Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Very brief comment on Ashburton

The media coverage of the Ashburton killer's background is sympathetic.

I have no sympathy for him. He lost his mother while still at college. So he should know what it feels like. Yet he has probably robbed children of a mother; partners, sisters and brothers, parents, friends of someone who added enormous value and meaning to their lives. Someone who was everything to them. Why?

It is unforgivable whatever his circumstances are. Harsh? I don't think so. My compassion is directed towards those innocent people just going about their work. Trying, in fact, to help this man. As had Presbyterian Support staff who also got kicked in the teeth for it and are probably thanking God today that he set his sights on WINZ and not them.

No. I have no sympathy. It's just a shame he didn't finish himself off and avoid all the further suffering the friends and families will have to endure as he appears repeatedly before them on their TV screens if not in the flesh.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Indigenous disproportion in both crime and welfare dependence. And an afterthought.

 An article in yesterday's Australian was brought to my attention. About the disproportionate incidence of crime and imprisonment amongst their indigenous population, it's well worth a read:


Far from shrinking, that disproportion, which is already far greater than that for black people in the US, indigenous Canadians and New Zealand Maoris, has been widening, with the ratio of indigenous to non-indigenous imprisonment rates rising 40 per cent since 2001. The gap in imprisonment rates is even larger for women than men, and also growing.
Weatherburn gently demolishes the claim that those outcomes reflect indigenous disempowerment. As he shows, the differences in incarceration rates actually declined after 1900, with the current gap only
emerging in the 1960s.
Nor does Weatherburn’s exhaustive analysis find any evidence that indigenous Australians are treated
more harshly by the justice system than their non-indigenous counterparts. On the contrary, taking
account of the factors courts consider, they are both less likely to be imprisoned, and when imprisoned, receive shorter sentences.
Rather, the rise in imprisonment rates reflects the changes the 60s brought: the equal wage decision in
1965, which accelerated the collapse in indigenous employment in regional areas; the dismantling of
laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol to indigenous Australians; and the explosive increase in welfare
payments.

Further to the last phrase is this well-worded observation:

Aggravating the extent and severity of the violence is widespread substance abuse. Even correcting for differences in the age structure of the population, the rate of alcohol-induced deaths for indigenous Australians is 7.5 times the non-indigenous rate. And there is a direct link between drunkenness and crime: indigenous prisoners are nearly three times more likely than non-indigenous offenders to have been intoxicated when they committed their offence. But alcohol abuse is a symptom, not an ultimate cause: a symptom of ready access to cash without any real requirement to work, with that cash being spent on goods such as alcohol and drugs that dull boredom, are consumed in social groups, and can be enjoyed by the barely literate. And once entrenched, the cycle of substance abuse, violence, imprisonment and reoffending perpetuates the labour market exclusion that served to justify the welfare hand-outs in the first place.

And explains the migration from unemployment to disability benefits. More pathways by which welfare dependency creates more welfare dependency.

The article cites an Aboriginal population at 2.5% of total, with 26 percent of the prison population.
- Maori  respectively 15%  and 50%
- US non-Hispanic Blacks 13% and 40%

Apparently, "...nearly half of all adult indigenous Australians are now primarily reliant on welfare". Currently around 28% of Maori rely on a benefit. On an optimistic note,  lower than it's been in the past.

And really, I get sick of writing about Maori. The inter-marriage and inter-mixing between Maori and Pakeha has been huge factor in the recent history of NZ and strikes a substantial contrast with Australia. It's an aspect of NZ I value immensely. The inward conflict  between my strong sense of and advocacy for individualism, but attention to ethnic disparities grows. One day I might start a crusade to stop governments racially classifying people. Perhaps that is a source of oppression in itself?


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Election choices: A brief examination of child poverty claims

 Like Rodney Hide I want this election to be about real issues. A debate about policy. An examination of what is true and what is not.

Next Saturday the Child Poverty Action Group is holding a hikoi to demand action on child poverty. Doubtless Labour, Mana/Internet and  the Greens will be out in force. Here's how CPAG bill it:

One in four children don't get a fair go in New Zealand. They live in cold, damp, over-crowded houses. They get sick more often and end up in hospital with serious illnesses that can affect them for life.  Their families struggle to pay the bills and buy healthy food, which means they often go to school hungry and find it harder to learn.

It's time to call these people out on their claims.

1/ 22 percent of children live in households that have low incomes (using the favoured measure)


 2/ However, a majority of these children are not suffering from deprivation.


About 15% (red and green bar on the 60% measure) experience deprivation.

So one in 6-7 children is suffering some form of deprivation. What does that mean?



Describing hardship for children
Material hardship means going without goods, services, and experiences that people can reasonably be expected to have. Statistics New Zealand, with the advice of the Ministry of Social Development, has provided an analysis of what this means using the New Zealand General Social Survey data. They identified eleven key indicators of vulnerability such as:
having a smoker or a victim of crime living in the house (both about 20%)
living in a high deprivation area (22%)
living in an overcrowded house (13%)
having a low socioeconomic rating on the ELSI scale
having more than one housing problem like damp, cost, cold, or inadequate heating (10%)
having limited access to facilities like shops, schools, libraries and medical facilities (9%).
They assessed the six percent of children with five or more of these indicators as being at high risk of being in deprivation.
So children at high risk of deprivation number around one in 16 or 17 children.

Note too that:

   - 13 percent of children were living in an overcrowded house. Not one in four as claimed by CPAG.

   - 10 percent of children had a cold house problem. One in ten. Not one in four as claimed by CPAG

What about the claim that one in four " families struggle to pay bills and buy healthy food"?



Even in the lowest deciles 70 percent or more  families report having enough, just enough or even more than enough money. Having just enough may still mean they are struggling but they are managing to meet their outgoings.

Politicians  usual method of attracting votes is to bribe people with hand-outs. But another is to evoke feelings of guilt in the population along with promise to alleviate them. The worse the picture they paint (with the aid of their supporting pressure groups), the bigger the guilt burden they can lay on the voter.

Arm yourself with the facts before you make a voting decision.





Friday, August 29, 2014

MSD employee asks the question on many people's lips

From the NZ Herald:

A public servant is under investigation over allegations that he said beneficiaries were "stupid" for having children.
The man, who works for the Ministry of Social Development, has been suspended amid questions about comments he posted on the Whale Oil blog.
Those comments, posted under a pseudonym, included: "Why is it that people who are *already* poor then decide to have babies and expect that they will be able to make ends meet? "

The man shouldn't have been reading Whale Oil and posting on work time (if he was). Some of his views may be objectionable.

But asking why poor people decide to have babies and expect to cope financially is a question that exercises many people. We know, and probably the commenter also knows, that every year one in five children will be become dependent on welfare directly or shortly after their birth. He may have even read the Ministerial Committee on Poverty report:



There is a significant group of children that spend most of their childhood in a benefit-supported household family and on low incomes for most of their childhood. According to Wilson and Soughton (2011) around 6% of children spend 13 or 14 years in benefit supported households families by the time they are 14 years. Thus, if we translate this
to the current group of children aged 0-14 years, this translates to over 50,000
children (see figure 6). We also see that a further 130,000 children aged 0-14 years are expect ed to have spent more than half of their first 14 years on a benefit (or a further 15% of children), but less than 13 years. These children aged 0-14 years are likely to have the highest risk of material hardship.

This outcome is a direct result of parental decisions.

I wouldn't however call these people "stupid" . Their reasons may be entirely rational. They may be deep-seated and emotional. They may be cynical or just plain irresponsible. But if  the "why" behind the major driver of child poverty isn't properly understood, then responses won't work.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Leader debate - quick impression

My political history is ACT/Libertarianz. John Key has drawn my ire in the past. I remember writing a  letter criticising Key policy which was published in the DomPost and one of his people emailing me a response. But I am closer to centre right than left and would prefer a National government.

Tonight David Cunliffe put up a pleasant persona. One I am unfamiliar with. He lost the smugness and nastiness previously on offer. How he managed is fascinating of itself. Who the real Cunliffe is exercises me.

Key was less smiley and relaxed than normal. At moments he seemed less forceful and personable than the 'tonight' David Cunliffe. That surprised me. But these affairs must be exceedingly difficult to handle in  a psychological sense.

I think there is a jungle drum murmur that National is getting arrogant like Clark did after 3 terms, which Key may well be aware of and downplayed any impression that would confirm that. He wasn't ultra-confident. But that made him more vulnerable - also not a necessarily losing position.

There were moments of utter denial on both sides, "That's not true ", "That's wrong". For people with little economic or social knowledge this kind of stand-off must be very frustrating. For instance, Cunliffe said there are 32,000 more people unemployed since National took office. Key denied it.

It's true by the HLFS measure. But contrast the economic circumstances, or population size, or get into the vagaries and minutiae of labour force measures and it's not statistically significant. As Key said, our unemployment rate is now amongst the lower in the OECD. NZ's weathering of the GFC is admirable and even Cunliffe acknowledged that.

I did send a text for best performance and voted for Key. Because ultimately his performance best matches what I want to hear. No clamp down on land sales, or immigration. Yes to free trade and foreign investment. No to capital gains tax.

Was Hosking unbiased? Ummm. Even-handed in his tough treatment of both but tending towards subjects he knows and has an opinion on, which generally fall in favour of National (gleaned from listening to NewstalkZB in the mornings.)

The (my) big subjects not raised:

Super qualifying age
Child poverty

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Where or what is the Conservative's welfare policy?

With an indication from tonight's TV3 poll that the Conservative Party will be in the next parliament I am interested in their welfare policy.

But I can't find one.

A search of their site produced:

".... the best welfare program is a job..."

"I do think it is relevant to discuss people's lifestyle choices when these impact on government legislation and spending. The welfare review where, for example, the government has now become a front line dispenser of contraceptives (at taxpayer cost) and the marriage amendment legislation are two examples where people's lifestyle choices are part of the discussion."

" Children in violent families are at risk - welfare needs to be looked at."

ACT, by way of comparison, has a 5 page policy paper.

The Conservatives have said they can work with Labour. That would indicate they might support repeal of National's welfare reforms and even increased benefit payments. I remember United Future talked tough on welfare and then supported Labour removing the DPB work-testing National introduced in the late nineties.

Some greater clarity about where they stand shouldn't be difficult given their number 2 is an ex head of Work and Income.

Greens: It's right to repeatedly reward unemployed people for having children

Every election campaign the Greens use children to justify and promote wealth redistribution.

A seemingly biased ODT employee reports from last night's Queenstown debate:

Mr Norman had arguably the best-received and most succinct answer of the night.
Asked why a high-earning adult who decided not to have children should have their tax dollars handed to out-of-work parents who had four to six children, Mr Norman replied: ''Because it's wrong to punish children for the decision of their parents.''
So it's right to reward children for the decision of their parents?

But it isn't children who receive the reward - money - it is their parent.

It's right to repeatedly reward unemployed people for having children.

That's also "succinct".

Except I forgot one word to accurately reflect Green policy.

It's right to repeatedly reward unemployed people more for having children.

Monday, August 25, 2014

New painting

Commission-wise I've never been busier. Here's a recent effort going up at the art site. Family delighted with it. It's life-size so quite a large oil painting.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Will this help ACT?

Radio Live news is reporting that John Key is insisting 'grants for homes' are not hand-outs. He said something to the effect that they were only helping people who are prepared to help themselves. After all most of the grant would be from their KiwiSaver.

As it is going to cost the government $218 million extra,  I struggle to see that whether it's an incentive, subsidy, whatever, it's not a hand-out. Perhaps he thinks it's a hand-up. A slight improvement.


But a positive from the government embarking on their campaign proper and beginning the own bribes, reminding voters how centre-left they actually are, is one possibility:

People might start remembering and considering ACT. The only party not campaigning with personal sweeteners paid for with other people's money.

Hide on billboard vandalism


From the HOS:
Stephen Moyer, 44, is a British Hollywood star who plays a vampire on TV. I looked up his Wikipedia entry.
What prompted me was news reports of his posting pictures of defaced National hoardings and declaring: "One of the great joys of driving down to Wellington town every day is seeing how the National Party posters have been defaced."
Moyer is in New Zealand with his wife, Anna Paquin, to "lend some heavyweight celebrity endorsement to the Greens".
Mr Moyer, welcome. I hope you are enjoying your stay and learning a thing or two about New Zealand. Politics is a great way to get to know a people.
Just one thing: we don't like vandals destroying and defacing political hoardings. Yes, the hoardings are messy and it irks to have politicians we disapprove of staring at us.
But these hoardings are a powerful display of our political heritage. Yours and mine. Anyone can stand for office. Anyone can put up a hoarding. Our forebears fought hard and sacrificed much to ensure we have what these hoardings represent. In much of the world they are outlawed. Down through history the likes of you and me were not allowed to stand for office or offer political opinion. Blood and sacrifice made those political hoardings possible.
I think Mr Moyer, who I had never heard of, will be snorting at this stage. He is after all quite shallow if he takes pleasure in mindless destruction of property.

Many participants - excluding Internet chequebook conviction candidates - pay for their signs out of their own pockets or spend long hours fundraising for them.

Like Rodney I've had the experience of battling to keep them up often trying to manage the task alone in Wellington wind. I must have looked truly pathetic to any passers-by. Sometimes they were in areas deep in the dog shit people would chuck over the road from their state houses. The occupants, home during the day, took great delight in watching my efforts to stay staunch while they jeered.

One got plastered with sanitary pads overnight. I used to ring other candidates to let them know their hoardings were down until I realised they just found me a naive nuisance.

Now I'm not involved I confess to the odd chuckle at a clever piece of defacing. On the Esplanade Colin Craig's face has been carefully excised and I muse over its fate.

But isn't private property subject to legal protections? No. In an election its fair game. I had an entire large board and wooden supports stolen which someone re-erected on election day. That made me liable for a fine under electoral law but the culprit just thinks its a great joke. No risk for him.

It's that abuse of property that most disturbs me. Any complaint to the police would be an even bigger joke.

So while some will find Rodney's column today perhaps overly solemn and lofty, it actually moved me.

The purpose of my column is to ask you, respectfully, to think a little before taking joy in the defaced, damaged political hoardings of your opponents. Think about what that vandalism means.
It's damage to someone else's property. It's an attack on free speech and open democracy. It harks back to darker times.
I know you are passionate about the issues this election, and good for you, but there are bigger, more important values in play: our freedom and democracy. They are what you should be taking joy in, not the work of vandals.