Dunne’s bottom lines

October 30, 2013

Untied Future leader Peter Dunne spent three terms supporting Labour, is in his second term supporting National and is showing he could go left or right after next year’s election.

However, he’s got some bottom lines:

. . .  Mr Dunne said he would need Labour to abandon its plans for a capital gains tax, higher taxes for higher income earners, abolition of the Families Commission and opposition to the establishment of the Game Animal Council.

I wouldn’t give him much chance with the first two conditions.

Both Labour and the Green party want more taxes and higher taxes, even though those they’re promoting will do more harm than good.

The Families Commission has yet to justify its existence and the money it costs but it’s not particularly significant in the grand scheme of things. Nor is the Game Animal Council.

Dunne might get the two little things he wants but he would be much safer sticking with National which would give him the bigger ones – no capital gains tax and no envy taxes for higher earners.


Families different and diverse

August 9, 2012

New Zealand families today: a brief demographic profile published by the Families Commission is a summary of  facts about New Zealand families which reveals significant changes in our social fabric.

The Commission’s Chief Research Analyst, Dr Jeremy Robertson said the statistics reveal trends over several decades including fewer people marrying with more of those who do so marrying later and living together first.

“. . . The facts also correct some common misconceptions. For example, despite the belief that divorce is on the rise, there has actually been a recent fall in divorce rates, with the rate declining since 2003.”

He says, “With the increasing age of the population we are seeing a reduction in the proportion of households with children. Couple-only and one person households appear to be the fastest growing household type.”

More children are living with one parent. In 1976 10% of children were living with one parent, but by 2006 the figure was 28%. It is estimated that over a third of children will have lived in a sole parent family by the time they reach the age of 17.

Dr Robertson says. “Our household composition is changing and our experiences of family life are changing. Past patterns of family formation and child bearing have changed, with a wider diversity of pathways into family relationships. Children are also experiencing a greater range of living situations than the past.”

“These kinds of changes have implications for business, social policy, family services and local government” he says. It’s important to know what’s really happening in families today so we can provide the education, health and other social services that families, whānau and their children really need to prosper.” . . .

Key findings:

 Over the past 20 years couple-only and one person households have become more common.
• The rate of growth in the proportion of households headed by a sole parent may be levelling off.
• An estimated third of children will have lived in a sole parent family for a period of time by age 17.
• In 2006 57% of all adults aged 16 and over were living with a partner. The majority of these were married (76%), however a growing proportion of New Zealanders now live together without formally legalising their relationship.
• Since the early 1970s there has been an almost uninterrupted decline in the general marriage rate.
• Evidence that some people are delaying marriage is seen in the increasing median age of those who marry. The median age of women who married for the first time has risen from 20.8 years in 1971 to 28.2 years in 2010. The median age for men marrying for the first time has increased by about 7 years.
• Divorce rates have increased until recently (there has been a drop-off since the mid 2000s). The proportion of people who marry for a second time has increased.
• The median age for women giving birth is now 30 years, compared with 26 years in the early 1960s and just under 25 years in the early 1970s. Fewer New Zealand women in their teens are having a child compared with the 1960s.
• The proportion of ex-nuptial births is now nearly 50%.
• Between 1991 and 2012 the proportion of women holding a post-school qualification increased from 32% to 50%. The gender gap has been steadily closing – from 12 percentage points in 1991 to 3 percentage points in 2012.
• The average weekly hours spent by children in licensed ECE settings has increased from 13.3 hours in 2000 to 20.4 hours in 2011.

The full report is here.

 


Refocus for Families Commission

May 31, 2012

The Families Commission was a post-election coalition trophy for United Future and I have never been convinced it did anything of sufficient value to justify its existence.

However a new focus announced by Social Develop Minister Paula Bennett could change that:

The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Professor Sir Peter Gluckman has identified a gap in monitoring, evaluation and research in the social sector.

“This restructure will see the Families Commission take on a new role providing for independent monitoring, evaluation and research to measure the effectiveness of initiatives for families and society,” says Mrs Bennett.

Of the $32.48 million funding the Families Commission receives over four years, the Government will reprioritise a minimum of $14.2 million over four years to set up a new Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (SuPERU).

This unit will provide independent monitoring, evaluation and contracting of research on key issues and social sector programmes and interventions.

“There will be a single Commissioner, down from the original seven and the organisation will be governed by a board comprising public sector, philanthropic and academic representatives,” says Mrs Bennett.

The restructure will see the Families Commission’s core function, which is to advocate for families, streamlined through a leaner, more focused structure.

A new Family Status Report will be developed to measure how New Zealand families are getting on.

A further $4 million over four years will be redirected to fund extra parenting programmes and relationship education in schools and the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health programme.

The Government also announced the transfer of responsibility for managing the Growing Up In New Zealand longitudinal study to the new unit.

The study will receive an additional $1.8m from Vote Social Development 2012/2013 financial year.

A focus based on science rather than feel-good factors is a good place to start in ensuring the Commission achieves something worthwhile and gives value for the money it costs.


Families Commission sees sense on PPL

April 15, 2012

National  has got support  from an unexpected quarter for announcing it will veto any extension to Paid Parental Leave.

Families Commissioner Carl Davidson has said the country probably can’t afford it:

Until recently the Families Commission has helped lead the campaign for increased paid parental leave. It argued strongly under its former boss Rajen Prasad – now a Labour MP – for a full year’s paid parental leave and reaffirmed its position in 2010.

But Mr Davidson, appointed that year by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, told the Weekend Herald that the commission’s 2007 proposal should now be seen as “the gold standard”, which had to change because of the worldwide economic recession.

He said paid parental leave encouraged people to start families, which was socially and economically desirable but had certain limits.

Has anyone seen any research on this? Does PPL really encourage people who wouldn’t otherwise have had children to have them and if so in sufficient numbers to justify the cost?
Does it make a significant difference to parents taking time off work after a birth and to breast feeding rates or would they have done it anyway?
We don’t want to get too carried away of course because that argument could be extended to infinity.

“I mean, wouldn’t it be great if none of us had to go to work and we could just stay at home and raise our kids and get paid for it?

Quite.
No-one disputes the benefits of time off work to establish and continue breast feeding, to bond, to adjust to the demands of parenting not least of which is too little sleep.
A case for having at least one parent at home for a few weeks, months or even years could be easily made.
But does the public need to pay PPL to enable this?
Even in the best of financial times that’s debatable. It shouldn’t even be considered when we’re running deficits and there will be other more pressing priorities when we get back into surplus.

UF support at a price

December 5, 2011

National has a supply and confidence agreement with United Future:

Under the deal, Mr Dunne will remain Minister of Revenue and associate Minister of Health, as well as picking up the portfolio of associate Minister of Conservation.

Mr Dunne has also won new gains including investigating a free, annual health check-up for over 65s, no sale of any part of Kiwibank or Radio New Zealand.

He has also secured the retention of the Families Commission.

The question of this deal was never a matter of if but when and at what cost.

Even though Dunne won only his seat, I suppose he had to get something to show for his vote.

The Families Commission might be small beer in the context of overall government spending but given Bill English says we’re facing spending constraints for the foreseeable future the its retention is an expensive and unproductive luxury.

“Balancing the books and returning to  surplus is one of the most important things the Government can do to  build a stronger and more competitive economy,” Mr English says. . .

But getting back to surplus won’t be easy. In many ways, restraint in the public sector has only just started.

“The Government is committed to meeting this challenge. We’ve taken steps to control spending and get on top of debt, while putting in place  policies that build a more competitive economy and more real jobs.

When the need for restraint is so great, it’s a pity that axing the commission, which is an obvious way of cutting costs with little or no impact on anyone but those who work for it ,is no longer an option.

I wonder what the cost-benefit analysis of it would show and how all concessions made to minor parties since MMP was introduced would fare under similar scrutiny?

The confidence and supply agreement is here.


We don’t need another ministry

May 22, 2011

Labour intends to disestablish the Families’ Commission and replace it with a Ministry for Children.

Few people would lament the end to the commission, but we don’t need another ministry, we’ve already got far too many of them.

The one good thing about this policy is it highlights the big difference between National and Labour.

National is focussed on saving, investment export-led growth and the important part reducing the burden of the state plays in that.

Labour is focussed on adding to the burden through taxing, spending and redistribution.


Merging commissions first step

May 5, 2011

Peter Dunne is calling for the Families’ and Children’s Commissions to be merged:

“Rolling the Office of the Children’s Commissioner into the Families Commission just makes sense,” Mr Dunne said.

“Much of what the two agencies do overlaps and is inter-related. The interests of families and children deeply entwined, and I believe a merger would strengthen their combined advocacy role, while maximising their value for money.”

. . .“The well-being of our children is dependent above all else on the strength of our families,” he said.

“A single commission focused on promoting the needs of families will, by definition, have a positive effect on the lives of children in New Zealand.”

What would have made even more sense would have been not to waste money on the Families’ Commission in the first place. 

But if it’s not going to disappear altogether merging it with the Children’s Commission is better than leaving it as a separate agency.

With luck the merger will be a first step towards its eventual disappearance.


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