Tied up for Tony

July 30, 2014

Parliament will be especially colourful today.

The best Health Minister in recent times, Tony Ryall, is delivering his valedictory speech this afternoon and his National Party colleagues are getting all tied up in tribute to his sartorial splendour:

Photo: On the day of his Valedictory Speech, National MPs are emulating Tony Ryall's infamous shirt-and-tie combos in tribute to an exceptional career.


Rural round-up

July 23, 2014

Farming family demonstrate conservation message – Ann Warnock:

Dan Steele is a farmer, conservationist, competitive axeman, hunter, historian, lodge host, rugby fan and romantic who never dreamed he’d turn into a bird geek.

But at the age of 21, while wandering up the banks of the Kaiwhakauka Stream at Retaruke Station, his parents’ remote property on the Whanganui River, he spied a family of blue ducks (whio) and they unwittingly shaped the rest of his life.

“I love exploring and poking about up every stream; climbing every ridge. On this particular day I saw two adults with their five ducklings. The next time I saw them there were only three ducklings. Then there were none. I phoned the DOC ranger. They were endangered. It hit me; protecting the blue duck was part of the future of our land.” . . .

Boost for horticulture and viticulture industry:

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse have announced plans for a new programme aimed at getting more Kiwis into seasonal work, alongside an increase to the annual RSE cap.

Mr Woodhouse says the need to raise the cap on Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers from 8000 to 9000 demonstrates the success of the RSE scheme.

“There’s no doubt that the growth in the horticulture and viticulture industry in the past few years would not have been possible without RSE, which has been widely praised locally and internationally,” says Mr Woodhouse.

“It has provided employers with a stable and reliable workforce and given them confidence to expand and invest in their business. RSE workers have also benefitted significantly from gaining invaluable work experience and being able to send money back to their communities at home.’’ . . .

NZ Pacific encouraged for new Seasonal Worker Scheme:

Domestic Pacific workers can be as successful as overseas Pacific workers in the horticulture and viticulture industries says Pacific Island Affairs Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga.
 
Mr Lotu-Iiga is encouraging employers to take up the New Zealand Seasonal Worker Scheme announced today by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett. The scheme will provide pastoral care and other support to assist Kiwis into seasonal work. Mrs Bennett also announced an increase to the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme. The scheme recruits seasonal workers from overseas to assist in the horticulture and viticulture industries where there are not enough New Zealand workers.
 
“I was in Marlborough in the weekend speaking to employers, Pacific RSE workers and domestic Pacific workers and I saw first-hand the benefits of Pacific people working in the wine industry,” says Mr Lotu-Iiga. . .

Pork industry joins GIA biosecurity agreement:

The Government and the commercial pork industry have committed to a partnership to strengthen biosecurity, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced today.

The Deed of the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) on Biosecurity Readiness and Response was signed by New Zealand Pork at its annual conference today.

“This enables New Zealand Pork and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to make joint decisions on biosecurity readiness and response activities. It means we can focus on the areas of greatest priority to the pork industry,” Mr Guy says.

“What it means in practice is a stronger, more effective biosecurity system. Those with a direct stake in biosecurity can now be directly involved in decision making and funding. . .

– Keith Woodford:

Last week I wrote about PGG Wrightson and the challenges it faces. For their seeds division there are clear strategic options, but for the farm services division, the long term strategy remains challenging. Part of the reason is the competition they are facing from the farm services co-operatives, with Farmlands now dominant in the sector.

Farmlands has 56,000 members and an annual turnover exceeding $2 billion. This is more than double the New Zealand farm services revenue of its major investor-owned competitor, PGG Wrightson. The aim of Farmlands is to keep prices low for its members. This ensures that its investor-oriented competitor also has to keep its margins low. . . .

The truth about grassfed beef – The Food Revolution Network:

A lot of people today, horrified by how animals are treated in factory farms and feedlots, and wanting to lower their ecological footprint, are looking for healthier alternatives. As a result, there is a decided trend toward pasture-raised animals. One former vegetarian, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford, says he now eats meat, but only “grassfed and organic and sustainable as possible, reverentially and deeply gratefully, and in small amounts.”

Sales of grassfed and organic beef are rising rapidly. Ten years ago, there were only about 50 grassfed cattle operations left in the U.S. Now there are thousands.

How much difference does it make? Is grassfed really better? If so, in what ways, and how much? . . .

New Zealand Meat Exports October 2013 to June 2014:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) compiles lamb, mutton and beef export statistics for the country. The following is a summary of the combined export statistics for the first nine months of the 2013-14 meat export season (1 October 2013 to 30 June 2014).

[All monetary values are in New Zealand dollars.]

Summary

Despite the high New Zealand dollar, particularly during the main export months of January to June, there was an increase in the average value for lamb, mutton and beef/veal. A smaller national lamb crop flowed through to reduced lamb export volumes. However, for only the fourth time in history, lamb exports exceeded $2 billion Free On Board (FOB) in the first nine months of a season.  . . .

New veterinary resource to manage disease in cattle associated with Theileria:

A new veterinary handbook on Theileria, developed by the Theileria Working Group and published by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA), will help to ensure that veterinarians and their farmer clients are well prepared to manage the expected spring upsurge in infections with this important, new parasite of cattle.

The number of affected farms is expected to exceed those reported in the last two years with nearly 700 beef and dairy herds testing positive so far, with about a third of these occurring in the North Island this year.  . .

 Brown Re-Elected as Council Chairman for Third Term, Duncan Coull New Deputy Chair:

Fonterra Shareholders’ Council Chairman, Ian Brown has today been re-elected unopposed to the position for a third term.

Ian Brown: “I appreciate the support I continue to receive from Councillors and look forward to leading the Council for a further 12 months.”

Mr Brown is joined by first time Deputy Chair, Duncan Coull, also elected unopposed, who will take up his new role on 29 July for a 12 month term.
Mr Coull was elected to the Council in 2010 to represent Fonterra Farmers in Otorohanga and serves as the Chair of the Council’s Representation Committee. . . .


Loopy regs & red tape cut

July 23, 2014

Local Government Minister Paula Bennett has announced the establishment of a new taskforce to rid New Zealand of loopy rules and regulations.

“The Rules Reduction Taskforce in partnership with local government will work closely with the public to weed out pedantic and unnecessary rules that frustrate property owners and councils alike. 

“We’ve seen rules and regulations brought in over decades that were well intentioned but end up being confusing, onerous and costly while failing to deliver any real benefit for the property owner or the wider public,” says Mrs Bennett.

The Taskforce will be up and running in October.  As well as central and local government experts, it will include specialists from the building and trades sector. 

“Anyone doing building work knows just how frustrating and costly the bureaucracy can get.  We want to hear from property owners, builders, tradespeople and businesses on rules and regulations that are crying out for sensible change.

“There will be a website where people can send us examples of loopy rules and the Taskforce will hear submissions from the public on areas ripe for change.

“We have rules dictating all sorts of weird and wonderful things from signage over cake stalls to where your shower curtains need to be positioned. 

“In another example, a property owner trying to replace a 130 year old fence discovered some of it was on a scenic reserve and they faced having to buy or lease the land.

“While there’s always a degree of rationale behind these rules, the Taskforce will be charged with identifying what should stay and what should go so people can get on with the job of building, renovating or event planning without have to wade through a morass of unnecessary rules,” says Mrs Bennett.

Some rules are there for a reason, others defy all reason.

Some might have once had a reason – like the requirement to have a harbour master when for all harbours when they all had commercial traffic but no longer make sense when the commercial shipping doesn’t go there any more.

But some really do seem to be the result of bureaucracy gone mad and result in red tape that does nothing but add costs and complication to what should be simple activities and enterprises.

 
We’re going to work with local government to cut red tape. What are some of your experiences of local regulations, which affect your property, that could be improved? #Working4NZ ntnl.org.nz/1rlcm3Q


Welfare numbers lowest since 2008

July 19, 2014

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has released latest benefit figures showing the number of people on welfare for the June quarter is the lowest since 2008, with sole parents leading the impressive results.

“There are over 16,000 fewer people on welfare compared to June 2013, with the total number currently 293,586,” Mrs Bennett said.

“When we look back just a few years to 2010, when benefit numbers were around 352,000, it’s clear to see the difference that welfare reforms are making, alongside New Zealand’s strong and growing economy.” 

Numbers on the Jobseeker Support benefit have decreased by almost 7,500 since last year and have been consistently declining since 2010, even as the overall working age population has increased over the same time.

“Most significant is the 10.7 per cent total drop in people on the Sole Parent Support benefit in the past year, which is happening nationwide with 12 per cent drops in Nelson and Waikato, and an 11.9 per cent drop in the Bay of Plenty, as well as big decreases in Canterbury and Auckland,” Mrs Bennett said

“Sole parents, particularly those who go on benefit in their teens, have the highest lifetime costs of any group on welfare and are more likely to stay on benefit the longest.”

“We’ve deliberately targeted our welfare reforms at sole parents by investing millions into intensive support and training and into help with study and childcare, so that working while raising children alone is achievable, and rewarding.” 

The latest figures also point to positive trends in the years to come, with the number of teen parents aged 18 and 19 on the Young Parent Payment decreasing by 11.7 per cent.

“With teen parents spending an average of 19 years on benefit and costing around $246,000 over a lifetime, the headway we are making now will pay off for generations,” Mrs Bennett said. 

The intensive wrap-around support through Youth Services and the tailored support Work and Income case managers are providing each person they work with is paying off – for taxpayers and for people who were otherwise at risk of long term welfare dependency.

The drop in benefit numbers is good for those directly affected and indirectly for all of us.

Moving from welfare to work has economic and social benefits for those who do it and their dependants.

The more people who can help themselves do, the more there is to support those who can’t.

Reducing the long-term cost of welfare provides significant savings which benefit the country as a whole.

 

I’m proud that our growing economy and welfare reforms are enabling more Kiwis to take control of their own lives. http://ntnl.org.nz/1mT7i5r #Working4NZ


Fewer teen births

July 9, 2014

One of National’s initiatives was to take an actuarial approach to welfare.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett sought, and got, figures for the long-term cost of welfare then worked on policies which would help reduce it.

Among the initiatives she introduced were those aimed at reducing teen-births – and they’re working.

Lindsay Mitchell writes:

. . . For years I have agitated about the long-term DPB population being derived from teenage births. The children of these parents form the most at-risk group.

But from 2008 the number of teenage births started dropping. In 2013 there were 29 percent fewer than in 2009.

But even better, at March 2009 there were 4,425 teenage parents on any main benefit. By March 2014 the number had dropped to 2,560. A 42 percent reduction.

The really important news is it’s happening across all ethnicities.The proportions are reasonably stable.

In 2009, 52 percent were Maori; in 2013, 55 percent.

For Pacific Island, the proportion rose slightly from 9 to 11 percent.

NZ European dropped from 29 to 25 percent.

The percentage who are aged 16-17 dropped from slightly from 16.5 to 15%.

The percentage who are male is unchanged 4%.

This means thousands fewer children experiencing poor outcomes – ill-health, disconnect from education,  in and out of fostercare, potentially abused and neglected, having the cards stacked against them from the outset.

Thousands of would-be teen mums will keep their own lives and  potential, and hopefully have children when they are ready to.

It’s a fantastic development.

National deserve at least some credit for it with their new young parent mentoring and benefit management regime. . .

The government can’t claim all the credit, but it has played an important part.

Measures to reduce teen benefit dependency haven’t been punitive nor have they been cheap.

They have involved working with young people to help them turn their lives around for their own sakes and those of their children.

That has both social and financial benefits for them and for the rest of us.

 


Incomes up, poverty down, inequality flat

July 9, 2014

The left tried to manufacture a manufacturing crisis and manufacturing improved.

They’ve declared a housing crisis and are particularly critical of the government’s social housing initiatives.

But Lindsay Mitchell reports good news on that front too:

. . . On the positive side,  in March 2008 the HNZC waiting list stood at 9,935. Now the number is 5,840 and includes those waiting for other social housing. A good news story for National. . .

And there’s improvement on two other problems on which the Left has been critical of the government – child poverty and inequality.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has welcomed the latest Household Incomes Report showing child poverty has fallen three percent.

“Today’s release shows we are making progress.  From a survey conducted between July 2012 and June 2013, findings show that median household incomes rose four percent in real terms in the two years since July 2011,” says Mrs Bennett.

“While the gains since 2011 were shared reasonably evenly across incomes, the global recession in the two years previous impacted slightly more on lower incomes.  The report also shows that trend-line inequality has remained flat.

“This latest research shows New Zealand households have bounced back.  In the past year 84,000 more jobs have been added to the New Zealand economy, 8,600 sole parents have come off benefit in the past year and there are nearly 30,000 fewer children in benefit dependent households compared to two years ago.

Moving from welfare to work is one of the best ways to address poverty for adults and any children who depend on them.

Yet the opposition have opposed and criticised every move National has made to help people get off benefits and on to wages.

“Nevertheless the Government recognises more needs to be done to support our most vulnerable families. 

“Which is why, on top of free breakfasts to all schools that want it, a social worker in all decile 1-3 schools and warming up nearly 300,000 homes, we are in this year’s budget investing nearly $500 million over four years in services and support for families. 

Initiatives include:

  • $171.8 million to boost the paid parental leave scheme. Paid leave will be extended by four weeks – starting with a two-week extension from 1 April 2015, and another two weeks from 1 April 2016. The eligibility of paid parental leave will also be expanded to include caregivers other than parents (for example, permanent guardians), and to extend payments to people in less-regular work or who recently changed jobs.
  • $42.3 million to increase the parental tax credit from $150 a week to $220 a week, and increase the entitlement from eight weeks to 10 weeks, from 1 April 2015.
  • $90 million to enable GPs to offer free doctors’ visits and prescriptions for children under the age of 13, starting on 1 July 2015. Over 400,000 more children will benefit by including six- to 12-year-olds.
  • An additional $155.7 million to help early childhood centres remain affordable, meet demand pressures and increase participation towards the Government’s 98 per cent target.
  • $33.2 million in 2014/15 to help vulnerable children, including eight new children’s teams around the country to identify and work with at-risk children and their families, to screen people who work with children, and to support children in care.

“Recognising that housing costs are a significant issue for low income families, the Government is investing $95.7 million of new money into social housing over the next four years.

“There’s more financial assistance to help people into private rentals to free up social housing for those who need it most, there’s new funding to grow more social housing in partnership with NGOs, and easier social housing assessment processes with the transfer of responsibility to Work and Income

“This Government is determined to improve the lives of children in low income families by targeting resources to services and support that are guaranteed to make a difference for those children,” says Mrs Bennett. 

The Household Incomes Report for the 2012 calendar year can be found at: www.msd.govt.nz

Lindsay Mitchell notes:

Using MSD’s Economic Living Standards Index (ELSI), hardship rates for children rose from 15% in the 2007 HES to 21% in HES 2011, then fell to 17% in HES 2012. The trend finding is robust, though the actual levels at any time depend on a judgement call on the threshold used.

 Poorer people will always be hardest hit by hard times.

But the government borrowed to take the hardest edges off the GFC for the most vulnerable and has put a lot of effort into addressing the causes of poverty – one of the biggest of which is benefit dependence.

There’s still a long way to go but the trend is in the right direction – inequality is stable, benefit dependency has reduced and poverty is declining.


Voters led they weren’t led

June 16, 2014

Discussions on whether National could or should come to an accommodation with the Conservative Party over an electorate seat have missed big differences between what its leader Colin Craig  wants and what’s happened with other parties and seats.

Existing accommodation were led by voters.

Peter Dunne already held his seat before it was suggested National voters would be better to give him their electorate votes.

Rodney Hide won his seat when then-Epsom MP Richard Worth was trying to hold it.

Both were already MPs.

That is very different from trying to lead people away from MPs like Maggie Barry, Murray McCully or Mark Mitchell who hold their seats with good majorities or Paula Bennett who is expected to win the new one she’s contesting and expect them to vote for a candidate who’s not an MP.

Voters leading as they did with Dunne and Hide, then Banks, is democracy in action. Voters had options and they chose to use them.

Trying to lead them as Craig hopes to do is something else and there’s a danger that attempting it could lose National more votes than the Conservatives gained.

The Conservatives have a constituency but it’s not a large one and just as the idea of a government with the Green, Internet and Mana parties put some voters off Labour, any whiff of an accommodation with the Conservatives could put people off National.


Politics Daily

June 15, 2014

This is an attempt to replace Dr Bryce Edwards’ daily political round-up while he’s taking a break.

I’m not pretending to be balanced.

While I link to a range of news stories, the blogs I link to are usually from the centre to the bluer end of the political spectrum or the more reasonable or witty bits of the pink to red end.

You’re welcome to leave links to other news and blogs in comments.

Election

Torben Akel @ TV3 – The new breed of career MPs

TV3 – National too hard to beat – Craig

TV3 – Patrick Gower interviews Conservative Party Leader Colin Craig

Danyl  Mclauchlan @ Dim Post – The awful choice

Vernon Small & Josh Fagan  @ – No easy ride on the Shore for Craig

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Why Colin Craig is a political fool

Scott Palmer @ Interest.Co.NZ – Election 2014 – Party Policies – Party Philosophies

Craig Simpson @ Interest.Co.NZ – http://www.interest.co.nz/news/69928/budget-2014-summary-all-spending-plans”>Budget 2014 – Spending plan

Scott Palmer @ Interest.Co.NZ – Election 2014 – Party Policies – Immigration

Tim Watkin @ Pundit – Dirty deal dancing – when Colin finally meets Key

Peter Dunne – UnitedFuture candidates announced

Beehive

Paula Bennett – Are you that someone – let’s stop sexual violence campaign

Paula Bennett – Work and Income support pays off

Gerry Brownlee – New start for Re:START mall

Nikki Kaye – 500 schools connected to Network for Learning

Jo Goodhew – Inclusive communities help prevent elder abuse

IMP

Rodney Hide @ NZ Herald –  Hilarious Dotcom drama is riveting

Trade

TVNZ – Groser – Government may not seek bipartisan support for TPP

Education

TV3 – Patrick Gower interviews Education Minister Hekia Parata

Social Media

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Another SMOG from guess who?

Matthew Beveridge - 2014 Election Campaign Social Media Awards

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Whatever happened to Tamati’s tweet?

Matthew Beveridge – It isn’t the crime, it is the cover up: Tamati Coffey

Matthew Beveridge – Twitter Stats: 13 June

Matthew Beveridge - Twitter Stats 13 June

Team NZ

NZ Taxpayers’ Union - Government Should Say No to More America’s Cup Money

Kerre McIvor @ NZ Herald – Eyeing cup again? Go fund yourselves

Alf Grumble – Grant Dalton should forget about taxpayers puffing more wind into Team NZ’s sails

Winston Peters

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – Winston’s $158,000 and the Susan Couch trust

Brendan Horan

David Fisher @ NZ Herald – Horan’s half-brother instigated changes to mother’s will

David Fisher @ NZ Herald – Horan: our side of the story

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog - Horan’s side

Labour

The Veteran @ No Minister - Blood sports – better than the ABs (or Cs) even

Crime

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog –

Forestry

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Another crisis averted

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Looks like Labour’s forestry crisis is over

Other

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – If you are an MP, the small laws are really just suggestions

The Veteran @ No Minister - On The EU and the Common Agriculture Policy madness

TV3 - Lisa Owen interviews Professor Jonathan Boston and Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills


It’s about values

May 14, 2014

Why join a political party?

Why support a political party?

Why vote for a political party?

It’s about values – yours, the party whose values best match them and politicians who are guided by them.

 

Photo: What she said. http://nzyn.at/3moreyears</>


$3k sweetener for Chch job seekers

May 7, 2014

The government has announced a $3,000 sweetener for job seekers who move to Christchurch for work.

The Government is providing further support for the Canterbury rebuild with $3.5 million of new operating funding for 2014/15 in Budget 2014 to assist beneficiaries to take up work in Christchurch.

“We’re offering up to 1,000 beneficiaries a one-off payment of $3,000 each if they have a full-time job offer in Canterbury and are ready and willing to move there,” Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says.

“The rebuild is creating thousands of jobs in Christchurch, and there are people around New Zealand ready to take them up, but who don’t currently have the means to get there.

“With an unemployment rate in Canterbury of 3.4 per cent – lower than the 6 per cent rate nationally – there are plenty of opportunities. There is demand not only in construction, but in hospitality, retail and many other industries too.

“Work and Income will be working closely with employers to connect them with beneficiaries who’d be suited to work for them, and I’m confident this incentive will provide a boost for the rebuild, and for the employment prospects of beneficiaries,” Mrs Bennett says.

The $3,000 payment will help beneficiaries with the move to Canterbury, sorting accommodation, clothing, tools and any other purchases they might need to make when getting settled.

This offer will be open to beneficiaries of all ages, but a particular focus will be placed on young people aged 18-24 years, as the rebuild provides the opportunity for them to gain employment skills that will set them up for life.

To qualify, the job offered must be for over 30 hours a week, and for longer than 91 days. The payment will be non-taxable, and exempt from an income and asset test.

If the recipient goes back on benefit within three months of the payment without a sufficient reason, then the payment must be repaid.

This initiative will cover jobs within the geographical areas of Ashburton, Hurunui, Selwyn, and Waimakariri District Councils, and the Christchurch City Council.

Christchurch needs more workers.

People in other places need work but might not be able to afford the costs of shifting.

This initiative will help solve both problems.

Another way to move off welfare, and into work. It helps Christchurch with its rebuild and gives a hand up to someone in need of a job that wants to work.


Cheaper loans, better budgeting

May 6, 2014

The government announced two initiatives which will help people manage their money better.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announced today a new community finance partnership that will see interest free and low interest loans made available to New Zealanders who need them.

The Government is partnering with Bank of New Zealand, Good Shepherd NZ and The Salvation Army to develop a finance initiative that will offer people on low incomes affordable and sustainable credit. Good Shepherd will bring many years of delivering community finance programmes in Australia to the table.

“People on low incomes are vulnerable in their credit options with many tempted by easy finance. The initiative will see sustainable loans available for some people that might not otherwise be able to service a loan with high interest rates and hidden fees,” says Mrs Bennett. 

Beginning with a one-year pilot, BNZ is committing $10 million to the initiative for up to five years that provides a real alternative to loan sharks and pay day lenders.

Today’s announcement honours commitments made in last year’s Budget to boost practical support for people on low incomes.

Mrs Bennett says this is the latest in a string of initiatives by the Government to help people access everyday necessities.

“We’re already helping beneficiaries and people on low incomes buy whiteware and more children are being fed in schools. Now we’re focused on increasing the wellbeing of families by assisting them to avoid unscrupulous lenders and their crippling interest rates,” said Mrs Bennett.

Loan sharks and pay-day lenders pray on the poor.

This initiative will give people a safer and much more affordable alternative to the usurious loans they resort to now.

The government also announced new operating funding of $22 million over four years for non-government organisations delivering community budgeting services to families.

“Budgeting services are providing critical help to thousands of Kiwis who are able to make a real difference in their lives with new money management skills,” Mrs Bennett says.

“This new investment sees baseline funding rise by 61 per cent from $9 million a year to $15 million a year by 2015/16 and will ensure the services are able to keep up with demand.

“Being able to manage your money is vital to be able to improve your living standards. 

“This Government is committed to helping people to help themselves. It’s far better for people to learn and develop budgeting skills and avoid being caught in a constant cycle of bills and debts.

“Budgeting services have helped to reduce repeat hardship assistance requests. The work of providers in this sector deserves our recognition and support,” Mrs Bennett says.

Sustainable loans and budgeting advice are two great initiatives to help people manage their money.

It’s not only poor people who have problems budgeting.

Apropos of that a suggestion from the Young Nats at National’s Northern conference at the weekend for financial literacy education has merit.

 

Photo: Northern Young Nats have pushed for a policy of financial literacy education in schools. What do you think?


Mindset change

April 22, 2014

A change in mindset is credited for reducing the number of people on sole parent benefits  to the lowest in two decades.

A single parents’ group says “a complete change of mindset” has helped reduce the number of people on the sole parent benefit to the lowest level in more than 20 years.

Numbers on sole parent support have plunged by 8600, or 10 per cent, in the year to March.

It is the biggest drop in a single year since the benefit – previously known as the domestic purposes benefit, or DPB – was created in 1974.

Sole parent support is now being paid to 75,844 sole parents, fewer than in any year in the DPB’s history since 1988.

About 22,000 people with no children under 14 were moved to other benefits when the DPB was abolished last July, but even if they were added back in, the total number of sole parents on any kind of benefit is the lowest since 1993.

Auckland Single Parents Trust founder Julie Whitehouse said tighter rules, which require sole parents to look for part-time work when their youngest child turns 5 and fulltime work when that child turns 14, had completely changed attitudes.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s so good that I can’t even get them to volunteer time. The whole mindset has changed.”

Asked how many of her 580 members now had jobs, she said: “The shift is incredible, I’m almost tempted to say 100 per cent – it really is big. All the attitudes changed. Everybody knew that when your child is 5 you have to go to work.”

The improvement is partly due to the economic recovery. Statistics NZ surveys show employment rose by 67,000 last year and the unemployment rate dropped from 6.8 per cent to 6 per cent.

But the 10.2 per cent drop in sole-parent welfare rolls in the year to March was almost twice the 5.3 per cent drop in jobseeker support. . .

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett explains what the reduction in people on benefits means for children:

We all know that one of the best things that we can do for children is to ensure their parents are in work and not on a benefit. The Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty report said that “having a parent in paid employment is the most important way to move a child out of poverty”. That is why I am so pleased to see that there are 8,600 fewer sole parents on a benefit, and there are also 17,700 fewer children now living in beneficiary households compared with March last year, and a whopping 29,500 children fewer than 2 years ago. This Government’s investment in supporting sole parents is paying off.

Alfred Ngaro: What else do the figures show about how welfare reforms are helping children?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Fewer teenagers are having babies and going on the benefit. There are fewer of those beneficiaries. That means that the fewer whom we have going on now, the fewer we will have in the longer term, because they are the group that is most likely to stay there the longest. Teen pregnancy is falling, with 3,303 babies being born to mothers under 20 in 2013. That figure is down by 36 percent from 2008.

Hon Anne Tolley: That’s excellent.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, it is. It is really amazing. The benefit figures also show a 13.4 percent decrease in young parents aged 18 and under getting the young parent payment. This is a significant policy development in this area, and one that is great for teenagers and those babies. . .

The opposition has fought welfare reform at every step.

But preventing people from going onto welfare and moving those on it into work as quickly as possible is the best way to reduce poverty.
Photo: The number of people on the single parent's benefit is the lowest it has been in more than 20 years. Welfare reform is working. http://nzyn.at/1kK4cyz

 


Welfare numbers back to pre-rescession levels

April 19, 2014

The number of people receiving welfare has dropped back to pre-recession levels.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the latest benefit figures showing a five year low confirm New Zealand welfare numbers are back to where they were pre-global recession.

Benefit numbers have dropped five percent or nearly 15,000 to 295,320 in the past year (March 2013 – March 2014).  This has resulted in 17,700 fewer children living in beneficiary households compared to March last year and a whopping 29,500 children fewer than two years ago.

“Beneficiary numbers have fallen to the lowest level since March 2009.  When the Government took office in late 2008, the global financial crisis was already beginning to bite with benefit numbers increasing in the three quarters prior to and including the election,” says Mrs Bennett.

“The big success is the 10 per cent drop in sole parents and their children coming off Sole Parent Support. 

“More than 8,600 sole parents have come off Sole Parent Support in the past 12 months, making up almost 60 per cent of the total reduction.

“Particularly pleasing is the 13.4 per cent decrease in young parents aged 18 on Young Parent Payments.  We know that going on a benefit as teenager with children puts that person and their kids at huge risk of becoming trapped in welfare dependency. 

“In fact 70 per cent of the country’s future liability welfare bill can be attributed to people who first went on benefit in their teens.

“The reductions we’re now seeing will mean fewer people on benefit in the years to come.  We have more young people getting education and training through our Youth Service support which means we’re going to see healthier, more prosperous households,” says Mrs Bennett.

“Post peak recession in March 2010, beneficiaries made up 12 per cent of the working age population.  This has dropped to 10.6 per cent as at the end of March. 

“This Government is putting more money than ever before into the welfare system.  We are supporting people earlier, being clearer in our job expectations and putting more focus on at-risk teens.  All of this is making a significant difference.

“Only a few weeks ago New Zealand was judged the best country in the world to live in – our latest welfare figures show things are just getting better,” says Mrs Bennett.

Full benefit data is available at: http://www.msd.govt.nz

There are obvious financial benefits for the individuals on welfare and the country from having fewer beneficiaries and their children.

Just as important are the social outcomes which go with work rather than welfare – better health and education outcomes, less crime . . .

The decrease has been achieved by improving economic conditions and active engagement with beneficiaries to help and encourage those who could work to do so.

Photo: Welfare numbers are now back to pre-recessions levels.

 

 


Gift of praise for birthday

April 10, 2014

Yesterday was Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s birthday and Trans Tasman gives her the gift of praise:

. . .Is Paula Bennett the most effective Minister to have held the Social Development portfolio? There’s little doubt her welfare reforms are hitting the mark, judging by the fierce reaction to the news at least 21,000 beneficiaries have travelled overseas in the past nine months. Of those, nearly 5000 have had their benefits cancelled once eight weeks had elapsed since their departure. It makes it hard for Opposition politicians to pitch the case of growing inequality. Bennett has also been equally effective on issues like family violence, when lobbyists (who would normally be critical of a National Minister holding the portfolio) praise her work and say they want her to keep on with it…………

Having lobbyists on social matters, who are almost on the left of the spectrum, want her to stay on is high praise and well deserved.


April 9 in history

April 9, 2014

32 Jesus Christ ascended into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday.

193 Septimius Severus was proclaimed Roman Emperor by the army in Illyricum.

475 Byzantine Emperor Basiliscus issued a circular letter (Enkyklikon) to the bishops of his empire, supporting the Monophysite christological position.

1241  Battle of Liegnitz: Mongol forces defeated the Polish and German armies.

1413  Henry V was crowned King of England.

1440 Christopher of Bavaria was appointed King of Denmark.

1682 Robert Cavelier de La Salle discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River, claimed it for France and namesdit Louisiana.

1860 The oldest audible sound recording of a human voice was made.

1865 American Civil War: Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia (26,765 troops) to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, effectively ending the war.

1865 Birth of Charles Proteus Steinmetz, German-American mathematician and electrical engineer (d. 1923).

1867 Chris Watson, third Prime Minister of Australia, was born (d. 1941).

1867  Alaska purchase: Passing by a single vote, the United States Senate ratified a treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska.

1898 Paul Robeson, American singer and activist, was born  (d. 1976).

1909 The U.S. Congress passed the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act.

1916  World War I: The Battle of Verdun – German forces launched their third offensive of the battle.

1917 World War I: The Battle of Arras  started with Canadian Corps executing a massive assault on Vimy Ridge.

1918 World War I: The Battle of the Lys – the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps was crushed by the German forces during the Spring Offensive on the Belgian region of Flanders.

1926 Hugh Hefner, American entrepreneur and publisher, was born.

1932 Unemployed workers in Dunedin reacted angrily to the refusal of the Hospital Board to offer assistance, protesters stoned the mayor’s relief depot and tried to storm the Hospital Board’s offices, before being dispersed by police batons.

Unemployed disturbances in Dunedin

1934 – Bill Birch, New Zealand politician, was born.

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1937 The Kamikaze arrived at Croydon Airport – the first Japanese-built aircraft to fly to Europe.

1939 Marian Anderson sang at the Lincoln Memorial, after being denied the right to sing at the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall.

1940 World War II: Germany invaded Denmark and Norway.

1942 World War II: The Battle of Bataan/Bataan Death March – United States forces surrendered on the Bataan Peninsula. The Japanese Navy launched an air raid on Trincomalee; Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Hermes and Royal Australian Navy Destroyer HMAS Vampire were sunk off the island’s east coast.

1945 World War II: The German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer was sunk.

1945 – World War II: The Battle of Königsberg, in East Prussia, ended.

1945 – The United States Atomic Energy Commission was formed.

1947 The Glazier-Higgins-Woodward tornadoes killed 181 and injured970 in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

1947 – The Journey of Reconciliation, the first interracial Freedom Ride  started through the upper South in violation of Jim Crow laws. The riders wanted enforcement of the United States Supreme Court’s 1946 Irene Morgan decision that banned racial segregation in interstate travel.

1948 Jorge Eliécer Gaitán’s assassination provoked a violent riot (El Bogotazo) in Bogotá, and a further ten years of violence in Colombia known as La violencia.

1948 – Massacre at Deir Yassin.

1952 Hugo Ballivian’s government was overthrown by the Bolivian National Revolution, starting a period of agrarian reform, universal suffrage and the nationalisation of tin mines.

1957 The Suez Canal in Egypt was cleared and opened to shipping.

1959 Mercury program: NASA announced the selection of the United States’ first seven astronauts,-  the “Mercury Seven“.

1965 Astrodome opened and the first indoor baseball game was played.

1967 The first Boeing 737 (a 100 series) made its maiden flight.

1968 Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral.

1969 – Paula Bennett, National Party Cabinet Minister and Waitakere MP, was born.

1969 The “Chicago Eight” pled not guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

1969 The first British-built Concorde 002 makes its maiden flight from Filton to RAF Fairford.

1975 The first game of the Philippine Basketball Association, the second oldest professional basketball league in the world.

1978  Rachel Stevens, English singer (S Club), was born.

1989  The April 9 tragedy in Tbilisi, Georgian SSR an anti-Soviet peaceful demonstration and hunger strikes, demanding restoration of Georgian independence was dispersed by the Soviet army, resulting in 20 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

1991 Georgia declared its independence from the Soviet Union.

1992 A U.S. Federal Court found former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega guilty of drug and racketeering charges. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

1992 John Major‘s Conservative Party won an unprecedented fourth general election victory.

1999  Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara, President of Niger, was assassinated.

2002 The funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother at Westminster Abbey.

2003 2003 invasion of Iraq: Baghdad fell to American forces.

2005 Charles, Prince of Wales married Camilla Parker Bowles.

2009 In Tbilisi, Georgia, up to 60,000 people protested against the government of Mikheil Saakashvili.

2011 – A gunman murdered five people, injured eleven, and committed suicide in a mall in the Netherlands.

2013 – – A gunman murdered 13 people in a spree shooting in the village of Velika Ivanča, Serbia.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


Political playground

April 8, 2014

Trans Tasman takes politicians back to school:

Hone Harawira, one suspects, used to specialise in Chinese burns and other playground tortures when he was at school. The Mana Party leader has the kind of air about him redolent of such schoolyard antics. John Key was probably the cheeky kid who cracked enough jokes to be popular with the other kids but who nevertheless did his homework assiduously and kept on authority’s good side. David Cunliffe was the greasy goody two shoes, bright, geeky and probably a bit of a sneak. Peter Dunne – swotty pants. Russel Norman – ditto, but a more argumentative version of the same. Metiria Turei: the slightly flaky party girl (a bit like Paula Bennett, in fact).

We had classic playground diversion stuff this week when it was suggested Harawira is the lone electorate MP Kim Dotcom has signed up to his party. It’s not me, sir, Harawira protested – pointing indignantly to the class swot Peter Dunne sitting quietly in the corner. Key of course has rubbished the idea his support partner might be in talks with the Internet pirate who has promised to bring the Prime Minister down. “Not a dog show,” the PM laughed, which prompted a few to remember the Country Calender spoof about the remote controlled sheep dogs, and to ponder Dunne’s resemblance to a slightly affronted Scottish Rough Collie.

Former Labour leader David Shearer – the decent kid  everyone used to pick on – is the other candidate who has been suggested, but this looks even less likely than Dunne. Dotcom has historically held a somewhat awkward relationship with the truth which has occasionally brought him to the attention of the authorities. This looks like another of those occasions. . .

An awkward relationship with the truth, may or may not apply to the 2000 members his Internet Party claims to have.

It’s applied to register as a political party.

. . . Following registration the Internet Party will need to submit its rules providing for the democratic participation of members and candidate selection within the time period specified by law. . .

It’s constitution is here but Russell Brown raises questions on whether they allow for democratic participation by members:

1. There is a special role called ‘party visionary.’ This is defined as Kim Dotcom, or a person selected by Kim Dotcom. THis visionary has the automatic right to sit and vote on the party’s executive and policy committee and cannot be kicked out by the membership.
2. To stand for election to the party’s executive, in addition to being nominated by current members of the party you’ve got to be nominated by a current member of the National Executive. This locks in the incumbents.
3. The party’s executive has nearly unfettered control over the list: they put together an initial list, send it out to the membership to vote on, and then they ultimately decide what the final list should be having regard to the member’s choices.
4. The national executive chooses who stands in what electorate. No local member input at all.
5. The party secretary has a very important role (eg they get to solely arbitrate over disputes; they set out the process for amending the constitution, they decide the process for electing office holders; they’re a voting member of the National Executive). The only problem is they’re legally an employee of the party’s shell company, meaning that it is very hard for the members to exercise democratic control over the secretary (you can’t just fire an employee).
6. On a related note: the way the Internet Party is structured is so all its assets are kept in a shell company (Internet Party Assets Inc), away from the party itself. I don’t know what the purpose of this one was TBH. (the rules of this company were meant to be attached to the constitution in a schedule, but as far as I can see they’re not there)
7. They’re using the old ‘vote in Parliamentary caucus’ decides leader method. To be fair, most parties use this though. There is a bit of a quirk though that until we know their list we don’t know who their party leader is, because if they’re outside of Parliament their party leader is just whoever is at number 1 of the list. (I also note there’s no way to remove a leader if they don’t have representation in Parliament).”

Not so much of, for and by the members as of, for and by Dotcom.

But the silver lining to the Dotcom cloud is that every bit of media attention he’s getting – and he’s getting a lot – is less for the rest of the opposition.


$10.5m saved cutting benefits for travellers

April 5, 2014

When the left accuse National of benefit bashing they show they have no affinity for hard working people on low incomes.

How galling it must be for them to know that their taxes help support people who could work but don’t and that some on benefits are able to enjoy luxuries like overseas travel which they can’t afford themselves.

Helping those in genuine need is the duty of a compassionate society, that help doesn’t mean indulging those who could be helping themselves. That is why initiatives like benefits cuts for overseas travellers are necessary.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says more than 21,000 people have had their benefit cut for travelling overseas since July last year.

“We tightened the overseas travel rules as part of welfare reform and have saved New Zealand more than $10.5 million in suspended payments for beneficiaries who still chose to travel.

“That’s a staggering number of people. More than 1,750 people have had their benefit suspended for multiple overseas trips.  This includes 191 people who travelled three times and 1,555 who have travelled twice since last July.

“These figures don’t include those on Superannuation. 

“The largest group of suspensions applied to nearly 11,200 people on job seeker benefits, followed by more than 4,800 sole parents.

“The new rules recognise that beneficiaries should be ready and available for work not prioritising travel.

“Since the changes 4,880 peoples’ benefits were cancelled because they failed to reconnect with Work and Income eight weeks after their departure from New Zealand.

“The rules, while tighter, still allow for overseas travel on compassionate or health grounds in certain cases for job seekers.  People without work obligations may in most cases travel overseas for up to 28 days. 

“These figures are the number of people who chose to travel knowing their benefit would be suspended.  Every day we hear stories of how people cannot live on the benefit.  Today you’re hearing that literally thousands can not only live on it but can afford to travel overseas as well,” said Mrs Bennett.

I don’t think the original architects of the welfare system intended support to extend to such luxuries and it’s not what the modern system should be covering either.

Photo: Under National’s welfare reforms, beneficiaries are expected to be ready and available for work, not travelling overseas - www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?articleId=43536


1st for social progress

April 5, 2014

New Zealand has topped the world in a survey on social progress:

People around the globe are learning this week what Kiwis know – New Zealand is one of the best countries in the world, says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

Commenting on the 2014 Social Progress Index which ranks New Zealand in first place Mrs Bennett urged New Zealanders to take a moment and reflect on just how lucky we are to live here

“We are an ambitious people and we want the best for our families.  Sometimes in our focus on always trying to be better we fail to count our blessings and acknowledge just how much progress we have made as a nation.

“We are ranked first in the world for being a safe, honest, and tolerant country with a good environment.

“The most pleasing part of the report was our winning scores on Opportunity – this confirms that every Kiwi can have aspirations and that in this country it is possible to achieve those dreams.

“To the naysayers – yes we can do much better in a lot of areas and every day we are all working hard to improve our health, welfare and education services with strong backing from the government.

“We’re investing particularly heavily in new policies and services for children and families.  The Children’s Action Plan, more social workers in schools and hospitals, greater support for parents, and welfare reforms to get more people in work to name just a few.

“It’s great to live in New Zealand and it’s nice the rest of the world know it as well,” says Mrs Bennett.

 

Photo: There’s a lot more to be done, but New Zealanders have every reason to be proud of what we are achieving by working together.

Being first overall and first for being a safe, honest, and tolerant country with a good environment and topping the score for opportunity are something to celebrate.

The full Social Progress report here.
 

 


Respect’s the key

March 22, 2014

ACC Minister Judith Collins says respect is the key to tackling sexual violence.

She was announcing a new school-based pilot project funded by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) as part of its new focus on preventing sexual violence.

“Sexual violence has a significant effect on victims and families, resulting in substantial physical and mental health issues as well as social problems like poverty, addiction and suicide,” Ms Collins says.

“Encouraging a culture of respect is one of the most effective ways we can help to prevent sexual and dating violence. This pilot programme will teach young people the value of having healthy relationships based on respect, negotiation and consent.”

Recently ACC has made sexual violence prevention part of its core business focus and its first initiative in this area is a school-based pilot programme focussed on fostering healthy and respectful relationships.

In 2012/13, ACC spent $44 million on services for about 15,000 sensitive claims – the majority of which are related to sexual violence.

“There is some great work already being done by the sexual violence sector in schools but there is also recognition that we need to ensure these programmes have better national coordination, are consistent in content and ensure the best coverage possible,” Ms Collins says.

The school based programme is being developed with an Advisory Group made up of sexual violence sector representatives, interested community groups, government agencies and specialist academics, with input from students, parents and teachers. The programme will be a part of a wider programme of work led by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

The programme is still in its early stages of development and there will be further announcements on the specific content, providers, and schools that will be piloted in the third school term this year.

This programme will have to work hard to combat the many media messages which teach people to neither respect themselves nor others.

It is designed to help prevent violence. Legislation is also underway to protect people after a crime has been committed with a Bill creating a new order to protect victims of serious violent and sexual offences passing its second reading in Parliament this week.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says the Victims’ Orders Against Violent Offenders Bill creates a new non-contact order to help reduce the likelihood of serious violent and sexual offenders coming into contact with their victims.

“This Government has made perfectly clear its commitment to putting victims at the heart of our criminal justice system. This Bill is one more way to ensure victims feel safe and protected from further offending,” Ms Collins says. 

The order would prohibit the offender from contacting the victim in any way and could ban the offender from living, or working in a particular area.

“This Bill recognises that victims are forced to relive these serious ordeals and suffer on-going effects when they come into contact with their offenders. The proposed new order will help to safeguard and give peace of mind to victims and where necessary, place more restrictive conditions on an offender.”

The provisions added to the Bill today include:

  • orders can be applied to a person who has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for a specified violent or sexual offence (rather than the five year threshold proposed in the original Bill)
  • non-contact orders can be extended to cover an offender’s associates, where the offender encourages the associate to engage in prohibited behaviour that would harm the victim’s recovery
  • victims can apply for an order at any time after sentencing.

Ms Collins acknowledges the Law and Order Committee and thanked those who made submissions on the Bill.

The Government expects to pass the Victims’ Orders Against Violent Offenders Bill by the end of 2014.

Photo: National is delivering on its promise to put victims at the heart of our justice system - www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?articleId=43384


For Children’s Day

March 2, 2014

Photo: Celebrating Children's Day 2014. Like or share if you agree with Paula.  #childrensday

 

The Minister of Social Development has a role in ensuring those in need get help.

But giving children the best possible start and ensuring they thrive and achieve requires more than benefits and is first and foremost the responsibility and duty of their families.


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