Monday, September 24, 2018

Benefits are too low?

The Child Poverty Action Group said today that core benefits need to rise by 20 percent (doubtlessly timed to guilt-trip JA telling America she wants NZ to be the best place in the world to raise children.)

Below are two slides from my recent presentation to the 2018 ACT conference. I was at pains to point out that these are not 'apples with apples' comparisons but intended to provide context for the claim that benefits are too low.

NB. The second slide is taken from Statistics NZ. In Auckland the median rises to $1,010 weekly.

I use these slides not to argue that benefits should be cut but to explain why single parents default to and get trapped on them, along with their children.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Discounting sentences

Judges can discount a prison sentence due to "Maori cultural background and deprivation". In my paper regarding Imprisonment and Family Structure I briefly touched on the possibility (and evidence of) bias working against Maori in the justice system. I do not reject the notion. But this is clearly bias working for Maori. In the case outlined in today's DomPost a Maori female stabbed her partner multiple times. She received a 30% discount on her sentence for cultural reasons. The Crown appealed because it considered the discount too large.

The High Court ruled against the appeal.

"The judge [Justice Whata] noted the disproportionate number of Maori imprisoned and said the effects of colonisation were well-documented."
So it's official. This is what we tell Maori criminals. That at least some part of the blame for their offending is actually the fault of Pakeha ancestors. Who by the way are also their own ancestors.

Here's a thought. The quickest way to reduce the prison population would be to discount sentences up to 100% due to cultural background. Don't laugh. Nothing can be ruled out in this creeping, twisted travesty of apologism.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Jacinda's latest speech

I could find nothing to say about it.

But ACT has and it's worth repeating:

What Did She Say?
Ardern wants a growing economy that is working for all of us, wellbeing for New Zealanders and their families, and a country we can be proud of....

How to Tell if a Policy is Absurd
If the opposite of a policy sounds absurd, then the policy is absurd. Who would campaign for a shrinking economy that doesn’t work, misery for New Zealanders and their families, and a country we should be ashamed of on the global stage? The opposite of ACT’s policies are more state control in education, heavier handed regulation of the economy, higher levels of taxation and Government expenditure, and more Government ownership. All inferior opposites of ACT’s actual policies, but not absurd.

Friday, September 14, 2018

"Unobtainable dream"

"There was a time, in the not-so distant past, when housing was affordable and buying a house to raise your family was not the unobtainable dream it is today."

Source for both.

Is the text really an objective reflection of the facts?

The increase through the 1970s and 80s was significantly driven by State Advance loans and the ability to capitalise on Family Benefit. That particularly helped Maori and Pacific families with typically more children. But the boon for large families has also turned into a negative factor in that one family home cannot be passed to 6 or 7 children nor shared inherited wealth stretch to affording home ownership.

But a 10% fall in home ownership over thirty years is not an irretrievable disaster. Neither is it unique to NZ. The UK, the US, and Australia all have similar current rates and all have fallen over the past decades.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

WINZ: People believe what they want to

“The Ministry … gets most aspects of service right, for most clients, most of the time. Most clients we spoke with said that good case managers had made a real difference to their lives. When something goes wrong, the Ministry provides clients with good opportunities to seek redress, and the Ministry works well with those who advocate on behalf of clients.”
                        Office of the Auditor General, December 2014

April 2018, MSD Minister, Carmel Sepuloni says the culture at Work and Income is “toxic”:

“The culture under National was to make it as difficult as possible for people to be able to access what they were entitled to at Work and Income, and now our job is to turn that around.”
                              Carmel Sepuloni, Newshub, April 28, 2018

Clearly they can't both be right. 

But people will believe the one they want to. Like this guy writing in today's NZ Herald about what NZ would be like if National had won the election:

 "Beneficiaries would continue to have it pretty bad, with tough sanctions remaining and a mentality from WINZ to cut benefits where possible."
He has ignored that National increased benefits for those with children.

According to MSD  “Exit rates for clients without children are outpacing those for clients with children...the gap is continuing to widen over time . This correlates with changes in benefit policy that increased income for clients with children.” People staying on a benefit when unskilled work is plentiful doesn't point to having it "pretty bad".

He has also ignored that sanctions are entirely avoidable.

People believe what they want to and I am no exception, though I cast around for various evidence and weigh it up. The truth, at an individual level anyway, usually lies somewhere between two extremes.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Helen Clark lives in another world

"Men who hit women are really expressing a view, a feeling, that women are inferior to them, and they can do whatever they want," Ms Clark said.
What, then, are men who hit men feeling?

What are men who hit women in self-defense feeling?

Does she understand that outward behaviour is often a culmination of inward anger?

Does she have any idea what Alan Duff's theory of self-hatred means?

Has she any idea about men who are at their lowest ebb ever? Or, in her world, can males, by virtue of being males, never reach the lowest ebb?

I wish she would go away.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Top ten public housing areas

Below are the top ten areas for public housing in New Zealand. I have graphed the area followed by the region it lies in. The highest public housing area is Christchurch City but that is mainly because it holds most of the region's - Canterbury - share within the city area. The Auckland region, conversely, has over 30,000 leases but they are spread over many areas. What surprised me was that Lower Hutt City has the 4th largest number in the country.

There are 67,228 current leases and the government plans to add a further 6,400 by June 2022.

They'll need them the way they are pissing landlords off.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Driver licensing programmes show positive results

Having just reflected on the cost of reviewing welfare and whanau ora at $2.9 million, here's a better use for that money. Driver licensing programmes:

Just released research shows that these programmes are having a positive effect:



We compared a group of driver licensing programme participants who completed the programme in 2014 and 2015 with a similar group in the beneficiary population. We found that, over 18 months:

- 30 percent of participants held a full licence compared with 17 percent of the comparison group
participants spent an average of 20 additional days in employment (while off benefit), relative to the comparison group

- participants earned an average of $3,000 more from employment, relative to the comparison group
participants did not spend more time being independent on welfare assistance, suggesting participants continued to receive some form of income assistance while participating in the programme

- while having a driver licence may help people access education, there was no impact on people’s education outcomes

- there was no observed difference in the rate of offending or time spent in the Department of Corrections’ system between the two groups.

- While there is a correlation between participating in a programme and these outcomes, we cannot draw a conclusive direct causal effect from this analysis. There will be other factors, including participant’s individual motivation, which could impact their outcomes.

We continue to fund driver licensing programmes for people on a benefit. This evaluation confirms that there are likely employment and income benefits for people who complete the programmes.


A cost/benefit analysis may find these programmes wanting, but their outcomes are still more worthy than redundant reviews.

The numbers going through them could be quadrupled or more.

Welfare review alone is costing over $2 million

TV1 says the government is spending $170 million on reviews. The government has refused to comment beyond saying it is far, far less.

I can't speak for the rest but I do know that the welfare review is costing $2.1 million.

The estimated total cost of the group for the welfare overhaul for 2017/18 and 2018/19 is $2.1 million. 


In a related area, the Whanau Ora review is estimated to cost between $700,000 and $800,000.

Context: $2,900,000 would cover over 7,500 winter heating payments for families with children.

Damien Grant: Prison does not change you – I know from personal experience

Opinion from today's Sunday Star Times:

OPINION: It is hard to go to prison in New Zealand. It took me several attempts but I was finally successful and enjoyed a delightful time touring our penal archipelago in my twenties. Sadly, despite this hands-on insight into the criminal mind, I was not invited to the Justice Summit held in Porirua.

From the media reports over-representation of Māori in custody was a major focus. There are many reasons given for this. Colonialism. Racism. Poverty. The lack of free-to-air Rugby.

A wise person will look beyond race and seek a better explanation. Thankfully we have the dedicated researcher Lindsay Mitchell who has done just that. In a report for Family First published earlier this year she pulls no punches: "A sharp increase in unmarried births during the 1960s correlates markedly with a later rise in the imprisonment rate. Ex-nuptial births made up 79 percent of total Māori births in 2017. For non-Māori, the corresponding figure was 34 percent."

There are a number of causes of this disruption of the traditional nuclear family. Several government agencies point to the rapid urbanisation of Māori in the post-war period but another reason, affecting all races, has been the expanding availability of welfare that makes being a solo parent economically viable, though not especially comfortable.

Very few people's fertility decisions are influenced by the economics of welfare, but some are, and a disturbing number of their children end up in prison. Today there are nearly 59,000 people on a sole-parent benefit, 10,000 of them under 24 and almost half of these are Māori.

That's the cohort where the next generation of prison inmates are coming. Welfare is handed down from parent to child like a poisoned heirloom and nearly 5000 benefits a year are cancelled because the beneficiary is entering prison.

The cause and effect is obvious but Andrew Little and his coterie of advisors only want explanations that are politically palatable. They will not make the hard choices required to get young people off the welfare addiction that is a key factor in our rising crime rates.

I ended my penal tour, after 16 months, no better or worse than when it began. Prison does not change you. It is not a laboratory for crime and it offers no paths for redemption for people who do not want to alter their life's trajectory. It is simply the price we pay for a failed welfare experiment that we lack the courage to end.

The decision to downgrade the Waikeria mega-prison is a mistake. We will need more prisons in the decades to come, not fewer.