many, it is more important to be able to buy a drink at 4am in the morning than social problems arising from easy availability.  For some individuals, that convenience outstrips whatever harm is occurring elsewhere. “It’s not my problem”, is the thought that often runs through the minds of many who demand their rights – regardless of consequences.

But there is a third aspect – like a third leg to a three-legged stool – that must exist if neo-liberalism is to thrive: Cruelty.

A certain amount of callousness; disdain; and outright hatred must replace  compassion, egalitarianism, and a sense of community cohesion if the neo-liberal version of “society” is to operate successfully.

It is the reason why neo-liberalism never took hold in Scandinavian countries.

It is the reason why – once a foothold was gained in the late 1980s – successive governments ensured the neo-liberal model was maintained in this country.

Almost by definition, neo-liberalism cannot operate in a society which has values diametrically opposed to it. It took an “economic crisis” in 1984/85 for the Lange-led Labour government to impose Rogernomics.

In 1991, Ruth Richardson used the “BNZ Crisis” to implement drastic cuts to health, education and welfare. Housing NZ tenants were forced to pay market rents. User-pays was introduced for hospitals and schools – though the public resisted and ignored the $50/nightly charge for public hospitals.

Neo-liberalism could not have been introduced so easily without the convenient constructs of various so-called “economic crises”. The mainstream media at the time was complicit in the “reforms” sweeping every aspect of New Zealand’s cultural, social, and economic activity.

But once introduced, the speed of so-called “reforms” accelerated and opposition became harder. Mass protests seemingly had little or no effect. The change of government in 1990 from Labour to National only made matters worse – Richardson’s “Mother of All Budgets” plunged the country further into recession.

For the following thirty years, the neo-liberal paradigm ruled unchallenged, with perhaps the rear-guard action from the now-defunct Alliance, and a few stubborn media commentators who still asked uncomfortable questions where we were heading as a country.

By 2002, the Alliance was crippled and forced out of Parliament.

The remaining critical voices of media commentators grew fewer and fewer.

The “revolution” was all but complete. Neo-liberalism was bedded-in, supported by a propertied Middle Class feeling “wealthy” with bloated house-values and bribed with seven tax cuts since 1986.

But all was not well in Neo-liberal Nirvana.

There were embarrassing reminders that the notion of “trickle down” – now repudiated by the New Right as an ‘invention’ by the Left – was not working as per expectations of devotees of the Chicago School model. As Budget Director for the Reagan Administration, David Stockman, said;

“It’s kind of hard to sell ‘trickle down, so the supply-side formula was the only way to get a tax policy that was really ‘trickle down.’ Supply-side is ‘trickle-down’ theory.”

It became apparent that the promises of neo-liberalism were largely faith-based. Enormous social problems were being caused as corporate power increased;  union power waned; wages stagnated; wealth drained away to a tiny minority; and simple things like home ownership rates were falling dramatically.

Tellingly, it was the gradual loss of the great Kiwi Dream of home ownership that was a litmus test-paper for the toxicity of neo-liberalism’s false premises and empty promises.

Ironically, this was happening at a time when mortgage money was easier and cheaper to obtain from the banks. But only if you earned a high income or already owned property to borrow against. Or could rely on the Bank of Mum and Dad.

Those who already had the assets could hope to get more.

Those at the bottom, or struggling middle classes, would miss out.

For many, they discovered that hitting rock-bottom wasn’t as low as you could go. For growing numbers of New Zealanders, “bottom” meant a shredded welfare safety-net  that had gaping holes in it under the National government;

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Added to a mounting housing crisis, various National ministers exploited every opportunity to portray the poor; the homeless; the chronically sick; unemployed; young people; in the worst possible light. They were authors of their own misfortune, according to former PM, John Key;

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National’s Bill English disdain for young unemployed was made abundantly clear on several occasions;

In 2016;

“ A lot of the Kiwis that are meant to be available [for farm work] are pretty damned hopeless. They won’t show up. You can’t rely on them and that is one of the reasons why immigration’s a bit permissive, to fill that gap… a cohort of Kiwis who now can’t get a license because they can’t read and write properly and don’t look to be employable, you know, basically young males.”

Last year;

“ One of the hurdles these days is just passing a drug test. Under workplace safety you can’t have people on your premises under the influence of drugs and a lot of our younger people can’t pass that test.”

And again in December this year;

Government’s fees-free policy will ‘soak up staff out of McDonald’s’...”

English’s demonisation of unemployed and young New Zealander’s appeared at complete variance with those same people desperate for paid work. But that did not make him pause in his attacks.

Housing for the poor, the homeless, and vulnerable was also on National’s “hit list”, as they pursued their agenda to down-size state activity in housing.

First came the “reviews” and people’s live upended as National ended tenancies based on an ideological notion that state houses were not for life. The social problems resulting would be euphemistically known later as “unintended consequences”;

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National’s response was predictable,

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Therein lay their own seeds for electoral  defeat three years later.

In the years that followed, National portrayed welfare beneficiaries and Housing NZ tenants as negatively as they could possibly get away with.

The meth-hysteria portrayed HNZ tenants as hopeless, lazy drug fiends. National was only too happy to fan the flames of demonisation, as it allowed National to evict tenants and sell off state houses.  Their policy in September last year was unequivocal, and linked gangs and drugs, with Housing NZ tenants;

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The press statement above was issued by former welfare beneficiary-turned-National Minister, Paula Bennett. The same Paula Bennett who, only eight months later, lamented on Radio NZ;

“I’ve always had concerns… I just didn’t think that the 0.5 [microgram limit] sounded right. I questioned [the Health Ministry] in particular who had set that standard, questioned Housing NZ numerous times, got the Standards Authority involved.”

She suggested tenants should be compensated. That was ‘big’ of her.

She also stated,

“[I] was horrified that people might be smoking P in houses, I’m not going to shy away from that.

Then I started seeing reports and I remember one in particular from an expert – he said, ‘You can just about get more P residue off a $5 note than you could have at some of these houses with 0.5 micrograms’ and so that raised alarm bells for me.

But … then who am I to be standing in and saying at what level I felt that [the limit] should be?”

Maybe she could have asked Sir Peter Gluckman. He was the government’s Science Advisor at the time. The one appointed by John Key. Yeah, that one.

Or, she could have paid more attention to a 2014 MSD report which revealed a staggeringly low rate of drug-use amongst welfare beneficiaries;

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Yeah, that one!

But that would have gotten in the way of National’s cunning plan.

Plans that drove thousands of welfare rolls, as Key’s administration struggled to balance the government’s books after two unaffordable tax cuts in 2009 and 2010;

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In September 2017, on TV3’s ‘The Nation‘,  then Welfare Minister, Anne Tolley, described National’s drive to reduce welfare recipients in the most Orwellian way;

“But we do have a significant number of people who are looking for work, who are capable of working, and so most of them, it’s just a light touch to help them along the way.”

In the same interview, Lisa Owen challenged Minister Tolley on the fate of welfare beneficiaries who had been pushed off welfare. Minister Tolley admitted that she and the National government had no idea what had happened to the thousands of people, including families with children;

Lisa Owen: How do you know that they’re going on to a better life?

Tolley: Look, there’s a whole lot of people that don’t want the state in their lives. Tracking people is awful. They go off the benefit—

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Anne Tolley: They go off the benefit for a whole variety of reasons.

Lisa Owen: How can you claim success, though, for that when you don’t actually know if they’re earning more money than they were on the benefit—?

Anne Tolley: We do track if they come back on to benefit, and we do have a close look at what has happened. As I say, we do do a lot of training. We do provide a lot of opportunities for people to retrain.

Lisa Owen: But you don’t know what’s happening to those people. You’ve got no idea.

Anne Tolley: We have 44% who self-identify to us that they’re going off into work. You know, people go overseas. They age into superannuation. There’s a whole lot of reasons why.

Lisa Owen: All right, so you don’t know.

Thankfully, former PM John Key was more forthcoming in 2011 that New Zealand’s “under class” was growing.

As National ramped up it’s campaign of  denigration and punitive action against welfare beneficiaries and Housing NZ tenants, compliant State organisations were reaping their victims.

One was forced to suicide;

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One was a victim of damp housing and poverty-related disease;

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One was chased for a welfare debt she could have no chance of repaying – but MSD pursued it “in case she won Lotto“;

MSD was trying to recover approximately $120,000 from a chronically-ill beneficiary in her 50s who will never be able to work again. The Ministry has pursued her for years and spent a large amount on the case, even though it is plain the woman has no money and her health will never allow her to work again.

The judge asked the Crown lawyer whether it was worth continuing to pursue the beneficiary.

The lawyer responded that it was, as the beneficiary might win Lotto and would then be able to repay the money.

And the most recent example of victimising the homeless simply defies comprension;

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Homeless men at the “drop-in centre” were shaken awake through the night every half hour.

All because the facility was not compliant with fire and building consents. To it’s credit the Rotorua Lakes Council said “fire and building consents were being rushed through so people could sleep at the shelter“.

But Mr Deane – the organisor of the facility ” was told yesterday [5 July] that they had to remain awake until the necessary  consents were granted”.

The common term for this is sleep deprivation.

It should not be forgotten that the practice of sleep deprivation was one of the five techniques used by the British government against Northern Irish citizens arrested in 1971. Subsequently, in January 1978, in a case taken by the government of Ireland against Great Britain, in the the European Court of Human Rights, ruled that the five techniques – including sleep deprivation – “did not occasion suffering of the particular intensity and cruelty implied by the word torture … [but] amounted to a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment“.

Sleep deprivation was determined to be a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In 2010, the British government lost a Court appeal to prevent public release of a report revealing the practice of sleep deprivation torture had been used against British resident, Binyam Mohamed. The Court judgement stated;

“The treatment reported, if it had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom would clearly have been in breach of  [a ban on torture].

Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could be readily contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of BM by the United States authorities.”

In 2014, the UN committee against torture condemned the United States for allowing sleep deprivation to be used as a torture technique against prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The United States governments calls such practices “enhanced interrogation”.

To discover that sleep deprivation is being used against homeless men in New Zealand is disturbing.

To realise that a practice considered torture by various international organisations has barely been reported by the mainstream media – is deeply troubling.

We have reached rock-bottom as a society when people are being subjected to “a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment” – simply because they are homeless.

This is the definition of  abuse against the vulnerable: they are unable to fight back because they are utterly powerless.

If this practice of sleep deprivation was carried out in our prisons, there would be a major Royal Commission of Inquiry.

But not when the subject of this abuse is the homeless. Their powerlessness is worse than men and women incarcerated in our prisons, despite being “free”.

The cruelty shown to our welfare beneficiaries; to Housing NZ tenants; and to the homeless, has been sanctioned by a sizeable ‘chunk’ of our population;

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(2008) (2011) (2014) (2017)

Fully a quarter of the country’s population has continued to endorse the National Party at four consecutive general elections.

What does this say about a quarter of the population’s attitude to what has amounted to a campaign of vilification and  denigration against those at the bottom of our social-economic ‘ladder’ – a campaign that has been skillfully carried out to facilitate pushing people off welfare and selling off state houses.

This degree of callous cruelty has been led by various  ministers in the previous National government who have mis-used information; misled the public; and made derogatory comments against those whose sole ‘crime’ was to be poor.

This was bullying from the highest level of power, toward those at the lowest level of powerlessness.

National’s subtle and graduated vilification of the poor made cruelty permissable in a country which once valued tolerance, fairness, and egalitarianism.

When depriving homeless men barely merits a mention in our media, and few bat an eyelid, what other possible conclusion can be made?

This Coalition government is constrained fiscally when it comes to welfare and state housing.

It suffers no such constraints when it comes to showing strong moral leadership to reject State-sanctioned cruelty.There is no fiscal cost to compassionate leadership that lifts up the powerless.

There are good men and women in Labour, the Greens, and NZ First. That is perhaps their strongest common bond between all three; a rejection of the culture of callousness that has seduced and poisoned the hearts and minds of so many New Zealanders.

Every Minister in this coalition government can reject decades of a culture of cruelty by reaffirming the humanity of the unemployed; solo-mums; youth; sickness beneficiaries; state house tenants; the drug and alcohol addicted; and the homeless.

Every Minister in this coalition government can use their position of power to speak on behalf of the powerless.

Every Minister in this coalition government can remind all New Zealanders that we are not bullies; we are better than that. If we cannot look after the powerless in our own society – then what possible hope is there for us and our children’s future, to be a compassionate society?

This will be the defining point of difference between what we have been – and what we hope to become.

This is what will inspire New Zealanders to choose what we aspire to be, and what kind of leadership will take us there.

Cruelty or compassion? Hopefully that will be the true point of difference in 2020.

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~ In Memory ~

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~ Emma-Lita Bourne ~

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~ Wendy Shoebridge ~

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References

Radio NZ: Robertson on infrastructure – $42bn ‘won’t be enough’

Fairfax media: Steven Joyce sticks to $11.7 billion hole in Government budget

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

Scoop media: Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

NZ Herald: John Armstrong – Labour confined to a fiscal straitjacket

Dominion Post: ‘Pressure valve’ medics patch up night’s drunks

Fairfax media: Alcohol – How can we reduce the harm it causes?

RBNZ: Banking crises in New Zealand – an historical perspective

NZ Herald: July 1984 – When life in NZ turned upside down

The Encyclopedia of New Zealand – Te Ara: The ‘mother of all budgets’

Wikipedia: The Alliance

NZ Initiative: Defeating the trickle-down straw man

The Atlantic: The Education of David Stockman

NZ Herald: Home ownership rates lowest in 66 years according to Statistics NZ

Interest.co.nz: Housing mortgage rates are more likely to go down rather than up

Fairfax media: Bank of mum and dad could be NZ’s sixth largest first-home mortgage lender

NZ Herald: Auckland teen couple face sleeping in car

TVNZ: More homeless people sleeping in cars

Mediaworks/Newshub: The hidden homeless – Families forced to live in cars

NZ Herald: Minister spells out $43,000 ‘salary’ claim for solo mum

NZ Herald: Benefit cuts for drug users defended by PM

NZ Herald: Bennett increases pursuit of welfare ‘rorts

Fairfax media: Key – Mums of one-year-olds better off working

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

NZ Herald: Beneficiary birth control ‘common sense’ – Key

Fairfax media: House call plan to nab benefit fraudsters

NZ Herald:  Unions demand Bill English apologise for describing jobseekers as ‘pretty damned hopeless’

Fairfax media:  Bill English says employers are regularly telling him that Kiwis can’t pass drug tests

Twitter: Newshub – Bill English “soak up staff out of McDonalds”

Frankly Speaking:  Fact Sheet – Employment-Unemployment and Queues for Vacancies

Dominion Post: State tenants face ‘high need’ review

Fairfax media: Nearly 600 state house tenants removed after end of ‘house for life’ policy

Fairfax media: Housing policy will destabilise life for children

NZ Herald: State housing shake-up – Lease up on idea of ‘house for life’

Fairfax media: Housing policy will destabilise life for children

NZ Herald: ‘No point’ in new state houses – Bill English

National: New crack down on gangs and drugs

Radio NZ: Paula Bennett: HNZ too cautious on meth testing

Beehive: PM appoints Chief Science Advisor

NZ Herald: Minister claims low drug result as victory

NZ Herald: Bennett trumpets 5000 fewer on DPB

Fairfax media: Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed

NZ Herald: Over 5300 benefits cut due to info sharing

NZ Herald: Benefits cut for 13,000 parents in new regime

NZ Herald: 11,000 disabled children lose welfare benefit

Radio NZ: About 2000 children hit when parents lose benefits

Radio NZ: Thousands losing benefits due to paperwork

Mediaworks/TV3: The Nation – Welfare Debate

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

Fairfax media: Aggressive prosecution focus at MSD preceded woman’s death, inquest told

NZ Herald: Damp house led to toddler’s death

Catriona Maclennan: Loans to feed kids are income and disqualify benefit, says MSD

Radio NZ: Homeless shaken awake as Rotorua shelter awaits consents

European Court of Human Rights: Case of Ireland v. The United Kingdom

BBC: Binyam Mohamed torture appeal lost by UK government

The Guardian: UN torture report condemns sleep deprivation among US detainees

Wikipedia: New Zealand general election, 2008

Wikipedia: New Zealand general election, 2011

Wikipedia: New Zealand general election, 2014

Wikipedia: New Zealand general election, 2017

Additional

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

Other Blogposts

Public Address: We are, at last, navigating out of the “meth contamination” debacle

Pundit:  Beneficiary ‘impact’ highlights poverty of social policies

The Daily Blog: A Fair suck of the sauce bottle!

The Daily Blog: New Government response to MSD sadism is just not good enough

The Standard: Loans to feed kids are income and disqualify benefit, says MSD

Previous related blogposts

Week Watch – 7 June

Easter Trading – A “victimless crime”?

Professor Bill English lectures young New Zealanders on free education

The Mendacities of Ms Amy Adams – “hidden borrowing”?!

Tracy Watkins – Getting it half right on the “Decade of Deficits”

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10 July 2018.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

20 September 2017 11 comments

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You show me yours, I’ll show you mine…

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Perhaps the most ill-considered public statement from NZ First leader, Winston Peters, was his recent (11 September) demand that Labour disclose it’s full tax plan as a pre-condition for coalition;

“You are not asking the questions. You can’t possibly mean to go into an election saying, ‘My tax policy will be decided by a committee, and I am very sincere about that’. One needs to know what we are talking about … that should be fatal to a party’s chances. And we need to know.”

The jaw-dropping, gob-smacking, forehead-slapping gall of Winston Peters! For him to demand clarity and full disclosure from others – when he himself has made a fetish of not disclosing to voters who he will coalesce with, post-election  – takes the Hypocrisy-of-the-Year Award from National and plants it firmly on his own Italian suited jacket-lapel.

On top of which, none of Peters multi-billion dollar policies have yet to be costed.

So here’s the deal, Winston. You want to see Labour’s tax plans? We want to see your coalition intentions.

We’ll show you ours if you show us yours.  After all, “One needs to know what we are talking about“.

As Jacinda said, “Let’s do this“.

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Richard Prebble should keep vewy, vewy quiet

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On the matter of Labour referring taxation reform to a Working Group post-election, former-ACT Party leader Richard Prebble was scathing in his condemnation that Jacinda Ardern would not disclose her intentions toward implementation of a possible Capital Gains Tax.

In his regular NZ Herald propaganda slot, he wrote on 7 September;

“…Jacinda thinks the answer to every problem is a new tax. Asking for a mandate for capital gains taxes without giving any details is outrageous. All new taxes start small and then grow. GST was never going to be more than 10 per cent.

Who believes it is fair that the Dotcom mansion will be an exempt “family home” but a family’s holiday caravan plot will be taxed? The details are important…”

A week later, he followed up with;

“In a “captain’s call” Jacinda changed the tax policy to say that a Labour victory was a mandate for Labour to introduce any new tax and at any rate that a nameless committee of “tax experts” recommended, just the family home is off limits.

Any tax? What about land tax? Yes. Tax on the family bach and boat? Yes. Water? Petrol? Nothing is off the table. Will the capital gains tax be 33 per cent? Maybe. The petrol tax 10 cents a litre? Probably. Water tax. Guess a figure. “Trust us” says Jacinda.

No party has ever asked for so much power.

This, from the man who was a former Minister in the Lange Government which – in 1986 – introduced various neo-liberal “reforms” that the Labour Government had never campaigned on; had not included in their manifesto; and introduced the regressive  Goods and Services Tax in 1986. The Goods and Services Tax was never disclosed to the public in 1984.

Prebble and his cronies deceived  the New Zealand public in the 1984 election campaign. They withheld their true agenda. They lied to us.

For Prebble to now rear up on his hind legs, braying in indignation, pointing a  stained finger at Jacinda Ardern, is hypocrisy beyond words.

As former producer of TV’s The Nation, Tim Watkin, wrote on Prebble’s sanctimonious clap-trap;

“To read and hear a member of the fourth Labour government like Richard Prebble howling about transparency is like an Australian cricketer railing against under-arm bowling. Labour’s manifesto in 1984 was as artful a collection of vagaries as has ever been put to the public and after winning a second term in 1987, Prebble and his fellow Rogernomes embarked on a series of reforms – arguably the most radical tax reform ever considered by a New Zealand government, including a flat tax – without campaigning on them.”

Richard Prebble should think carefully before raising his voice on this issue – lest his own track record is held up for New Zealanders to scrutinise.

Does he really want that particular scab picked?

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Latest Colmar Brunton Poll…

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The latest TV1/Colmar Brunton Poll (14 September) has Labour and the Greens climbing – a direct antithesis to the TV3/Reid Research Poll which had Labour and the Greens sliding (12 September).

12 September:  Reid Research-TV3

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14 September: Colmar Brunton-TV1

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Which raises two questions;

  1. Are polling polling companies operating in the same country?  Or Parallel Universes?
  2. Is it about time that all public polling was banned once early voting begins?

The chasm in poll-results for National, Labour, and the Greens confirms critics of polls who dismiss results as wildly unpredictable. “Bugger the pollsters“, said Jim Bolger in 1993 – and with considerable justification.

Though Winston Peters and his supporters may be nervous at the fact that both polls have NZ First at 6% – perilously close to the 5% threshold. Any lower and Peters’ Northland electorate becomes a crucial deciding factor whether NZ First returns to Parliament.

Several commentators – notably from the Right – have been making mischief with the poll results, suggesting that a vote for the Green Party would be a wasted vote. Without the parachute of an electorate base, if the Greens fall below 5% in the Party Vote, their  votes are discounted and Parliamentary seats re-allocated to Labour and National.

John Armstrong and Matthew Hooton are two such commentators making this fallacious point. Fallacious because even at Reid Research’s disastrous 4.9%, the polling ignores the Expat Factor. Expats – predominantly overseas young voters –  are not polled, but still cast their Special Votes, and often for the Green Party.

In 2014, the Green vote went from 210,764 on election night to 257,359 once Special Votes were counted and factored in. The extra 47,000 votes was sufficient to send a fourteenth Green Party List candidate to Parliament;

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It seems contradictory that there is a total black-out of polls on Election Day itself – when voting stations are open. But polling is allowed to proceed two weeks out from Election Day when voting stations are also open.

It may be time for this country to consider banning all polling whilst voting stations are open. If poll results are so open to wild fluctuations, and certain commentators make mischief from questionable data, then the possible risk of undue influence on voters cannot be discounted.

Once voting begins, polling should cease.

The only poll that should count after voting begins is Election Day.

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Losing the plot, Winston-style

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On Radio NZ’s Morning Report (14 September), NZ First Leader, Winston Peters lost the plot. His haranguing of Guyon Espiner did him no credit.

More incredible  was Peters’ assertion that he has not made any “bottom lines” this election;

“I have never gone out talking about bottom lines.”

Peters’ blatant Trumpian-style  lie flew in the face of  his bottom-lines during this election campaign.

On a referendum on the Maori seats;

“My strategy is to tell everybody out there that you won’t be talking to NZ First unless you want a referendum on both those issues at the mid-term mark of this election.”

On re-entering Pike River mine;

“I’m making no bones about it, we’ll give these people a fair-go, and yes this is a bottom line, and it shouldn’t have to be.”

On a rail link to Northport;

“I can say for the people of Northland and Whangarei, this is going to happen. We’ve got the corridor; it’s been designated. The only thing it lacks is the commitment from central government and we are going to give this promise, as I did in the Northland by-election – we are 69 days away from winning Whangarei as well – and that’s one of the first things we’re going to be doing straight after the election.”

Peters has issued  several other bottom lines, including changing the Reserve Bank Act, banning foreign purchase of land, setting up a foreign ownership register, reducing net migration to 10,000 per year, and not raising the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation (from 65).

Peters also attacked Espiner for personally supporting the neo-liberal “revolution” in the 1980s. As  Espiner pointed out, when Roger Douglas tore New Zealand’s social fabric apart, he was 13 years old at the time.

Plot lost.

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Labour’s tax & spend – what ails the Nats?

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National has launched a full-scale attack on Labour’s taxation policies and plans to set up a Tax Working Group to investigate the possibility of a Capital Gains Tax.

The Crosby-Textor line is childishly simple: the Right have identified a ‘chink’ in Jacinda Ardern’s teflon armour – kindly on loan from previous Dear Leader;

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But there’s more to it than simply attacking Labour through a perceived weakness in their taxation policy.

Labour is attempting to shift New Zealand away from a low-taxation/minimalist government, and return the country to the fully-funded social services we all once enjoyed.

Remember free prescriptions? Yes indeed. Prior to 1986, prescribed medicine was free.

National’s growing concern is not that Labour will introduce new (or higher) taxes.

Their worry is that New Zealanders will like what their taxes can buy; free tertiary education. Lower medical costs. Cheaper housing. New, re-vitalised social services such as nurses in schools.

Up until now, the Cult of Individualism had it’s allure. But it also has it’s nastier down-side.

If New Zealanders get a taste for a Scandinavian-style of taxation and social services, that would be the death-knell for neo-liberalism. When Jacinda Ardern recently agreed with Jim Bolger that neo-liberalism had failed – the Right noticed.

And when she said this;

“New Zealand has been served well by interventionist governments. That actually it’s about making sure that your market serves your people – it’s a poor master but a good servant.

Any expectation that we just simply allow that the market to dictate our outcomes for people is where I would want to make sure that we were more interventionist.”

For me the neoliberal agenda is what does it mean for people? What did it mean for people’s outcomes around employment, around poverty, around their ability to get a house? And on that front I stand by all our commitments to say that none of that should exist in a wealthy society. And there are mechanisms we can use that are beyond just our economic instruments and acts, to turn that around.”

– the Right became alarmed.

This election is not simply between the National-led block vs the Labour-led bloc – this is the battle for the future of our country; the soul of our people.

This moment is New Zealand’s cross-road.

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WINZ and Metiria Turei – A story of Two Withheld Entitlements

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Recent revelations that WINZ has withheld $200 million of lawful entitlements to some of the poorest, most desperate individuals and families in this neo-liberal Utopia (note sarc), has shocked some;

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$200 million withheld from welfare recipients who could have used that cash to pay for doctor’s visits. Shoes for children. Even lunch meals – which so many National/ACT supporters continually berate the poor for not providing for their kids – as Donna Miles reported on 13 September;

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Did the country rise up in a clamour of righteous anger? Was there a vocal outcry on social media? Were the Letters-to-the-editor columns filled were disgust and demands for a fair go for beneficiaries?

Like hell there was. If New Zealanders noticed, they showed little interest.

Yet, even the Minister for Social Welfare, Anne Tolley, had to concede that WINZ had fallen woefully short in helping those who need it most in our country;

“I agree at times it’s too bureaucratic and we’re doing our very best.”

$200 million in lawful entitlements withheld – and there is barely a whimper.

Contrast that with former Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei, who did some “withholding” of her own;

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A young solo-mum withholds information from social welfare in the mid-1990s, after then-Finance Minister Ruth Richard has cut welfare payments – and every conservative moralist; middle-class National/ACT supporter; media elite; and right-wing fruitcake, has a collective hysterical spasm of judgementalism that would put a Christian Fundamentalist to shame.

Perhaps if social welfare had not been cut in 1991…

Perhaps if WINZ had not withheld $200 million in rightful welfare entitlements…

Perhaps then Metiria Turei would not have had to withhold information, merely to survive…

Perhaps if half this country were not so drenched in…

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Perhaps then, our sheep and pigs might finally learn to fly.

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References

NZ Herald:  Winston Peters to Labour – Front up on your tax plans

Fairfax media:  Gareth Morgan positions himself as alternative to Winston Peters

NZ Herald:  Richard Prebble – The Jacinda tidal wave can be stopped

NZ Herald:  Richard Prebble – The Jacinda tidal wave has gone out

Radio NZ:  Time to come clean on coalition compromises

TVNZ:  Colmar Brunton poll – Labour maintains four point lead over National, could govern with Greens

Mediaworks:  National could govern alone in latest Newshub poll

Colin James: Of polls, statistics and a Labour deficit

NZ Herald:  John Armstrong – This election is a two-party dogfight now

NZ Herald:  Remaining Green Party voters ‘mainly hippies and drug addicts’ – Matthew Hooton

Parliament:   The 2014 New Zealand General Election – Final Results and Voting Statistics

Radio NZ: Morning Report –  The Leader Interview – Winston Peters

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters delivers bottom-line binding referendum on abolishing Maori seats

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters says Pike River re-entry is bottom line to election deals

NBR: TV3 – The Nation – Peters promises rail to Northport

Newsroom:  What a National-NZ First Govt might actually do

Fairfax media:  Jacinda Ardern says neoliberalism has failed

Radio NZ:  WINZ staff accused of withholding entitlements

Fairfax media:  Turei rallies Palmerston North troops in fight against poverty

Other blogposts

Donna Miles: Child Poverty – Facebook Post Shows The Nats Don’t Care

Previous related blogposts

Election ’17 Countdown: The Promise of Nirvana to come

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

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jacinda will tax you (b)

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 September 2017.

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Anne Tolley’s psycopathy – public for all to see

26 October 2015 7 comments

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msd logo1

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14 October: Surplus

On 14 October, seven years after National came to power, Finance Minister Bill English, announced that  his government had posted it’s first surplus; $414 million for the last financial year. English said,

“So that means the government has to take a different approach to reducing debt and maintaining surpluses than we have done in previous cycles.

So there won’t be any sense of the constraints coming off because I think in the past that has been the expectation after a period of constraint. It’s important that we continue to focus on improving our expenditure management so that we don’t slip into old habits and put that 10 kilos back on again.

The Budget 2015 one was pretty slim. We’ve had six months of growth that were softer than expected, that seems to be coming right now. But we’ve yet to see what impact that will have on the forecast.”

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14 October: Death by Deficit

From a story broken by Radio NZ on 14 October;

Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley admitted that having to provide monthly medical certificates in the early stages of cancer was difficult, but said the government had to draw a line somewhere.

She said cancer patients could not expect special treatment, because then everyone would want it.

“Where you draw the line is always the issue,” she said.

“You start creating a whole lot of layers and there would be, I’m sure, other groups of people that would come forward and say, ‘we need special consideration too’.

According to the Radio NZ report by Alex Ashton – and released on the same day as Bill English announced his “surplus” – people suffering from cancer and about to undergo critical surgery, were being harassed by MSD/WINZ to undertake “job seeking obligations”;

Hundreds of cancer patients are being placed on the Jobseeker benefit while they are getting treatment.

One woman, who does not want to be identified, applied for a benefit when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She was put on Jobseeker Support, which replaced the sickness benefit after the 2013 welfare reforms.

She said she had to pay for a medical certificate every month to prove she could not work – even though her surgeon insisted she would be off for much longer.

“The letter from the hospital wasn’t sufficient. I then had to go back and get a doctor’s note to keep them happy, just to prove the fact that I was going in for surgery,” she said.

“Then I also had to, on the day of my surgery, get someone from the hospital to fax through that I had been operated on.”

Cancer Society chief executive Claire Austin said the woman’s story was common, and the system lacked common sense and sensitivity.

She said many cancer patients had never been on a benefit before, and deserved help while they were going through an extremely tough time.

“The situation really is ludicrous. We’ve got people who are already in work, who are unable to work because they are either sick and have to go through treatment, or have surgery.

“They have to then apply for a benefit, which is a benefit that requires them… to be available to work.”

The welfare “reforms” of 2013 were carried out by Paula Bennett – herself a former solo-mother and receiver of a free tertiary education paid by WINZ.

When the extraordinary situation of cancer patients forced to undergo work-testing and fulfill job-seeking obligations was put to the current Minister of Social Welfare, Anne Tolley, her response was less than sympathetic;

Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley acknowledged that having to provide monthly medical certificates in the early stages of cancer was difficult, but said the government had to draw a line somewhere.

She said if cancer patients were given special consideration, other people would want those considerations as well.

“Where you draw the line is always the issue,” she said.

“You start creating a whole lot of layers and there would be, I’m sure, other groups of people that would come forward and say, ‘we need special consideration too’.

Tolley  complained that if cancer patients were given special consideration, other people would want those considerations as well ?!

Well, yes. If “other people” were equally sick,  critically injured, or suffering some degenerative condition – they would need state support. After all, that is why we have a welfare system. That is why Ms Tolley is the Minister for Social Welfare, and is  on an annual salary of $272,581 (plus some very generous allowances, retirement  perks, and superannuation fund).

Tolley has exhibited questionable behaviour in the past. As previous Minister for Police, she made a spectacle of herself standing atop a crushed car that had been seized from some teenage boy-racer. She positively gloated at it’s destruction;

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anne tolley - crushed car - boy racers - minister of police

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Interviewed on TV3 News in June 2012, she even taunted boy-racers to carry on breaking the law by challenging them to “bring it on“, so their cars could also be confiscated and destroyed.

Thankfully, boy-racers apparently  had the good sense to ignore Tolley’s dangerous school-yard ‘dare’, leaving the Minister’s childish words hanging embarrassingly in the air – though not before an editorial in the NZ Herald voiced it’s own distaste at her actions;

“What, then, was the Police Minister, Anne Tolley, doing dancing on the bonnet of a crushed car at a Lower Hutt scrapyard this week? This was a crass stunt unbecoming of any minister of any government.

[…]

But worse than the undignified celebration of such a dubious landmark was the message being delivered by Ms Tolley. She was suggesting, in effect, that when on top, the boot should be put in as far as possible. That it was fine to wallow in the misfortune of others.”

Three years later, on 21 June this year, political reporter Corin Dann interviewed Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley for TVNZ’s Q+A. The interview was brilliant, in that we, the public, caught a further glimpse of a person who apparently has very little empathy or concern for those less fortunate than herself.

To re-cap from my previous blogpost;

Last year, two year old old Emma-Lita Bourne died last year from a brain haemorrhage. Emma-Lita had been suffering from a pneumonia-like illness in the final days of her short, misery-filled, life, leading up to her death.

In a coronial  inquest, Coroner Brandt Shortland concluded;

“I am of the view the condition of the house at the time being cold and damp during the winter months was a contributing factor to her health status.”

Corin Dann pointedly asked Tolley about Emma-Lita’s  death;

@ 6.35 –

“Some would argue with the recent case, for example, with Emma-Lita Bourne who died in the state house, [a] damp house, why not just give those families more money to pay their power bill, rather than give the organisations money to come in and work and all the rest of it?”

Tolley responded;

@ 6.54 –

“And, and, when you look at something like Whanua Ora, they are doing some of that. See, see, what we’ve got with the focus on individual programmes and agencies working in silos, families don’t work like that. They’re very complex issues so if I don’t know the details of that particular family…”

A member of the public listening to Tolley’s  comments where she admitted to “[not knowing] the details of that particular family” might have forgiven the Minister for an unfortunate turn-of-phrase  that simply came across as someone who didn’t care.

However, when placed alongside her  recent comment on 14 October, on Radio NZ’s report;

“Where you draw the line is always the issue. You start creating a whole lot of layers and there would be, I’m sure, other groups of people that would come forward and say, ‘we need special consideration too’.

–  and Tolley’s  apparent lack of interest in children dying in cold, damp State houses, coupled with an obvious  delight in crushing cars – confirms an impression of a somewhat indifferent, cold, and unpleasant personality.

But is that the sum-total of why Tolley refuses to understand the needs of families living in damp houses, or cancer-sufferers being forced to jump  through bureaucratic hoops for no discernible good reason?

14 October: Where the money went

Last year, the outlook for National to meet it’s self-imposed goal of a surplus for the 2014/15 financial year seemed bleak.  This was a problem for National, as Radio NZ’s Brent Edwards explained with simple clarity  on 21 November 2014;

“From National’s perspective, it has been a key political argument to perpetuate the narrative that only it can be fiscally responsible while in contrast Labour is irresponsible with taxpayers’ money.  Setting a surplus target of 2014-15 has been an important part of that political strategy.”

The Opposition were prepared to make the most of National’s impending failure to meet it’s own goal of generating a surplus.

It’s reputation, according to public perception, of being the Party of Responsible Fiscal Management would be badly damaged if it failed to deliver on it’s promise of a 2014/15 surplus.

English’s task was made harder by the deteriorating state of the economy, as Brent Edwards reported. English lamented;

“This combination of lower commodity prices and low inflation means that the nominal or dollar value of New Zealand’s economic output will not grow as fast as previously expected. This will affect farm and company incomes and we expect this to flow into the Government’s books through lower revenue.”

If National could not balance it’s books by tax-revenue, it had only one other option available to it – reduce spending.

And cut spending the government did – by a whopping $1.081 billion  in ten Vote areas. According to Treasury, Total Crown Expenses cuts comprised of;

  • Government Superannuation Fund: cut by  $2 million
  • Health: cut by $52 million
  • Education: cut by $235 million
  • Core government services: cut by $42 million
  • Law and order: cut by $96 million
  • Transport and communications: cut by $304 million
  • Primary services: $108 million
  • Housing and community development: cut by $97 million
  • “Other”: cut by $140 million
  • Forecast new operating spending: cut by $7 million

Note that many of the areas cut were those relating to health, education, justice, and housing/community development – four of the most critical areas of any government’s spending.

No wonder so many hospitals are in the ‘red’ with their budgets.

No wonder so many schools cannot afford maintenance on their delapidated buildings.

The cut to Law and Order did not just affect prisons, courts, and policing. As Radio NZ recently discovered, it also impacted on legal aid for domestic violence victims;

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Legal aid rules not failing domestic violence victims says minister

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The Radio NZ report explains;

The Ministry of Justice took over legal aid in 2011, and introduced a series of budget cuts aimed at saving $250 million.

[Criminal Bar Association president Tony] Bouchier said things had deteriorated since then, and more funding was the answer.

“The whole idea of legal aid is to give people the opportunity of access to justice which is an absolute basic right in this country,” he said.

“It comes down to whether the government is going to properly fund the legal aid system; that’s where we’re at at the moment.

“The legal aid system is not being fully provided for and it’s causing all sorts of issues of justice in our court system – it’s legal aid on a shoestring budget.”

Remember Anne Tolley’s rebuke to cancer sufferers;

“Where you draw the line is always the issue. You start creating a whole lot of layers and there would be, I’m sure, other groups of people that would come forward and say, ‘we need special consideration too’.”

Fair-minded people would not  expect that women (and others) needing protection under the law, from violent partners,  should be denied access to a lawyer, and expect legal aid if they required it. Especially if their safety, and that of their children, depended on it.

But not according to this government.

According to this government, cancer sufferers and victims of domestic violence should not expect ” special consideration “.

14 October: Spending on ‘important stuff’

“I suppose that’s possible, we put the allowance in there three years ago…[and] we’ve always got the capacity to move that around.”

The Herald, though, was less than impressed at loose talk of tax cuts, suggesting instead that National address the ballooning $60-plus billion debt (see Appendix1) racked up by National;

The surplus is worth celebrating, even if it does not last long. But it would be wrong to give it away in tax cuts, even if it proves to be sustainable.

It’s editorial headline, “Use surplus for benefit of everyone” was positively socialist.

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  • National Ministers had an early Christmas when they gifted themselves 34 new BMWs. The last batch – bought in 2011 – are to be replaced only after about three years’ use.Cost? Unknown. According to National, the price is “commercially sensitive”. (Code for *politically embarrassing*.)

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  • National loves to invest. Cycleways. Aluminium smelters. ‘Hobbit‘ movies. Even farms in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert. Cost to taxpayer: $11.5 million

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  • Subsidies and special tax concessions to Warner Bros for ‘The Hobbit‘, and to other movie companies? Cost – ongoing.

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Anne Tolley asked; “Where you draw the line is always the issue”.

The above list might be a good start.

National’s “achievement” of a $414 million surplus was paid for by ordinary New Zealanders; sick people suffering from cancer; State house tenants with sick and dying children; women bashed by their partners. Children living in poverty. The unemployed and solo-parents (mostly women) pushed off welfare for most trivial reasons. All have also paid dearly for this government’s excesses.

Some who are “paying dearly for this government’s excesses” may not have expected to be victimised.  Cancer Society chief executive, Claire Austin, suggested that up to 800 cancer sufferers could be on a jobseeker’s benefit, without  an official WINZ work exemption excusing them from job seminars, interviews, and other bureaucratic hurdles. She stated;

[There were] probably just as many who gave up because it’s just too distressing, too complex, there’s a lack of sensitivity in terms of the process”.

One wonders how many of those estimated 800 cancer sufferers who are on the jobseekers benefit, and are being chased by WINZ  to fulfill work-ready obligations, also voted National?

If one quarter of the population are represented by the 1,131,501 voters who voted for National last year, then it would be fair to assume that a similar ratio of one quarter (200) of those 800 cancer sufferers voted National.

Is this what they expected from their charismatic Prime Minister, that nice, friendly, easy-going Mr Key?

Which sector of New Zealand society will be next to feel the cold, dead hand of this penny-pinching government? A government that refuses to invest in  New Zealanders who need assistance the most – but has no hesitation throwing money at luxury limousines; multi-million dollar residences; subsidies to corporations; and a farm in the middle of nowhere in a Saudi desert.

Who will be next?

More than ever, I am reminded of this;

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FIRST-THEY-CAME

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Appendix1

According to Treasury, as at 30 June 2015, net government debt currently stands at NZ$60.631 billion. That equates to 25.2% of GDP.

In 2008, net debt stood at around NZ$10 billion, as the Treasury chart below shows;

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net debt 2005 - 2015

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Current net debt is six times what it was, seven years ago.

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References

Interest.co.nz: Treasury reports OBEGAL surplus of NZ$414 million in year to June 30, 2015

Radio NZ: Jobseeker benefit for cancer patients ‘ludicrous’

Radio NZ: Welfare should be a safety net not a trap – Bennett

Legislation.govt.nz: Parliamentary Salaries Determination 2015

TV3 News: Car crushing ‘discredits law’ – expert

NZ Herald: Editorial: Car crushing an undignified stunt

TVNZ Q+A:  Revolutionary changes in store for social services (14:11)

Radio NZ: Power Play with Brent Edwards

NZ Herald: No surplus this year – Treasury

NZ Treasury: Analysis of Expenses by Functional Classification for the year ended 30 June 2015

Radio NZ: Legal aid rules not failing domestic violence victims says minister

Fairfax media: Tax cuts ‘possible’ after first surplus for NZ government

NZ Herald: Editorial – Use surplus for benefit of everyone

Fairfax media: Crown looks to trade in its luxury limo fleet

NZ Herald: Govt backtracks on limo statements

NZ Herald: Complaints laid against Murray McCully over Saudi farm deal

Fairfax media: NZ government shells out $11m on New York apartment for UN representative

Fairfax media: NZ diplomat involved in decision to buy $6.2m luxury Hawaiian mansion

Otago Daily Times: Smelter gets Meridian, Govt lifeline

Rio Tinto.com: Rio Tinto announces a 10 per cent increase in underlying earnings to $10.2 billion and 15 per cent increase in full year dividend

Fairfax media: Poverty-stricken kids resort to scavenging

Fairfax media: Cancer Society attacks ‘ludicrous’ benefit requirements for cancer patients

Wikipedia: 2014 General Election

Additional

NZ Treasury: Financial Statements of the Government of New Zealand for the Year Ended 30 June 2015

NZ Treasury: Year End Financial Statements – 14 October 2015

Previous related blogposts

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

The law as a plaything

A fitting response to National MP’s recent personal attacks on Metiria Turei

On ‘The Nation’ – Anne Tolley Revealed

“I don’t know the details of that particular family” – Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

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bill english - cuts - budget

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 October 2015

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On ‘The Nation’ – Anne Tolley Revealed

2 October 2015 5 comments

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children-crossing-triangle-sign

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On past occassion, I have been critical of ‘The Nation‘ for not making greater use of facts and data when confronting National ministers. Without cold, hard facts and stats, slippery Ministers like Steven Joyce can find wiggle-room to avoid straight answers and indulge in wild flights of fantasy-spin.

But when the team at ‘The Nation‘ get it right, they do it well, and Ministers are laid bare for the public to see, hear, and assess for themselves.

Cases-in-point, the 2 May interview with Corrections Minister, Sam  Lotu-Iiga, and the more recent (26 September) interview with Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley;

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The Nation - Interview - Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

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Both interviews showed Ministers out of their depths, and grappling with critical problems that apparently have “snuck up” on them – though the rest of the country had long been aware that not all was well in the Land of the Long White Cloud (and possible Red Peak).

Recent “revelations” of massive problems for children in State-care are only confirmation of what many in the sector already knew. According to Tolley’s own speech to the Fostering Kids New Zealand Conference  on 24 September;

By the time children with a care placement who were born in the 12 months to Jun 1991 had reached the age of 21:

Almost 90 per cent were on a benefit.

Over 25 per cent were on a benefit with a child.

Almost 80 per cent did not have NCEA Level 2.

More than 30 per cent had a youth justice referral by the age of 18.

Almost 20 per cent had had a custodial sentence.

Almost 40 per cent had a community sentence.

Overall, six out of every ten children in care are Māori children.

[…]

64 per cent of the 61,000 children notified to CYF in 2014 had a previous notification.

In 2013, children who had been removed from home were on average 8 years old and many of these children had been involved with the system since 2 or 3 years of age.

[…]

Seven year-old children should not have eight different home placements.

A study of those in care in 2010 showed that 23 per cent of children who exited care and returned to their biological parents were subject to neglect or physical, emotional or sexual re-abuse within 18 months. Ten per cent of those who returned to kin or whānau were re-abused, while re-abuse rates for those who exited into non-kin and non-whānau placements was one per cent.

It has taken seven years for a National minister to come to understand this? Where have they been all this time – playing golf on Planet Key?

But not only has  this government ignored this crisis in supporting young people in State care – but they have been criminally guilty of making matters worse by job cuts and destabilisation by constant re-organisation of  MSD (Ministry of Social Development);

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Job cuts for MSD

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Then Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, was adamant that there would be more frontline social workers, despite the massive number of redundancies. Her mantra at the time was;

”I can absolutely assure them that the concentration is on frontline staff, on social workers that are working with those people that need it most, and that’s where this Government is putting their priorities.”

Take note that in the “re-structuring”  in 2009, the job cuts included “a team of 18 child abuse education social workers“.  In effect,  skilled professionals working on behalf of children suffering abuse were sacked.

Only the Minister of Finance trying to balance his books, and those who perpetrate child abuse on small bodies, could possibly have been delighted at that announcement.

To deflect criticism from the growing problem of  child poverty and New Zealand’s “under-class” (which, in  October 2011, even Key was forced to admit was rising), Bennett resisted demands to assess just how bad the problem really was;

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Combating poverty more important than measuring it - Paula Bennett - MSD

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No measurement; no way of telling how bad it is. Very clever, Ms Bennett.

But worse was to come, as National slashed the state sector to make up for revenue lost through two tax cuts and the recessionary effects of the Global Financial Crisis;

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MSD restructure lacks transparency

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98 MSD staff face the axe - union

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This time, the person over-seeing on-going job-losses and re-structuring was the current Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley. This time, the cuts were given a new euphemism; “re-alignment”.

Despite Bennett’s reassurances in June 2009  that there would be a “concentration […] on frontline staff, on social workers that are working with those people that need it most” – six years later the cutting of back-room support staff resulted in inevitable (and predictable) consequences. As Tolley herself was forced to admit on ‘The Nation‘;

“Well, there’s 3000-odd staff, but only 25% of them are actually working with children. And of that 25%, they’re only spending 15% of their time actually with children.”

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twitter - msd job cuts - anne tolley - the nation

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At that point, Lisa Owen asked Minister Tolley the question;

“So are you telling me that we need more back-room staff to allow those people to get on to the front line and deal with the kids?”

Tolley’s reply was pure gobbledegook;

“What we need is a system that is designed to look after those children when they first come to our attention, we need good interventions with them and their families, and we need to free up the front-line social workers to do the work they come in every day to do which is to work with children, not a system that’s built on layers and layers of risk management and bureaucracy and administration, which is what we’ve got now.”

The reason it is risable gobbledegook is that after hundreds of job losses – of mostly so-called “back room staff” one assumes – and restructurings, there cannot be too many “layers and layers of risk management and bureaucracy and administration” left in MSD.

Lisa Owen pushed the Minister further;

“…But some evidence that was provided last year was the case-load review, which said that you were 350 social workers short. So can we expect more social workers?”

When the Minister offered vague assurances that “we may well” expect more social workers, Ms Owen was blunt;

“But ‘may well’ is not a definitive answer, is it, Minister? So yes or no? Will we get more?”

Tolley’s response was anything but reassuring;

“I don’t know, because the final system proposal will come to me in December, so I’m not going to pre-empt what the panel’s coming up with. What they’ve done in this interim report is give us the building blocks…”

Listening to the Minister was not only far from reassuring, but left a sense of unease.

Our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, has already said that “outsourcing” to private providers for MSD services is possible;

“Child Youth and Family does outsource to the private sector already some contracts, and I think last year $81 million of business went to private sector contractors, so I can’t get up and say there is no involvement with the private sector, because there already is that.

I don’t think we’re seriously talking about the private sector taking control of all the children, but if there is some small function they could do, maybe, I’d have to see what that is.”

“Some small function”?

What is Key referring to – delivery of afternoon tea and biscuits to CYF staff?

Or, as more likely, would “some small function” involve Serco – already in deep trouble over it’s incompetence over running of Mt Eden prison?

This is a possibility that Tolley herself touted as a possibility on TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘, as recently as June this year;

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Tolley Serco could run social services - MSD - CYF

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On 31 August,  CEO of the Association of Social Workers, Lucy Sandford-Reed,was reported on Radio NZ as saying  she believed call-centre operations might be outsourced;

“That really creates an opportunity for further fragmentation of the service delivery and could potentially create the opportunity for failure. And there has been a sense that a organisation like Serco could be looking at picking up those contracts.”

Tolley was adamant on ‘The Nation‘ that there would be no outsourcing of MSD’s front-line services. She told Lisa Owen to her face;

“Look, I- Let’s put it to rest – this is a state responsibility. There’s no talk within Government at all of outsourcing that responsibility.”

However, only two days earlier (24 September), it was reported that Serco had indeed been ‘sniffing’ around CYF facilities in Auckland;

CYF sites visited by Serco – Tolley

Thursday 24 Sep 2015 4:30 p.m.

Serco case managers have visited several Child, Youth and Family facilities in Auckland, Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has confirmed.

She’s previously denied knowledge of such visits, and told Parliament today she had been given incorrect advice by her ministry.

“I apologise for giving an incorrect answer (to previous questions)… I’m disappointed that I got incorrect information,” she said.

Opposition MPs suspect the visits were connected with the possibility of some CYF services being contracted out to Serco.

The question that begs to be asked is; why has National drawn attention to the (supposed) “failings” of CYF/MSD? Why was Tolley so eager to receive a report so scathing of her own department, as she stated in her 27 August press statement;

“I welcome the release of this report, which makes for grim reading for those involved in child protection, and have met with the Commissioner to discuss his findings.”

Usually, this is a government whose ministers are desperate only to present “good news” stories. They are quick to dismiss, minimise, or deride any criticism that does not fit with their “good management” narrative. Blaming the previous Labour government has become the #1 Default position of National ministers.

The only possible rationale why Tolley has commissioned a report into MSD/CYF – where no public or media pressure had demanded one – is that Paula Rebstock’s highly critical findings of MSD/CYF were pre-determined.

As Chris Trotter wrote in his analysis of Rebstock’s report on 2 April;

“The Rebstocks of this world are spared the close-up consequences of their recommendations. They are experts at reading between the lines of their terms of reference to discover exactly what it is that their commissioning ministers are expecting from them – and delivering it. So it was with Paula Bennett’s welfare review, and so it will be with Anne Tolley’s review of Child Youth and Family (CYF).

Once again in the lead role, Ms Rebstock will not have to work too hard to decode the meaning of Ms Tolley’s comment that: “CYF has drafted its own internal modernisation strategy and while it is a good starting point, it doesn’t go far enough”.”

Without doubt, Rebstock’s eventual (and predictable?) report into MSD/CYF was highly critical of that organisation.

Key has publicly disclosed that he is not averse to privatisation (aka, “outsourcing”) aspects of MSD/CYF’s services.

Despite Tolley’s denials, Serco has shown interest in CYF facilities.

Which leads to the inescapable conclusion that the Rebstock report; the willingness of Ministers to front up to the media to candidly admit to MSD/CYF’s shortcomings; is setting up a Problem demanding a Solution.

That “Solution” is privatisation of services.

Which perhaps is what Tolley was referring to in her 24 September speech;

“While the new operational model is being developed, a feasibility study of an investment approach to improving outcomes for vulnerable children is being commissioned by MSD on behalf of the panel, and the findings will inform the Panel’s December report.”

Investment approach”?

As in business investment.

This explains  Tolley’s rejection of Lisa Owen’s suggestion of paying caregivers more money;

“Well, I think you’ve always got to be very careful that you’re not setting up a professional caregiving regime. And when you talk to people who are fostering, most of them don’t do it for the money.”

Indeed, “people who are fostering, most of them don’t do it for the money” – but it sure helps pay the bills, especially for professional services for some very damaged children.

No wonder Tolley was vague on whether more money or social workers would be provided to MSD/CYF, in her replies to Lisa Owen. This was never about increasing resources to the Ministry or caregivers.

This is about a private enterprise “solution” to a National government “problem”.

The Rebstock Report is simply the means to sell that “solution” to the public and media.

Machiavellian does not begin to cover this mad agenda.

 

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References

TV3: The Nation – Interview – National’s Chief Strategist Steven Joyce

Beehive.govt.nz: Speech to Fostering Kids New Zealand Conference

Fairfax media: Job cuts for MSD

NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing

Scoop media: Combating poverty more important than measuring it

Radio NZ: MSD restructure ‘lacks transparency’

Fairfax media: 98 MSD staff face the axe – union

Twitter: Frank Macskasy to The Nation

Radio NZ: Key – More CYF private sector involvement possible

TV3 News: Tolley – Serco could run social services

TV3 News: CYF sites visited by Serco – Tolley

Beehive.govt.nz: Minister welcomes State of Care report

Additional

MSD: Redesigning the Welfare State in New Zealand: Problems, Policies and Prospects (1999)

Other Blog posts

The Daily Blog: Fixing CYFs – Paula Rebstock is asked to “rescue” another state agency

The Daily Blog: Why The State Needs To Support Young People Until They’re 21

Previous related blogposts

WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers – *up-date*

Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around

The law as a plaything

Random Thoughts on Random Things #3

John Key’s government – death by two cuts

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

“I don’t know the details of that particular family” – Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

Polls and pundits – A facepalm moment

“The Nation” reveals gobsmacking incompetence by Ministers English and Lotu-Iiga

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Phil-Disley-30102010-005

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 September 2015.

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WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers – *up-date*

16 July 2015 7 comments

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hungry and homeless wellington new zealand

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Radio NZ’s reporter, Ruth Hill, posted this story on Friday 10 July. Note Ms Hill’s comment;

“However, 4916 just dropped out of the system because they did not do the paperwork.”

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Thousands losing benefits due to paperwork - radio nz - winz - msd

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Even as National  boasted about a drop in beneficiary numbers;

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Benefit numbers reach a six-year low  - fairfax media - winz - msd

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– unemployment continued to rise;

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Unemployment rises to 5.7 percent - radio nz - winz - msd - unemployment

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This discrepancy can be explained – in part – with RNZ reporter, Ruth Hill, revealing;

“Thousands of people are having their benefits cut off because they are not filling in the complicated paperwork required…

[…]

… 4916 just dropped out of the system because they did not do the paperwork.”

This was a ticking time-bomb predicted by beneficiary advocates in 2013, when National implemented many of it’s punitive welfare “reforms”;

The changes sparked protests in front of three Auckland Work and Income offices by Auckland Action Against Poverty protesters yesterday who said the moves were about “cutting costs by pushing vulnerable people off the books” rather than getting them into decent jobs.

So how bad is the problem with WINZ forms?

On  8 February 2013,   I blogged on precisely this problem (WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers);

Paula Bennett has directed WINZ to make life more difficult for the unemployed, when registering with WINZ. As if losing one’s job wasn’t stressful enough, Bennet has forced the implementation of some draconian rules and requirements for beneficiaries. (The implication being that it’s the fault of  the unemployed for being unemployed?!)

One of the bureacratic bundles of red tape are the number of forms issued to WINZ applicants.

For those readers who have never had the “delight” of dealing with WINZ – these are the forms that are required to be filled out. Note: every single applicant is given these forms (in a little plastic carry-bag).

And if you have to reapply to WINZ for a benefit (if, say, you’ve lost your job again) you are required to fill out these forms all over again.

This is where taxpayer’s money is really going to waste in welfare.

All up, seventythree  pages of information and forms to  read, understand,  fill out, to collect information;

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73-pages-of-winz-forms-1

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(Blogger’s Note: for a comprehensive view of each WINZ form, please go to  blogpost: Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around)

This system becomes even more laughable when one considers that if an an applicant has been a WINZ “client” (ie, beneficiary) before, they remain on MSD’s computer files. Much of the information sought is already  on-file.

The cost of this must be horrendous, and it is ironic that at a time when National is cutting “back room” support staff to save money, that they are permitting taxpayer funding for this ‘Monty Pythonesque ‘ exercise in out-of-control form-filling.

No wonder that this was reported in Fairfax media,

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett this morning said latest figures showed 328,043 people were now on benefits, with 57,058 of those on an unemployment benefit.

Reforms passed by Parliament require people on an unemployment benefit to reapply for it after one year. Bennett said this change had led to 5000 people cancelling their benefit.

More than 1400 of those said they had found work, more than 2600 didn’t complete a reapplication and more than 1000 were no longer eligible. ”

How many people with minimal education or poor command of the English language could hope to fill out so many forms of such complexity?

National has a peculiar – but effective – way of dealing with unpleasant statistics.

It either does not engage in collecting data (eg; foreign house buyers, poverty levels, etc), or, it implements policies that will artificially impact on statistics without actually resolving under-lying problems. Whichever is the cheapest, easiest option. And whichever draws the least worst  headlines.

If pushing New Zealanders off welfare – by making the system unnecessarily  complex and frustrating  – has the end result of an apparent drop in welfare numbers, then that is ‘Mission Accomplished’ for this government.

Pushing people into poverty; homelessness; the degradation of street living and begging; are not matters that greatly concerned successive Social Welfare ministers, whether Paula Bennett, nor her successor, Anne “Look-At-Me-Standing-On-A-Crushed-Car” Tolley, as she told Radio NZ;

There is no reason for Work and Income to continue monitoring people who have chosen not to re-apply for a benefit.

If people require welfare support, it is their responsibility to get in touch and provide Work and Income with information that allows them to assess a beneficiary’s need. Once that is complete, Work and Income can provide the assistance people are eligible for.”

This is the same minister who told  TVNZ’s Q+A, political reporter, Corin Dann, on 21 June;

DANN:

“Some would argue with the recent case, for example, with Emma-Lita Bourne who died in the state house, [a] damp house, why not just give those families more money to pay their power bill, rather than give the organisations money to come in and work and all the rest of it?”

TOLLEY:

“And, and, when you look at something like Whanua Ora, they are doing some of that. See, see, what we’ve got with the focus on individual programmes and agencies working in silos, families don’t work like that. They’re very complex issues so if I don’t know the details of that particular family…”

Tolley admitted not knowing the details of the family whose child died of cold/damp related illness.

Make no mistake, the end purpose of seventythree forms, and having to re-apply every twelve months, is to cause frustration and dissuade people from re-applying for welfare benefits.

Ministers then trumpet “success” at a drop in welfare numbers.

The next time you see beggars on the streets with signs saying “no money, please give what you can” – they are most likely telling the truth. They are this government’s dirty little secret.

Addendum1

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.” – Paula Bennett, 16 August 2012

Addendum2

One of the more bizarre and ridiculous policies by the Ministry of Social Development is annual re-application forms sent to beneficiaries with permanent disabilities such as spina bifida.

For those who are not aware, spina bifida is a permanent, life-long condition. There is no cure.

MSD seems to believe that a miraculous recovery is possible, judging by the forms it sends every twelve months to people with spina bifida.

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jesus christ an the official from MSD

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References

Radio NZ: Thousands losing benefits due to paperwork

Fairfax media: Benefit numbers reach a six-year low

Radio NZ: Unemployment rises to 5.7 percent

Fairfax media: Number on benefits drops, reaction mixed

Fairfax media: 5000 beneficiaries quit dole rather than reapply

Fairfax media: Foreign house owner register downplayed

NZ Herald: Measuring poverty line not a priority – Bennett

TVNZ Q+A:  Interview with Anne Tolley

NZ Spina Bifida Org

Previous related blogposts

The law as a plaything

“I don’t know the details of that particular family” – Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

Bill English: When numbers don’t fit, or just jump around

WINZ, waste, and wonky numbers

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6a00d83451d75d69e20163022de8ed970d-450wi.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 July 2015.

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Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth… *** UP DATE ***

11 February 2014 2 comments

Continued from: Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth

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Unemployed under-employment

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Additional to my original blogpost on The Daily Blog on 6 February.

In up-coming unemployment stats, I’ll be focusing on the Jobless and under-employed numbers, as well as the narrower “unemployed” stats from the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS). It is evident from the numbers of under-employed and the extremely narrow defining on what constitutes an unemployed person, that we are not getting the full picture from the HLFS.

Coupled to that, the Census last year revealed unemployment to be at an astonishing 7.1% whilst Roy Morgan poll (5 December 2013) had the figure at 8.5%.

By comparison, the HLFS (at roughly the same time) had unemployment at 6.2%.

So unemployment stats ranged from 6.2% (HLFS) to 8.5% (Roy Morgan).

Coupled to that is the narrow definition of the HLFS used by Statistics NZ (see below), and we begin to see why the “official unemployment rate” appears more ‘benign’.

From the January 2014 Parliamentary report, Unemployment and employment statistics: the Household Labour Force Survey in context;

The Reserve Bank has expressed concern at its variance with other indicators. [2]   A commentator in the Westpac Bulletin, puzzled by the continued weakness of the HLFS in 2012 compared to the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) and other labour market indicators, described it as ‘confusion reigns’ and suggested that survey ‘volatility’ played a role. [3]   The ANZ commentator is cautious: ‘The HLFS has been very volatile in recent years, and we and the Reserve Bank will treat the result with a degree of scepticism, preferring to take note of a wide range of labour market indicators.’ [4]  

These broader labour market indicators include external ones such as business and consumer surveys and job advertisements. These are in addition to those derived from official statistics such as changes in the employment and labour force participation rates, full- and part-time work, and hours worked, together with fine-grained analysis of changes by region, industry and age.

Various reasons for the volatility of the unemployment rate and its variance with other labour market indicators have been discussed – the impact of the recession, the dynamic nature of the labour market, the survey nature of the HLFS, and differences in coverage of the statistics. It has been suggested that the HLFS is more volatile at a turning point – either going into or out of recession…

The latest Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) stats;

Officially unemployed stats;

The unemployment rate decreased over the quarter, down 0.2 percentage points to 6.0 percent. This decrease reflected 2,000 fewer people being unemployed [147,000]. The fall in unemployment was from fewer men unemployed.

Official unemployment: down

The  under-employment stats;

Over the year, the total number of under-employed people increased by 27,200 to 122,600. As a result, the under-employment rate increased 1.0 percentage points to 5.3 percent.

Official under-employment: up

The HLFS Jobless  stats;

In the year to December 2013, the number of people in the jobless category fell 27,400 to 257,100. Alongside the 15,000 fall in the number of people unemployed, there was also a 10,200 fall in the number of people without a job who were available for work but not actively seeking.

Official Jobless: down

Source

Observation #1: Under-employment is increasing, which brings into question how effective the “drop” in unemployment and Jobless actually is. As being “employed” is defined as working for one hour (or more) per week; with or without pay: the whole statistical reporting of true unemployment in New Zealand is now called into question. Especially with regards to the next point.

Observation  #2: “A 10,200 fall in the number of people without a job who were available for work but not actively seeking” signifies that the drop in Unemployment/Jobless can also be attributed to people giving up, as this Radio NZ report stated in February last year (2013).

Observation #3: As stated in the “Definitions” below, a person who is job seeking only through newspapers is not considered in the “Unemployed” category, but under the wider “Jobless” definition. Considering that a number of  households  cannot afford the internet, and do not qualify for WINZ registration, this makes a sizeable “chunk” of unemployed effectively invisible.

Observation #4: The above Observation suits successive governments, which are desperate to report lower unemployed so as to gain support from voters.

 

Definitions

Jobless: people who are either officially unemployed, available but not seeking work, or actively seeking but not available for work. The ‘available but not seeking work’ category is made up of the ‘seeking through newspaper only’, ‘discouraged’, and ‘other’ categories.

Under-employment: employed people who work part time (ie usually work less than 30 hours in all jobs) and are willing and available to work more hours than they usually do.

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 

  • had a job but were not at work due to: own illness or injury, personal or family responsibilities, bad weather or mechanical breakdown, direct involvement in an industrial dispute, or leave or holiday.

Source

Up-coming unemployment stats will focus  on  Jobless and under-employed numbers, as well as the more restrictive “unemployed” stats from the HLFS. Hopefully this will create a more comprehensive ‘snapshot’ of what is happening in the jobs ‘market’.

Further Information

“4 out of 5 New Zealand homes had access to the Internet, up 5 percent since 2009.”

– Statistics NZ

The corollary to that is that one in five households – a staggering 20%! – do not have internet access.

Which means that job seekers on little or no income (especially if they do not qualify for WINZ support) may rely solely on newspapers to look for jobs.

But as I’ve reported above, using a newspaper to be job-seeking does not quality you as “unemployed”.

20%.

That’s quite a number.

No wonder of official unemployment stats are dodgy as hell.

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References

NZ Parliament: Unemployment and employment statistics: the Household Labour Force Survey in context

Roy Morgan:  New Zealand real unemployment steady at 8.5% and a further 11.3% (up 2.7%) of workforce are under-employed

Roy Morgan:  Roy Morgan measures real unemployment in Australia not the “perception” of unemployment

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2013 quarter

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: December 2013 quarter

Statistics NZ: Definitions – About the Household Labour Force Survey

Statistics NZ: Household Use of Information and Communication Technology: 2012

Radio NZ: Unemployment rate falls as more give up job hunt

Previous related blogpost

The REAL level of unemployment

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

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18 percent of 18-24 year olds unemployed

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 February 2014.

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Un-employment; under-employment; and the plain unvarnished truth…

11 February 2014 3 comments

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Continued from:    Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

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Unemployment logo

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This is the plain, unvarnished truth that most New Zealanders don’t know; don’t understand, and quite frankly, many do not want to know or understand. For many – especially National/Act supporters living in their own fantasyland – this is the reality that would shatter their comfortable upper-middle-class world-view.

First, read Mike Treen’s excellent analysis on The Daily Blog, on 30 January;

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EXCLUSIVE - Billions of dollars stolen from the unemployed

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(Note the pathetic and largely ineffectual attempts by right wing blogger; self-proclaimed “social welfare expert”; and ex-Act candidate, Lindsay Mitchell, and one or two other National Party supporters to undermine Mike’s analysis. They are unable to address or answer even the most simple points Mike and others have raised.)

Then, read Matt McCarten’s piece in the NZ Herald, a few days later;

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Matt McCarten - Rose-tinted view cruel fairy tales

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And now, here’s the ‘kicker‘;

According to Statistics New Zealand, which carries out both the five yearly Census as well as the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS), the definition of an employed person is so loose and wide-ranging as to make the term meaningless;

Definitions

About the Household Labour Force Survey

The Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) provides a regular, timely, and comprehensive portrayal of New Zealand’s labour force. Each quarter, Statistics NZ produces a range of statistics relating to employment, unemployment, and people not in the labour force.

The survey started in October 1985 and the first results published were for the March 1986 quarter.

More definitions

The labour force category to which a person is assigned depends on their actual activity during a survey reference week.

This section includes definitions used in the HLFS release. These conform closely to the international standard definitions specified by the International Labour Organization.

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 

  • had a job but were not at work due to: own illness or injury, personal or family responsibilities, bad weather or mechanical breakdown, direct involvement in an industrial dispute, or leave or holiday.

So, if youworked for one hour” – even without pay! ” – you are automatically classed as employed by this country’s statisticians.

No wonder that the Roy Morgan poll consistently reports that New Zealand has a higher unemployment rate than is generally reported by Statistic NZ’s HLFS or Census.

Quite simply,

  • It appears that our stats are horribly wrong and are under-stating the severity of unemployment in New Zealand by several degrees of magnitude,
  • Lower unemployment figures suit the agendas of successive governments (National, as well as Labour-led),
  • Community organisations are over-worked struggling to put  band-aids on the growing problem of hidden unemployment,
  • New Zealand as a whole suffers through loss of productivity; increasing costs due to poverty; and other socio-economic problems.

When a government agency purports to measure employment and unemployment, and defines being employed as “working for one hour or more”, either paid or unpaid, those are not statistics – they are a sick joke. In effect, we are fooling ourselves as a nation that we have “low unemployment”.

These are not facts – they are propaganda; half-truths; mis-information; lies-dressed-up-as-comforting-facts. The reality – unpalatable as it may be for many – is that our unemployment is much, much worse than we have been led to believe.

If New Zealanders want to keep up this pretense, they will eventually have to “pay the Piper”, as societal problems worsen. And then, the rioting begins.

Note: For future reference, any subsequent use of Statistics NZ data referring to unemployment, in any upcoming blogposts,  will carry the caveat;

Definition of Employed (by Statistics NZ) includes any person who is;

  • anyone working for only one hour (or more)
  • anyone not paid for their labour

Accordingly, Statistics NZ information may not present a fully accurate picture of this country’s unemployment/employment rates.”

*** Up-date ***

The HLFS results for the December 2013 Quarter reported a “drop” in unemployment from 6.2% to 6.0%.

Interestingly, as Radio NZ reported, “the fall in unemployment did not match the pick up in jobs, due to more people searching for work“.

This ties in with the fact that “employment” is defined as anyone working for one hour (or more).

If more people are looking for work, this suggests any number of factors,

  • The HLFS survey is failing to pick up accurate numbers of unemployment,
  • Statistics NZ’s definition for unemployed is too narrow,
  • The number of under-employed is (as Roy Morgan reveals) so high as to mask real unemployment.

Also interesting to note that the drop in the HLFS survey results mirror the fall in Roy Morgans polling, further lending credibility to the latter.

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References

NZ Parliament: Unemployment and employment statistics: the Household Labour Force Survey in context

Statistics NZ: Hours Worked in Employment

Scoop News:  New Zealand Real Unemployment at 9.1%

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: June 2012 quarter

The Daily Blog: EXCLUSIVE: Billions of dollars stolen from the unemployed

NZ Herald: Matt McCarten: Rose-tinted view cruel fairy tales

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

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2013 quarter

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

Statistics NZ:  Labour market statistics for the December 2013 quarter

Radio NZ: Unemployment falls to 6 percent

Previous related blogposts

The REAL level of unemployment

Roy Morgan Poll: Unemployment and Under-employment up in New Zealand!

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unemployed welfare beneficiaries paula bennett

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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

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