Sunday, May 27, 2018

Ireland's abortion vote

The result of Ireland's abortion vote is the right one. I'd have voted with the majority.

But I feel very sad too. Ideally, any smidgen of life should be able to fight its way to fruition. A pregnant mum should want to safeguard her unborn baby, to give it life, even against odds. As an older mum I knew the three month test could show I was carrying a child that was 'imperfect'. I had already resolved to continue should that be the case.

But that's just my situation. My values (not to mention fortunate circumstances and lack of privation) produce a personal decision that cannot be imposed by law on every other female.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Watch out for a spike in prem babies

I wrote in my last column for NZCPR that the baby bonus came in on April 1, 2018. It did not. It kicks in on July 1, 2018. Apologies.

Too late for the PM but every other family will receive an extra $60 a week regardless of their family income.

What is a Best Start tax credit?
Best Start tax credit is a weekly payment of $60 (up to $3,120 per year) per child for a baby born on or after 1 July 2018.
For the first year of the baby's life the family's income is not taken into account. For families earning less than $79,000, Best Start will continue at $60 per week until the child turns 3. If the family income is above $79,000, payments will reduce or stop depending on your income.
This is going to get very messy though.

My baby is due after 1 July 2018, what happens if it comes early?
If your baby's expected due date is on or after 1 July 2018 and is born before this date you're still eligible for Best Start. Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for the parental tax credit and you may choose to receive this instead of Best Start.
Parental tax credit is a weekly payment of up to $220 (total of $2,200) paid for the first 10 weeks after your baby was born. It is only available for babies born before 1 July 2018 whose due date was on or after 1 July 2018.

 There are going to be a lot of calculators out.

The difference between $9,360 (3 years of $60 a week) and $2,200 is large.

Who decides what the official expected date is anyway? Many women can't remember the details required to calculate a specific date. Some do not discover they are pregnant until well into the gestation period. Or has some sort of science emerged since I was a expectant mum whereby an exact official date is declared and written in stone? Neither of mine was born on the predicted date. The first was very early and the second quite late.

Prediction: the number of 'premature' babies is going to rise significantly next month.

Monday, May 14, 2018

'Poverty' improperly blamed again

NewstalkZB is reporting on new Australian longitudinal research that links childhood background to the risk of being placed on anti-psychotic medications:

The study will be presented today during the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Annual Congress in Auckland in front of a national and international gathering of experts.
The study was led by social policy researcher Amy Kaim from the Robinson Research Institute at the University of Adelaide using data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), cross matched with information from Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
"The preliminary findings indicate that a larger proportion of children and teens from disadvantaged families are being placed on antipsychotic medication than others in the general population," she said.
"A larger proportion of children and teens taking the medication were boys, in lower-income families, with an unemployed primary caregiver, who were living in single-parent households.

My contention is always that the family type is more important than the level of income. But the headline for this article reads:

Poverty link with children's mental health 'unarguable'

Noting that error isn't just a frustration on my behalf. It has ramifications.

Because the solution to alleviating the plight of these children automatically becomes putting more public money into their homes.

When told about the research Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft (who I used to rate as the Principal Youth Court Judge but has been disappointing in his present role) responded:

"There is an absolute desperate and long term need to right the wrongs of the last 30 years. It's all in our power to reduce the rates of income-related child poverty and material deprivation in New Zealand."

He's with those advocates who date 'poverty' back to the benefit cuts - "30 years".

I go back 50 years. 1968. Or thereabouts. The first DPB (the emergency benefit introduced by National). There has been a 50 year experimentation with funding one parent families and the results have been dreadful.

Here's a scenario for you. A young female, from an abusive family, herself now a single mother with three kids from different fathers all of whom have a smorgasbord of convictions, debt, periods of unemployment or imprisonment, drug habits and/or violent tendencies. Do you honestly think putting more money into her weekly benefit is going to change anything for those kids and their prospects?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Why are employers bearing responsibility for family violence?

It's refreshing to see National MP Mark Mitchell talking about unintended consequences.

Jan Logie's family violence bill makes employers provide leave for employees to take time off work if they need to leave a relationship. RNZ reports:

When the bill first came up at Parliament it had a strong National Party backing, but following a select committee process in which amendments were made to reduce an employer's say in the matter, the party got cold feet.

Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell said that was mostly because of the impact it could have on small-to-medium sized businesses which, he said, could end up in arbitration or strained for time or finance.
National now plans to introduce a SOP and the Employers and Manufacturers Union supports them. Small enterprises account for 29% of all employees.

But beyond these concerns I am somewhat befuddled by the need for this legislation.

We know that extricating oneself from a violent relationship can be extremely difficult and dangerous. Assuming the violence is on the male side, just after leaving him is when she is most vulnerable. He is insanely jealous at the idea he can't have her and control her any more and this is when he is most likely to harm her. The RNZ article alludes briefly to a particular typical case of this.

He will try to hunt her down. And her workplace is a target. If she is not there, having been granted leave, all well and good (though her colleagues may be exposed to danger when he turns up and is thwarted).

But why would she ever feel safely able to return there? Or how long before she can feel safely able to return? Weeks, months?

Surely it is better to deal with the threatening ex? Isn't that why the nature of protection orders was changed, to allow police greater powers of arrest?

And I'm no fan of an over-empowered police force but find myself arguing for it when faced with unpalatable alternatives.(I could go into a complete rant here about the expanding welfare state; the undermining of stable two parent families and the advent of young males being raised in single mother, serial 'fathers', abusive environments that render them thugs in turn, but will refrain).

It seems manifestly unjust that employers are having to bear this level of responsibility for family violence. Left to me I would oppose the bill.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Why more mothers and babies die in the US

Political left-wing commentator Gordon Campbell writes a column in my local paper, the Hutt News. Last week's (I can't find it on-line)  was essentially about the Royal and Jacinda babies; the price of maternity care in the United States and despite the cost, the "dire"quality of care resulting in extraordinarily high infant and mother deaths. A typical anti-capitalist making the numbers tell his story.

My response:

Gordon Campbell, Hutt News, May 8, blames "dire" quality of care for the relatively high US infant mortality and maternal death rates. It is my experience that whenever statistics diverge strongly from the 'norm' there are sound reasons why, often based on how they are derived.

In 2016 Science Daily pointed out that some countries treat babies born after a very low gestation period and with very low odds of surviving as 'stillbirths'. In the United States these babies would be considered 'born' despite their high chances of death. Accordingly, "These premature births are the biggest factor in explaining the United States' high infant mortality rate."

Similarly, maternal deaths are also measured differently. According to the Economist, 2017, standard definitions used to make international comparisons are not used in the US. The World Health Organisation mandates a measurement based on a maternal death from pregnancy complications  from when the mother becomes pregnant to six weeks after the birth (or termination of pregnancy). New Zealand adheres to this. The US, however, measures deaths up to one year after the birth. As suicide is a leading cause of death among pregnant and new mothers in NZ and the US, extending the period of measurement to one year would make a significant difference to the recorded death rate.

Additionally, The Economist explains:"In rich countries, [maternal] deaths are tallied from vital-registration systems which in turn compile data from death certificates. These, however, are known to undercount maternal deaths, partly because doctors must select a cause of death from thousands of codes. They are more likely to consider the subset reserved for medical problems caused by pregnancy when the form has a checkbox asking whether the woman had been pregnant.
America added this checkbox to its standard death certificate in 2003, though it took more than a decade for all states to adopt it. It has been a mixed blessing, says Andreea Creanga of Johns Hopkins University. A recent study found that its growing use accounted for 80% of the steep rise in maternal mortality recorded in 2000-14."

The United States generally outperforms other countries in the collection and dissemination of rigorous data. Its information systems produce exhaustive, accurate and accessible statistics through which a proper understanding of matters can be achieved. They cannot though control a critic's lack of comprehension about comparability across countries.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Paying the Pipers

Just published at NZCPR:

According to the Dominion Post, April 25, ” … the Government is setting up a welfare overhaul ‘expert advisory group’ supported by a secretariat of officials from different departments.” 1

Labour has promised the Greens an overhaul. The ghost of Metiria Turei hovers. Lest we forget, the ex Green co-leader  pleaded poverty as a sole parent student to vindicate fraudulent claims to WINZ. Her eventual replacement, Marama Davidson played rear-guard soon after Turei’s resignation (at a South Auckland rally attended by both) saying, “… the party would raise benefits by 20 percent – including student allowances and all core living payments – if elected.”2

But back to 2018.

“The agreement between Labour and the Greens … commits the Government to overhaul the welfare system with the aim of lifting families out of poverty and ensuring that ‘everyone has a standard of living … that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities’.”3

No kudos for originality here. This is exactly the sentiment expressed by the 1972 Royal Commission on Social Security. That commission gave us the DPB, which was followed by an explosion in unmarried births (but wasn’t enough for Turei to live on.)

Now in government, albeit with a muddled mandate, Labour has a long list of Pipers to pay beyond just the Greens: they are beneficiary advocates, unionists, academics, and even government agencies like the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, all of whom have sought benefit reforms along the following lines:

More

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Suicide patterns vary dramatically

The following graph (P60) depicts the worst of statistics - suicide among young people. The ethnic/age information is new to me however and is exercising my brain. The peak for Maori suicide is much younger than for European. And the differences are inverse and large before and after age 16. I understand that some suicides are due to broken relationships. Does the variation reflect the tendency for Maori and Pacific youngsters to enter intimate relationships earlier? What else is behind these variances? (Bearing in mind they span 14 years so may mask differences between what was happening in 2002 compared to 2016).


Thursday, May 03, 2018

#MeTooNZ getting out of control

Just a few weeks ago I posted about the vigilantism of #MeToo arriving in NZ

Today's new-format trash-tabloid DomPost has its front page emblazoned with:

Doctor accused of sex with patients

Note that the on-line headline has been significantly modified to, "Wellington Doctor accused of having sexual relationships with women patients".

One of them even became his wife!!

This 'offending' has occurred over three decades and involves 3 women and the estranged wife.

The main complainant (not the wife) admits she entered into a consensual sexual albeit brief relationship with the apparently very popular doctor.

He pursues  patients he finds attractive. Buys them gifts, takes them on trips, buys them dinner. Not once is there any mention that he forced himself on one of them.

The Medical Council are investigating because it is unethical for doctors to enter into sexual relationships with patients.

Main complainant says she is not vindictive but doesn't think he is fit to practice. Well hello? He isn't practicing.

He is 64 as is the main complainant.

Clearly this is a publicity piece to draw out any other 'victims'.

Because it serves no other purpose.

The doctor with poor judgment sounds like a hopeless romantic looking for love in all the wrong places.

How far is this witch hunt going to go?