Saturday, May 31, 2008

Green/Maori Accord

Back in February I blogged the reasons why a Maori/Green Accord is a distinct possibility.

Today's Green conference has brought more talk about such a possibility.

The Greens and the Maori Party holding the balance of power after the next election would be a very dangerous situation for New Zealand to find itself in.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Political cross-dresser

How quickly a leopard can change its spots. Reason describes the new Mayor of London's transformation from libertarian to authoritarian. Fascinating piece. Populism is so seductive.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Art and schools

To give you an idea of how schools utilise technology while still learning hands on creative skills have a look at this. I am amazed at the variety of drawings that came out of the 20-odd children I worked with yesterday. They each had a copy of a photo of an afghani child (I had already drawn in pastel so was familiar with the subject). I demonstrated how I would tackle the subject using oil pastels and they followed. It was a real pleasure. The children are aged 9-10.

Who is he kidding?

Some lawyers really do lay it on thick. A brutish, callous 19 year-old was yesterday jailed for two years after his vicious attack, caught on camera, on a 17 year-old. The defence counsel says, as the offender heads off to prison, the turning point in his client's life would be when he got out of prison and had to take responsibility for his young partner and their expected child.

What??? He should be nowhere near a child. Hopefully his 'partner' will run a mile. But I've known silly girls who romanticise and mope after their incarcerated love objects. Parting is such sweet sorrow....

Give me a break. Likely the judge had similar thoughts running through his head. His parting comment to this individual was, "For what it's worth, I do not think you could care for a guinea pig."

Let's hope someone from care and protection services was paying attention.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Front page but it's not news

The following appears on the front page of the Dominion Post. It's not news - not in sense that news implies something 'new'.

Dr Van Herck, who is originally from Belgium and has been working in New Zealand for 2½ years, said many able-bodied sickness beneficiaries should be on the unemployment benefit instead.

"A lot of people on sickness benefits say Work and Income staff have sent them and just expect you to sign the form."

He had seen one woman who had been on a sickness benefit for 19 years because of asthma but smoked a packet of cigarettes a day. Work and Income had offered her several quit programmes. "She admitted she was too lazy to go."

Another sickness beneficiary's documented reason for not working was they "could not be bothered".

He signed off both beneficiaries but wrote on their forms that they needed follow-up and reassessment.

On the day he saw the asthma sufferer, he also saw a man whose leg had been amputated above the knee and who worked full-time, despite pain. Another woman continued to work after a stroke.

"They are paying taxes to sustain somebody with asthma smoking a packet of cigarettes a day. Many GPs have complained; it becomes a culture of handouts."

What it is going to take to break this culture? First there has to be a consensus that 'bludging' just isn't acceptable. Until that happens isolated individuals will struggle to stand up to the intimidation or sheer persistence. Alongside the culture of handouts is the culture of making excuses for people. The opposite doesn't demand that we stomp all over people punitively. What it requires is more people showing, teaching and expecting aspiration and ambition.

Sometimes those people just aren't available in the lives of beneficiaries. But they exist in the community. And I have seen the difference 'mentoring' relationships can make.

Then I have also seen the resistance of people to any effort to help and encourage them. In which case we need to relearn a culture of just saying 'NO'.


National's Simon Power is playing to the law and order buffs. I should know, being one. Here he highlights how many people on home detention are absconding.

Mr Power said the Government had put its obsession with reducing the number of prison inmates ahead of public safety.

Obsession? If Labour is obsessed the statistics don't reflect it.

The graph above groups the sentenced prisoner population according to current eligibility for discretionary release (either on parole or home detention). Prisoners in the category “no discretion for release” include those whose sentence does not allow early release on parole or home detention, as well as those who are eligible but have yet to pass their parole eligibility date. “Discretionary release eligible” refers to those who have passed their parole eligibility date or home detention eligibility date but have yet to be released or have been granted leave to apply for front end home detention but have yet to be released.

The data reflects the influence of parole laws introduced in 2002, which meant that parole eligibility occurred earlier in the sentences of longer-term prisoners. However, this has not meant that prisoners have been released earlier. Instead, the number of sentenced prisoners currently eligible for release, but who have yet to be granted release by the Parole Board, exceeds the number who are not eligible for release.

As it stands 48 out of 2,500 home detainees absconded. My point is, if National says it can do better, then they are saying they will eliminate all the risk. That would entail keeping all 2,500 home detainees in prison.

So will they be making a commitment to abolishing home detention and building prison capacity? What exactly is it that National are going to do better than Labour?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Maori Party and Poverty Elimination

Has the Maori Party poverty elimination policy been costed???

My goodness. This (I notice it is not co-issued by Tariana Turia AND Pita Sharples which is usually the case) puts the Maori Party to the left of the Greens.

The Maori Party says:

* Provide a universal benefit for parents raising children. If families are already well off, recoup the benefit from tax on higher incomes. (Universal benefits reach the neediest families most effectively.)

* Set a baseline for poverty at 60% of the average wage, and a deadline of 2020 to eliminate child poverty.

* Exempt the first $25,000 of income from tax.

* Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

* Remove GST from food. (The government says this would make the tax system too complex, but that argument hasn't stopped them granting all sorts of exemptions from the Emissions Trading Scheme.)

* Investigate other sources of revenue - capital gains tax, bank transaction tax.

I will attempt some VERY crude costings and please feel free to put me right if I err.

1/ A universal benefit for parents. Which parent? How much? In 2006 there were 515,000 families with dependent children. A modest universal benefit of $20 per week would cost $536 million. But why should a parent with one child receive the same as a parent with 5? The old family benefit (scrapped in the early 90s) used to be paid per child. In which case it would cost over $1 billion.

2/ Set a baseline for poverty at 60 percent of the average wage. The average income from wages or salary was $893 a week in June 2007. So at 60 percent every family head (employed or otherwise) would receive $536 a week. That's around double the current benefit rate. With roughly 114,000 parents on a benefit, instead of $1.5 billion the welfare bill would be $3 billion (and that doesn't include family support and accommodation supplement.)

3/ Exempt the first $25,000 from income tax. That would cost (very roughly) about $11 billion.

4/ Raise the minimum wage to $15. (Cost to business about $1.2 billion)

5/ Remove gst from food. $2.4 billion (DPF figures)

That's $15.9 billion. To be raised from incomes and income over $25,000. That's about 1 million workers paying an extra $15,900 a head in tax.....

...or whatever effort and wealth-creation tax the Maori Party prefers.

When they have driven all the workers away they won't have to worry about divvying up the pie any more. There won't be one.

Having talked this through with my own 'economic adviser' he wonders whether this isn't a cultural policy designed to return NZ to the economic approach that prevailed before colonisation.

Still missing the point

Today's Dominion Post editorial is about the Kahui twins and the Kahui family. It runs through the all too familiar list of high-profile child murders and concludes;

Many of their cases have common features: alcohol and drug abuse, lifestyles fuelled by crime and benefits, mothers with children to different fathers, delays in seeking medical help and a refusal to cooperate with police once a crime has been discovered. Many, too, occurred within Maori families.

Maori are not alone in abusing their children. Every culture has its dirty secrets, but there is no escaping the fact that Maori children are disproportionately represented among the victims.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says this is because Maori are over-represented in poverty-stricken and under-achieving communities.

He may be right, but that is an explanation, not a solution. The killing will not stop till relatives and neighbours of mistreated children recognise that they owe their loyalty to society's most vulnerable members, not to those who abuse them.

Again this misses the hub of the matter. Again we are seeing the responsibility shifted to people other than the mother and father. The killing will not stop until those individuals bringing babies into the world make a commitment to them. But too often they are too young themselves; too consumed with having a good time whether that's getting on the piss, partying, taking off to play the pokies, smoking P. It's all about escaping life and responsibility. What is the reward for behaving any differently? Loneliness (a baby isn't much company), ostracism (you can't hold your piss) hostility (you're a nark).

It is no good appealing to the cuzzies when it is quite likely they are the source of malevolent 'peer pressure'. Where the whanau is any good the babies have long gone usually to grandma.

It takes an incredibly strong individual to raise a child well in this sort of environment and the fact is there just aren't that many to be found. Lifestyle welfare has created a feckless and inhospitable setting for children. Caring 'relatives and neighbours' can't compete with it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

What would they fight about?

This is a quote from Judy Kirk addressing the National Party northern regional conference on the matter of the EFA,

I don't think it's a damned good idea, Mike Williams; I think it stinks and I think you and your party should be ashamed of yourselves and what you have done to this democracy. You're not prepared to fight with us on ideas. You'd rather break all conventions and ram through anti-democratic legislation. Well you will fail.

Can you guess which part of the quote had me choking?

You're not prepared to fight with us on ideas.

Just which ideas would they find to fight over?

- That the purpose of government is to equalise people's incomes and outcomes?

- That the purpose of government is to use taxpayer's money to do what the private sector can and should do?

- That the purpose of government is to usurp private property rights when it suits?

- That the purpose of government is to intervene in the social and moral spheres of New Zealander's lives when it sees fit?

Now those debates would be worth hearing. But they could never occur between National and Labour whose prescription for government is the same.

What Cindy Kiro really thinks

The New Zealand Herald reports on a survey commissioned by Family First about behaviour and attitudes to smacking since the passage of the anti-smacking legislation;

Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro said yesterday that she had not seen the survey.

But she urged people to move on and learn better parenting skills.

"The key message is, 'For goodness sake, can't we move on?' So much energy has been wasted debating this."

That's an interesting attitude in itself. Very. It reveals that the Children's Commissioner does not care for discussion or debate when it comes to what she wants to do. To those of us who would put up objections, the key message is actually, "you are wasting your energy". Presumably we will be wasting our energy opposing any other of her initiatives like mandatory screening of every baby's home life.

The Office for the Children's Commissioner should be disbanded. It is partisan, it is authoritarian. And worse still, of the matters that it seeks to control, which has improved since its inception? The number of established child abuse cases? Bullying in schools? Youth violence? Adolescent pregnancy?

The only real success the office has achieved is in rubbing good parents up the wrong way while spending their money touring the world promoting New Zealand as some sort of world beater. How ironic.

As the Commissioner is so very fond of 'sending messages' here is mine; I will decide what is and isn't a waste of my energy. I am not here to roll over at your behest.