Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Court statistics - good news story?

Coincidentally, on the same day that the country was reacting en masse to the discharge without conviction of a young rugby player who brutally assaulted a group of people on the street in Wellington, the latest youth court statistics were released. They show a continuing fall in the numbers of young people being charged.

Adult statistics graphed look similar:

The cynic in me questions sudden reverses in trends always looking for some fish hook. Especially when the prison population is growing. According to Corrections:

The Department of Corrections has embarked on a major recruitment drive and aims to employ around 600 new Corrections Officers by September 2017, with at least 500 of them coming from New Zealand.
The new recruits are needed because the prison population is expected to reach 10,000 by 2017. This increase is due to more people being held in prison on remand than previously. Legislative changes have also meant prisoners serve more of their sentence in prison, and there has been an increase in prisoners serving longer sentences for more serious crimes. 
NZ Lawyer recently published an article about the falling court statistics.
Here's one explanation:

“The police have made greater use of pre-charge warnings and alternative mechanisms (eg, community and iwi justice panels) to ensure minor offending is more appropriately dealt with.”

I suspect that is the major reason. Not an improvement in behaviour. Serious offending continues at the same levels.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Lizzie Marvelly

I shouldn't read them. Lizzie Marvelly's columns always irritate me but they do provide an insight into the modern feminist's mind. 

Today she has been unusually arrogant - even by her standards - about David Seymour's comments this week suggesting that if a Women's Ministry was legitimate so should a Man's Ministry be. Not that he was promoting the formation of such. Rather, he was highlighting the inconsistency.

Marvelly lets fly:

During this otherwise celebratory week, however, I was unfortunate enough to stumble upon a publication entitled Free Press, which the Act Party seemingly sends out as a press release on a regular basis. On Suffrage Day (September 19), the Act Party decided to tell the nation (or more accurately, the small minority of New Zealanders who have nothing better to do with their time than read the party's public relations material) that there is no longer any need for a Minister for Women, when in fact, it is men who are disadvantaged.
"Where once women were clearly marginalised, men are now behind in most social statistics," Free Press asserted, on a day dedicated to celebrating the still-challenged idea that women are as important as men.
More men go to prison. More men commit suicide. More women graduate from university than men. Men even die earlier!
Never mind the fact that women are paid less than men for the same work. Nor that women are more likely than men to suffer from mental illness. Nor that men commit the vast majority of the country's crimes.
Though I generally try to avoid reading about anything the Act Party says or does out of concern for my sanity, the Free Press caught me by surprise. I'd almost have thought that a Suffrage Day issue dedicated to mansplaining was a joke, but that would require the Act Party to have a sense of humour and a shred of self-awareness.

....From a party that has had exactly zero female leaders in its 22-year history, perhaps the Free Press' stance is unsurprising. Ignorance, however, is no excuse.

A female President is a female leader. The accusation of ignorance is somewhat ironic.

Not that ACT would concern itself with gender parity because its core philosophy is individualism.
Marvelly's is collectivism. But I am not sure she comprehends that.

The woman is a chronic belly-acher. To men, she says,

When you have no experience of what it's like to live in a world where another gender running the show is the way it's always been - from the fact that we've had only two female prime ministers out of 38, to the injustice of Sir Ed and Lord Rutherford receiving titles for their achievements while Kate Sheppard gave half the population the vote and was never made a dame - it must be hard to imagine.
I have lived in that world rather longer than MS Marvelly and  I often reflect on the freedom I have relished as a female, and a mother, a freedom furnished by a husband who has not had the same time or opportunity to pursue his every inclination because he has busied himself with supporting his family. Perhaps Ms Marvelly's father did the same. Perhaps not.

But what about a little gratitude? If not to men especially, for the privilege you have enjoyed by dint of being born in a relatively peaceful, prosperous and civilized country.

You don't know how lucky you are Lizzie.

Friday, September 23, 2016


Former British MP Bryan Gould has written in today's NZ Herald about what Labour needs to do:

But voters will feel more confident in voting Labour if they are convinced that a Labour government will approach individual issues from a consistent viewpoint - one that will give priority to the values of tolerance, mutual respect, compassion, care for each other, and a recognition that "we're all in this together".
Spoken like a true politician.

Here is Thomas Sowell's definition of 'compassion', from his political glossary:

 "A ... term that is likely to be heard a lot, during election years especially, is "compassion." But what does it mean concretely? More often than not, in practice it means a willingness to spend the taxpayers' money in ways that will increase the spender's chances of getting reelected. If you are skeptical — or, worse yet, critical — of this practice, then you qualify for a different political label: "mean-spirited." A related political label is "greedy." In the political language of today, people who want to keep what they have earned are said to be "greedy," while those who wish to take their earnings from them and give it to others (who will vote for them in return) show "compassion." "

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

UBI for kids

Here's a group advocating a universal basic income for all children of $40 a week.
Lowell Manning, President of Basic Income New Zealand (BINZ) is calling for a Universal Basic Income for Children. “I like to call it a Kids’ Basic Income” he says. Mr Manning said that a Universal Basic Income for Children would work much better than tax cuts, substantially reducing child poverty in New Zealand and boosting the economy where it is needed.

Referring to reports (Radio New Zealand 27th May on Nine to Noon), that Prime Minister John Key and Finance Minister Bill English would like to cut taxes by about $2-3 billion*, Manning says, “if we are serious about eliminating child poverty here in New Zealand, the Government is well placed to lead the world in 2017 by implementing a Universal Basic Income for Children”.

“The Kids’ BI would be similar to the old Universal Family Benefit that ended in 1991 after 45 years of continuous use”, he said, “so the idea is neither new nor radical. What was radical was abolishing the Universal Family Benefit in the first place”.

“A Kids’ basic income of $40 paid weekly in addition to all existing income support to every child under the age of 18 irrespective of family income or assets would return about $2.6 billion annually to the productive economy excluding establishment and administration costs”, he continued. “That’s about the same as the tax cuts the Government is considering. It creates a clear choice between substantially reducing the rapidly worsening child poverty that is causing widespread concern throughout the country and tax cuts that poorly target child poverty.”

“Moreover, the $2.6 billion a year spent on the Kids’ Basic Income would generate more government revenue because the Kids’ Basic Income will increase national output, GDP, by about 1%, and the tax on that extra output will increase Government revenue more than tax cuts will”, said Mr Manning.

“The Kids’ Basic Income is about the wellbeing of children, not family size or structure, ethnicity or social status” he concluded.
I'd like some expert economic comment on that bit of maths. Sounds like the impossible task of standing in a bucket and trying to life yourself up by the handle. We cannot tax ourselves into prosperity etc.

That not insignificant matter aside, I see a number of problems.

The income would be paid to the parent. If it's like the old Family Benefit it would be paid to the mother. In other cases to whoever has legal custody I guess. But it'll be that person who decides how it is used. Yes, poorer parents will tend to spend it but the wealthier might choose to save it towards future costs eg university fees.

So it cannot assumed it will automatically add to GDP.

Second, the behavioural effect on those who would rather breed than work for an income is a worry.

Third, how can it be fair to anyone who isn't  a parent and aged 18 and over? They don't get any tax relief because proposed cuts would be going to parents with dependent children only. So those just starting out, many already burdened with student debt, become relatively poorer.

Fourth, to really quibble, if all families with children receive the income boost, median household income rises as does the poverty threshold. On paper, relative child poverty persists.

Finally, the universal family benefit was stopped in favour of targeting poorer children. This is a reversal.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Military style camps not making a difference

MSD released two reports last week which you can find here. I have simply extracted the recidivism rates but there is additional data about the type of offending, gender, age etc. if you are interested

"This report describes changes in the offending outcomes observed for 79 young people who between October 2010 and December 2013 graduated from 11 Military-style Activity Camps (MACs) held at Te Puna Wai ō Tuhinapo youth justice residence in Christchurch. All of these young people had a post-MAC follow-up period of at least 12 months so their follow-up offending could be observed."

"The reoffending outcomes ...for MAC graduates appear very similar to those seen for all young people who have received SwR orders.  However caution must be taken with such a comparison, as measuring the impact of the MAC relative to SwR would require a robust statistical approach such as a matched comparison analysis. This could usefully be undertaken in the future."

Another report looks at the recidivism rate for those who went through the Youth Court and received supervision orders:

"Records for a total of 552 young people  who received a stand-alone Supervision (SUP) order between 1 October 2010 and 31 March 2013 were examined."

A final report looks at recidivism rate among those who went through a Family Group Conference process. The outcomes are slightly better but these are probably the less serious offenders. 

Based on these graphs the Military style camps had the least success.

On a brighter note, according to the summary:

Offending by children aged 10-13 years has dropped in the last five years for both genders, across all ethnic groups and ages, across almost all offence types, and in all regions.
A falling youth crime rate is not unique to New Zealand, and the reasons for the fall are unclear and therefore subject to debate.
Much of the drop in offending by children in New Zealand has been because fewer children are becoming offenders in the first place – a very positive finding.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The UN should mind its own business

It incenses me when the UN sticks its nose into New Zealand's social and political affairs. Anne Tolley has apparently been challenged in Geneva over child poverty and naming the new agency the Ministry for Vulnerable Children. According to RNZ:

"...Unicef NZ executive director Vivien Maidaborn, who was part of the delegation, said the panel had expressed concern about the new ministry.
"The comment that was made was, 'I don't understand why you would call a Ministry the Ministry of Vulnerable Children when it could just have been the Ministry of Children. You're in danger of overtargeting towards vulnerable children at the expense of rights to all New Zealand children.'"

This is bullshit.

Most New Zealand children do not need the government in their lives. They do not need a Ministry. Their parents give birth to them, care for and feed them, raise them and send them into the world without any help from a government agency that concerns itself with the care and protection of children. Sure they might receive some tax subsidy and use public education and health services but that is the nature of the beast right now.

Around 3-5 percent of children are in circumstances that even a libertarian would acknowledge  (in the absence of private charities) require state intervention. The argument is about the nature and timing of that intervention.

Seriously, how can genuinely vulnerable children at risk of abuse, neglect, and failure to develop, be 'over-targeted'?

New Zealand has every right to tackle its own problems in the way it believes will work best. I know what I would have said to the UN.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Tax and transfer

From the latest Household Incomes Report overview a couple of interesting points.

Pertaining to the lower graph, "The transfers received by the top decile are almost entirely from NZS. The rest is from low-income ‘independent’ adults living in high-income households while (legitimately) receiving a core income-tested benefit such as Sole Parent Support."

Which raises a question for me. Why is it that student eligibility for an allowance is tested against parental income but eligibility for sole parent support is not?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The genesis of the DPB and not naming fathers

The first DPB Emergency benefit was created by a National government in 1968.

The DPB statutory benefit was passed into legislation in 1973, under an incoming Labour government. But it was pushed along by a National MP Lance Adams-Schneider's private member's bill under debate at the time.

That's why I wrote to Leighton Smith today that the DPB was introduced by a National govt.

I should have been clearer. And I should not rely on my memory:-)

Don W picked it up and Leighton didn't have time to read my clarification.

The subject of the DPB was under discussion because of a campaign launched by Auckland Action Against Poverty to have the penalty against sole parents on welfare who refuse to name the father of their child abolished.

If the business of naming the father is genuinely troublesome (the child is the result of rape or incest) Work and Income will not apply the penalty.

However there is also a dodge that goes on which the bureaucracy tries to discourage.

Current law requires the naming of fathers in order to collect Child Support from him. By not naming the father, the mother colludes to help him avoid paying Child Support which, if she is on welfare, is kept by the state to offset the benefit cost. In return the father agrees to pay her a lesser sum than Child Support but higher than the penalty. So both win.

Of course AAAP wouldn't have a problem with this. They are happy for the 'downtrodden' of any hue to rip off the 'neoliberal' welfare system.

Do they comprehend that these sorts of campaigns actually hurt the poor by hardening voter attitudes?

"The 30 million word gap"

According to the NZ Herald,

Some children are starting school without the ability to speak in sentences, sparking a government investigation.

A Nelson school principal, "said busy and tired parents not speaking enough with their kids was a key part of the issue, with many leaving parenting to the TV and electronic devices."
I can accept some element of truth in this but equally, busy people always find time. My children grew up during the video explosion and watched hundreds of movies. But they were also read to daily and talked to constantly.
What I am reminded of was a study I read about some years back.

The results of the study were more severe than the researchers anticipated. Observers found that 86 percent to 98 percent of the words used by each child by the age of three were derived from their parents’ vocabularies. Furthermore, not only were the words they used nearly identical, but also the average number of words utilized, the duration of their conversations, and the speech patterns were all strikingly similar to those of their caregivers.

After establishing these patterns of learning through imitation, the researchers next analyzed the content of each conversation to garner a better understanding of each child’s experience. They found that the sheer number of words heard varied greatly along socio-economic lines. On average, children from families on welfare were provided half as much experience as children from working class families, and less than a third of the experience given to children from high-income families. In other words, children from families on welfare heard about 616 words per hour, while those from working class families heard around 1,251 words per hour, and those from professional families heard roughly 2,153 words per hour. Thus, children being raised in middle to high income class homes had far more language exposure to draw from.

 This amounted to a 30 million word gap by age three.

In addition to looking at the number of words exchanged, the researchers also looked at what was being said within these conversations. What they found was that higher-income families provided their children with far more words of praise compared to children from low-income families. Conversely, children from low-income families were found to endure far more instances of negative reinforcement compared to their peers from higher-income families. Children from families with professional backgrounds experienced a ratio of six encouragements for every discouragement. For children from working-class families this ratio was two encouragements to one discouragement. Finally, children from families on welfare received on average two discouragements for every encouragement. Therefore, children from families on welfare seemed to experience more negative vocabulary than children from professional and working-class families. 

Ironically one of the reasons the DPB was introduced was to allow sole mothers more time with their children. To reduce their stress and enable better parenting.
Today it is known that maternal depression, welfare dependence and low literacy are all associated.