Monday, December 31, 2012

Hauraki became crap

New breakfast host Martin Devlin says Radio Hauraki is "crap".

It's been crap since they dumped Nick, Deano and Mel from the morning slot. They were genuinely funny and ran some great competitions like 'Scar Wars Wednesday' which asked listeners to ring in and describe how they got their worst scar. That resulted in outrageous tales like testes being caught in girls' bicycle chain as a  child and a whole host of strange down on the farm antics often related by not very bright people. Driving the kids to Uni and high school we'd often laugh till we cried. The music was what you'd expect on Hauraki but the in-between stuff was better. Then sometime during the middle of the year the threesome vanished.

So what to listen to? In Wellington The Breeze is so PC and safe, even though Sam and I can tolerate their play list, we can't stomach the simpering DJs. Think Wiggles. One morning we were behind a bus advertising The Sound. So we switched and are  permanently parked there. The music is brilliant and they promote themselves as "no silly BS chatter" although Geoff Bryant's news-reading interjections are often very wry. So, no, I won't be tuning in to Hauraki even out of curiosity.

(Though it has to be said, if I'm by myself of a morning, walking the dogs, I might have Mike Hosking in my ear.)

Devlin says, "It's bitterly competitive, and there's a lot of money at stake, and there's a lot of pride and ego at stake."

Somehow trying not to lose money and not to lose face don't seem like very good starting point to me. So a New Year's prediction. Devlin won't save Hauraki.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

John Key finished?

That's what Matt McCarten says in his Herald column today:

This year has finished him. His evasiveness over Kim Dotcom, his shonkiness over the SkyCity casino deal to give more pokies for a convention centre, his weakness managing his ministers and his forgetfulness on details of his job is starting to form real doubts that he's on top of his job. We like nice guys but we expect them to know what they're doing. This is the year he became a two-term prime minister.

All this prediction  reveals is McCarten's  left bias and according wishfulness. Let's try and analyse Key's chances objectively.

1/ Who else? 

Like it or not most New Zealanders are middle-of-the-road moderates. When it comes to matters political, they think at a superficial level employing emotion over reason. But occasionally the 'wisdom of the masses' asserts itself as when Green co-leader Russell Norman suggested printing money. Without understanding economics too deeply people just instinctively knew this was a stupid idea. Sometimes good ideas are the most simple ones - but not in this case. And people aren't going to accept a leader with radical ideas, even sound ones. That's why Key doesn't do radical.

Neither will people accept a leader with NO ideas. Well, to be fair, no new ideas. And anyway, Labour is too ramshackle at present to give swing-voters any confidence that they can govern.

2/ Better the devil you know. Key is still in this ballpark. When Clark went, she'd stepped outside it. People were saying any devil is better than her. National has upset large  groups of people. Teachers for example. But mainly they have upset the leftists which is their job.

They have pissed off people like me in many ways BUT not enough that I would vote for more redistribution of wealth from the productive to the non-productive; more punishment of effort and reward for fecklessness; more economic regulation and welfare reform reversal.

3/ Key appeals to both males and females. That sort of appeal is reasonably rare.

4/ Key is still looking like a solid family man. Also reasonably rare and something we admire I think.

5/ Key has a winning leadership style. While McCarten says Key is weak at managing his ministers, the other side is, he doesn't over-manage.  My preference is for the second style. Most of us want a boss who gives us space and respect.

So barring startling developments - Labour recruiting Richie McCaw as a potential future leader - voters are going to go into the 2014 election prepared to accept the status quo. The reality is most people's lives are ticking over satisfactorily despite the recession and they will entrust another three years of management to National.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

When Masterton went dry

When there is no current news, perusing papers from the past is sometimes entertaining. The Truth had the best articles. Here's one about what happened when Masterton "entered into the land of Wowserdom".

People drank even more as secret bingeing occurred causing "absence from work...lying and deceit..."

"There is more now solid and systematic 'silent'  sosselling going on now than ever before in the history of the district."

The writer also describes the hypocrites who voted for the "no" licence status in order to line their own pockets through sly-grogging.

Charmingly written. And a lesson for today's prohibitionists.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Meerkats breed at Xmas

It's been a somewhat strange Xmas here. The weather has see-sawed between intense heat and considerable chill, for the first time we put up a fake tree and it didn't seem to matter and my meerkats bred. When I went up the hill on Xmas morning I found two babies hiding amongst the long grasses I've planted.

But the highlights have been the generosity of my son spending all of his first ever pay-packet on his father to buy him something very special, and my daughter presenting me with a handmade teddy bear. For some reason he is 'Trent'. He's made from linen and some other brown fabric and is just gorgeous. The only thing in life I get sentimental over is my family and my few close friends. Sadly one called for help on Boxing Day night. Drunk, suicidal and lost - literally. This is someone I've only ever seen stoicism and humour from. I tried to talk her up and we cried together, fat lot of use that I am. Then she stopped answering my repeated calls to her mobile. But I knew she was receiving texts. Eventually she told her sister what bus she had taken which might indicate what park she was in. Her family got her home but I can hardly finish happily by saying all's well that ends well. Underlying troubles need to be resolved.

A trip to hospital to visit another elderly friend who'd suffered a stroke, a visit to an old folks home to leave a package for an ex neighbour who won't see me (or anyone else) and I was most grateful to return to my 'normal' happy home.

I hope you are all enjoying Xmas. For many it's not a happy time at all.  Christmas is for copers. Thank your lucky stars if you are one.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Truth column December 20

(My December 20 Truth column isn't on-line yet no doubt due to Xmas break. Below in full.)

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia has announced she'll retire in 2014. She'd previously publicised leaving parliament in 2011, so this latest promise might be taken with a pinch of salt. The decision to exchange a ministerial salary for Super must be tough.

Nevertheless it's perhaps timely to look back on a couple of Turia's more interesting statements. When TV3's John Campbell asked what she meant about welfare being bad for Maori she replied, "We’re talking Maori unemployed. We’re not talking about Maori women on benefits."

At a reproductive health conference, about the high Maori teenage birth rate being framed as problematic, she said she was "intolerant of the excessive focus on controlling our fertility...Maybe one of our policy goals in the Maori Party should be to go forth and multiply."

In 2010, 46 percent of Maori females aged 20 - 29 were dependent on welfare - mainly the DPB. Tariana does not view this as being "bad". By implication, she doesn't associate over-dependence on welfare with Maori children's poor health and educational outcomes or heightened risk of abuse and neglect.

When CYF manager of Maori Strategy, Peter Douglas suggested at-risk Maori children be removed beyond whanau, Turia responded, "I am totally opposed to children being raised outside whakapapa links.” Being Maori, and growing the Maori population count, matter more to Turia than children's prospects.

She's previously complained that Maori are the only ethnicity in New Zealand that cannot grow their share of the population through immigration. (Perhaps if the 100,000+ Maori living overseas weren't beleaguered by the treaty and tribalism at every turn, they'd come back.)

It'd be fascinating to know how Turia views her parliamentary career. A tale of great achievement? Personally, I'm struggling to identify any major gains for Maori attributable to her particular ideology - racism. If a successor can't be found, and the Maori Party disappears, good. New Zealand does not need racially divisive politics.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Explaining politicians

Light blogging due to Xmas rush; still finishing and framing commissions due for delivery Xmas eve. But this is worth a wider read. Again from the Future Freedom Foundation, one of the few daily newsletters I always look at:

With government controlling more and more of our economy, the fact that crooks have to go where the money is causes more and more of them to turn to government employment. However, there is probably an even stronger reason for individuals to become politicians. That is the power which accompanies political office. Many idealists think they know better than the ordinary person what is good for that person. They consider themselves a cut above the ordinary individual who just isn’t smart enough to know what he or she should do. Idealists seek government power to impose their ideas upon the rest of us. They may be personally honest insofar as not thinking of lining their own pockets with money but have little compunction about bolstering their egos with government power. This attitude explains the environmentalists, the do-gooders, and others whose ego causes them to seek government power to impose their ideas upon those of us who just want to make our way in a free market in open competition with everyone else. They don’t believe in a free market or voluntary actions. They do believe in controlling others by means of government power.
– Harry Hoiles
(Harry Hoiles passed away in 1998, former owner of Freedom Publications)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Truth column December 13

My December 13 Truth column is now on-line

I wish I knew if my sympathy for Brendan Horan, sacked NZ First MP, is warranted.
Anyone who has been dealt to by NZ First leader Winston Peters has my commiserations. 
The party is not referred to as ‘Winston First’ without good reason.
Saving his own skin is the name of the game.
But most of us aren’t privy to the details surrounding Horan’s family dispute so can only speculate on the injustice or otherwise of his dismissal from the party.


Other Truth columns here

Ever more influential people question the war on drugs Richard Branson, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Sir Richard Branson has never sat on an idea. A frenetic 40-year career in the public eye has seen him launch Virgin Group, with its 400 companies, while juggling time between world record attempts, Hollywood cameos and humanitarian drives. Lately, Branson has embarked on a new adventure, one no less challenging than attempting to circumnavigate the globe in a balloon. As a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Branson is sharing the spotlight with the burgeoning movement to end the U.S.-led war on drugs.

That crusade brought him to New York this week for the premiere of Breaking the Taboo, a documentary film asserting that the 40-year-old drug war, centered on prohibition rather than rehabilitation, has failed on all fronts. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the film splices images of brutal violence with interviews with global leaders, including former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, who lambast the $1 trillion global war for overcrowding prisons while doing little to curtail drug use among an estimated 230 million people around the world. “Obviously, if the expected results were that we would eliminate serious drug use in America and eliminate the narco-trafficking networks, it hasn’t worked,” says Mr. Clinton during the film.


Hat-tip Future Freedom

Friday, December 14, 2012

Advocating parental responsibility is a "crass" opinion

Yesterday I blogged about an unusually sensible editorial from the DomPost.

Today back to collectivist, failed, ideology in the letters column. (I wrote in support of the editorial but wasn't published.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

DomPost on child poverty report

Excellent editorial here stating the obvious but so often ignored principle that children are essentially their parent's responsibility.

Poverty harmful to children. No-one will dispute the central tenet of the child poverty report released this week by Children's Commissioner Russell Wills.
Kids who go to school hungry struggle to learn. Kids who live in damp, cold, crowded homes get sick. Kids  who grow up poor are more likely to struggle as adults.
Where readers may be inclined to part company with the commissioner's expert advisory group is over how to tackle the problem.

Would you want your rates spent on this?

The Palmerston North City Council is running a campaign to persuade those approached by beggars to consider giving to a charity rather than to the beggar.

Give Wisely – Pedestrians encouraged to give to charities not beggars

A campaign aimed at encouraging pedestrians to give to charities that look after beggars as opposed to giving money directly to beggars is being undertaken by the Palmerston North Safety Advisory Board and Palmerston North City Council.

The campaign is called “Give Wisely” and has a number of aims:

· Encouraging beggars to make positive choices.
· Educating pedestrians as to how they can best help beggars.
· Creating a more vibrant Broadway for pedestrians to enjoy.

Begging occurs in every metropolitan city in New Zealand and from time to time causes issues for both pedestrians and retailers. Begging is not illegal in New Zealand and Palmerston North City does not have an anti-begging bylaw. Regulatory solutions have not worked in other centres and hence a more collaborative community orientated approach has been taken. 

Community development officer Maria Prangnell says Palmerston North is lucky to have so many social services that are able to help by providing support from accommodation and food to psychological needs. “We, along with other agencies, work closely with beggars to ensure they have access to benefits, housing and health services.”

“Giving to those in need is something that should be encouraged especially when it’s to charities that offer a hand up to those on the bottom rung of society.”

Senior Sergeant Brett Calkin says while the campaign will not solve the issue of begging it will help draw attention to the issue. Which he says from time to time leads to those who participate in aggressive forms of begging being arrested. "The city has about ten regular beggars who tend to position themselves in key locations along Broadway Avenue but from time to time haunt other parts of the CBD".

The campaign will run over the summer months. Retailers will be asked to display posters in windows and flyers will be handed out to pedestrians asking them to give to the charities that offer a hand up.

Senior Sergeant Brett Calkin say aggressive forms of begging are not tolerated and anyone who feels intimidated should call the police immediately.

It amuses me that the council (which does worse than beg; it steals your money) then turns around and tells you how to spend the rest. Or perhaps I should view this initiative as an innovative way to deal with a nuisance rather than legislation.

If it works....

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Truth column December 6

My December 6 Truth column is now on-line:

Even a deaf person watching Parliament would be left in no doubt what Social Development Minister Paula Bennett conveyed to Labour MP Jacinda Ardern as she made ‘zip it’ motions with her fingers, and condescendingly winked with the word ‘sweetie’.


More Truth columns here

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Xmas card 2012

Long time readers of my blog might remember I make a Xmas card each year. Whatever is new in our day-to-day lives usually features. Lexie fits the bill perfectly. I sketched her in pastels for the front and put the following photo on the back. She just exudes contentment. How lucky we are.

Children's Commissioner recommends cutting welfare to the childless

This particular report has so many different 'costs' for tackling child poverty it's hard to make a reasoned response .

Does the Children's Commissioner want "$50 million to $60 million", "$159 million" or "$1.2 billion a year"?

Whatever it is, his suggestion for finding the extra money is ill-considered.

He suggested that the accommodation supplement could be cut for people without children to help pay for it. The report says 58 per cent of accommodation supplements are paid to people without children, 21 per cent of whom are boarders.
On principle, why is it fair to punish those who don't have children to reward those who do?

In practice, many of those "boarders" are paying board to a sole parent on a benefit. The very people the Commissioner wants to give more money to.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Born onto a benefit

I expect child poverty to be topical again today as the 2012 Childrens Social Health Monitor (link is to 2011 version) is released. There's a fair bit about it in the press already by journalists who have a pre-release. The TV is reporting Jacinda Ardern complaining about one in 5 children being in homes supported solely by a main benefit. It was barely any better under Labour. Even when the unemployment rate had dropped to it's lowest point around 18 percent of children were still on benefits. That's because the DPB is entrenched.

The following is an article I wrote for The Truth which was published the week before last. It's not on-line so reproduced in full below.


A huge amount is said about child poverty, but bugger all about what causes it.

By the end of last year 13, 634 of the babies born in the previous 12 months had a parent or caregiver relying on a benefit. Data supplied under the Official information Act reveals that 48 percent of these caregivers were Maori. Assuming the ethnicity of dependent children generally matches the ethnicity of their caregivers, 37 percent of all Maori children born in 2011 were on welfare by the end of the same year. The corresponding figure for non-Maori was less than half at 16 percent.

Most of these babies are born directly onto a benefit - usually the domestic purposes benefit. Some are first births. It's not unusual for their mothers to initially be dependent  on either the sickness benefit for pregnancy or the dole, then transfer to the DPB with the newborn in tow. But according to a Cabinet Paper publicly released earlier this year, in 2010 4,800 births were second (or subsequent) children being added to an existing  DPB. This happens most commonly in Whangarei, Whakatane, Rotorua, Kawerau and Wairoa, and the rate at which children are added has also been increasing.

The high rate of  NZ children born onto welfare  gives rise to numerous health and social problems down the line, not least abuse and neglect. We now know thanks to a recent Auckland University study that 83 percent of substantiated child abuse and neglect cases concern children who appear in the benefit system before the age of two.

There is an especial problem with Maori children. Not only are they more likely to be born onto a benefit, but they are more likely to have a very young mother who will have difficulty raising her child away from the sort of environmental risks that result in teenage parenthood in the first place; a dysfunctional family life, alcohol and drug abuse, family violence, transience, and crime. A strong correlation exists between the over-representation of Maori children on welfare and their marked predominance in many other negative statistics surrounding poor health and low educational achievement. Being born onto a benefit does not set them up for life.

Some of these children are going to be a cost to society for their entire lives. There isn't any equivalent NZ research but American studies into the backgrounds of prison inmates find many had very young mothers, were raised on welfare, or in foster care or other state institutions. That the NZ prison population is half Maori is almost certainly associated with the very high Maori rate of teenage birth; almost four times higher than non-Maori. Sadly, it isn't just the first-born children whose lives are affected, but those who follow as well.

Back in 2006 New Zealand Medical Association deputy chairman Don Simmers told a conference that too many women were contemplating pregnancy on a benefit. It's taken a long time - too long - but the government has now officially recognised the problem.

Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett believes that work has both social and economic benefits for parents and their children. Last month new rules were introduced to require people on the DPB with a youngest child aged 5 or older to look for and be available for part-time work. The Minister understands however that some mothers will try to avoid this new rule by having another baby. As a consequence, she says, "Sole parents who have another child while on a benefit will be exempt for [only] one year, in line with parental leave, before work obligations resume."

Unfortunately, this measure alone leaves loopholes. Cabinet illustrates the lengths some will go to when identifying children, "who are moved between households to avoid work expectations." There is currently no rule that prevents a parent from going off the benefit for a short period, having another baby, and returning with the clock starting afresh. This situation could have been avoided by adopting the US approach which simply time-limits the benefit. Federal law permits a maximum of 60 months over a lifetime of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (though individual states can deviate using their own funds). That regime unequivocally puts the responsibility firmly on the parent to limit their family size without totally dumping a safety net.

The other unthinkable work-dodge would be to produce a child annually. Ironically this outcome would be the exact opposite of what the government is trying to achieve. Again time-limiting the amount of welfare available would remove any incentive to go down this track.

Some favour capping the amount of money available to subsequent children born onto a benefit. Paula Rebstock's Welfare Working Group considered this option but was persuaded by the Ministry of Social Development that adverse affects on the child or children might outweigh any favourable effect on child-bearing patterns amongst beneficiaries.

Beneficiary advocates have reacted to Paula Bennett's new rule with hostility. Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sue Bradford says, "We believe that women in this country have the right to control their own reproduction." This encapsulates the conflict between the so-called rights of women and the rights of children. Knowingly bringing a child into the world with no ability to raise him independently or adequately is hard to justify at any level.

The Norm Kirk government of 1973 which bowed to pressure to provide statutory assistance for mothers who'd lost the support of a partner, would have been aghast if afforded a glimpse of a future in which supposedly single woman were allowed, and even encouraged by some, to breed on a benefit. Twenty two percent of all babies born in 2011 were on welfare by Xmas. But even pre-recession, when  NZ briefly enjoyed the lowest unemployment rate in the world during 2007,  the percentage only dropped to eighteen. Having babies on a benefit is part of the NZ culture. That's what's primarily driving this country's child poverty scandal. In a word, irresponsibility; irresponsibility of the people who produce the kids, but arguably worse, irresponsibility of the society that sanctions it.

Friday, December 07, 2012

What's $300,000?

How much compo should we pay Susan Couch?

Dunno. What's 11 years on the DPB living in Auckland worth?



Home schooling - a right we take for granted

I'm shocked. Germany hates home-schooling apparently.  The Welfare State We're In has linked to a New American article about the persecution parents face in Germany and Sweden if they want to home school their children - THEIR children.

Earlier this year I made comment about how rules-bound and obedient Germans are in my experience. Perhaps the insistence on 'state education only' is part of the picture.

In October of 2005, the Neubronner family (pictured) decided to homeschool. In America, that would have been the end of the story. The Neubronners, however, lived in Germany, where government has taken an extreme hardline stance with the aim of eradicating home education altogether. The loving German parents applied for permission to educate their two young sons, Morris and Thomas, at home. Unsurprisingly, their application was rejected.

Over the next few months, the battle seemed interminable. They sued for permission to homeschool and lost. Then they appealed. Again, they lost. Finally, in the summer of 2006, the Neubronners struck a deal with school authorities: The boys could be homeschooled provided they were tested regularly. Like the vast majority of homeschoolers, the kids did great on the government’s tests.

Despite the high marks, or perhaps because of them, eventually, authorities decided to put an end to the successful home education scheme. The Neubronner parents were threatened with massive fines, and like many other homeschoolers in Germany, even a potential jail sentence was put on the table if they refused to comply. During that time, the family appealed all the way up to the German constitutional court.

As the fight was unfolding, the family’s story became national news, with mother Dagmar, a biologist and publisher, becoming the face of the secular homeschooling movement in Germany. The media coverage ranged from friendly to neutral because the family seemed — aside from the homeschooling, at least — like a rather “normal,” well-integrated, intellectual family without any particular ax to grind against government schools; they simply wanted to exercise their right not to use that particular government “service.”

When the family refused to pay the exorbitant fines, officials burst into their home and ransacked it, searching for something, anything, to take with them. They found nothing worthwhile, but the horror was just getting started. Finally, officials froze the family’s bank accounts. They even threatened to arrest both parents and auction their home to pay the fines.


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

"Stay on the dole"

"Stay on the dole"  WINZ tells beneficiaries

WINZ refuses to put up a few hundred dollars to save thousands

These are the headlines we'd be reading if Work and Income was innocent of the charges Jacinda Ardern is levelling at them

An illogical sentiment abounds about keeping the unemployed domiciled here, as if they are worth more as potential employers than as an unemployed cost. Beyond the silliness of that, if someone can find work in Australia and be productive and satisfied, why hold them down on an unemployment benefit here? It makes no sense.

Another storm in a teacup manufactured by airhead Ardern.

Student allowances - almost 100,000

The statistics for 2011 have just been released and student allowance recipients for 2011 reached 97,308. That's an increase of 41,757 since 2005 or 75 percent. I think of student allowances as benefits even though they come out of the Ministry of Education budget. After all, if they weren't on a student allowance many would be on  the dole.

Looking at the allowances in the context of unemployment, in 1991 unemployment peaked at 11 percent. In that year 72,479 students received an allowance. The population  was smaller then but not by much with respect to the relevant demographic.

In 1991 the 15-24 population was 556,000.
In 2011 it was 644,000.

(Of course not all student allowance recipients fall into that age group but most do.)

On the face of it the ratio of young people receiving a student allowance to the unemployment rate is higher today.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Truth column November 22

My November 22 Truth column is now on-line:

Delegates at last weekend’s Labour Party conference decided electorate committees should have a 50% female quota.

Electorate committees are the muscle behind the candidate. I chaired one for ACT. Had anyone instructed me to turn away a willing and capable male member because I didn’t have a female counterpart, I would have resigned. It’s loony. But these days, Labour is loony.


Other Truth columns here

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Talking up poverty

Earlier in the week Bob  Stephens and Charles Waldegrave two long-time anti-poverty campaigners wrote a piece for the NZ Herald which  looked at the cost of housing rental, the largest weekly outlay people have. They compared two and three-bedroom properties in the lowest income areas. Then made this statement:

If the children are of different genders and one is adolescent they would normally require separate bedrooms, so a three-bedroom house would be needed.

When I was very young my Mum and dad bought their first home and it had three bedrooms. Lucky me got one to myself because the three brothers had to share. When we moved here it was considered the height of luxury to build a four bedroom house with two toilets no less. Two brothers still shared.

Many - if not most - of the families discussed here are sole parent. If I was the sole parent with a low income I'd been opting for the smallest home in the best neighbourhood - maybe even one bedroom if the children were very young. The idea that a single parent with one boy and one girl automatically requires a three bedroom home is silly. But it does help the case of those who want to push up costs as high as they can.

I am not denying that low income families struggle. But the inevitable conclusion that government has to direct more money into these homes is not a given. You can argue the moral case, the economic case, the political case.... But perhaps the worst aspect of this type of thinking and analysis is it takes away from the poor the expectation that they can be smart, adaptive and innovative; that they can work out for themselves how to make their lives better tomorrow by making some sacrifices today. It's thoroughly patronising and paternalistic and will not deliver some sort of socialist nirvana. It will result in a helpless, dependent population who one day wake up and realise that the all-giving state is now their worst enemy.

Strike that.  It's already happened.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Questions for the first of the month

Why is it that banks can charge you account fees on a non-working day but not make direct credit transfers till working days?

Will Labour accept John Tamihere's membership application?

Why did someone send me an e-mail saying that this December features 5 Saturday's, 5 Sundays and 5 Mondays and according to the Chinese this was very, very rare and in order to avoid great misfortune I should pass it on? (So rare it last happened in 2007)

How the heck will I get done what I need to get done between now and the 25th? (Not by blogging)

Why do dogs pee exactly where another has just been? (Perhaps they've been observing human behaviour).

Why are children allowed to be held as hostages to their pathetic parent's lifestyle choices?

Should I or shouldn't I waste my time reading about smarmy from Palmy? (He won't be giving JT the big tick today)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Foodbanks are not soup kitchens

From the World Socialist Web Site, an article yesterday began:

Since the outbreak of the economic crisis in 2008, there has been a huge expansion in the UK of soup kitchens, known euphemistically as food banks, as a result of growing poverty.

A euphemism is "The act or an example of substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive."

But a food bank is exactly that.  A place where one person can contribute groceries and another can withdraw them. It is NOT a soup kitchen. Another left-wing distortion of language. To stir the emotions they invoke harsh historical images.

The article concerns UK legislation that will see some emergency welfare devolved to local councils.

New legislation will for the first time make charities, rather than the welfare state, the main provider of emergency food supplies to those fallen on hard times.
Another exaggeration when considering the next sentences;

From next April, the central government-administered Social Fund, which provides emergency loans and grants, will be abolished as a result of the 2012 Welfare Reform Act and the responsibility handed over to local authorities. The new funding is set at 2005 budget levels and not ring-fenced (protected), so local authorities will inevitably cut the number of emergency loans and refer those in trouble to food banks instead.
 Note the difference between "will" in the first quote and "inevitably" in the second.

Anyway, this is a sensible development. The more localised and intimate welfare assistance becomes, the more the wheat can be sorted from the chaff.

The article goes on to describe the increasing call on UK food banks. But that can happen regardless of economic conditions.

Note the growth in NZ (Auckland I think) usage of foodbanks in the first part of last decade when the unemployment rate and numbers on benefits were dropping.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mark Lundy appeals to the Privy Council

It's become terribly fashionable to espouse the innocence of convicted murderers. The latest cause celebre is Mark Lundy. These particular fashion-followers are forking-out to take his case to the Privy Council in London and have even concocted a name for themselves, FACTUAL (For Amber and Christine - Truth Uncovered About Lundys). It's such a clever acronym, having thought of it they'd feel bound to proceed. Who'd want to waste it?

In the absence of religion, lots of substitute faiths take hold. Some believe in vast conspiracies, some in new-age health regimes, some in political ideologies (mine is individual freedom), and some in the wrongful conviction and detention of a particular criminal.

Some faiths are a search for truth; others are a denial. I'd put barking up the Mark-Lundy- is-innocent tree in the latter category. But if his supporters want to chuck their money away, that's their business.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Reading without comprehension

Metiria Turei's withering criticism of Rodney Hide's Herald On Sunday column is a perfect example of how someone can utterly mangle the sense and by implication, intent of a writer.

Rodney Hide’s latest piece in the NZ Herald exposes a callous and dangerous attitude. He needs to ask himself whether he really wants solutions to reduce child death or whether he just wants to pontificate while more women and more children suffer.


Truth column November 15

My Truth column from November 15 is now on-line:

Only a pointy-headed economist could find anything good to say about a rising unemployment rate, surely? Not so fast.


Other Truth columns here

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Another blinder from Rodney Hide

Compelling reading:

... if we really cared about the lives of children we would put an end to the sponsoring of irresponsible parenthood. We once thought that welfare was the foundation of a compassionate society. It's not. Our horrible child abuse statistics prove that.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What am I supposed to take from this?

A happy ending ... except for those who collectively lost $40,000 through written off debt.

I mean, what is the point of this story? What is it meant to achieve? To send a helpful message about not getting into debt? To make people who haven't lost their jobs feel guilty? To put a human face on the recession? Is it a modern day Aesop's fable?

It doesn't link to any policy-barrow being pushed. Except maybe the socialist clamour over inequality. Good- guys- are- poor- too sort of thing.

They sound and look like a very nice family but they've also had (albeit inadvertently) stuff they never paid for and never will. I suppose that's uncharitable of me. But this "no asset" procedure just sounds like another  safety net that will encourage irresponsibility. Another scheme to transfer financial onus from the have-nots to the haves. Trouble is, sometimes the haves aren't.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

IT contractor for teacher payroll can now talk

Adages are derived from eons of experience. Here's a topical example:

There are two sides to every story

The IT company that was contracted to pay the teachers can now speak out. Summarising, the problems seem to stem from school's unwillingness to embrace on-line technology.

I recently worked on a survey project which asked for on-line responses but a large number of respondents submitted in hand-writing via fax or scanned attachments. Accommodating the handwritten submissions was a time-consuming and unsatisfactory process. So I can sympathise with the staff at Talent2 and the backlog resulting from handling large amounts of unnecessary paperwork and labouring over illegible handwriting.

Most of the information required from  school administrators would be numerical. Deciphering handwritten numbers can be a nightmare. As I have discovered.

Perhaps the teachers should have individually been asked to log-in their details. They would have been highly motivated to get it right.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Labour creeps

I've never faithfully followed a virtual reality/elimination competition of the type that features a  few hand-picked wannabes stuck in a mansion, on an island or bound up  in some far-reaching global quest.

But isn't that what the Labour saga is resembling?

People who are under-talented and over-egoed figuring out which equally under/over endowed counterpart is their best stepping stone?

Greens tell PM to heed the children

 According to co-leader Metiria Turei and the Greens:

"The Prime Minister should look to children for advice on running the country, with an international survey showing the first thing kiwi kids would do if they had his job would be to provide the food, housing and necessities everyone needs, the Green Party said today....This should be a reality check for MPs and the Government in particular..."
The same survey shows other priorities:

“Kiwi kids continue to aspire most strongly to be professional athletes...New Zealand children are most afraid of spiders, but also sharks and snakes."
 The  aspirations and fears of children are not particularly rational. But then neither are the Greens'.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Capably and ablably"

Yes, that's what Kate Sutton says about the female quota Labour plans to impose on electorate committees. The Labour Vice President says that international research shows that  "...when you create space for women they will capably and ablably fill it."


Still at least she has stopped swearing in her speeches.

I've chaired an electorate committee and am just trying to envisage turning away willing and able male members because I didn't have a female counterpart - of any calibre. How utterly absurd.

Friday, November 16, 2012

No European parents named and shamed?

From yesterday's post about the ethnicity of child killers Joe asks this question:

"Lindsay from your figures why have no european parents ever been named and shamed -as a society is European infanticide acceptable but not for Pacific islanders like Luffely or other brown New Zealanders."
The report I kinked to does not break down the reasons for death but another does.

It reviews family violence child deaths from 2004-2011.

Some cut and paste facts:

33 children were killed by 34 suspects

79% of children were aged three years or under at the time of death

Cause of Death

Head trauma  16
Newborn baby killed by Mother  5
Injuries to body  5
Drowning  3
Suffocation  3
Stab wounds  1
Total  33

 Mothers killed 15 (45%) of the 33 child victims, comprising 10 daughters and 5 sons. 

In  five  cases  the  mother  concealed  her  pregnancy  from  family,  friends  and/or
workmates.  When the baby was born the mother, through act or omission, killed
the baby and disposed of the body.  Three of the mothers were European, one Pacific Island and one Indian.

Murder/suicide. Six children died as a result of (four) mothers who killed their child(ren) and then killed themselves.  Three mothers were European and one was Maori.

In three cases children aged between one and two years of age were drowned
by their mothers; in two of the cases the children drowned in the bath after being left unattended. The mothers were Maori, European and Fijian.

In the remaining two cases of mothers killing children, both victims died as result
of physical assaults to their head and body. Both mothers were Maori.

Stepfathers killed five stepsons and two stepdaughters. In all cases the injuries involved physical assaults resulting in trauma to the head or body.  Five stepfathers were Maori, one was European and one was Cook Island.

Fathers killed two daughters and one son.  Two babies were five weeks and 11 weeks old and died from head trauma.  One child was three years old and died from injuries to her head and body.  Two Maori fathers were aged 18 and 21, while the Tongan father was aged 27.

My guess is that just as suicides aren't necessarily reported, neither are child murder/ suicides. There is no trial. Killing a newborn at birth is more commonly reported but treated (rightly or wrongly) sympathetically. Equally, drowning through neglect might also not make the news. The one case I found from 2010 had name suppression so no clue to ethnicity.

The high profile stories are where children are killed via wilful physical abuse and a trial ensues. Hence, over this period anyway, the predominance of media reporting Maori/Pacific child deaths is because they fall into this category.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Family violence deaths and ethnicity

As per usual the discussion about the death of J J Lawrence features arguments about child abuse  being a Maori problem. It isn't solely, but it is disproportionately. But let's put the actual statistics on the line:

But what do you notice about the preamble to this table?

Truth column November 8

The Truth on-line is now up and running.

(For those who don't know Josie Pagani has replaced Bomber Bradbury and now writes the column 'from the left'.)

"Housing affordability will be a major election issue in 2014. There’s a difference though between mortgage affordability and the affordability of rent. Both problems affect large numbers but the second group is less likely to vote. That’s why the National Government has focused its reforms on home ownership first, if not only.

Houses are expensive because there aren’t enough.
Finance Minister Bill English promises to cut waiting times for (some) consents to build to six months tops – still two seasons during which would-be home owners twiddle their thumbs. "


Other Truth columns here

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

An e-mail from John Ansell

"I hope to see you at my talk - either tonight Wednesday at Lindale Auditorium, Paraparaumu at 7pm, or tomorrow Thursday at the Museum Art Hotel at 6.30pm.

On Monday night in Tauranga, I saw what can happen when a local newspaper allows discussion on racial equality.

As a result of the Weekend Sun running many letters and articles from both sides of the Treaty debate, 200+ people filled the Hotel Armitage conference room to hear my talk 'From Treatygate to a Colourblind State - Let's Be Worldbeaters TOGETHER!'

The 150 local Maori who had planned to protest outside - and whom I was determined to meet - turned out to be only 15, so I invited them in to hear my evidence of the twisting of New Zealand history. We agreed to disagree, but respectfully I'm pleased to say.

The Tauranga audience was 90+% in favour of my proposed poll: 'Do you want a New Zealand where all citizens have equal rights, live under the one law, vote on the one roll, and have their taxes spent according to need, not race?'

They were much relieved and appreciative that the pushback has started. It is now my goal to turn this snowball into an unstoppable avalanche.

I hope Wellingtonians will show just as much willingness to hear my evidence and solutions - and join the discussion at the end - even though our local newspaper is unlikely to give the meeting any coverage.

(You may remember that the DomPost banned my ACT ad asking the perfectly reasonable question: "Fed up with pandering to Maori radicals?")

Thank you for taking the trouble to read this and other emails. I hope to see you this evening or tomorrow evening."

Joel Loffley - another 'killer on bail'?

The jury is deliberating about whether Joel Loffley is guilty of the manslaughter or murder of his partner's child J J Lawrence.

If the verdict is guilty either way, one aspect of the story hasn't been highlighted.

Joel Loffley was "on probation" after a previous assault charge. The ability to put him on probation was afforded by J J Lawrence's mother who provided a "bail address".

Only the Otago Daily Times has reported this detail:

Earlier, Loffley told police he met JJ's mother Josephine on a social networking website. He said she let him move in because he needed a bail address while he faced a charge of male assaults female. The charge related to an alleged assault on his ex-girlfriend.

Loffley had also been to prison earlier because he talked about not wanting to "go back to prison". In the main, only hardened types end up in prison in this country. Even J J 's real father James Ruhe, also in prison, knew of Loffley, knew he was "not to be trusted" because he was trying to get in touch with the mother about him. Judging by Loffley's admitted behaviour while on probation, he should have stayed there.

The number of murders in this country due to bad court decisions is deplorable. This may be another.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Truth column October 26 - Tamihere vs Bennett

Recent Truth columns haven't been posted here because the relevant website section isn't updated yet. Here's my column from October 26, John Tamihere versus Paula Bennett, newly topical because this weekend Tamihere (and company) will be at the Labour Party conference  trying to stake a claim:

Rodney Hide isn't returning to parliament. There's something a bit tired and sad about returned  MPs like Winston Peters and John Banks. He advises, "Move on" and make way for new blood. But will John Tamihere listen? Labour's lukewarm reaction to his publicly-announced ambition to take Waitakere for them hasn't put him off yet.

Tamihere's musings may be motivated by his unresolved court battle with the Ministry of Social Development. It's convenient that the Minister, Paula 'Benefit' as JT calls her, is the MP for Waitakere.  Is this plan some sort of utu should the court find against his organisation, the Waipareira Trust? He's a smart operator and will have considered all outcomes.

Even if Tamihere won Waitakere, but National retained power; if Bennett returned as Minister via the list and JT was appointed shadow welfare minister (easily out-qualifying the current amateur) it would be game on. Undoubtedly they are both scrappers and while Bennett might have looked the feebler party a couple of years back, the interim experience can only have toughened her markedly.

It's the points of difference I can't envisage because Tamihere is actually a better fit with National. Paula Bennett has been implementing the kind of reforms JT has pushed for years. Whanau ora, devolving WINZ money to mentoring organisations, free contraception, etc. Unlike most on the left, he isn't sympathetic to bigger state handouts and is dead-set against encouraging more dependency.

Which brings me back to why? Is he simply slightly jealous of Bennett's achievements? For instance, the law change that kicked-in on October 15. Women who add a child to their benefit will only get one years reprieve from work-testing. Labour couldn't even admit this was a real problem, let alone try and sort it.

Paula's tough. Tough as in 'tough love'. And a tough love Mum is amongst the most disciplined, formidable, fierce types. Too tough for Tamihere I think.

Treasury CE to address Social Service Providers

Not in my neck of the woods unfortunately but I was asked if I'd post the flyer here. Obliging:

Gender pay gap - big yawn...or small yawn?

The only reason I am blogging on this subject is because two headlines - one in the NZ Herald and the second in the DomPost - totally contradict each other.

According to the NZ Herald yesterday:

Gender pay gap widens in New Zealand

The gender pay gap is the biggest it has been in 10 years, according to new data from Statistic New Zealand. The quarterly employment survey shows the gender gap has increased in the year to September by 1.3 per cent, from 12.85 per cent to 14.18 per cent.

But according to the DomPost today it's at an "all time low":

Biggest or smallest?

Who knows and who cares.

Monday, November 12, 2012

MSD cover-up

The front page story in this morning's  DomPost has left me very angry. It concerns an employer who took $5,000 wage subsidies from Work and Income and then failed to pass them on to beneficiaries sent to him.

I'd heard complaints from other employees of Washworks/Shop n Shine back in May this year and started asking the Ministry of Social Development questions. According to my source employees had complained to Work and Income after being short paid or not paid at all, then sacked.

So on 25 May, 2012 I asked under the Official Information Act:

The Ministry responded on 25 June, 2012:

But people had been complaining. That was my understanding and now the DomPost confirms this:

This week Work and Income Wellington regional commissioner Louise Waaka confirmed $39,807 was paid to Mr Willbourne as wage subsidies for 13 beneficiaries.
Nine of the subsidies were for employees at Mr Willbourne's Wellington car washes, and four were for his New Plymouth business.
The money was paid under the now-defunct Job Ops With Training programme, which provided incentives to businesses for employing beneficiaries under 25.
One complaint was received in December regarding holiday pay, and placements at Wash Works were stopped in March after four more complaints were received, Ms Waaka said.
So MSD was telling me they weren't investigating Shop n Shine or any other employer when quite clearly they had received complaints.

Not satisfied with the first response from MSD, on June 28, 2012 I asked more specifically under the Official Information Act:

Has a company called Shop n Shine received Work and Income subsidies and is it under investigation for abuse of those subsidies?

The Ministry responded on 26 July 2012:

So in July MSD denied Shop n Shine (I notice they changed the name in the last sentence but surely that wouldn't have been deliberate?) was under investigation. Yet go back to their earlier response and  they state that any complaints about wage subsidy fraud "will be investigated by Work and Income and referred to NZ Police where evidence of fraud exists."

Shop n Shine must have been under investigation for it to have been "blacklisted".

Was I being misled by semantics regarding 'fraud'? Wilbourne was clearly repeatedly abusing the subsidies.

Additionally, while WINZ claim placements to Washworks ceased in March I believe placements to Shop n Shine did not. I am still trying to confirm that.

According to Work and Income Wellington regional commissioner Louise Waaka, concerns raised about employers were taken very seriously.

As a matter for cover-up maybe.

Now I am wondering how many other  investigations-that-aren't-investigations may be occurring, and the integrity of MSD's responses to my questions.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

More adoptive parents needed

The UK is leading a trend back to adoption:

Michael Gove has called on more people to adopt children. The call comes as it has emerged that more than 4200 children are ready for adoption but have not yet been able to move in with a family – a figure that has grown by 650 in each of the last two years.

The Secretary of State [for Education], who was adopted when he was four months old, said he wants other children to have the same early settled experience of a secure and loving home. It still takes on average two and a half years from a child going into care to being adopted. For that reason the Government has undertaken a series of reforms to make the adoption process swifter, and encourage more people to come forward.

"There are thousands of children around the country waiting for adoption. I was adopted when I was four months old and it changed my life. These children should have the same opportunities as I did and reap all the benefits of being in a loving supportive home."

Hear, hear.

Hear, hear.

We'd have 4,200 babies and children in this country, if not ready for adoption, ripe for adoption.

Two thirds of youth 'unemployed' are 'in education'

Each time the news comes on I hear Labour's Megan Woods talking about how one in four young people is unemployed. The "crisis". The "tragedy".

Yes. Officially they are 'unemployed'. But when you look a little closer two thirds of them are 'in education'. Only 9 percent of all 15-19 year-olds are not in employment, education or training.

That's a picture a little less bleak.

(This tends to also give weight to my earlier suggestion that more young people are being supported by a student allowance instead of the dole hence the low numbers on unemployment benefit.)

Part of my problem with Woods' remonstrations is that young people (and others) begin to believe there are no jobs for them. That they have an excuse not to look.  Even I found myself saying to job-seeking son, "It's tough out there right now", trying to be realistic and ward off a sense of personal failure if he couldn't find work. At the same time I was telling him that prospective employers would appreciate him asking for a job, being proactive and they did.

Megan Woods, Labour MP, on youth unemployment

Megan Woods, Labour MP, is all over radio and TV today talking about the burden on the state of young people on benefits:
The Labour Party is labelling New Zealand's youth unemployment situation a "crisis" and warns the social and financial cost will be felt for years to come. Latest numbers from Statistics New Zealand show the overall unemployment rate's risen to 7.3 percent - a 13 year high - but youth unemployment is much higher, at 25 percent. Labour's Youth Affairs spokesperson, Megan Woods, says the flow-on effects are felt in youth health and welfare pay-outs. “There is the financial burden on our welfare system when we have that many young people who are dependent on the state,” she says.
Labour is very fond of highlighting New Zealand's situation, and by implication National's failing, in isolation to the international recession. In any case, the burden on the state in respect of the unemployment benefit at least, has been reducing (see below).

This graph charts numbers on the unemployment benefit and the associated unemployment rates. Now I'm scratching my head as to the implications of it.

In September 2000 there were 38,500 unemployed 18-24 year-olds and 38,510 on the dole. An almost exact match. At that point under Labour everyone unemployed was on a benefit. But by the end of their term fewer people were getting the dole than were unemployed. This has continued to be the case.

By September 2012 there were 65,200 unemployed 18-24 year-olds but only 13,454 of them on the unemployment benefit.

There are a number of angles one could put on this. More unemployed young people are staying at home and relying on their parents? More are relying on friends?

Or perhaps more are relying on other benefits? In 2000 there were 31,932 on benefits other than the dole; by 2012 there were 41,427. That's what I'd expect given the overall rise in the size of that age group. So no answer there.

Is it possible that a number are supporting themselves via student allowances which had been trending up steeply between 2005 and 2010 (latest available) but have dropped out and are describing themselves as 'unemployed'?

Whatever the reasons are it's a bit silly for Labour to be complaining about the burden to the state of the unemployed when National has been successfully keeping large numbers out of the benefit system.

(My 18 year-old took his CV out to a large retail centre and went around asking for work. Got an interview later in the week as a result and accepted the job on Friday. Hope he hates it and returns to his studies next year:-)).

Friday, November 09, 2012

Why the unemployment rate rose

John Key is very surprised that the unemployment rate jumped to 7.3 percent yesterday because he says other economic indicators are looking more positive.

Here's a possible explanation but I don't have time right now to thoroughly test it.

Well-publicised welfare reforms cause what I call an anticipatory effect. Many current beneficiaries know that they are going to be work-tested in the near future eg people on the DPB had their requirements tightened in October when those with a youngest child aged 5 were brought into the equation. Many know that next year they will be moved onto the new Jobseeker benefit.

People aren't helpless. They think about what having to take any job offered by WINZ might mean and they start looking for themselves. Hence, if they're part of the HLFS survey - the source for the official unemployment rate - they begin to describe themselves differently.

Two groups who have experienced significant increases are Maori and single parents, both disproportionately beneficiaries, so that supports my theory.

There were only 8,000 fewer jobs between the June and September quarters.

So the higher rate is not so much about people losing jobs but more about people becoming available for and seeking work.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Blacklisting 'nutters' and 'menaces' - me

According to Karl du Fresne writing in the Nelson Mail:
I recently had what might be termed a difference of professional opinion with some of my fellow journalists. It was touched off by a newspaper editorial that took a whack at "enthusiastic amateurs" sounding off on such issues as climate change and fluoridation.
Everyone was entitled to their opinion, the editorial writer loftily pronounced, but not all views should be accorded equal weight. The views of people with years of study and experience behind them were worth more than those of non-experts.
"Everyone is free to disagree but ignorance does not have an equal right to be heard," the editorial concluded.
A member of an internet journalism discussion group to which I belong applauded the editorial, saying she couldn't agree more. "These amateur know-it-alls are a menace," she declared.
I thought this a peculiar position for a journalist for take. I mean, aren't we supposed to believe in freedom of speech?
Another member chimed in that the Sensible Sentencing Trust's Garth McVicar should be added to the "list of nutters". Then someone else suggested a couple of other names for what was shaping up as a blacklist: David Round and Lindsay Mitchell.

It makes me cringe when people describe me as an expert. But it makes me cringe even more when they suggest I am a nutter. I cringe on their behalf. Because ostracising  is the lazy resort of the blinkered mind. There is nothing I like more than a debate over what a set of statistics might mean; the clear or cloudy distinction between cause and correlation. It's embarrassing and humbling when I get it wrong but error and correction is one pathway to understanding.

To get beyond "amateur" status would require, I suppose, an expensive university education in the social sciences, saturated  in doctrinaire leftist thinking. No thanks.

Kudos to Karl for defending the right to be heard of those who don't dance to the beat of the dominant drum.

Major defeat for Greens

Yesterday the Greens were desperately seeking Peter Dunne's support:

The Greens and United Future are at odds over moves to change in-work tax credit entitlements. Parliament will debate tonight the Member's Bill of Green co-leader Metiria Turei that would extend the credit to beneficiaries.
United Future MP Peter Dunne says the bill destroys the incentive of Working for Families to get beneficiary families into work.
"I don't really see there's much to be gained from having a discussion at a select committee, when there's such a fundamental difference of view."
But Metiria Turei says she's offered major compromises to Mr Dunne to get his support and he's turned them all down.
"Peter Dunne committed himself at the last election to a campaign to reduce inequality. Now is the chance for him to have the discussion on how we can do that and he's refusing to."

Dunne hung tough against this stupid idea to reverse what was originally a Labour- implemented policy to build a margin between benefits and earned income.

Looks like it died a death.

The first reading of the Income Tax (Universalisation of In-work Tax Credit) Amendment Bill was not agreed to.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Someone is knowingly lying here. Is it Red Alert?

This is from the last published NZ Yearbook - 2010. Not fully up-to-date but it'll suffice.

Between 2004 and 2009 there was an average of 8.5 construction-related deaths (investigated by OSH).

In a post about "unsafe building practices", Red Alert says:

The NZ Herald reported on November 2nd that since July, more than 400 actions have been taken against 760 construction sites for not complying with guidelines on safe working at height. Inspectors shut down 215 of the sites, and issued more than 160 written warnings requiring immediate remedial action.
While Construction Minister Maurice Williamson finally admits there is a problem, this Government has had four years in office, and in the meantime, we’ve had an average of 100 deaths a year, with workplace injuries and fatalities reportedly costing New Zealand about $3.5 billion annually.
Better check out what the NZ Herald said:

Workplace injuries and fatalities cost New Zealand about $3.5 billion annually and 100 people on average die each year.

100 workplace fatalities. That means 'construction' and every and any other industry. This is a classic case of conflation.

Each of these deaths  represents untold grief and it's unpleasant to discuss them in the context of controversial statistics. But I cannot believe that in 2010 and 2011 deaths due to building accidents increased twelve-fold.

I heard a caller to talkback pushing this so-called building fatality rate. His position was that if they all happened at once it would be a national disaster but because they happened in a staggered fashion they went under the radar. He said he was a building safety officer so no excuse for getting it so wrong. Perhaps he was a  Labour propagandist.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Seven years for encouraging a pitbull-puppy attack

A seven year prison sentence for setting a pitbull on another person seems steep. Not because it's a trivial crime. I'm not uncomfortable with the sentence per se but how other sentences for arguably worse crimes compare. The judge is certainly making a statement.


A man who rammed an ambulance, used a car as a weapon, drove recklessly, and assaulted people was jailed for three years with a non-parole term of 18 months, in the Christchurch District Court today.

A teen, described in court as "a law unto himself", who used his car to ram a man sitting in a car in Greymouth has been jailed.Nineteen-year-old Jed Wilson-Calver was appearing in Christchurch District Court for sentence after pleading guilty to the charge of assault using a car as a weapon. Judge Erber said he could not consider home detention because of Wilson-Calver's attitude to community sentences.He jailed him for a total of eight months.

And just for good measure:

Attacks using dogs on Asian people walking in the streets of Christchurch have brought eight month jail terms for the owners and death for the dogs.Those jailed were 18-year-old Phillipa Ann Parker and her ex-boyfriend Steven Brian Donaldson, 25, who both admitted the attacks had racial overtones. Donaldson had admitted two charges of assault, and Parker admitted one charge of assault, and two charges of assault using dogs as weapons.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

For animals needing homes

We got our gorgeous Beagle Lexie from HUHA earlier this year. They do fantastic work pledging to keep any animal needing a sanctuary until it can be re-homed. One of the integral people Lisa Rawlins has set a goal to fund raise $1,500 through running the Taupo Half Ironman. Have a look at the site and pitch in if you can. I can't praise the work they do enough.

Dead babies

Nothing new to say about the latest casualty except this was better:

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Deloitte Report

Deloitte's report into the Work and Income Kiosk breach is available on-line here

I've scanned through it and my overriding reflection is that MSD staff (or contractors) were aware of the potential for security breaches via the kiosks but for whatever reason, didn't take action.

It's short on content but my post is mainly to alert interested parties that the report is publicly available.

Meerkats in my back garden

I've been clearing scrub and landscaping the steep hill behind our house. Love my meerkats! So tacky but so at home. The second view is how we see them from inside the house through the windows surrounding the back stairwell. Great to be greeted by them each morning.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

DomPost: Whale now editor at Truth

Commenting yesterday at The Standard Bomber Bradbury said he and Ross Meurant had both resigned. I didn't.

The cost of benefit fraud

According to the NZ Herald:
"Benefit fraud cost taxpayers a record $22.6 million last year, tripling from $7.5 million five years ago."
The source for the first part of the quote is here.

The second is here

 However, according to MSD:

Fraud prosecutions

The numbers of prosecutions decreased in 2010/2011
This reduction followed a slight increase between 2008/2009 and 2009/2010.
Patterns in the numbers of prosecutions may reflect patterns in the volume of cases investigated. Prosecution numbers are expected to stabilise in 2011/2012.

It's odd that prosecutions have decreased but the "cost to the taxpayer" is escalating.

2007/08 1,028
2008/09  735
2009/10 789
2010/11 690

So the assumption must be that the value of the debt per case has risen significantly. And there have been some biggies.

Anyway, my point is, telling us benefit fraud is costing the taxpayer $22.6 million is an understatement. In 2010/11 the established value of overpayments due to fraud and abuse investigations was nearly $40 million; a further (if I am interpreting the data correctly) $34 million in overpayments was established through data matching programmes and it costs around $37 million to fund integrity services.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Baby 4,444,444

Tomorrow New Zealand's 4,444,444th citizen is likely to be a new born baby according to Statistics NZ.

According to population estimates, on 1 November, somebody will become New Zealand’s 4,444,444th resident.
“While the new resident could be a New Zealander flying home after living overseas, or a new migrant, they’re most likely to be a new baby, as that’s where most of our population growth is coming from,” population statistics manager Andrea Blackburn said.
“And who knows? That new boy or girl might even be born at 4.44 in the morning.”
The symmetrical milestone matches one the Australian state of Queensland reached three years ago, and puts our population very close to that of Ireland or Croatia, Mrs Blackburn said.
“These types of landmarks are quite rare. Our population hit 3,333,333 in the mid-1980s and based on our projections, we probably won’t get to 5,555,555 for another 30 years.

On the balance of probabilities I won't see it. Seems to me the country could benefit greatly from faster and smarter population growth.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The psychological health of working mothers

This graph relates to Swedish women.

The accompanying commentary, from reads:

Swedish working mothers not so happy afterall
Why is the mental health of working Swedish women among the worst in the developed world? Isn’t Sweden the Mecca of work-life balance, where heavily subsidised childcare and other family friendly policies make it a model state for women’s equality?
Maybe, but something seems to have gone wrong. Over the last two decades in many OECD countries younger workers increasingly have been exiting the workforce on disability pensions (mainly related to mental illness and back problems) but the psychiatric trend has been more pronounced among younger women, and most pronounced of all among Swedish women workers.

First, there is a trend across developed nations for people to resort to disability benefits for mental illness . I blogged about the trend in NZ just recently.

Second, as women have made up an increasing proportion of the workforce it follows more claims for work-related disability will occur. The graph cannot tell us whether the workplace or the home, or a combination of both lead to these claims.

Third, the medical profession plays a large part in the trend. GPs have been more prone to diagnosing and treating mental illness.

Fourth, where is the associated graph for men? It is quite probably similar.

Fifth, the commentary goes on to point out those most at risk are lone mothers. It isn't news that single mothers experience worse mental and physical health but it's not clear whether this predisposes them to being single parents or is a result of being a single parent.

Sixth, the rises look dramatic when depicted in this way. The sharpest increase has gone from 10 per 10,000 to 45 per 10,000 but expressed another way, the rate has  gone from 0.1 to 0.45 percent.

Seventh, the charts go to 2005 and at the latest point show drops so it'd be interesting to know if those decreases were the beginning of a reversal trend.

Eighth, for single parents, the alternative to work is welfare. As the researchers seem to be using disability pension claims as proxy for the incidence of mental illness they should also look at other indicators that would be measurable among lone non-working mothers.

The Family in America comments:

Summarizing their findings, the researchers conclude, “A considerable part of the social expenses due to DP should be attributed to lone working women with children. Their illness and decreased work capacity have implications not only for the mothers but probably also for the children.” American policymakers should recognize this study’s cautionary implications: policies that promote maternal employment while inhibiting marriage will cost the country dearly.

This is the bind we have come to.

Welfare for single parents has had an undoubted detrimental effect on relationship formation and stability. The only way to turn the tide  is to take it away. That can only be done if parents go to work, and new entrants are turned away. I wouldn't accept these findings as good reason to promote welfare over work. In fact it might be argued that those women not coping with being a parent and working are self-selecting out of the workforce by moving onto disability benefits. While the thousands of other mothers who are doing better working than on welfare remain in the workforce.

(Hat-tip Bob McCoskrie)