For the sake of the children

July 21, 2020

Lindsay Mitchell points out two contrasting approaches to welfare:

Perhaps the single-most underrated and under-reported issue in New Zealand is the practice of adding children to existing benefits. Oodles is spoken and written about child poverty, particularly by the Prime Minister who appointed herself Minister of Child Poverty Reduction in 2017. But the fact that 6,000 children are added to an existing benefit and a further 3-4,000 are reliant on welfare by their first birthday never rates a mention. The numbers have varied only slightly over the past 30 years and persist at very high levels. One in ten babies goes home from hospital to a benefit- dependent family.

Most of those one in ten babies will be behind most babies who go home to a family where at least one adult is in work from the start.

The links between welfare dependence from birth and poor, if not disastrous outcomes, have now been well-explored by institutions like AUT and Treasury. The latter identified 4 indicators:

1)    a finding of abuse or neglect;
2)    spending most of their lifetime supported by benefits;
3)    having a parent who’d received a community or custodial sentence; and
4)    a mother with no formal qualifications. . . 

The outcomes for those children are much poorer than for children in families not dependent on benefits.

They are more likely to have contact with Youth Justice services, leave school without qualifications, follow their parents onto a benefit, and be jailed. They are also more likely to be Maori.

Is it kind to perpetuate this intergenerational failure?

Is it kind to contribute to these bad outcomes?

Is it kind to foster the causes rather than address them?

Act doesn’t think so.

 They point out that it isn’t acceptable for these families to keep having children when other families wait and sacrifice, and sometimes never have their own or additional children. More to the point, it is entirely unacceptable for children to be carelessly thrown into environments that harm them and rob them of their potential.

ACT’s policy says that if someone already on a benefit adds another child their benefit income will thereafter be managed. Rent and utilities will be paid direct, with the large part of the remainder of their benefit loaded onto an electronic card to be used in specified retail outlets. Work and Income already has the technology to do this. They operate income management for Youth and Young Parent beneficiaries in this fashion.

Under this regime children should be guaranteed a secure roof over their heads instead of the insecure transience resulting from unpaid rents, evictions and homelessness. Their schooling would be less interrupted with increased geographical stability. They should have adequate food in their tummies in and out of term time (not assured under school lunch programmes).  Their  mother may be encouraged to take advantage of the fully- subsidised, highly effective,  long-acting contraceptives now available, ameliorating the overcrowding which is a significant factor in New Zealand’s horribly high rate of rheumatic fever. Perhaps most importantly their parent(s) will actually decide working is a better option if they want agency over their income. There is a risk caregivers will try to supplement their incomes in other undesirable, illegal  ways but no policy is risk free, and this almost certainly already happens to some degree.

Increasingly throwing money at dysfunctional families provides no assurance parents will suddenly become better budgeters, or not simply spend more on harmful behaviours. Gambling and substance abuse don’t just hurt the parent. They hurt the child directly (damage in the womb, physical abuse or neglect under the influence) not to mention indirectly through parental role-modelling that normalizes bad behaviours, especially violence, to their children.

The last National government took an actuarial approach to benefit dependence, worked out the long term cost and began putting more money into preventing benefit dependency. It was working but the current government has undone that good work.

There is a need for a welfare safety net and with the Covid-19 induced recession numbers needing benefits are already increasing but welfare should not be a life sentence.

There are sound financial and social benefits to stopping people going on benefits and getting those on benefits off them as soon as possible.

The current government’s approach could be seen as being kind. It stopped sanctions against people who could work but don’t and women who don’t name the fathers of their babies.

That isn’t kind to the adults and it’s even worse for the children.

The two approaches to child benefit dependence are a world apart. One continues the ‘freedom’ of the adult to use taxpayer’s money as they wish; the other prioritizes the best interests of the child -their right to security, stability and safety – or, as ACT puts it, what the taxpayer thinks they are paying for.

The country cannot go on merely paying lip-service to the idea of ‘breaking the cycle’. Now is not the time for more of the same. More than ever New Zealand cannot afford the social cost and lost potential that occurs monotonously in an easily identifiable portion of every generation.

The choice at the election is stark – a vote for any of the parties currently in government that are perpetuating the cycle of benefit dependency and the poor financial and social outcomes that result  or a vote for a National-Act government that will address the causes and break the cycle.

The truly kind way is to vote for change for the sake of the children.


False kindness is cruel

February 26, 2020

Benefits have been indexed to inflation rather than wages for good reason – to ensure there is a big enough gap between the two to make work more attractive than a benefit.

Lindsay Mitchell points out that the previous government understood the danger of this:

 “…it is desirable to create a margin between being dependent on a benefit and being in employment….
The Labour Party isn’t the party that says living on a benefit is a preferred lifestyle. Its position has always been that the benefit system is a safety net for those who are unavoidably unable to participate in employment. From its history, the Labour Party has always been about people in employment.”
Michael Cullen, 2008

This is supposed to be a government of kindness but linking benefit increases to wage rises is false kindness, cruelly disincentivising work and trapping more people in poverty.

The Taxpayers’ Union points out that beneficiaries are getting something denied to the people who pay the taxes that fund the benefits:

The indexation of benefits to wages means that taxpayers are treated less fairly than ever, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.
 
Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The Government says it’s fair to index benefits to wages because we already do this with superannuation. So about tax brackets? These aren’t indexed to inflation, let alone wages. The result is that each year, taxpayers keep less, while beneficiaries get more.”
 
“Politicians often say we cover the costs of super and benefits by increasing productivity. But under this Government’s policies, increases in productivity will automatically trigger hikes to benefits and super, meaning we can never dig ourselves out of this spending hole.”

 

Mike Hosking also raises the issue of productivity:

Most who got a three per cent wage rise did so because they did something productive. They made more, produced more, worked more – that’s the productive side of the economy. That’s how you incentivise people: there is reward for work

Beneficiaries got the same rise, that’s the non-productive side of the economy. Nothing more was produced, but more was put into it. And that is why the money is gone and we are borrowing.

Economies grow because of productivity, not because of non-productive spending. You need one to fund the other, and one must be stronger than the other. That’s how you move forward, run surpluses, and afford to cover difficult days.

A level of redistribution, the likes of which we are currently experiencing, leads nowhere sound fiscally. It makes us increasingly vulnerable to global shocks, and we are too small to be running that risk.

The spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) is bringing a global shock ever closer, threatening jobs and increasing the likelihood of more people on benefits.

It is neither kind nor sensible to be doing anything that will discourage work and add to the burden placed on taxpayers.

 


What are the parents doing?

February 21, 2020

A scheme that will eventually provide lunches in 120 low decile schools has been launched.

School principal Robyn Isaacson said the programme, only recently introduced in Flaxmere, had helped the key aim of raising student achievement.

Isaacson said the programme meant children were able “to open a lunch box, to never actually complain about what’s in it, to know that it is nutritious and is able to fill their pukus so they can learn in the afternoon”. . . 

In his autobiography, *The Good Doctor, Lance O’Sullivan said if children were fed and had any health problems treated at school the chances of them learning and breaking the cycle of poverty were greatly increased.

I can’t argue with that but it begs the question: what are the children’s parents or caregivers doing?

Some will be doing all they can to provide for their children but finding that despite their best efforts the money coming into the household falls short of the costs of providing for their families.

Some will be trying to manage but lack the skills to do so.

And some won’t even be trying.

There is no easy answer to dealing with this but the National-led government was making headway with its social investment initiative. That took some of the money that would be spent on the long term costs for people on benefits and was spending it up front in equipping beneficiaries for life and work.

Not all the people who can’t, or won’t, feed their children will be beneficiaries but they are the ones who get public money to provide for their families. If they can’t, or won’t, look after their children, they ought to be getting whatever is needed to ensure they do.

And if they still don’t or won’t? There’s no easy answer to that question but we must find one, and it must be one that doesn’t put the children at risk.

*The Good Doctor by Lance O’Sullivan, published by Penguin.


Living better lives

November 7, 2019

National’s welfare proposals have been condemned as beneficiary bashing by the usual suspects, but the party’s welfare spokeswoman Louise Upston says their aim is to help people live better lives:

. . .When people are in need, it’s important we support them to get back on their feet and give them a hand-up. We believe there should always be a safety net for Kiwis who need it. . . 

A safety net for those in need should not be confused with a hammock for those who could but don’t support themselves.

 At the heart of our policy proposal is the Social Investment approach. The previous National Government designed it, and it transformed lives – using data to identify the best ways we can solve the problems faced by Kiwis. Underpinning it all is the idea that the best interventions are the earliest ones.

This approach targeted spending, often at a greater initial cost but with a much lower long-term cost and it worked.

We know that families are the best form of welfare we have, so in helping families, we’re helping all Kiwis to live better lives.

That’s why National’s committed to investing in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. We know that not all mums and dads feel prepared for what life as a parent will bring, so we’ve proposed a range of ways we can support young parents.

Whether that’s more home visits for all families in the first six months, or a focus on intensive home visits for vulnerable young mums who are at risk, we want to ensure we’re supporting families as they navigate their first moments with a new baby.

Plunket nurses used to visit all homes with new babies every week at first then gradually reducing the visits unless there was a need for more. There was no stigma attached as because visits were universal.

That’s why we’ve committed to giving all new mums a guaranteed three day stay in a hospital or postnatal facility just after giving birth, and why we want to change parental leave so parents can take it at the same time, for the whole family to help each other out and bond in those early days.

By getting Kiwi kids off to the best possible start, we’re giving New Zealanders the best chance to reach their full potential.

Better starts for babies improve their chances of better lives and provide a foundation for happier fmailies.

We’re looking for solutions that break cycles of poverty and tackle the root causes, not just the symptoms of disadvantage. We want to measure the success of those solutions using targets. Targets work, ensuring clear, focussed goals on positive outcomes for Kiwis.

When we introduced targets for immunisation, rates went up. We introduced targets for the number of people achieving NCEA level 2, and the numbers went up. We know targets are effective.

This Government scrapped targets – but we’ll reintroduce them so that we can help more and more New Zealanders to live better lives.

Targets are about spending taxpayers’ money responsibly – and we believe in spending taxpayers’ money responsibly. We wouldn’t have social welfare at all without the hard work of New Zealanders every single day, paying their taxes.

National believes work is the best route out of poverty, through the security of a regular pay cheque and the chance of career development. Children do better when their parents are in work, and parents do better too.

A relatively few people have health problems which mean they will never be able to work. But those who could work, should work and those who need it should be given help to be work ready and secure employment.

National is committed to having the right mix of obligations and sanctions, so that those who can work, do work, with all the opportunities that brings. We want to reduce the number of children in benefit-dependent households.

We want to hear your feedback on how we can best support New Zealanders, ensure taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly and give all New Zealanders the opportunity to live better lives. Please have your say at www.national.org.nz/social_services.

Sir Apirana Ngata’s prediction that welfare would destroy Maori has become true but not just for Maori.

The statistics are clear, people in work are much likelier to live better lives than those on benefits.

The government must look after the most vulnerable but it also has a responsibility to help those who could look after themselves to do so.


Delivering $132m more on dole

October 29, 2019

The government’s year of delivery has delivered an extra $132m in jobseeker benefits.

An additional $132 million of dole payments have been dished out to people who are able to work in the past year, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“New Zealanders deserve a fair go but not a free ride. Since Labour came into Government an additional 22,000 people have gone on the Jobseeker Benefit.

That’s around the total population of the Waitaki District who could be working but aren’t and on a be fit because of that.

“Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni doesn’t seem to care how many people go on the dole and she doesn’t believe there should be sanctions if people show no willingness to get into employment.

“Being in work lifts people out of poverty and improves the lives of families. There’s no excuse for taxpayers having to pick up an additional $132 million, a figure that doesn’t include inflation. This figure is just for people on the Jobseeker Benefit – people who are fit to work and doesn’t include other benefits.

Employers are crying out for workers so there shouldn’t be people who are able to work lining up for the benefit.

These aren’t people who can’t work, they could be working and aren’t.

“This week National will release our Social Services Discussion Document. We’ll release our positive plans to get more people into work and improve the lives of individuals, families and communities.

“National is aspirational for New Zealanders, we want people to have a safety net when they need it but we recognise that this is paid for through taxes and there needs to be accountability and obligations with that.

“The Minister needs to explain to taxpayers why they’re funding an additional $132 million in welfare and what her plan is to get people back into work.”

There are lots of reasons why people who are able to work might not be able to find a job in the short term and benefits provide a temporary safety net for them.

But there’s something wrong with a system that allows the safety net to become a hammock that traps people in dependency when so many employers are desperate for staff.


Two years and what have we got?

October 28, 2019

The Labour, NZ First, Green government has just passed its second anniversary in power and what have we got?

  • Fee-free tertiary education which hasn’t had a positive impact on participation, and a third of those who got the help failed or withdrew.
  • KiwiBuild turned into KiwiFlop.
  • Higher fuel taxes for all to pay for public transport in Auckland which includes the stalled project of rail to airport about which officials can’t get direction from the Minister.
  • Two Ministers resigned/sacked.
  • Thousands of hectares of productive land converted to forestry.
  • Subsidies that incentivise forestry over farming.
  • Foreign ownership of productive land encouraged by much less rigorous requirements than for purchase for farming, horticulture or viticulture.
  • Business confidence in the doldrums.
  • Interest rates heading towards zero and below.
  • DHB deficits growing.
  • Polytechs that are working well to be sacrificed for those that aren’t.
  • Virtue-signaling environmental policies that come at a high economic and social cost here and add to environmental cost elsewhere.
  • Policy at the mercy of the minor coalition partner’s leader’s whim.
  • The waka-jumping legislation.
  • The Provincial Growth Shane Jones Promotion/NZ First re-election Fund.
  • Policy announcement after policy announcement that is high on feel-good but low on planning.

It was easy to come up with those negatives, and it wouldn’t be hard to add more.

But what of the positives?

The only one that comes to mind is a Prime Minister who  gets a lot of focus and high praise internationally.

But how much is that worth when there are so many problems that aren’t being solved at home?

A new government needs some time to get up to speed, but more than two-thirds through its term is too long on training wheels.


Poverty stats government’s shame

April 3, 2019

The nine child poverty statistics that will be used as the baseline for improvement show released yesterday by Stats NZ show all but one have got worse under the current government:

David Farrar compares the stats under National and Labour:

  1. Percentage of children in households with income under 50% of median, before housing costs. 156,000 in June 2008 and 156,000 in June 2017 so no increase under National (rate dropped 0.3%). In June 2018 increased by 27,000 and rate increased 2.3% for Labour’s first year.
  2. Percentage of children in households with income under 50% of median, after housing costs. 329,000 in June 2009 (no data for 2008) and 247,000 in June 2017 so a drop of 82,000 under National (rate dropped 8.1%). In June 2018 increased by 7,000 and rate increased 0.4% for Labour’s first year.
  3. Percentage of children in households in material hardship. 196,000 in June 2013 (no data before that) and 140,000 in June 2017 so dropped 56,000 under National (rate dropped 5.4%). In June 2018 increased by 8,000 and rate increased 0.6% for Labour’s first year.
  4. Percentage of children in households with income under 60% of median, before housing costs. 252,000 in June 2008 and 243,000 in June 2017 so a drop of 9,000 under National (rate dropped 1.3%). In June 2018 increased by 38,000 and rate increased 3.2% for Labour’s first year.
  5. Percentage of children in households with income under 60% of median, after housing costs. 355,000 in June 2008 and 314,000 in June 2017 so a drop of 41,000 under National (rate dropped 4.6%). In June 2018 increased by 27,000 and rate increased 2.2% for Labour’s first year.
  6. Percentage of children in households with income under 50% housing costs for the base financial year. 258,000 in June 2008 and 236,000 in June 2017 so a drop of 22,000 under National (rate dropped 2.5%). In June 2018 increased by 18,000 and rate increased 1.4% for Labour’s first year.
  7. Percentage of children in households with income under 40% housing costs for the base financial year. 156,000 in June 2008 and 178,000 in June 2017 so an increase of 22,000 under National (rate increased 1.6%). In June 2018 dropped by 4,000 and rate dropped 0.4% for Labour’s first year.
  8. Percentage of children in households in severe material hardship. 84,000 in June 2013 (no data before that) and 74,000 in June 2017 so dropped 10,000 under National (rate dropped 1.0%). In June 2018 dropped by 9,000 and rate dropped 0.9% for Labour’s first year.
  9. Percentage of children in households in material hardship and under 60% median income after housing costs. 96,000 in June 2013 (no data before that) and 86,000 in June 2017 so dropped 10,000 under National (rate dropped 1.1%). In June 2018 increased by 12,000 and rate increased 1.0% for Labour’s first year. . .

Who would have thought it? Seven of the child poverty measures dropped under National, one was static and one went up.

And under the Labour/NZ First/Green government that purports to be compassionate and set reducing child poverty as a priority?

Seven of the child poverty measures worsened and only two improved.

What’s behind the difference?

Former Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English was determined to search out the risk factors which lead to poverty and the disastrous social outcomes that usually accompany it.

Having found them he used the social investment approach – spending more upfront on helping those most at risk. The higher short-term cost was justified by the expected reduction in the long-term human, social and financial costs should those at risk not be helped.

The compassionate and intelligent response of the Labour/NZ First/Green government would have been to continue and build on what was working.

The failure to do so is this government’s shame.

Instead it sabotaged business confidence, wasted money on policies including fee-free tertiary education and winter heating subsidies for people who don’t need them, and got soft on policies that used both carrot and stick for those who could be working but don’t.

Early days is no excuse, this government is almost half way through it’s first term.

It can’t blame National for what’s going wrong when under it, seven of the measures were improving, one was static and just one was going the wrong way.

The government has only itself and its ideological blindness to blame which will be no comfort at all to the families whose situation has worsened.

Lindsay Mitchell blogs on the causes of poverty:

The Canadian think-tank, the Fraser Institute has just released a paper which suggests an elegantly simple framework in finding three causes of poverty: bad luck, bad choices and enablement. The first two need no explanation. The third is described thus:

We can say that poverty is “enabled” when systems and structures are in place to discourage the kinds of efforts that people would normally make to avoid poverty, i.e., find employment, find a partner (especially if children are present), improve one’s education and skill set, have a positive outlook, and take personal responsibility for your own actions. Ironically, it is government programs (welfare, in particular) that are intended to help the poor but end up actually enabling poverty.

In NZ, many of our current influencers (MPs and media) pooh,pooh the idea that bad choices are responsible for poverty despite this being self-evident. They base their disdain for the idea on a belief that greater systems, for example institutional racism, drive bad choices. Of course when they do this they excuse bad choices and even compensate the person making them. Undoubtedly, most of those sitting on the Welfare Expert Advisory Group would hold views of his nature. . . 

The soft bigotry of low expectations is not a cliche, it’s a fact.

This government’s low expectations are enabling poverty and turning around the improvements that National’s policy of social investment were making.


Does not compute

January 18, 2019

A business offering $400 a day to people willing to plant trees can’t get staff.

Aged care workers are concerned about under-staffing.

But one in 10 people are on a benefit.

That does not compute.

A Taxpayers’ Union report found that benefit sanctions, the help-but hassle approach to welfare reduces poverty.

. . . If the Government wants to reduce child poverty, it should encourage the unemployed and single parents back into work and off welfare.

Our report advocates a help-but-hassle approach that nudges beneficiaries back into work, leaving more to spare for those in genuine need.

If the Government took this approach, it could afford to be more generous, within existing budgets. The difference is that the money would be more targeted to those who most need it. . . 

Is it that simple?

That benefit numbers reduced when National took that approach suggests it is.


More than $1b/year + human cost

October 9, 2018

The Green policy to remove benefit sanctions would cost more than $1 billion a year.

A new report from the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union shows the success of benefit sanctions, explains why efforts to make life on a benefit easier simply encourage a culture of welfare dependency and fraud, and exposes that more than one third of unemployment and single parent beneficiaries admit to failing on their obligation to seek employment.

The release of the report, Benefit Sanctions, coincides with a Green Party campaign to remove sanctions for beneficiaries who don’t comply with associated obligations. The report also works as a submission to the Government’s working group tasked with providing recommendations to overhaul the welfare system.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “Beneficiary advocates have good intentions, but their prescriptions – removing requirements to seek work and removing sanctions – are a social and moral failure. The Green Party’s policy to make life on a benefit will simply encourage a culture of welfare dependency and fraud.”

These good intentions lead to bad policy and high costs in both financial and human terms.

Removing obligations and sanctions might look like kindness but it’s not.

It’s giving up on beneficiaries, entrenching welfare dependency with the poor outcomes which accompany it and adding to the costs imposed on the rest of us.

“Rates of welfare fraud are many times higher than most New Zealanders would expect or find acceptable under the current system. The report canvasses the evidence that easing up on sanctions and obligations for beneficiaries would dramatically increase fraud and dependency. That means driving up the cost of the welfare system for taxpayers and leaving less room in the Budget for other forms of social spending.”

Every dollar spent on benefits for people who could be working is a dollar not available for people who can’t work and other priority areas including health and education.

“If the Government wants to reduce child poverty, it should encourage the unemployed and single parents back into work and off welfare.

The report’s author, economist Jim Rose, says, “Our report advocates a help-but-hassle approach that nudges beneficiaries back into work, leaving more to spare for those in genuine need.”

Help but hassle is a far better approach than getting rid of sanctions.

Beneficiaries need to be given the help they need to get and keep work and encouragement should be firm enough to ensure they’re not more comfortable on a benefit than being independent.

“If the Government took this approach, it could afford to be more generous, within existing budgets. The difference is that the money would be more targeted to those who most need it.”

And while the billion dollar plus cost of dropping expectations and sanctions is bad enough. The human costs of long term benefit dependency for beneficiaries and their children are worse.

Benefits must never be more generous than full-time work and the longer the time on a benefit the greater the gap between earnings from work and welfare.

On top of that, long term beneficiaries are more likely to have no or low education qualifications, poor health and a greater chance of committing and/or being a victim of crime.

Some people need permanent help.

Others require temporary assistance and it is best for them, and the rest of us who pay for it, if they get the help when they need it as long as they need it but no longer.
The report is here.


Social sabotage

October 2, 2018
AM show host Duncan Garner called Green co-leader Marama Davidson incompetent for good reason yesterday morning:

The Green Party co-leader appeared on the show on Monday morning to discuss her party’s commitment to raising benefits by 20 percent, but was unable to say how much it would cost. . .

I am staggered by the lack of facts and detailed knowledge that she showed in her interview with me this morning,” Garner said after the interview.

“No detail at all. She’s exposed herself as being underdone at best, and completely incompetent at worst. It’s called flaky. . .

Flaky is a charitable description of the policy she couldn’t give costings for too:

Increasing the baseline amounts for benefits is pretty clear. That increase hasn’t followed wage increases or inflation for far too long. And removing sanctions which we’ve been very, very vocal about, which is about trying going away from that punitive or punishing approach.

Not only doesn’t she know the cost, she doesn’t know the current policy. Benefits do increase with inflation. When it’s low as it has been for some time, the increases aren’t big but they do increase with the cost of living. No sanctions? That means people who, for no good reason, don’t turn up for interviews, don’t try to find work, don’t pass drug and alcohol tests will face  no consequences. People in work are expected to turn up in a fit state to work when and where required, what’s wrong with similar expectations for beneficiaries? No sanctions will also allow non-custodial parents to get away with making no contribution to the support of their children.

Changing the threshold for benefit reductions. There are so many people who want to work, even part time, while raising young children in particular. But those incentives are just really clumsy, confusing , messy, and they don’t make it worth it,” Davidson said.

It’s sad that people regard getting paid for work which gives them a measure of independence as not worth the effort. There might not be much difference financially but even a small increase on what comes from a benefit should be regarded as a bonus, especially when it could be a stepping stone to more work and eventual freedom from benefit dependence. Davidson is right that benefit abatement for people in part-time work are less than ideal, but the alternative is worse.  If the benefit isn’t abated when people start earning, beneficiaries in part-time work would earn more than some people in full time work.

The Greens would also look at combining the in-work tax credit and family tax credit and making them less discriminatory.

They also wanted Work and Income to stay out of people’s personal lives by “moving towards entitlements based on individual needs rather than a blanket policies around starting new relationships and losing entitlements”, Davidson said.

This would mean a beneficiary could be living with someone more than capable of supporting them both and any children, and still be able to keep claiming a benefit. National put a lot of effort into social investment based on the indisputable  financial and human costs of benefit dependency. The Green policy would be social sabotage, creating an underclass of benefit dependents with neither the expectation nor hope that they might become self-supporting. They would turn the welfare safety net into a noose that would entrap people on benefits and saddle the rest of us with the financial and social costs that would result.  

e-mob for Roxburgh children’s village

May 29, 2018

Southern mayors are asking people to join an e-mob today to save Roxburgh children’s village.

Message from Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan: the people of the South are being asked to join in an e-mob protest (possibly the first of its kind) to get the message that failing to increase funding so the Roxburgh Children’s Village can remain operating is unacceptable to the people of the South.

Those who care about the Village and the children and families of the South that have used its services since 1949 are asked to join an “e-mob” protest, sending the very poignant Garrick Tremain cartoon (with his permission) to Jacinda Ardern this Tuesday 29 May.

The cartoon attached (is available and instructions for where to email it by emailing cartoon@codc.govt.nz

May 29 has been chosen as it is one month until the doors close on the Village. It is very important that you know that the residential therapeutic service that the Village offers will no longer be available to the children of the South, while it does remain in place for other parts of New Zealand. This is service by geography at its worst.

May 29 is also the anniversary of Mabel Howard being made our first female Cabinet Minister in 1949. Ironically, she was made Minister of Health and Children’s Welfare.

The cartoon (is available and instructions for where to email it by emailing cartoon@codc.govt.nz

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Everyone who sends the cartoon is asked to email: roxburroxburghletsnotdothis@gmail.com so an accurate count of support can be made.

The ODT answers questions about the village and the service it provides for children in desperate need here.


Teenage fertility rate drops to lowest ever

February 23, 2018

New Zealand’s fertility rate has dropped well below replacement level:

In the December 2017 year:

  • 59,610 live births and 33,339 deaths were registered in New Zealand, resulting in a natural increase (live births minus deaths) of 26,268.
  • There were 180 more births and 2,160 more deaths compared with 2016.
  • The total fertility rate dropped to a low of 1.81 births per woman, compared with an annual average of about 2.01 from 1980–2017.
  • The infant mortality rate was 3.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.
  • All regions had more births than deaths.

If it wasn’t for a lower death rate and more immigration our population would be in decline.

The replacement rate for fertility is around 2.1% in the developed world. New Zealand has joined other OECD countries in falling below that.

Part of the reason for that is more couples are choosing to have no children or just one child.

Another reason is that more are leaving it too late and fertility drops for both men and women as they age.

The birth rate has dropped for all ages and among the statistics is one very positive one,  the teenage fertility rate has dropped to its lowest ever:

The teenage fertility rate has dropped to its lowest ever, with 15 live births per 1,000 women aged 15–19 in 2017 – just under half the 2008 rate of 33.

In 1962, when fertility rates were highest for women in their twenties, the teenage fertility rate was 54 births per 1,000 women aged 15–19. While rates dropped for women in their twenties throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the teenage rate increased to a peak of 69 births per 1,000 women in 1972. The teenage rate then decreased to 30 births per 1,000 women in 1984. 

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The media release doesn’t say how many of the teenage mothers are single but the drop in the number of teens giving birth is reflected in a drop in benefit numbers for teen parents.

In 2017, the median age (half are younger and half older than this age) of New Zealand women giving birth was 30 years.  It has remained at 30 years since 1999. In comparison, the median age of women giving birth in the 1970s was 25 years.

If, we want a return to replacement fertility rates or higher the aim should be to encourage more couples to have children sooner but not too soon – in their 20s rather than their 30s or teens.

 


Poverty policy lacks ambition

February 2, 2018

The government talks a lot about reducing child poverty but its policy lacks ambition:

The Prime Minister’s ‘good intentions’ have once again fallen short, with the Government’s child poverty targets aiming to lift fewer children out of poverty than National actually lifted out in the last five years, National’s Children spokesperson Paula Bennett says.

“The Prime Minister committed her Government to reducing the number of children in material hardship over the next ten years by 70,000. Yet, over the last five years of the National government, the number of children in material hardship fell by 85,000.

“So this Government is promising to do less over a longer period of time than National did – in spite of its bold claims it would do better.

It’s making a lot of noise but aims to do less than National already did.

“National also remains more ambitious – that’s why we had committed to reducing the number of children in low-income households by 100,000 over three years, while Labour is committing to reducing the number by 100,000 in 10 years.

“National’s Family Incomes Package was also projected to lift 50,000 children out of poverty on 1 April 2018. It would have given 1.2 million working Kiwis an extra $1060 per year in the hand – and, we had committed to a further package in 2020 that would have had a similar impact.

“Labour, on the other hand, have no money for another Family Incomes Package – they’ve spent it all on a year’s free tertiary education. That is why they are giving themselves such a long timeframe to achieve what National would have done in the next three years.

What’s more important – fees-free tertiary study for people, most of whom don’t need it, or lifting children out of poverty; money and expertise for children who don’t have the pre-learning skills they need when they start school and those failing at school or adults who’ve already got through school?

“If the Government was truly serious about reducing child poverty it would reconsider abolishing the Better Public Services targets, which directly focused the public service on reducing the number of children living in poverty and tackling the causes of long-term deprivation.

Poverty isn’t just about income. It’s causes are complex and include lack of education, poor physical and mental health, and drug and alcohol dependency.

“As is becoming the Government’s modus operandi, it is all intentions and no substance. Its ambition falls way short of the action needed to actually deal seriously with child poverty in New Zealand.”

Poverty is a serious issue. Reducing it requires serious and substantial action not just good intentions.


No mention of reducing dependency

October 27, 2017

Reducing child poverty is one of the new government’s goals.

It has also talked about reducing sanctions on welfare recipients.

I have yet to read or hear any mention of reducing benefit dependency.

That was one of the goals of the previous National-led government, and one in which it succeeded.

Child poverty isn’t confined to benefit-dependent homes but welfare dependency is one of the greatest risk factors.

If the government is serious about reducing poverty it must also be serious about reducing welfare dependency.


Rights and responsiblities

September 7, 2017

National is pledging to do more to help young beneficiaries into work:

National will help more young people become drug free, move off the benefit and get a job to help ensure they reach their potential.

“Most of our young people are doing incredibly well. There are more job opportunities and more support than ever in our country, as a result of our strong economic growth,” Social Development Spokesperson Anne Tolley says. 

“But some young people on a benefit need more support. National is committed to helping them into work to ensure they can stand on their own two feet.”

National will invest $72 million over the next four years to support beneficiaries under 25 years of age by:

  • Guaranteeing work experience or training for those who have been on a jobseekers benefit for six months or longer, and financial management training to help them develop financial responsibility
  • Providing rehabilitation services if drug use is identified as a barrier to employment
  • Ensuring all young people under 25 who are on a job seekers benefit receive intensive one-on-one case management to get a job.

“Only 10 per cent of young people who go on a jobseekers benefit stay for more than six months – but for those that do, their average time on benefit is almost 10 years,” Mrs Tolley says. “We want to invest early, and give them one on one support so they can develop the skills they need to move into the workforce.

“We will guarantee them access to work experience or training courses designed specifically to get them ready for work.

 

“In addition, one in five beneficiaries tell us that drug use is a barrier to them getting a job – so we are increasing the support we give them to kick drug use and get work ready.”

People who go from school to a benefit are less likely to be work-ready and more likely to stay benefit-dependent for longer.

Putting this money and effort into helping them become employable will pay dividends for them, potential employers and the country.

National will also place obligations on those who do not take up the significant opportunities available in New Zealand to start work or training.

Job seekers without children who refuse work experience or training or recreational drug rehabilitation will lose 50 per cent of their benefit entitlement after four weeks of not meeting their obligations, with further reductions if that continues. This will also apply to those who continue to fail recreational drug tests, where these are requested by prospective employers.

The lower benefit payments will only be able to be used for essential needs such as rent and food – like we currently do with our Money Management programme for 16 to 19 year olds.

“This significant extra support we are announcing today will come with obligations and personal responsibilities, so those who won’t take the opportunities available to them will lose all or part of their benefit until they take steps to turn their lives around.

“We know benefit sanctions are an effective tool to help people into work, as 95 per cent of people who receive a formal warning meet their obligations within four weeks.”

Any benefit reductions will be made at the discretion of WINZ staff, to take account of individual circumstances. And once individuals decide to meet their obligations, benefits will be reinstated.

“New Zealanders are creating real opportunities for themselves and for New Zealand, through hard work and a commitment to doing better. National supports those efforts and is focused on helping all New Zealanders get ahead, even our most vulnerable,” Mrs Tolley says. 

National will roll out the changes from 1 July next year.

People who work have the right to get paid and the responsibility to earn their pay.

People who don’t have jobs in New Zealand have the right to receive a benefit and with that goes some responsibilities which include being work ready.

For some people that isn’t difficult. Others need a little help and some need a lot.

This policy recognises that and is putting human and financial resources into ensuring those who need help get it and those who refuse it should face consequences.

It recognises that the best assistance for beneficiaries who could work is to help them get jobs and independence.

It is an investment that will pay financial and social dividends for young people and the country.

 

 


Bring dreams alive, see small hopes grow bigger

August 27, 2017

National Party leader and Prime Minister Bill English’s speech to the party’s campaign launch today:

It’s great to see such a marvelous crowd. And a sea of blue.

Welcome to National’s campaign for Election 2017!

Thank you Nikki and Paula for those wonderful introductions.

And a special thanks to my daughter Maria for the way she sang our national anthem.

Maria, everyone here was glad it was you instead of me. I did offer!

Can I also acknowledge my son Xavier who is here today. Also my sons Luke, Tom, Rory and Bart. You all make be very proud.

I also want to thank my wonderful wife, Mary – thank you for everything. 

Mary’s worked out that the best way to spend time with me these days is to join me on stage at our campaign launch.

Hers is the story of many new New Zealanders.

Her families came to this country from Italy and Samoa on the promise of a better life. And they found it through community and family.

They instilled in their 13 children the value of hard work and personal responsibility.

Mary is now a doctor, a business owner, a volunteer and a fantastic mother of six kids.

Like most parents, Mary’s mum and dad worked hard to ensure their children had better prospects than they did.

Their success makes me proud of my country.

And that’s what this election campaign is all about.

It’s a campaign for every New Zealander who wants to bring their dreams to life.
Who wants to see their small hopes grow bigger.

Who wants the New Zealand of the 2020s to be confident, successful and prosperous.

It’s a campaign for Kiwis who are prepared to work hard and back themselves.
To all of you, I say this:

National…stands…with you.

We’re a party delivering for New Zealanders.

We share your ambition for the future.

We have always known this election would be close. That’s how it is under MMP.
On our side, we have a strong record of proven success and a confident vision to take New Zealand forward.

We have the best team.

We have MPs who listen to their communities.

We have Ministers with great ideas for making this country even better.

And we have new candidates passionate about our future.

But most importantly we have you – our volunteers and supporters.

You make us strong.

You make us united.

And you’re making New Zealand a better place.

Together, we’re creating a strong and growing country.

We are now a nation of opportunities for all.

Opportunities to build success for our families.

Opportunities to deliver on the potential of each and every New Zealander – providing we stay on track.

We will not squander these opportunities New Zealanders have worked so hard to create.

Remember just how far we’ve come together.

Since 2008 we’ve faced a recession, the global financial crisis and devastating earthquakes.

The economy shrank, unemployment rose sharply, and we faced large deficits and spiralling debt.

Fast forward to 2017. We now have one of the best performing economies in the world and the books are in surplus.

Under National, families up and down New Zealand are reaping the deserved rewards of that turnaround.

Over 180,000 new jobs have been created in the past two years and unemployment is the lowest since the GFC.

The average annual wage is up $13,000 since we took office, that’s twice the rate of inflation.

New Zealanders recognise progress when they see it.

In 2008, a stadium full of New Zealanders was leaving for Australia every single year.

Our children and grandchildren were heading for the departure lounge in search of better opportunities.

Not anymore. 

For the first time in a generation, more people are moving to New Zealand from Australia than going the other way.

That’s what success looks like and I’m proud of it.

New Zealanders’ hard work is helping the economy to grow.

But on its own, a growing economy is not enough.

Because National understands the pressures of running a household, paying the bills and saving a bit for a rainy day.

We’re making sure families are rewarded for their hard work and can see the benefits of growth flowing into their households.

And National is focused on making that happen.

Take a young couple, each on the average wage and looking to buy their first home.

Since 2008, their joint income has gone up by $26,000 a year.

And next April, they’ll get another $2000 boost from our Family Incomes Package – something Labour opposes.

And if we get re-elected, we want to do that sort of package again.

We’re also helping them get into that first house.

If they’ve been in KiwiSaver for five years, a combination of government grants and their own KiwiSaver would mean they have $50,000 to put towards a house.

Add in our Welcome Home Loan programme, and they would need to save another $10,000 to have enough for a deposit for a $600,000 home.

Or take a retired couple on New Zealand Super.

Since National came into office, their Super payments have gone up by 25 per cent – or $6000 a year.

From next April, they’ll receive another $680 a year on top of the normal increase as a result of our Family Incomes Package – cash Labour would take away from them.

Superannuation is based on after-tax income. When taxes go down, superannuation goes up.

And if they don’t have much other income on top of Super, they’ll now be eligible for an $18 GP visit from next July – saving them money every time they go.
That’s how National really is helping families.

Under National’s strong economic plan, we’re also building the houses, roads, schools, hospitals and broadband needed by our growing communities.

We’re investing to get our school leavers ready for work and to ensure our health services are world class.

We’re providing more police on the beat to keep our communities safer.

We’re lifting thousands of children out of poverty every year. And by one measure, our Family Incomes Package will reduce child poverty by 30 per cent.

We’re investing to improve our environment and protect our beautiful landscapes and fresh water and meet our climate change targets.

And we’re backing Kiwis to succeed on the world stage.

That’s why we’re leading the charge to finalise the TPP – because our exporters are world beaters when they’re given the chance.

The great thing is, if we stay on course we can do even better.

New Zealanders are ambitious for themselves and National is ambitious for them.
So in 27 days, voters will have an important choice.

A choice between two very different visions for New Zealand.

National’s plan to keep New Zealand moving forward – a confident plan for a confident country.

A strong National team energised by new ideas. A team that’s open to trade, open to investment, and knows how an economy works.

Or an unstable, untested group on the left that would risk it all with unpredictable and unclear policies.

Take the Labour Party, their policies have two things in common – working groups and more taxes.

Do you want a water tax?

Do you want a new petrol tax?

Do you want a new capital gains tax?

Do you want higher income taxes?

And nor do I.

Hard working New Zealanders aren’t an ATM for the Labour Party.

Labour wants to turn its back on Kiwi businesses and families, and add more taxes that would slow our economy and make it harder to compete in the world – just when we’re getting good at it.

Here’s the thing: we don’t need more taxes, if we manage the government finances well.

National focus on how well spending works, not on how much is spent, aiming for the quality of the spend not the quantity.

When forecasts show on-going taxes there is no need for new or higher taxes.

Unlike them, I back New Zealanders.

I believe in the Kiwi character, that when people make their own decisions and take responsibility they can and will succeed.

Here’s what I mean.

Recently, I met a determined young woman who lives with a condition that means her joints can dislocate with the slightest movement.

Her story had a big impact on me.

Diagnosed at 23, she was contemplating a painful and difficult life ahead.

Then she came across a new programme called Enabling Good Lives – National’s partnership between government and people with disabilities.

It’s about helping people one by one – giving those who want it more choice and control over their support, so they can choose what’s best for them.

It gives them the dignity of being responsible for themselves.

This young woman told me life is 10 times better because she’s living the way she wants.

Today, she is working as an advisor in the disability sector and speaks about the difference this approach has made in her life, and how she wants others have the same opportunity.

There are thousands more New Zealanders like her.

National respects their capacities and will enable them to have better lives.

Through our social investment programme, we’re changing lives person by person, family by family and community by community.

For example, we’ve set a target to reduce the number of children admitted to hospital with preventable conditions like rheumatic fever.

So now when a child turns up at the hospital with bronchial problems, we expect someone will be sent to their house to sort out problems with curtains, insulation and heating.

Another example is young mothers.

Too many don’t get the help offered by Plunket or GPs because they move house, they don’t answer the phone or they’re in hiding because of domestic violence.

I’m committed to changing the system from hoping those young mothers will turn up looking for help, to going out and finding solutions that work for them.
Moving from servicing misery to reducing it.

We’ll continue to expect personal responsibility and accountability.

In return, we’ll treat people with respect.

Our approach is about faster action, more trust and less bureaucracy.

And we can look taxpayers in the eye and tell them we’re investing their money well because it’s getting results.

Results like a 60 per cent reduction in teen parents on a benefit.

And 60,000 fewer children live in benefit dependent households because their parents can get jobs in our strong economy.

This is more than a plan.

It’s a mission.

And I’m committed to it because when we change lives, we change our country.
We reduce child poverty.

We help more families to live independently.

And we keep more children safe from violence.

National is turning ideals into practical results for people.

As proud of I am of getting our country’s books in order and back into surplus, that’s not what gets me out of bed in the morning.

What drives me is helping all New Zealanders achieve their goals and improve their lives.

What drives me is ensuring every child who grows up in our country has every opportunity to succeed.

We don’t give up on any of them. There’s always a way forward.

National is especially focused on education.

Isn’t Nikki Kaye doing a fantastic job as Education Minister?

She’s passionate about every child getting the opportunity to reach their potential, no matter what their background.

And she will do whatever it takes to deliver a New Zealand that’s open, ambitious and confident about the future.

We owe it to our children that they leave school equipped to succeed.

Every single child matters – they matter to their family, to their community and to our country.

And they certainly matter to me.

So National has put students at the centre of everything we do in education.

It’s working. Around 85 per cent of 18-year olds now get NCEA Level 2 – up from less than 70 per cent in 2008.

The improvement among Māori students is even better. Three out of every four Māori students now achieve NCEA Level 2. A few years ago, it was around half.

National is working hard for students and parents to build on those achievements.

We’ve increased the number of students who start school ready to learn by increasing early childhood participation to 97 per cent.

We’re sharing teaching expertise through our Communities of Learning.

And last month, we confirmed we’ll replace decile ratings with better targeted funding for kids at the greatest risk of not achieving.

Students from a decile 1 school recently told me what they thought of those ratings.

They said they were tired of having to explain why they aren’t useless.

No young New Zealander’s aspirations should be limited by a decile rating, and we will remove them.

National has also introduced National Standards, allowing parents and teachers to share valuable insights about every child’s learning.

Labour wants to abolish National Standards and prevent parents from getting that information.

I know from personal experience – quite a lot of it actually – just how valuable it was to get feedback about how my kids did at school.

All of these changes are improving achievement by our students.

But we can do even better.

We can do even more to help our young people embrace new technology, find new ideas, create new ways of working and build stronger global connections.

Nothing can replace the thousands of motivated, professional teachers who care for and educate our children.

But we can improve the tools they use and the support we give them.
So today, I’m announcing that National will implement a targeted four-point education package – costing $379 million.

Digital learning for senior students, more resources for maths, and a guarantee that all primary school students will be able to learn a second language if they choose to.

And we’ll make it even easier for parents to track how their children are doing at school, through an expansion of National Standards.

Let me talk you through the package.

First, we want our young people to have the best opportunity to take advantage of new technology – to become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Rod Drury or Frances Valintine.

So we’ll invest $48 million to introduce exciting new digital learning opportunities for Year 12 and 13 students.

Each year, new Digital Academies will offer 1000 students specialised, IT-focused learning. They’ll be similar to our Trades Academies, and they’ll be just as successful.

And new Digital Internships will provide mentoring and tailored learning from businesses for 500 year 12 and 13 students, a pathway between skills gained in the classroom and real IT careers.

The second part of our announcement today is a $126 million investment to raise maths achievement for primary school students.

National Standards show we need to lift our game in maths. So we’ll provide our students and teachers with the tools they need to do that.

We’ll help 1200 teachers a year complete extra university papers targeted at teaching maths to primary students.

We’ll also provide intensive classroom support for students, where schools have identified the need to improve their maths.

That’s all alongside extra funding for classroom resources like digital apps.

If we want our children to succeed on the world stage, from this small country at the bottom of the globe, they need to be good cross-cultural communicators.

So the third part of our package is a $160 million investment to give all primary school children the opportunity to learn a second language, if they choose.

Schools will choose from at least 10 priority languages, which we expect to include Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese and Korean, along with Te Reo and New Zealand Sign Language.

Finally, I can confirm that a new National-led Government will update National Standards, so families have more comprehensive and more timely information about their children’s achievements in the classroom.

It will be called National Standards Plus.

National Standards has successfully set clear expectations about what every student needs to achieve in reading, writing and maths.

It provides a valuable snap-shot of how your child has performed across the year.
National Standards Plus will build on this by allowing you and your child to track their progress in more detail, online, as it happens.

We will show you your child’s progress on your mobile phone.

Some schools have already rolled out tools that support this approach.

I’ve met these children.
It was amazing meeting a little 10-year old who sat me down and showed me how much he’d achieved in the last month and what he would learn next.

I want to see that for every child in every school.

By moving the reporting online, the new system will help our hardworking teachers by streamlining their paperwork and allowing them to focus more of their time on teaching.

And teachers will have better information at their fingertips to help them develop the individual learning paths they already create for students.

National is always looking to the future.

Our teachers and schools work so hard to create opportunities for our children and these measures will further help more of our kids reach their potential.

Ladies and gentlemen.

National is a party of fresh ideas for a confident and outward-looking New Zealand.

A country that’s moving forward and heading in the right direction.

But to be in the National Party is to never be finished.

To never be satisfied.

To take nothing for granted.

And to never stop working.

That’s my pledge to you, and that’s my pledge to New Zealanders: to never stop working alongside you to make our country even better.

So over the next four weeks, I’ll be talking – and listening – to New Zealanders about our country’s future.

National has a strong team with a confident plan to keep New Zealand heading in the right direction.

We will fight hard for every single vote.

Will you join me?

We have a clear message: If you want a growing economy – party vote National!

If you want an economy that can afford world leading hospitals, schools, roads and public transport – party vote National!

If you want higher wages and better jobs – party vote National!

If you want to raise family incomes – party vote National!

And, if you want to secure your future and New Zealand’s future – on 23 September, party vote National!


Two out of four ain’t good

July 27, 2017

The four-A formula for repentance and redemption is simple: admit what you’ve done wrong, accept responsibility for it, apologise and make amends.

So far Meteria Turei has only got to the first A – she admitted she lied to get more in a benefit payment than she was entitled to.

She will get to the last A – she has changed her initial, I’ll pay the money back if I’m asked to of course I’ll pay it back.

But far from accepting responsibility for what she did, she cast blame and attempted to justify her lies. And rather than apologising , she’s using her past wrong-doing as a base for bad policy and to excuse others who defraud taxpayers.

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad might have worked for Meatloaf but two out of four ain’t good enough for an MP, especially one with the ambition to be a Minister.

Her refusal to accept responsibility or apologise now, and the policies she’s espousing which will entrench benefit dependency are bigger issues than what she did or didn’t do in the past.

 


Was not naming father fraud too?

July 22, 2017

Metiria Turei admitted she didn’t admit to having flatmates in order to collect a bigger benefit payment.

Rodney Hide at the NBR and Whaleoil have past quotes which show she didn’t name the baby’s father when she not only knew who he was but ensured he maintained a relationship with his daughter and took money from him and his family.

Is that fraud too?

After earlier saying she’d pay back the money if WINZ asked her to, she’s now decided she’ll pay it back anyway.

Will it be just the extra accommodation payment she got or should she, or the child’s father, also be paying what he would have been liable for had she named him and will anyone be looking into whether the help she got from him, his family and her own should have been declared too?

Life on a benefit wasn’t easy back then and isn’t now.

But a lot of people managed then and manage now without committing fraud.

A lot more people work hard to pay taxes.

Most accept the necessity of doing so to help people in genuine need, a lot fewer are happy to support someone who’s getting more than they’re entitled to through fraud.


Sense of entitlement

July 19, 2017

Who said:

…how could he have done all of those things credibly—and this is the important issue—knowing that his career and his credibility depended on his honesty? He has signed off on documents that have now led him to be in court on a charge of criminal fraud. There is an issue here of honesty, an issue of credibility, and that has had a very significant and very negative effect on this Government. . .?

It was Metiria Turei.

She was talking about John Banks who resigned from parliament, was charged, found guilty but subsequently cleared.

This makes her guilty of hypocrisy in light of her unashamed admission of benefit fraud.

It also shows a sense of entitlement:

. . . Spread over three years however, Turei’s lie of omission starts to look less like a one-off act of dishonesty and more like a systematic attempt to rort the system. Letter writers and talkback callers have voiced their anger over what they see as her sense of entitlement to public money – not helped by the fact that taxpayers are providing her with a huge salary today.

There is also considerable public anger over her selective and self-serving morality. Turei has effectively argued that she had a moral right to rip off the system because she had to feed her baby. She is wrong because hardship doesn’t give anyone the right to break the law. Her example encourages others to do the same and is unfair on those who struggle through legally. It is a particularly bad look coming from a party leader on a base salary of $173,000 a year.

The self-serving morality and sense of entitlement are also reflected in the welfare policy she announced.

It would increase benefits and remove the obligations now required of beneficiaries and sanctions imposed on those who don’t fulfill them.

That would undo the good work that National has done in helping people into work and in doing so reducing the long-term social and financial costs of benefit dependency.

Turei isn’t the only one to show no respect for taxpayers’ money.

There’s also the absolute stupidity of Gareth Morgan’s mad idea to have taxpayers provide $200 a week pocket money to every 18 – 20 year-old:

The $200 payment – which would be after tax – worked out to $10,000 a year, and would go to everyone regardless of income or whether or not they were studying. Unlike other benefits it would not drop off if a young person moved into employment.

It would replace the student allowance, which currently is tied to parental income and maxes out at $177.03 after tax for single people under 24. It would also replace the first $10,000 of any other benefits and the student living costs segment of student loans.

Morgan argued the financial security this would provide would bring down rates of youth suicide and financial stress. . .

Has he got any data for that? There is plenty of data on what happens when you give people money whether or not they need it.

Only people with no real understanding of people and economics would think either Turei’s or Morgan’s policies have merit.

As Alan Duff says:

. . . I am repeating the warning that free money to able-bodied humans anywhere can do just the opposite of what it intends: take away the will to work, the guts to struggle, the spirit to pick yourself up by the bootstraps. . .

Every cent spent on unnecessary welfare is a cent that could be spent on health, education, infrastructure and any of the other areas where it could do more good.

Every cent spent on unnecessary welfare is a cent taken from other people.

Every cent spent on unnecessary welfare feeds a sense of entitlement and erodes independence.

These policies are also political cynicism at its height because both Turei and Morgan must know that both are so unrealistic and unaffordable they could never be government policy, whichever parties were in power.


Knowing right from wrong

July 17, 2017

Green co-leader Metiria Turei has admitted she is a fraudster:

. . I was one of those women, who you hear people complain about on talkback radio.
Because despite all the help I was getting, I could not afford to live, study and keep my baby well without keeping a secret from WINZ.
Like many families who rely on a benefit, Piu and I moved around a lot when she was little.
We lived in five different flats with various people.
In three of those flats, I had extra flatmates, who paid rent, but I didn’t tell WINZ. I didn’t dare.
I knew that if I told the truth about how many people were living in the house my benefit would be cut.
And I knew that my baby and I could not get by on what was left.
This is what being on the benefit did to me – it made me poor and it made me lie.
It was a stressful, terrifying experience. . .

 

Turei isn’t the first MP to admit to benefit fraud, but this one paid it back:

Parliament is a house of representatives.

I doubt there is any MP who has not done something wrong, just as I doubt any of us who aren’t MPs could put our hands on our hearts and say we’ve never done anything wrong.

Doing wrong is one thing, not knowing right from wrong is quite another.

Turei has compounded the wrong of benefit fraud with no attempt to put it right and with the attempted justification: it made me poor and it made me lie.

What does it say about the morals of the woman who wants to be a Minister?

What does it say to people, especially those on low incomes, who work hard and pay taxes to support people in genuine need?

What does that say to all the people on benefits, all of whom are poor, many of whom don’t have the support Turei had from her baby’s father, her own family and his, and most of whom manage without lying?

It’s a similar message to the one in the policy she announced of removing the penalties and obligations on beneficiaries including the requirement for drug testing and sanctions for not actively seeking work.

Most beneficiaries want to get off benefits, many need help to do so which might include a carrot and a few need a stick.

Without sanctions, fathers of children whose mothers are on benefits will have to pay nothing, people who don’t try to get work-ready and actively seek work will be left to languish on benefits and everyone else will pay directly through taxes and indirectly through the social problems including poor health, low education achievement and higher crime that benefit dependency promotes.

Quote of the day on this goes to Act MP David Seymour:

Green Party policy: If you stay at home and smoke drugs all day you get a pay rise. If you get up and go to work you get a tax hike.

Benefits should help those in genuine need.

Some beneficiaries will need permanent help but for most taxpayer help should be a temporary bridge to help them from dependence to independence.

 


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