Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Iron Lady

There were moments in this movie when I felt like cheering out loud. Not necessarily political moments but there is one scene, for instance, when Thatcher is being gently grilled by her doctor. "How are you feeling Margaret?". "Feeling?" she replies. "Feeling? That's the trouble these days. Everybody talks about feelings. Nobody talks about thinking. Never thoughts. Or ideas. That's what I'm interested in. What people are thinking." Or to that effect.

There is a moment where the ageing Thatcher is bailed up by a young woman who heard her speak at a conference. She thanks Thatcher for paving the way for other women "to be something." Thatcher ponders, "In my day it was about doing something. Today it's all about being something."

It's a very intense picture necessarily so through the depiction of Thatcher's intensity. By the time it ended I was ready to get out of there. I had been led to believe it showed a lighter side of Thatcher. I couldn't find it.

You saw a woman who appeared to establish her principles very young and never waver. No compromise, no conciliation. Her husband is painted in a kind light. If there was any confusion about Thatcher at all it is whether she depended on him heavily, or drew all her strength inwardly. The ending doesn't resolve that.

The earlier times when a sharper division was drawn between socialism and conservatism described Thatcher's values simply. Heavily influenced by her father who claims in a speech, "Everybody isn't equal. That's a nonsense. Never have been and never will be. But they all need to chance to achieve..." (Again to that effect). His ideas are echoed in Margaret later fiercely arguing for the poll tax with her cabinet. "Everybody must pay some tax. Everybody must have some stake in their community. Even the poorest must have some ownership or do they live in graffiti covered, litter strewn landscapes?"

It is a movie I highly recommend (especially to John Key). Will you enjoy it? That is the wrong adjective to describe the experience. I didn't shed a tear. Strangely enough it will made me think rather than feel.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Biggest drop in 'road deaths' among pedestrians

The NZ Herald has a piece about this year's road toll being the lowest since 1951.

 The toll peaked at 843 deaths in 1973, leading to the first drink-drive blitzes followed by anti-speeding and pro-seatbelt campaigns.

In 1973 the toll comprised 273 driver deaths, 250 passenger deaths, 130 motorcyclist and pillion passenger deaths, 30 pedal cyclist deaths and 157 pedestrian deaths (other = 3).

In 2010 the respective figures were; driver - 180, passenger - 98, motorcyclist/passenger - 50, pedal cyclist -10, pedestrian - 35

The largest drop percentage-wise was among pedestrians.

In 2010 40 percent of pedestrian deaths were amongst people aged 19 or younger.

The share of the population that is young today is far lower than in 1973. So demographics are making a contribution to the lower number.

But I wonder how much children not walking to school has helped lower the toll?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Funding Social Security

While I am on the subject of economies struggling to meet welfare needs yesterday I received this release from the US Social Security administration:

Tax Rates (percent)
Social Security (Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance)
Employers 6.20
Employees a,b (through February 29, 2012) 4.20
(beginning March 1, 2012) 6.20

The employee share of payroll taxes to fund social security is to rise from 4.2 (cents in the dollar) to 6.2 in March next year. Apparently the lower employee rate was a temporary measure which cannot be sustained. From Forbes earlier this year:

 Meanwhile, if you’re a worker, start tightening your belt: The Social Security taxes taken out of your paycheck could rise to $6,826.82 next year, from $4485.60 this year—a significant $2341.22 hike. The increase is due to two factors. First, as the SSA announced today, the maximum salary subject to Social Security tax is rising from $106,800 in 2011 to $110,100 in 2012 as part of the just announced inflation adjustments. That increase affects about 10 million wage earners. Second, a temporary 2011 rate cut in the employee’s part of the Social Security tax—from 6.2% to 4.2% of pay–is scheduled to expire.  As  part of his proposed jobs package, President Barack Obama wants to cut the employees’ Social Security tax to just 3.1% for 2012. But Republicans have so far shown no inclination to pass the provision, which would cost $175 billion and seem ready to let the 2011 rate cut lapse, leading to a tax hike on all workers.

(Unemployment insurance is additional to these rates.)

Children abandoned

Large families no longer able to feed their children, dwindling welfare and unemployment.

Actually I am talking about Greece. But it doesn't require a great stretch of the imagination to picture New Zealand in 5 or 10 years time if people continue to depend heavily on the state to support children they can't afford to raise and this country is forced into severe cutbacks.

The mindset that welfare (including Working For Families) is a permanent and legitimate alternative to self-sufficiency must be changed.

Dare I say it, for the sake of the children.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Using the term 'Maori child abuse'

Joris de Bres has entered the argument began by Paul Moon who objects to the term 'Maori child abuse'  because it stigmatises all Maori parents.

Professor Moon said the phrase was often used with good intentions, but he asked media and government agencies to stop employing it.
I would be surprised if government agencies were employing it. I did a search of the Ministry of Social Development website and couldn't find one example. Then I tried CYF but turned up nothing. Police? No. I am assuming if the term was employed it would appear at the top of a search list of course.

If I do a general search the initial results are dominated by Mr Moon's coverage. It's the classic case of bringing attention to something you are complaining too much attention is already brought to. And picking a low news time almost guarantees that attention.

There are media examples such as this which use the term in the headline which describes the following content:

Maori make up more than half of the 21,000 children harmed in the last year, and the number abused over the last five years has also more than doubled to 11,000 in 2010.
I have some sympathy for Paul Moon's point. A male Maori friend of mine once told me that when he had his nieces or nephews in his care people would look sideways at him if they played up. He felt very constrained in any action he could take because of what he felt about people's expectations.

I suppose there is a legitimate case to use the descriptor if Maori child abuse was particularly different from other child abuse in nature. And it may be. In my limited experience I observe more 'neglect' by Maori parents but I refer to neglect as measured against over-protective middle-class standards. Maori child abuse may also have its aetiology in adolescent and teenage childbirth setting it apart from child abuse by other ethnicities.

In the final analysis Maori children suffer disproportionately from abuse and neglect and if that stigmatises all Maori parents it is unfortunate. Only a dimwit would assume every Maori parent ill-treated their children when statistics show a very large majority do not.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sound summations on welfare today

During the holidays I find time to review some of the best books I have read about welfare. An extra incentive came from an outfit in the US that wants a contribution from me for an upcoming anthology. After a year of mostly fulfilling painting commissions I am a bit rusty.

My favourite book is Overcoming Welfare by James L. Payne, an American.

This post comprises some passages as I re-read the introduction. He is economical and highly effective in his writing.

"As government established a massive presence in the welfare business, especially with the advent of the New Deal, it began to create constituencies and vested interests that reinforced the hand-out orientation. Making up one of these groups is social workers. As volunteers or employees of local, private charities, nineteenth century social workers had a position of independence from which they could observe, and comment on, the danger of handouts. The country thus gained a bastion of poverty experts who firmly and eloquently denounced sympathetic [something-for-nothing] giving. As government took over welfare activities, social workers became predominantly employees of government giveaway programs, and they had to align their thinking with these programs or leave the field."

Bill Lock, a Black church leader says about the war on poverty;

"In fighting this war we have created an industry that feeds on itself like a mad general who has lost thousands of soldiers but continues to say, ' I can still win if you send me more troops'. This is what our government's effort to fight poverty is like today. It is an endless cycle of programs, projects, and personnel, often supported by people with strong motives, but without a clear and sensible vision of what needs to be done.

My community has not been untouched in this war. I live in central Milwaukee and my zip code has a large population of the shell-shocked. This is the result of being bombarded by programs that have reduced survival skills and the spirit of individual initiative."

And lastly, because you won't want to be overburdened too much over the break:

"Ideology also pushes welfare programs into the handout mode. For generations, many philosophers and reformers have embraced the doctrine of income redistribution, believing that government should take from the rich and give to the poor. A handout policy follows almost automatically from this approach. If the poor are mortally 'entitled' to government payments, it is wrong to demand that they do anything in return for them. Thus the policy of income redistribution has seriously harmed the cause of sound assistance policy."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Some figures to chew on

There are only so many blog Xmas Greetings you can take. Surely.

So something to tuck away for post your eat/drink/be merry festival.

In 1972 2.2 percent of government spending was on law and order; 16 percent on health and 23 percent on social welfare.

In 2011 4.8 percent went on law and order; 20 percent on health and 31 percent on social welfare. Education spending dropped slightly from 17.6 percent in 1972 to 16.5 in 2011.

A crude interpretation might be that we have more crime, worse health and more 'need' to be met with welfare payments. I emphasise crude because there are of course many, many interpretations one could put on the figures.

Now, first present to deliver - a walk for the dog.

Have a wonderful day.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sharing information and sharing information

This put a smile on my face.

Some WINZ staff have been sacked for selling client information to debt collectors.

The official response from WINZ goes:

''Work and Income has zero tolerance for staff who breach the privacy of clients. Our Integrity Unit regularly conducts random checks of our systems, to detect such breaches.''

Properly righteous and indignant.

But WINZ is also seeking to share as much client information with other government departments as possible under the Privacy (Information Sharing) Bill. As long as the sharing is kept amongst state agencies it is OK.

No, it is not acceptable for staff to sell information to private agencies. But shouldn't there be provision for those agencies to access information on people who have run up debts or committed fraud? Afterall it's alright for the IRD to do it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

UK embraces adoption

New Zealand isn't alone with its seemingly high level of child abuse and neglect. (I say seemingly because we cannot objectively know what the levels were in earlier times when families - particularly rural families - came under far less scrutiny). Many English-speaking countries struggle with the same problem , including the UK.

I blogged earlier about CYF's attitude to adoption and the resulting very low rate of adoption. I believe this is a bad thing. Yes, adoption can have its drawbacks but it is clearly preferable in some situations. Those situations outnumber the current rate of adoptions.

So it is encouraging to see the UK moving to free up the process of adoption. This is from the Children's Minister, Tim Loughton:

The assessment process for people wanting to adopt is painfully slow, repetitive and ineffective. Dedicated social workers are spending too long filling out forms instead of making sound, common-sense judgements about someone's suitability to adopt. Children are waiting too long because we are losing many potentially suitable adoptive parents to a system which doesn't welcome them and often turns them away at the door.

I am determined to change this. I have this week set up a new expert group to look at radical reform of the assessment process. I want it to be quicker and more effective at approving adoptive parents and matching them with children. We cannot afford to sit back and lose potential adoptive parents when there are children who could benefit hugely from the loving home they can provide.

In October the UK had a National Adoption month and they are running this campaign, Give a Child a Home. And the government is also publishing performance tables to show the progress of local authorities in achieving better results in placement and adoption.

I note too that Coro St is running a story on two couples wanting to adopt. When aspects of social life change they are reflected in the story lines. These fictional stories are very powerful in getting ideas into the public consciousness.

So the unfashionableness (new word) of adoption has gone in the UK.

Hopefully it will go from New Zealand as well.Link

Thursday, December 22, 2011

CYF ethos must change

Well done to the government for releasing the Smith Report into the abuse of Baby M. The praise stops there.

CYF was involved with the child, born in 2000, from the outset.

The most striking thing revealed and not covered in the media (yet) is the baby spent almost four years, early years, with a non-whanau caregiver who provided, by all accounts good quality care. This was the most "stable" period of the child's life. The caregiver wanted to take the child to Australia but the mother opposed this move. Counsel for the child wanted the child to remain with the caregiver. CYF "professionals", bless them, thought that the child should be with whanau for "cultural and identity" purposes.

The report is heavily critical of CYF. Its relationship with medical professionals (distrustful) and schools (poor communication). There is too much haste in placing children back with family or whanau members, who are not thoroughly "investigated" or "supervised" after a placement. Mel Smith believes that the "pendulum" has swung too far into the corner of the family instead of the child, and adult interests override those of children.

Of course children as meal-tickets - my constant refrain - isn't mentioned but falls under that very theme. And the mother was most surely on welfare throughout. After baby M she had three more. There is mention at one point that when the mother had illegally uplifted a sibling from care CYF filed a missing persons report with the police. Her benefit was suspended so she came forward. Of course she would. Children aren't much value when they don't elicit money from the system.

I would urge you to read the report to get an idea of how bureaucratic the child protection system is; the extent of agency involvement and the manipulation of those agencies by people who play the game. Their income relies on it. The mother is reported as gambling the money, living in filth leading to children with sores and infections. The mother evaded inspections of her children's bedrooms by claiming they were "tapu". The baby M became highly dysfunctional herself as an older child, reported to have poisoned the family food and put dishwasher liquid in a babies bottle. She also made false claims of sexual assault against a male caregiver (Don't you tire of this ridiculous misnomer - caregiver?)

But let's return to the beginning. She should never have been returned to the mother who had herself been involved with CYF from her teenage years. CYF ethos and practice needs to come under heavy scrutiny.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Looking at NEET youth in NZ

The following graphs are from a report released last week by Statistics NZ.

NEET stands for Not in Employment, Education or Training. Youths are classified as 15-24 years of age.

First, the rate is dropping.

Second, NZ is just above the OECD average.

Third, and this is the most interesting graph to me, there is a sizeable chunk of female NEETs that are not in education, employment or training but involved in caregiving. This is due to NZ's high teenage birthrate and the associated availability of benefits. Go back up and note that countries with much lower rates of teenage birth and social assistance have much lower NEET rates.

This aspect of the NEET rate is rarely canvassed. The arguments tend to focus on the failure of schools, lack of employment and youth pay rates (all of which I accept can also be associated with teenage births).

Finally the report notes that Maori have the highest NEET rates, Asians the lowest. Again the correlation between female youth fertility rate and NEET rate is consistent. As a Counties Manakau (DHB) points out:

Asian women had the lowest fertility rates for teenage women aged 15-19 years in Counties Manukau between 1999 and 2003. The Asian fertility rate in Counties Manukau was higher than for all NZ Asians.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Six today

Whoa. That nearly passed me by. My blog is six years old today. Which reminds me about Kiwi accents. Please say SIX. Because saying SEX SUX. My blog is not SEX today. It is SIX.

S I X :-)

"Why Obama’s ‘new math’ is a jobs killer"

Here's an editorial from the Washington Times. It's about Obama's claim to have created 3 million jobs but it could be about any politician making similar assertions. Governments claiming to have created jobs certainly has a familiar ring to it. Twinned with those claims are the press releases heralding so many people leaving a benefit but failing to tell us how many people went onto one.

WAYNE ROOT: Why Obama’s ‘new math’ is a jobs killer

President Obama’s math skills leave something to be desired. As a matter of fact, based on Mr. Obama’s recent interview on “60 Minutes,” the president deserves a grade of F in math. When confronted by the reporter with the reality that his economic stimulus package failed, he decided to lie to the American people. He said his stimulus had indeed worked just fine. As a matter of fact, according to Mr. Obama, it created 3 million jobs.

Let’s ignore the fact that this is a lie that would make Pinocchio blush. Let’s ignore the fact that Mr. Obama’s job-creation experience before he took residence in the White House wouldn’t qualify him to run a bodega. Let’s ignore the fact that “I created 3 million jobs” is the new version of the famous presidential lie “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Let’s actually give the president the benefit of the doubt.

First, we know that since Mr. Obama’s stimulus started, America has lost about 2 million jobs. So for Mr. Obama to tell the “technical” truth, it must be accurate that 3 million new jobs were created while 5 million jobs were lost, for a net loss of 2 million jobs. Technically, Mr. Obama could be telling the truth - the kind of truth only told by lawyers. Interestingly, he mentioned the 3 million jobs created but failed to mention the 5 million lost. I guess that, like former Democratic President Bill Clinton, this president (also a lawyer) isn’t quite sure of the meaning of the word “is.”

Second, this awful math sounds remarkably similar to the math of leftist environmentalist politicians in Spain. Millions of “green jobs” have been created in Spain, the environmentalists claim. Yet unemployment in Spain is above 20 percent. A recent study unearthed the reason for this disparity. It proved that for every green job created, three regular jobs in the traditional economy were lost. You gotta love the “new math” devised by Kool-Aid-drinking liberals the world over, huh?

Third, let’s assume Mr. Obama is 100 percent correct in his belief that his masterful economic plan created 3 million jobs. We know that his stimulus package spent about $750 billion of taxpayer money. Let’s do the simple math. Three million jobs divided into $750 billion equals a cost of about $250,000 per job. While Franklin D. Roosevelt created the New Deal, Mr. Obama has created a really Bad Deal. Spending $250,000 per job is the worst deal in taxpayer history. And that’s only if you believe 3 million jobs were actually created. They weren’t.

Here are some more common-sense questions. Wouldn’t Mr. Obama have been better off directly handing out $100,000 cash to 7.5 million Americans? That adds up to the same $750 billion. How about $50,000 cash handed directly to 15 million Americans? Or $25,000 cash handed directly to 30 million Americans? Or how about handing out $10,000 each to 75 million Americans? Wouldn’t handing out checks directly to American families have pumped up the economy far faster and far more efficiently than a $750 billion stimulus?

One thing is for sure: We couldn’t have done worse.

Or better yet, how about if Mr. Obama had never spent the $750 billion in the first place but instead had paid down our $1.5 trillion deficit and $100 trillion national debt (including unfunded liabilities). Wouldn’t that have been a wonderful Christmas gift for our children and grandchildren?

Instead, we wasted $750 billion on nothing - and added almost $1 trillion in debt to the tab for future generations. And as a “reward” for all that waste, we lost almost 2 million jobs.

No wonder our public education system is such a mess. No wonder our children are failing so badly. This new math that Mr. Obama practices is a killer - a jobs killer.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Public versus private facilitation of adoption

One aspect of NZ life, adoption, has changed a lot in fifty years. There are far fewer of them and they are now 'open' - the adopted child is aware of their birth parents who often remain in contact with the child. But NZ differs from some other jurisdictions in that - apart from whangai (Maori adoption) - the state monopolises the process. CYF has jurisdiction over adoption and tends to work against the prospects of it occurring. For instance they advise young women to go on a benefit and they make the child stay with the mother for a minimum of ten days after the birth - an enforced 'cooling off ' period. I think that is a cruel requirement on all parties. There is a group of women who are actively pro-adoption, have each experienced adopting out a baby and have an interesting website here.

It's a subject I want to learn more about in respect of those other jurisdictions, particularly the US, so accepted the following guest column from Elaine Hirsch. I will accept columns that are obviously leveraging for other pruposes if I think they offer new and sound information on a subject that interests me and hopefully readers.

Public versus private facilitation of adoption

The adoption process remains one of the most mind-numbing aspects of would-be parents. Adoptive parents must first choose between foreign or domestic adoption and then decide between state agencies, charitable organizations or private adoptions. Costs vary tremendously and so do the areas from where children are available. To decide whether utilizing a public agency such as a state organization, going through an overseas organization or arranging a private adoption through a lawyer, adoptive parents must understand the benefits and risks of each.

International adoptions were for many years one of the fastest routes to adoptive parenthood, with children of various genders and ethnicities up for adoption. Unfortunately, foreign adoptions have decreased in recent years,
dropping to just over 11,000 in 2010 compared to nearly 23,000 in 2004. This decrease is worrying masters degree candidates in demographic studies as it marks inefficiencies in the adoption market. Increases in the cost of foreign adoption, uncertainty about adoptions in countries once well-known for foreign adoptions, such as Guatemala, and bad press, such as the case of the American family that returned a 7-year-old Russian boy back to Russia, have adversely impacted foreign adoptions.

Both private and state-run orphanage adoptions are possible in some foreign countries. Going through a well-established charity such as Holt International is the safest way to pursue a foreign adoption. Using a private lawyer in a foreign country to facilitate adoption can increase the risk of not ending up with a child and losing large sums of money to unscrupulous foreign lawyers. Some adoptive parents prefer pursuing a foreign adoption because of the distance it creates between the natural parents and the child, which decreases the risk of the parents reclaiming the child at a later date.

Domestic adoptions run the gamut from private adoption of a newborn through adoption lawyers to adoption of older children through the state foster care system. Although 491,000 children were in the foster care system in the United States in 2007,
not all were available for adoption. Many of those available for adoption were older children or those of minority race. While transracial adoptions do take place, most caseworkers prefer to place children with parents of the own race, when possible.

Private adoptions have the advantage of allowing the adoption of a newborn, something no foreign adoption and few public adoption agencies can provide, due to the amount of red tape that must unravel before a child be adopted through these agencies. The disadvantage is the higher cost of private adoption through a lawyer. Well-publicized court cases where natural parents have later petitioned for the return of their child and won the case may also give some adoptive parents pause.

Adopting through state organizations is usually inexpensive. In some cases, adoptive parents receive subsidies to adopt hard-to-place children. The disadvantages to this type of adoption is that many of the children available come from traumatic backgrounds and are older, making them more difficult to parent, especially for inexperienced parents.

Adoptive parents must weigh the pluses and minuses of each type of adoption, as well as their own strengths and weaknesses. Privatized adoption systems certainly have their advantages; efficiently-ran facilities and streamlined systems provide for better adoption experiences. Regardless, publicly-run adoption centers still provide value through facilitating a huge amount of adoptions every year.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I'd work at McDonalds over a benefit

Living the Labour ethos of decrying work former MP Georgina Beyer, now on an unemployment benefit says,

"I do draw the line at being a crew member at McDonald's. I'm a little bit past that sort of thing." Ms Beyer admits she has been told to "lower her sights", but says some jobs are off the agenda.

What happened to Georgina the inspirational role model? What sort of message is she now sending to young people?

Me, I'd be taking whatever there was instead of behaving like a sad sack.

And if I was a prospective employer I would be more likely to hire the person who was supporting themselves by any means possible than one who was turning down jobs beneath them to live off a benefit.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Poverty committee and more on work-testing sole parents

I am heartened. Audrey Young writes about how Finance Minister Bill English views the role of the new poverty committee, a concession to the Maori Party:

Asked what measure the committee would adopt for poverty, Mr English said measuring poverty was not a big issue.

"We are not looking at the possibility of large-scale cash injections that are going to move whole groups of people over some measure. That's not the recipe because we don't have the cash to do that."

He believed the public would not tolerate handing more money to low-income families and beneficiaries - or at least not until everything else had been tried.

Good for him.

That's what voters expect from a National government. The opposite of what Labour and the Greens would do. His statement is also a firm rejection of the Maori Party policy of giving the IWTC to beneficiary parents.

Earlier this week I questioned why National wasn't moving people off the DPB and onto the Unemployment Benefit when their youngest child turns 8 - as is the case in Australia. Yesterday the UK's Department of Work and Pensions released a report into how their new regime is working - moving lone parents onto the Jobseeker Allowance when the youngest child turns 7 - and it is fairly positive. A should at least make a submission pointing out this anomaly with the two countries NZ tends to policy-shadow the most.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

UK unemployment

There is an excellent 'interactive' graph here that shows UK unemployment trends from the late 1980s to today.

What stands out is that the recession of the early 90s was a peaked mountain whereas the recession of today is more of a tabletop stretching over two years thus far.

What happened in the 1990s that isn't happening this time?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Paul Blair - this time in court, he loses

Paul Blair, Rotorua beneficiary advocate who has a record of forcing the state to pay more money to beneficiaries and getting funding for himself for 'research', has been given 4 months home detention and 200 hours community service for possessing and selling cannabis.

The sentencing judge said...
... Blair's work over many years as an advocate and spokesman for disadvantaged people in the community and voluntary work at the Community Law Centre was highly commendable.
Highly commendable?

Some excerpts from past posts:

Three Rotorua beneficiaries have forced a law change for single parents with split custody of their children through an out-of-court settlement with the Social Development Ministry.

On October 1, 1991, a law was introduced to stop two parents living apart, but who had split custody of their children, from both getting the Domestic Purposes Benefit.

One was eligible for the sole-parent benefit and all the benefits that went with it, while the other was entitled to the unemployment benefit.

Rotorua beneficiaries advocate and sole parent Paul Blair argued that this was not fair as the parent receiving the DPB was entitled to earn more when working than the parent on the dole.

Parents on the DPB were also entitled to childcare subsidies, a non-recoverable training incentive allowance if attending a course, and did not have to be work-tested.

Rotorua sole parents Leon Broughton, Richard Amoroa and Mr Blair started legal proceedings in the High Court at Rotorua against the chief executive of the ministry more than a year ago.

In the out-of-court settlement, the ministry agreed the second parent in split-custody cases would be entitled to the emergency maintenance allowance, paid at the same rate as the DPB and with similar advantages.

Justice Alan McKenzie ordered the ministry to review the plaintiffs' benefits, pay any arrears, treat all similar cases in the same way and review cases as far back as December 12, 2000.

That was January 2005.

In the interim he applied for Families Commission research funding. It was granted and he went on to produce a report, 'Improving Work Life Balance for Domestic Purposes Beneficiaries Sole Parent Families'.

Anyway the report was signed off (according to Sue Bradford), peer-reviewed, ready for publication and PAID FOR when Mr Blair used an excerpt in a submission (no doubt opposing) the government's (then Labour)social security amendment bill.

Minister David Benson Pope was understandably most unhappy and suddenly the report was returned to the author as a 'final draft' for 'editing'. The report findings?

"It was felt that Work and Income was not forthcoming enough with extra assistance that might alleviate poverty and facilitate genuine personal and family development," the report said.

"On the whole, sole-parent DPB recipients felt that an emphasis on paid employment as the ultimate outcome ignored and devalued the work they were currently engaged in (as parents)."
And just last year I blogged:

Yesterday beneficiary advocate Paul Blair was back in the news claiming the Ministry of Social Development is acting illegally. He is trying to get people who have been relegated from an invalid's benefit to a sickness benefit to come forward and form a body that will take the department to court.
Blair has been happy to use the legal system to his own ends. Ironically this time the state used the legal system for theirs.

I do not relish anybody's prosecution for cannabis dealing but I am not sorry to see his ability to 'advocate' for more welfare somewhat limited in the near future. I suppose though he will be pulling another benefit while confined to home. He thinks the 'system' is against him. I think it is against us. Any which way the contributors lose.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

National's welfare reforms in relation to sole parent work-testing

Now the onslaught of election policy from all parties has died down there is time to look at little more closely at what National is doing with welfare. A couple of things have caught my attention. For instance, parents with a youngest child 14 or older will be moved onto Jobseeker Support (previously Unemployment Benefit) and full-time work-tested. In Australia this happens when the youngest child turns 8. New Zealand has apparently chosen 14 because "children over 14 can be left without parental supervision. "

This poses a problem. Remember the rule for people who add a child to their benefit:

If a person has an additional child while on Sole Parent Support, they will be given an exemption from work testing for 12 months. This aligns with parental leave provisions.

After 12 months work obligations will be reset based on the age of their youngest child when they came on to benefit. For example, a beneficiary with a seven year old, who has another child, will be part-time work tested when their child turns one. A sole parent of a 14 year old who has another child will return to a full-time work expectation after one year.

So the additional child can be left without parental supervision whereas earlier children could not? Yes there may be older siblings available for supervising but that could have been said about any parent with more than one child who will continue to escape fulltime worktesting until the youngest turns 14.

The parental supervision law is an ass anyway ignored by most parents I am sure. But this anomoly will produce a challenge from anti-reformers.

Here is another stat I missed.

There are currently 19,100 people on DPB or Widow's Benefit with children aged 14 or over, or no children. The cost of supporting these people is around $400 million annually.

Not exactly pin money.

Monday, December 12, 2011

CPAG - sloppy finger-pointing as usual

Last week I linked to Karl du Fresne's column about Bryan Bruce's child poverty documentary. The column brought in some responses by way of letters-to-the-editor. Here is one.

OPINION: It wouldn't be possible to write a more inaccurate and polemic piece about child poverty if columnist Karl du Fresne tried. He is wrong on all scores; like the Welfare Working Group, he uses figures falsely and inaccurately, ignores the evidence in the documentary from Sweden because it doesn't suit his argument (a pity when facts get in the way of a story) and displays ignorance and prejudice in big doses.

There's a simple solution for him - he could read the evidence from New Zealand and internationally. But perhaps that is asking too much.


Co-convener, Child Poverty Action Group, Auckland

O'Brien gives no example of how Karl du Fresne or the WGG used figures "falsely and inaccurately".

In fact the only figures in the du Fresne column were these:

New Zealand in 1972 had 26 working people for every beneficiary. Today that ratio is down to 7 to 1 (in fact 3 to 1, if you include superannuitants).

The figures are neither false nor inaccurate.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

52 percent of DPB recipients started there as teenagers?

That according to David Farrar in his most recent NZ Herald column.

The latest research shows that 52% of those currently on the DPB went onto it when they were a teenager.

Now I find this fascinating because I have tried to tease out this number for years. The Ministry has always maintained their records do not allow a definitive answer given they don't track back further than 1996. Then MSD researchers tried matching dependent children's birth dates against the age and benefit status of their mothers but even this wasn't satisfactory because some older children were no longer dependent and the data was still confined to a ten year period. So their best estimate was at least a third. My best estimate is higher. Probably a half. And just the other day I came across this fact from Michael Tanner's, The End Of Welfare;

“…nearly 55 percent of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Medicaid and food stamp expenditures are attributable to families begun by a teen birth.”

As New Zealand has the second highest teen birth rate only to the US (of developed countries) it stands to reason that a similar figure might apply here.

I've asked David twice for the source of his quote but haven't recived a reply. I note someone in the comments section of his column has also asked, "What research?"

Maybe he has pre-empted the release of new research. I hope so. It was always possible for the Ministry to put together a sampling survey that would provide a fairly accurate answer.

It is anyway a powerful piece of evidence that highlights exactly why welfare reform efforts need to be targeted at the young. Stop incentivising them to become mothers and see where that takes us.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bennett losing Waitakere - wear it as a badge of honour Paula

Sue Bradford stood for Mana in Waitakere to play up welfare hysteria. Carmel Sepuloni was the feasible Labour candidate able to represent the anxieties Bradford stirred. Labour also did some shitty things to stir up fear and paranoia among beneficiaries. In the face of these two influences it is hardly surprising that a welfare-reforming Minister half serious about the job would lose electorate votes.

Sepuloni and Bennett were both single mothers on a benefit when they were younger.

Sepuloni fights in the left corner that tends to idealise DPB rcipients, their needs and motivations. She wants higher benefit payments, greater state assistance for training and education while on the DPB, and no work-testing. Hers is the social development vision that sees single parents as an inevitable part of the social fabric in need of state help to lead succesful lives.

Bennett fights in the right corner that has cognisance of all groups on the DPB but focuses on the young, vulnerable and lifestyle recipients. Bennett wants welfare to be the safety net it once was rather than the career (too respectable a word) choice it has become. She has no blinkers on and has managed to stay staunch (unlike Katherine Rich), while retaining her humanity.

Surely she will retain the portfolio. She deserves to.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Newspaper or junkmail?

Is it any wonder newspaper circulation is declining when they resemble junkmail more and more? Who wants to pay for what often gets thrown in the bin before it ever crosses the doorstep anyway?

In the first ten pages of today's DomPost page 4 is 100 percent ads; page 5 is 50 percent; 6 is 80 percent as is 7; 8 is 100 percent; 9 is 80 percent; 10 100 percent.

Throw in the ads on the first three pages and the total advertising space is over two thirds.

"Disgracefully simplistic, emotionally manipulative"

Karl du Fresne rips into Bryan Bruce's child poverty documentary describing it as "a disgracefully simplistic, emotionally manipulative programme." His column was published in the DomPost on Monday.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Only Greens can now do hysteria over "privatisation"

On the back of ACT's Confidence and Supply Agreement the Greens have been crying foul.

Privatising welfare not the answer: National and ACT’s moves to corporatise welfare will cost New Zealand more money for worse outcomes, the Green Party said today.

Labour cannot take this line of attack because during their term the Ministry of Social Development was contracting out services left, right and centre.

Radio Rhema asked me to do an interview on the subject with Aaron Ironside and have subsequently used a soundbite in their Shine TV Headlines (starts 00:34).

As I said in a previous post the Ministry already contracts to 150 employment services providers.

Hone 'Mana' Harawira on Whanau Ora and "shackin' up with the Devil"

Harawira puts the boot in:

The Maori Party is on the road - asking their members to let them go back into coalition with National because both Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples are desperate to not leave Parliament with the dodgy record that they have at the moment (Pete also said that he needs his ministerial salary to pay the mortgage on his new house).

Turia’s flagship was Whanau Ora. Launched after a big build-up by the Prime Minister himself, Whanau Ora got maximum publicity and became a new phrase in the public domain but in fact got very little.

Originally proposed as a $1 billion Maori welfare restoration programme, jealous Government Ministers forced Turia to turn it into a programme for all New Zealanders immediately reducing its effectiveness.

And then the budget got slashed to $134 million forcing Turia to have discretionary funding pulled from Maori providers around the country to prop up Whanau Ora, leading many to cut staff and at least one major provider, Amokura, to shut up shop all together. Before Whanau Ora came along, Amokura was one of Tura’s favourite Maori providers. After Whanau Ora it was dead.

Whanau Ora will limp on because Tariana is tough, but with limited funding it has become one of those programmes that Maori say is ‘designed to fail’.


Watch for the Maori Party comeback. They are donkey-deep in a 'damned if they do and damned if they don't' position.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

ACT's C & S welfare concessions

As part of the confidence and supply agreement ACT has secured the following:

The implementation in this parliamentary term of the Welfare Working Group recommendations 27: Parenting obligations, 28: Support for at-risk families, 30: Income management and budgeting support, and 34: Employment services.

What are they?

Recommendation 27: Parenting obligations

a) The Welfare Working Group recommends that every recipient receiving a welfare payment who is caring for children be required to meet the following expectations:
i. ensure their children are attending school when they are legally required to;
ii. ensure their children participate in approved early childhood education once their child reaches three years of age; and
iii. ensure their children complete the 12 free Wellchild/Tamariki Ora health checks, which include completion of the immunisation schedule, unless they make an informed choice not to;
and that failure to meet these expectations after efforts to address reasons for non-compliance would result in the recipient’s income being managed by a third-party or some other means, such as a payment card; and
b) The Welfare Working Group recommends that systems be put in place to measure and monitor the compliance with the expectations set out in a) above.

Recommendation 28: Support for at-risk families
The Welfare Working Group recommends that:
a) all teenage parents under the age of 18 and other parents of at-risk families be required to participate in an approved budgeting and parenting programme and that access be provided to these programmes free of charge;
b) an assessment of risk to the well-being of children should form part of a more systematic assessment of long-term risk of welfare dependency and provide a basis for intervention through participation in intensive parenting support;
c) at-risk families and whānau with complex needs be provided with wrap-around services, preferably by single, integrated providers which address family and whānau needs as a whole. These programmes need to be responsive to Māori through culturally appropriate, holistic, and whānau-centred solutions. In addition, they need to meet the needs of other parts of the community, such as Pacific, migrant and refugee communities; and
d) at-risk families participating in an intensive early intervention parenting programme have access to quality early childhood education and childcare services from 18 months of age, as currently provided through Family Start.

Recommendation 30: Income management and budgeting support
The Welfare Working Group recommends that in situations where a parent receiving welfare has shown they have a clear need for budgeting support due to repeated difficulties in managing their budget, such that their child or children’s well-being is put at risk:
a) the person be given access to budgeting support services;
b) Government consider using a third party to manage the person’s income, on the understanding that that this income management would cease once the person has demonstrated their capacity to manage their assistance; and/or
c) this may entail provision of a ‘payment card’ programmed for use only on essential items, to ensure that children’s needs are properly met.

Recommendation 34: Employment services
The Welfare Working Group recommends that:
a) employment services be based on contestable, outcome based contracts; and
b) contract referral processes and contract payment structures be designed to financially incentivise contractors to achieve positive outcomes for those with greatest risk of long-term dependency.

A lot of this is already in place.

Private contracted employment services that work with the hardest to place. At August 2011 150 service providers were contracted to assist around 15,000 clients to find employment.

Contracted budgeting services. In 2009 83 members of the NZ Federation of family Budgeting were contracted to MSD to provide budgeting services.

Payment cards is National's policy for young beneficiaries. Once they are available I have no doubt they will be extended to other beneficiaries as per the Australian operation.

Beneficiaires are already sent to parenting programmes. I had a client who went on one (which seemed of dubious quality.)

Analysis of the Family Start programme based in Christchurch showed some gain for children of beneficiaries but not for parents. As I blogged a couple of days ago intervention that is not wanted (compulsory) can further entrench parents in a siege mentality which may put their children at greater risk. So I am very dubious about complusion. I concluded that post with the following:

But I keep coming back to two broad propositions for the state, which will continue to monopolise the problem for some time yet. It has got to stop incentivising childbirth and start incentivising prevention. Stop paying people to have children and start paying them not to. And it has got to stop counselling against adoption and get more children into stable and loving homes from the outset.

The massive escalating intervention - private, public or a mix - is usually too much, too late.

The concessions extracted by ACT represent more intervention and more paternalism which it can be argued are necessary on the back of an extensive benefit system that pays young women to become mothers.

They do not represent a reduction of the benefit system itself.

National's policy of worktesting mothers when their youngest child is 5 (or 1 if the child has been added to the benefit) better represents a reduction in the availability of benefits. ACT should have (and may have) pushed for the age to be lower, afterall they have extracted the promise that parents on benefits must ensure their children participate in approved early childhood education once their child reaches three years of age. Or time limits which was always part of their policy in the past.

Between them there is still no resolve to actually stop the welfare incentives that give New Zealand the second highest teen birthrate in the developed world.

Monday, December 05, 2011

More half-truths from Labour

In response to John Banks getting the Associate Education Ministership Labour's Education spokesperson Sue Moroney says:

John Key has used a bogus agreement with ACT to bring in education policies promoting bulk funding and privatisation that National were working on before the election, but did not tell voters about, Labour’s Education spokesperson Sue Moroney says.

“News today that the confidence and supply agreement between ACT and National includes plans to push on with a trial charter school system will come as a shock to most Kiwi parents.

“The ‘charter school’ proposal is bulk funding in drag. It is a model that has been blamed for the decline in educational achievement in Sweden.

An overview of trends in government in Sweden 2011 contains the following:

In Sweden, the proportion of pupils at compulsory school attaining the set knowledge targets, i.e. passing in all subjects, is rising.

On the other hand, surveys carried out in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) shows that the proportion of 15-year-olds with poor reading ability increased from 12.6% to 17.4%, while the pupils' results in mathematics and science deteriorated, between the 2003 and 2009 surveys.

The proportion of pupils eligible for the national study programmes at upper secondary school decreased, mainly among pupils whose parents'education ended before upper secondary school.

The proportion of young people aged 20–24 who have completed upper secondary school in Sweden rose from 86% in 2000 to 88% in 2008. The corresponding EU averages were 77% and 78%. The proportion of Swedish pupils leaving upper secondary school with basic eligibility for higher education rose from 85% to 91% during the same period.

The number of students attaining first and higher degrees and diplomas in higher education, as well as PhDs, in the period 2000–09, increased. At the same time, the level of achievement in basic higher education fell slightly.

A mixed picture but hardly an all-out decline.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Child victims - no cut and dry answers

Three stories drew my attention today. Child death and child neglect and child neglect.

For ten years I have racked my brain over what can be done to either improve the lot of children who are born into circumstances of material and spiritual impoverishment, or reduce the likelihood of it happening in the first place. Initially I looked at the problem theoretically and philosophically, then I got involved at a political level, then a practical level for a number of years. And still I find myself without a single hard and fast answer.

I was prompted to reflect on this after a conversation yesterday with someone who continues to work for the community organisation I was a volunteer for. She told me that it has expanded significantly but wasn't necessarily more effective. Government funding was good but they were now getting compulsory referrals from CYF making the job different and difficult. In the past referrals came in on a voluntary basis which meant clients were amenable - well, initially at least. So the need is growing but the private/public mix isn't the silver bullet.

Scene-set. The CYF caseworker refers dysfunctional families to a community organisation that can provide volunteer mentoring. The government saves taxpayer money by harnessing an unpaid workforce. But to the dysfunctional family this new intrusion presents just another hurdle they have to jump over to continue to receive a benefit (or perhaps keep custody of a child). That's my take on it anyway. Every client I ever had in 5 years was on a benefit.

The idea that people need to meet criteria to receive state support is inherently a conservative one. What pains me about it is it legitimises state support where it shouldn't. But even worse it pushes already damaged people further into a 'them and us' mindset, a feeling of sullen resentment and alienation which drives an instinct to rebel and reject. That manifests in the way they treat their children.

So not only are we back to square one but possibly minus square one. The children are probably even more vulnerable than they were before extra pressure was brought to bear on (usually) the single mother.

Time pressure doesn't allow me to return to my volunteering and on the basis of what was described to me, I wouldn't want to.

But I keep coming back to two broad propositions for the state, which will continue to monopolise the problem for some time yet. It has got to stop incentivising childbirth and start incentivising prevention. Stop paying people to have children and start paying them not to. And it has got to stop counselling against adoption and get more children into stable and loving homes from the outset.

The massive escalating intervention - private, public or a mix - is usually too much, too late.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Earthquake in Wellington

About 7:20 a reasonably strong tremor brought both of the kids running and the dog has gone off into her own tremors and panting. Went for about 6-7 seconds getting stronger but no big jolt. Sam is 13 and that's the worst she has ever felt. Robert says no wonder the people of Christchurch can't sleep.

Update: 30 Km east of Picton 5.7

Reported as "biggest recorded in around twenty years."

Friday, December 02, 2011

Are you missing John yet?

Confession: I actually warmed to John Key during the campaign because he dropped the smile-and-wave persona and actually looked like Phil Goff was getting right up his nose. I heard commentators describing him as "looking like a coldfish" and "refusing to engage" and "hard-faced". To me he looked unsmiling and deliberately detached from the silly gamesmanship of Labour blaming National for the inevitable detrimental effect on New Zealand of the worldwide recession. He showed calm and concentrated discipline in the process. I started to empathise with him. This is the John Key I'd like to see and hear more from. But I'm an oddity.

So I suppose I am destined to miss the new John until his re-appearance in 2014.

Marcus Lush on David Shearer - what the listening audience doesn't see

Had been listening to Willie Jackson and JT yesterday and still had my radio tuned to Radio Live this morning . David Shearer popped into the studio on his way to the airport to talk about his prospects for leading the Labour Party. Marcus Lush made some interesting comments after his departure in respect of what the listening audience doesn't see. He was impressed that the guy had turned up in person and shaken hands with all the news staff. Said that Shearer obviously really wants the job. But there was something he was uncomfortable with. Whenever he was asked a question Lush said Shearer's eyes immediately darted to the right. Lush preferred someone to look him in the eye when conversing and suggested that it was a habit that Shearer would need to be "media-trained out of". Otherwise he came across as (I was waiting for the word shifty but Lush deliberated just long enough to leave the word loudly unspoken) "too politician-like."

And if I hear one more time about how Shearer negotiated with Somali warlords I will .... roll my eyes again. Has anyone asked whether his negotiation successful?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Cracked 9,000

Have been blogging for six years and never exceeded 9,000 visits per month. Last month the counter reached 9,500 and the stats through the year have been steadily climbing. Thank you for tuning in. Finding the time to blog is becoming increasingly difficult but the growing readership makes me resolve to keep it a priority.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What can the government do for the poor?

What ... can the government do to help the poor? The only answer is the libertarian answer: Get out of the way.

— Murray N. Rothbard

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Political Progress

I emphatically disagree with the proposition that ACT should once again try to tie their factions together. It shouldn't aim to be the "broad church" that is the National Party. It should declare itself economically and socially conservative. How hard is that?

Then those people who are ecomically conservative and socially liberal know where they stand and can act accordingly.

It still remains for those who reject ACT (or whatever Banks decides to call it) to form a new entity that does manage the differences that will inevitably arise because people are always somewhere along a spectrum. But there needn't be differences as gaping as those between people at opposite ends of the social spectrum.

It'll take goodwill, genuine compromise and committment to discipline. But I ask you, what else is left?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Politically homeless

That's that then. I wanted Catherine Isaac in parliament and voted accordingly. But it didn't happen and I see this morning Catherine has, wisely in my view, ruled out assuming leadership or any other active role in ACT.

Ms Isaac said the future depended on Mr Banks. "Will John Banks embrace Act ideology and its policies and seek to advance them?

"I don't know how John Banks is planning on conducting himself. His history is with the National Party, not with Act, and I don't know to what extent he embraces Act principles."

She said she did not intend to take an active role in the party, but there was a future for a classical liberal party.

Mr Banks' conservative views have rubbed the more socially liberal Act members the wrong way. But he was comfortable because of what he called the "80/20" principle - he agrees with 80 per cent of the party's policies.

But will a leader keep the 20 percent he doesn't agree with? Liberals and conservatives can often agree on a majority of economic policy but are deeply divided on social issues - those that arguably have more impact on individual personal lives.

Catherine is right on one other thing too. There is a future for a classical liberal party. One that attracts all ages. The 'disengaged' who are perenially cynical about self-serving politicians. Young people like my son who baulk at socialism and collectivism, but don't identify with a political brand of any sort. NOT conservatists; and NOT statists.

The Libertarianz can surely not go another election with their ever energetic efforts but disheartening results?

There are rather a lot of politically homeless people out here I am afraid.

And on a related note Oswald asks about The Conservative Party, "Why are they getting even more derision from the so-called right-wing blogs?"

My answer:

Because 'so-called right-wing blogs' are misnamed?

Conservatives are by definition anti-abortion, anti voluntary euthanasia, anti same sex marriage and adoption, pro-criminalisation of drugs, and happy to use the state as an instrument of supression. None of which interests me.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A selection from the Otago Daily Times

The Otago Daily Times is intellectually a cut above other New Zealand papers.

Colin James' succinct pre-election wrap. The Domininion Post stupidly dispensed with Mr James services earlier in the year. They prefer lightweight bias:

What's changed during the campaign? Not John Key's prospects for a second term as Prime Minister even though Phil Goff narrowly bested him in this week's debates. But nor have Key's support parties' problems got sorted. For tactically-minded National-leaning voters, November has been unhelpful.

The trend in the average of the five main published opinion polls points to an overall National majority but not wide enough for Key to be confident in advance he won't need support. That explains Key's late buildup of Peters as a bogey: he needed to scare National voters to the polls after an otherwise soothing campaign.

ACT has come out of the campaign worse than it went in, thanks in part to the awkward, then embarrassing, tea party antics. Published polls, plus a stack of anecdotal evidence, point to its disappearance tomorrow or at best a sickly survival on tenuous life support from National.

Colin Craig's Conservatives have polled better than ACT recently. But to get seats Craig has to win the Rodney electorate.

Peter Dunne is at risk of being an overhang MP, of strictly marginal value to Key.

The Maori party's 2008 party vote is being shared with Mana. There is a real possibility the Maori party gets four seats and three are overhangs, which would mean Key has to get 62 seats for a majority (63 if Dunne is also an overhang). The good news in that for the Maori party is that it just might have more leverage than in 2008 to push its whanau ora flagship policy.

For Labour the anecdotal evidence suggests somewhere in the upper 20s, possibly better if there has been a late swing, as some polls suggest. But Labour has bled to the Greens through the campaign after bleeding to Key from 2007. The solidity of Greens' support will be tested in the next three years if Labour manages a resurgence.

And Peters? The polls have been tantalising but the trend average leaves him short. Still, you never say never with Peters. As Goff, hoping for a (not completely dismissible) shock win that needs Peters, might say.

And this delightful letter from 100 years ago:

Prohibition punishes the whole population

In the Prohibition camp preaching to the converted goes on merrily; the proposition that if my neighbour gets drunk it is against me that a prohibition order must be taken out had never greater acceptance. What percentage of citizens get drunk I am unaware: two in every 100, says a correspondent of the Daily Times. To correct the bibulous error of the two, a prohibition order is to be taken out against the other 98.

According to the same correspondent the total number of drunkards in New Zealand is 8000, which sounds a liberal estimate. For the amendment of the 8000 a prohibition order is to be taken out against the whole population. It is not assumed or assumable that the whole population will agree to this lunatic treatment; it will be held sufficient if one-half agree, or at the most three-fifths. The remaining half, or the remaining two-fifths, are then to be put under duress - guarded, watched, spied upon, policed, dragooned, bludgeoned into submission. This done, New Zealand, it is thought, will thenceforth rank as a vestibule of the kingdom of heaven. And there are ministers of religion who, having despaired of Christianity and gone back from Mount Zion to Mount Sinai, cry Amen! It will still remain, however, that two and two make four; and in my humble opinion there are other truths, fundamental and axiomatic, that may be expected to assert themselves. For one thing Naturam expelles furca, tamen usque recurret. "You may drive out Nature with a fork, and yet she will come back."

And finally today's editorial which strikes a chord with me with its criticism of Trevor "stop your nonsense" Mallard:

The Labour Party 2011 election campaign was strategically inept, which is likely to contribute to one its worst defeats when the polls close tomorrow.

Unless Labour can get every single supporter out to vote tomorrow, and the party will try, it has the potential to remain in the wilderness for at least another six years.

Mistakes were compounded on throughout the shortened campaign period and long-serving Labour MP and campaign manager Trevor Mallard might have hard questions to answer on Tuesday if the caucus meets, as it generally does.

Mr Mallard, who spent most of his time on social networks during the campaign, was nowhere to be seen. In fact, first-term MP Grant Robertson was more active on the campaign trail.

Labour made a series of mistakes, and senior MPs should have known better.

Read more

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Labour's desperate lies

I generally avoid the word 'lie'.

But the following is a lie.

"New Zealand has the highest youth unemployment rate in the developed world."

If you are wondering where you heard it most recently, NewstalkZB is regularly running a Labour advert which makes the claim.

The rate for 15-24 year-olds is currently 17.3%

This is lower than the US, the UK, France, Finland, Sweden, Chile, the Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium and a few others.

It isn't hard to check these spurious claims. For Labour to be so brazen they must be beyond caring.

Update: Even predicated on the "highest unemployment rate for under twenty year-olds" the claim does not hold up. There are many countries with unemployment rates for 15-19 year-olds higher than NZ's.

Colin Craig - the Big Spender

Has Colin Craig broken the spending limit on electioneering?

We have received his glossy A4 pamphlet at least three times and yesterday 4 copies fell out of the middle of the Hutt News. Apparently his signs are absolutely everywhere in Auckland. He seems to have more radio ads than any other party. "Hi Colin the Conservative here..." always conjures up an image of what the Goodnight Kiwi would sound like if it could speak.

I haven't got time to look up the rules right now but perhaps he can afford the fine as well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

1200 children born today might well be dead if they had been born in the 1960s

I am watching the Bryan Bruce documentary on child poverty and am completely exasperated. So much is left unsaid. He blames Rogernomics for everything that is wrong with children's health. His slant is thoroughly political despite contrary pleading that child welfare is an ethical and moral problem.

New Zealand apparently used to be a socialist Utopia. That is stated baldly. Bryan Bruce, who looks of a similar age to me, grew up in a country where children got a free bottle of milk everyday and so we lived in paradise.

Putting aside non-fatal preventable disease, as I pointed out earlier, in 1960 the infant mortality rate was 23 per 1,000 infants. Today the figure is 4.8.

So let's frame those statistics in Bryan's terms when he says, "150 babies died in New Zealand last year who might well be alive if they had been born in Sweden, Japan or even the Czech Republic."

1200 children born today might well be dead if they had been born in the 1960s. Born into that socialist era when New Zealanders, as he put it, owned everything including electricity and the rail, and our agricultural products had guaranteed access to the British market.

Thank God we have moved on.

Sweden. He shows two Dads with their toddlers at a kindy-like centre. In Sweden parents get 480 days parental leave which they can share. Then they go back to work. Sole parent or not.

Here we have allowed sole parents to make a lifestyle out of benefits with no requirement to go back to work - if they have ever been in work. Mr Bruce didn't illuminate the circumstances of all the children on benefits be detailed. Never did he mention that most are on the DPB.

He took us into homes in East Porirua where the children and parent had moved into the one room that wasn't mouldy rendering them "over-crowded". Why didn't they clean the mould from the other rooms away? I have to do it upstairs in our house. The bathroom curtain has been bleached; then later dyed; and eventually replaced with a cheap Warehouse wooden blind. The bedroom windows and window sills need the blackened grime removed regularly. The walls feature some mould from time to time but I keep on top of it. This all happens because we can't afford to heat the whole house in winter. But we own it and want to protect it. In state houses it looks like the tenants expect someone else to do the upkeep, including cleaning.

I am angry and appalled. Not because the state is failing these people and their children. But because the PARENTS themselves are failing their children. Yes, some of their homes are irredeemable hovels needing attention but I also know that periodically the authorities come in and repair and renovate yet the results are not appreciated or cared for. Thus, over time, they degenerate once more.

Their children resemble their homes. In preventable neglected condition.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Too much input

I suddenly started thinking about sensory stimulation. The only reason is, we had another mild escalation in our house over why the heck is Master Chef on when nobody watches it? It's just a load of sound and emotion with no gain. None of us is interested in cooking. I hit the off button.

Now I am standing here in the quiet thinking. Another family member is reading. Another is drawing, and the last is listening to House music in a different room. Peace. PEACE.

I am thinking about young men who hurt babies. I, and probably you, can recognise and deal with multiple sensory imput and subsequent overload. It's prevalent across society. Can others? When young men have channels of input prioritised (eg watching a DVD, playing Xbox, texting) being compromised by an additional stream from an unattended baby, can they respond with reason? Do they have the faculties?

Newborns need dedicated attention. The degree of attention diminishes with age but when they come home after birth their need is the only one that matters.

I am sure that rather a lot are surviving against the odds, and that very act of survival will later manifest in unhappy, self-destructive adulthoods.

Labour's scare tactics regarding the DPB

Interesting to see the reaction to Labour's scare pamphlet about not seeing your child's first birthday. It intrigues me because the right tend to talk tough and then get all indignant when the opposition paints them as such. Nevertheless the pamphlet sensationalises what is in fact a sensible policy to discourage people from adding a child to their benefit.

But my view is that Labour are doing National a favour. They are drawing attention to one of National's better and more decisive welfare policies; and it does the very job the policies themselves are meant to do - send a message.

Mothers on welfare need to be getting the message that welfare is changing. That the DPB isn't going to be the free ride it has in the past (no disrespect intended to women who are on it with very high demands dependants, be they disabled children or others that would be institutionalised if not for their care.) And that they need to start making decisions based on those changes.

Is this sensationalism?

Here is the angle documentary-maker Bryan Bruce is putting on New Zealand's child poverty rate:

More than 100 New Zealand children who died last year would probably have survived had they lived in Japan, Sweden or the Czech Republic, a new documentary shows.

But not if they had lived in Australia, the United Kingdom or Canada which all cluster around similar infant mortality rates as New Zealand.

Canada 5.2
NZ 4.8
United Kingdom 4.6
Australia 4.1

The Stuff report continues:

"Last year, more than 25,000 children were admitted to hospital for respiratory infections. Doctors routinely treat cases of rheumatic fever and scabies – diseases now rare in Europe.

The reason behind these preventable diseases were appalling rates of child poverty that New Zealand could not afford to ignore, Mr Bruce said."

The biggest contributor to these diseases is, in my view, the environments children live in. These unhealthy environments are often due to nobody taking responsibility for safe standards of hygiene and cleanliness. Mould can be cleaned from walls; floors that babies and toddlers crawl on can be vacuumed and mopped; food refuse can be removed rather than left to rot and attract flies and maggots. Overcrowding is frequently a symptom of choice. Choosing to share accommodation to reap more income and choosing to have children.

Returning to the opening suggestion that 100 more children would have survived had they been born in Sweden that isn't necessarily down to lower child poverty. For instance, child death in the immediate post-natal phase can be due to premature birth. Premature births can be due to very young maternal age. Sweden's teenage birth rate is much lower than New Zealand's. So the reason for this particular difference is largely cultural.

The Children's Social Health Monitor comments:

"While infant mortality rates are generally higher for Pacific>; Māori> ; European / Other babies, males, and those in the most deprived areas , total infant mortality rates are of limited utility in guiding population health interventions, as the causes of mortality differ markedly with the age of the infant. During the neonatal period (birth–28 days) extreme prematurity, congenital anomalies and intrauterine / birth asphyxia are the leading causes of mortality, while in the post neonatal period (29–364 days) sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) and congenital anomalies make the greatest contribution . Thus any interventions aimed at reducing New Zealand’s infant mortality rates must, in the first instance, be based on an understanding of their component causes."

The good news is, in any case, the infant mortality rate is dropping every year. In 50 years it has dropped from 23 infant deaths per 1,000 to 4.8.

I doubt Mr Bruce will provide some reasonable context for his claims. Perhaps he should stick to investigating unresolved New Zealand crimes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Green's cynical exaggeration of child poverty

The Greens are riding the child poverty issue for all its worth. According to Stuff , quoting Meteria Turei from yesterday:

There were 275,000 children living in severe poverty and two out of every five of those children came from households with parents in work but whose pay rates were too low, she said.

The figure seems to grow at each turn. That's the highest I have seen yet.

What do official measurement sources say?

• In 2010, there were 1.07m dependent children (under 18) – on the measures in Table S.2, between 170,000 and 270,000 children were in households with incomes below the low-income thresholds (ie ‘in poverty’).
• In 2010, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 230,000 (22%) children in households below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’), down from 380,000 (37%) in 2001.

Note though Turei's use of the word "severe".

Severe poverty would be indicated by using not the After Housing Costs (AHC) 60 % threshold but the AHC 50 % threshold which is 16 percent.

That produces a number of 171,200.

But what does it matter if you overstate a problem by one hundred thousand plus when you can trust the media to accept anything you say?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Another sad sack

Just another sad sack who thinks the world owes them a living.

Yes it was incompetent of New Zealand authorities to miss his deliberate deception. But systems are set up based on most people's propensity to be honest.

I have been ripped off by someone I did a lot of work for this year and who now refuses to pay me. I could be described as 'incompetent' for doing the work up front. But isn't that how most people operate? On trust? And I don't plan to change my modus operandi because of one toe rag.

This WINZ fraudster is just another example of someone who promotes an utter inversion of values. He should be held up as such. He is the embodiment of the enemy of honesty.

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Labour welfare policy a sham"

A variation on an earlier blog post published in today's NZ Herald on-line opinion page.

Insight into how OECD operatives think

I have mentioned before that James Bartholomew is writing a new book about welfare. Researching it he recently spent some time at the OECD. His observations about concepts that are currently influencing the thinking in that organisation are not very encouraging:

"As part of the research for my new book, I visited the OECD last week and interviewed eight people there. The concept of low inequality being a ‘good thing’ was referred to explicitly or implicitly a remarkable number of times.... There are certain concepts that were taken for granted as being valid and important at the OECD. In addition to low inequality, there was the idea that women should work because of both economic efficiency and equality with men. The concepts that did not get so much of a look-in were personal freedom, personal responsibility and the idea that families headed by the natural, married parents might be good for the children."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Two little boys...

...had two little toys.

Sorry. There is no relevance to the poignant song Rolf Harris used to sing. Regardless, the lyric and melody entered my head as I read about two little boys. Now dead. The first a one year-old and the second aged two. One from Otahuhu and the other from Orakei. Both families known to Child Youth and Family Services.

The Mexican stand-off that is Epsom

According to Stuff:

The ACT Party is facing an election wipeout – with a new poll showing Epsom voters have been turned off by last week's tea party.

A Fairfax Media-Research Media International mini-poll of 200 eligible Epsom voters showed National's Paul Goldsmith easily winning the seat on 45.5 per cent.

ACT candidate John Banks trailed on 29.1 per cent, while Labour's David Parker had 14.6 per cent. The snap poll, taken on Tuesday, showed last Friday's meeting with National leader John Key shifted support away from Mr Banks.

Almost 30 per cent said they were now less likely to vote for him. Just under 23 per cent said Mr Key's public endorsement made it more likely they would favour Mr Banks. About 43 per cent said it made no difference. However, the poll also showed almost 40 per cent were undecided over the blue-ribbon seat, suggesting voters were waiting to see if National needed ACT as a support partner.

And the rest of us potential ACT voters are waiting to see if you will put ACT back in. This is a classic Mexican stand off.

If John Banks can't win Epsom I am not wasting my vote and effectively giving the Left another tick. My voting priority is making sure Labour can't form a coalition with more seats than National.

But the results also tell us that John Banks was the wrong choice for Epsom and the wrong choice for ACT.