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.


Sometimes a sausage is just a sausage

February 15, 2019

If all publicity is good publicity the National Party’s latest advertisement has succeeded.

It’s a dig at KiwiFarce KiwiBuild.

One character says it’s good, the second points out that there’d have to be 33 houses built a day to meet its goal and so far it’s built only 33.

The third character who is barbecuing says that’s Labour, all sizzle no sausage.

So far so good, except that the character who thinks the policy is good is  a woman and the other two are men which some people have taken exception to, saying it’s sexist.

Would it be sexist if the one asking the questions was a bloke and at least one of the others was a woman?

No. So why is it sexist if the less informed character is a woman?

Doesn’t that that suggest women aren’t people who can be portrayed as stupid but men could be?

If equality is  the aim, women have to accept the bad with the good.

If equality is the aim, women can’t just be shown in more positive roles.

If equality is the aim, it’s best to look at people as people and not get hung up on gender.

And let’s not lose sight of the message in the clip – KiwiBuild is an expensive mistake.

The priority for housing is not people on well above the average income.

The need isn’t for  two- bedroomsemi-detached houses without garages in Wanaka.

. . .Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said yesterday she considered the houses ”not practical” and ”not functional”.

”The Government expects Wanaka families looking for a home to pay over half a million dollars for a two-bedroom townhouse that doesn’t even have a garage.

”How appealing is a two-bedroomed town house that’s attached to another property by a shared wall, with no garage, and costs upwards of $560,000?

”It’s no wonder no-one wants to buy them.”

Ms Dean said the lack of interest showed how out of touch the Government was ”when it comes to delivering suitable first homes for young Kiwi families”. . .

Not only is the target unachievable, the houses being built are replacing others that would have been built by the private sector.

The Reserve Bank estimates that for every 100 houses built under the government’s KiwiBuild programme over the next three years, between 50 and 75 other houses may not be built because of capacity constraints. . . 

The government should be working to change the root causes of the housing shortage – the Resource Management Act, compliance costs, land availability, infrastructure constraints and skill shortages.

And people who think the National ad is sexist should remember that sometimes a sausage is just a sausage.


Judging by words not deeds

February 12, 2019

If the latest Newshub poll is to be believed, the public is judging the government by its words not deeds.

There’s been a lot of words, but they haven’t been matched by positive action, rather the reverse:

As for the poll and commentators saying it’s a disaster for National:


Labour pains National delivers

January 31, 2019

The National Party will put an end to tax bracket creep:

A National Government would link income tax brackets to inflation, ensuring income taxes are adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living and allowing New Zealanders to keep more of what they earn, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

“New Zealanders’ incomes are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living because this Government is imposing more red tape and taxes,” Mr Bridges said in his State of the Nation speech in Christchurch today.

“Over the next four years, New Zealanders will be paying almost $10,000 more per household in tax than they would have been under National. The Government is taking more than it needs, only to waste billions on bad spending.

“On top of that, by 2022 New Zealanders on the average wage will move into the top tax bracket. That’s not right or fair. So in our first term National will fix that by indexing tax thresholds to inflation.

“We will amend the Income Tax Act so tax thresholds are adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living. That will mean that within a year after every election, Treasury will advise the Government on how much the thresholds should be adjusted for inflation.

“This would prevent New Zealanders from moving into higher tax brackets even when their income isn’t keeping up with the rising cost of living. It would ensure New Zealanders keep more of what they earn to stay on top of rising costs of living such as higher prices for necessities like petrol, rent and electricity.

“We will include a veto clause so the Government of the day can withhold the changes in the rare circumstances there is good reason to. But it will have to explain that decision to New Zealanders.

It would take a very serious change in economic health, or a very stupid government, to do that.

“The changes would make a real difference. Assuming inflation of 2 per cent, someone on the average wage would be $430 a year better off after the first adjustment, $900 after the second and $1,400 after the third.

“A family with two earners – for example, one earning $80,000 and the other $40,000 – would be $600 better off a year after the first adjustment, about $1,300 after the second and $1,900 by the third.

“That’s more of their own money in their own bank accounts.

“The first adjustment would prevent Kiwis from paying an extra $650 million a year in tax based on today’s estimates. We can afford that by managing the books prudently and spending wisely.

“We will also do more on tax – but add no new taxes – and I’ll continue talking about our plans between now and next year’s election.

“National is committed to helping New Zealanders get ahead. This step means that as well as cancelling new taxes this Government has piled on, we won’t allow future governments to use inflation as an annual tax increase by stealth.” 

This is a very positive start to the political year from National and a stark contrast to Labour’s which featured what amounts to an admission of failure on their flagship policy:

KiwiBuild’s “interim” targets for this electoral term have been scrapped as the Government recalibrates the programme.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Housing Minister Phil Twyford told media from their caucus retreat on Wednesday that their commitment to building 100,000 affordable homes over the next decade remains intact, but the interim targets for this term did not.

The Government has been dealing with the fallout from an admission by Twyford that the Government would not be able build 1000 of the homes by July 1, its first interim target. Instead it expects to build just 300.

The KiwiBuild policy aims to build 100,000 affordable homes for first-home buyers over 10 years, half of them in Auckland. . . 

They expect us to believe they can build 100,000 affordable homes in a decade when they can’t build 300 in the first year?

Labour is planning to waste money on houses for a relatively few people earning well above the average income. National has committed to letting people keep a bit more of their own money.

It gives voters a very clear choice – Labour pains over housing or National delivering clear policy to end bracket creep.

 

 


Good in theory but

January 28, 2019

Could a new blue-green party succeed?

It is understood preliminary discussions among interested parties have already been held on creating a party that combines economic and environmental credentials, filling a demand not already taken up by existing political parties.

It is also understood former Green Party leadership contender and one-time National candidate hopeful Vernon Tava is the front-runner to lead the party

This is a good idea in theory.

The Green Party is more red than green, and its radical red policies alienate a lot of people who are very concerned about the environment.

An environmental party that is moderate on social and economic policy could sit in the middle, able to go left or right.

It might also gain support from former Green supporters who are disenchanted with the party’s performance in government, in particular its support of the waka jumping legislation.

If it succeeded it would be in a much more powerful position than the Green Party which time and time again rules out a coalition with National.

But good in theory is a long way from success in practice.

One political commentator said financial backing would not be an issue because the business sector would support the formation of such a party. . . 

Financial backing is important but a party needs much more than that to succeed as the fate of Top, and the Internet and Conservative Parties show. All three had strong financial backing and none made it into parliament.

Suggestions National could throw the new party an electorate will come to nothing.

National doesn’t try to win Epsom in order to help Act but Rodney Hide won Epsom on his own merits.

Asking voters to keep supporting an MP, or a party, they backed without any nods or winks is very different from asking them not to back one they elected in one election in favour of voting for someone else.

Even if the government gets its wish to lower the threshold to allow a party into parliament to 4% of the votes, it would be a very big ask for a new party to get into parliament.

Only one party has done that without a sitting MP – Act in 1996.

The Progressive Green Party also contested the 1996 election. 

It managed to get only 5,288 voters to support it which gave it only 0.26% of the vote.

The environment might be more important to people now than it was then.

But it’s a long way from 0.26% to 5% or even 4%, especially when National and Labour both have a strong focus on the environment anyway.


We need green not greenwash

January 14, 2019

Danyl Mclauchlan says the political process isn’t working and people don’t care about climate change.

He is right that the political process isn’t working. In many cases is making matters worse.

He’s wrong in saying people don’t care about the environment including climate change.

But they also care about people and the economic and social impact of policies which might or might not save the planet, and will come at a high human and financial cost.

This is why National Party climate change spokesman, Todd Muller, is looking for not only a bi-partisan approach but one which isn’t blinded by green ideology:

We are not a party of “climate villains” dragging our feet as they would paint, but rather a party of economic and environmental pragmatists who are taking a principled approach to climate change: allowing science to paint the picture, with technology leading the way, pacing ourselves at the pace of our competitors, and being relentlessly honest about the economic implications of the transition. . . 

National takes climate change seriously. That’s why have I been working behind the scenes with James Shaw negotiating a framework for an Independent Climate Change Commission to take the short-term politics out of what is a very long-term issue and guide the response of successive future governments.

Generation Zero is trying to paint climate change as a partisan issue, with the Labour and Green Party in one corner, and National in the other.

We are seeking to move climate change beyond partisan politics to provide stability to this issue. National is proud of its record on climate issues, but those who are dead set on New Zealand always moving harder and faster no matter the cost, often under the guise of “ambition”, will never let the truth get in the way of a good story. . .

That cost isn’t only a financial and social one. It would be an environmental one if, for example, the dark green calls for drastic reductions in stock numbers here led to increases in other countries where farming practices are far less efficient.

Another example of policy on the hoof leading to more emissions, not less, is the oil and gas ban.

The key difference in policy has been the Labour Government’s ban on oil and gas exploration – a change of direction that the National Party continues to oppose vigorously. This decision was pure politics with the Government’s own officials advising that banning oil and gas would cost our economy billions of dollars and likely lead to an increase in global emissions.

The people of Taranaki don’t need a “safe space” to “grieve the change of identity”. What the people of Taranaki need is economic certainty and a Government that isn’t blinded by Green ideology.

National is ambitious when it comes to climate action. We are also ambitious for New Zealand. It is absolutely critical that we move – but let’s not move at a pace that leaves businesses and communities behind and puts our economy at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the world.

Modelling provided to the Minister for Climate Change by NZIER indicated that achieving an all-gases zero emissions target by 2050 would reduce New Zealand wages by 60 per cent and GDP by 40 per cent. This may be palatable to Generation Zero, but I doubt the rest of New Zealand would agree.

It’s sadly ironical that some of the people calling loudest for reducing poverty are also calling loudest for radical environmental policies that will hit the poor hardest.

New Zealand is already a low-wage economy with at best modest growth in GDP. A 60% drop in wages and a 40% fall in GDP would be devastating for us all.

When our total emissions account for 0.17 per cent of total global emissions, leadership isn’t being first, fast and famous.

Leadership is taking what we already do well, food production, and doing it even better over time by investing in innovation and technology.

The Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, is an example of putting money into science to reduce emissions without reducing production and making food more expensive.

While all parties are working together to support New Zealand playing its part on climate change, we can’t ignore the reality that, ultimately, it will be decisions made in Washington, Beijing, Moscow and New Delhi – not Wellington – that will determine the level of warming we will see over coming centuries.

Future generations will thank us for working with, and at the pace of, global partners.

A cleaner, greener world requires us all to think globally and act locally but the thinking and acting must be based on science not politics.

That is the only way to get green policies, not greenwash.

 


Paying price for unpreparedness

December 10, 2018

Got a problem? The government almost certainly has a review to consider it:

New figures released by National show that since being sworn in, the Government has announced 206 reviews and working groups, or one approximately every two days, at a cost of almost $700,000 dollars a day, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

“The Government has abandoned New Zealanders and delegated the job of governing to officials, think tanks, consultants and former politicians while it focuses on tidying up after itself and cashing its coalition negotiation cheques,” Mr Bridges says.

“This is a Government whose parties had three terms – nine years – to develop their own ideas, but they’re now farming the thinking out to others and charging the taxpayer as they do.

Instead of using opposition to prepare for government, Labour spent the best part of nine years on in-fighting and looking inwards. We are paying the price for their lack of preparedness  for government.

“The Government has no plans for growing the strong economy it inherited, or for improving the lives of New Zealanders. Rather than having a plan and a vision for New Zealand it’s focused on keeping the Coalition together and treading water while we wait for the ever-growing list of reviews and working groups to report back with instructions.

“Meanwhile taxpayers are forking out half a million dollars a day to pay for this Government’s laziness.

“The total cost so far is around $280 million but it is set to be much higher. The Government doesn’t know the cost of 79 of their reviews, so taxpayers could be looking at a $450 million bill. At a time when cost of living is on the rise, rents are going up, and more taxes and regulations are being piled on, New Zealanders don’t need this wasteful spending as they feel the pinch at Christmas time.

Some external consideration and advice is sensible, but 206 reviews and working groups at a cost of $700,000 a day is simply wasteful.

“It is flabby spending. National would cut the waste, stop mulching trees and rolling out free fees, and invest taxpayer dollars in a more considered, targeted way. Savings from these reviews alone could fund the Roxburgh children’s village for the next 90 years, end the teacher strikes, fund 5,600 cochlear implants or axe the regional fuel tax.

“Kiwis can go into this Christmas knowing that only National will be doing the hard yards all summer to hold this Government-of-missed-opportunities to account. We’ll do the work so we’re ready should we earn the right to govern again in 2020.”

That one of the expensive working groups is working on ways to tax us more is particularly galling.

If the government spent less and spent more wisely there would be no need for it to take more tax.

Judith Collins sums it up: Rather than $700,000 per day being spent on Working Groups to tell the Government what to do, wouldn’t it be better to just have a WORKING GOVERNMENT?

 


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