Saturday, October 28, 2006

Benson-Pope "made a mistake" says press secretary

Yesterday I was criticised for putting out a "hasty" press release responding to David Benson Pope's claim the DPB had dropped 10,000 last month. It wsn't hasty. It sat in the queue overnight. If I hadn't put out that release it wouldn't have been picked up in this story.

It was a significant mistake indicating David Benson Pope is out of his depth. I had to take his claim at face value because he wasn't releasing the official statistics.

Anonymous, I'm not infallible by any means, but putting my name to my words means I am at least prepared to carry the can. Even David Benson Pope is prepared to risk his credibility. Unlike some.

At the Maori Party Conference

Newsroom reports, Maori party co-leader Tariana Turia has delivered a message that Maori must be responsible for their own destiny.

Just wanted to get that on record.

Real welfare reform

Noel Pearson, aboriginal Australian and "visionary", is about to attempt a revolution in welfare delivery. He believes if this approach doesn't work then "there is not much hope."

Pearson's vision, 20 years in the making, underpins a radical experiment that began last week in Coen, Hope Vale and two other Cape York communities — Aurukun and Mossman Gorge — turning 30 years of welfare orthodoxy on its head. The pilot project, run by the Cape York Institute, will redefine access to welfare, paying incentives for behaviour that improves education, health and the prospects of the next generation finding work. But with money will come obligation. Under the project template, a families commission in each community — a panel of perhaps two elders and a retired magistrate — will be empowered to make orders that dictate and direct payments, using sticks and carrots to require, for example, that children not only get to school, but are rested and fed and capable of learning. If a parent is drinking the family income, payments could be redirected to another relative. If they're not caring for the kids, they might be sent for counselling.

Pearson rests his reform agenda on the rebuilding of social norms — the invisible conventions that guide and moderate individual behaviour. Manners and grooming, standards and expectations, rules of behaviour. The challenge, and the controversy, is in leveraging such behaviours against the welfare stream. Such coercion under existing law would be illegal. Over the next year, Pearson will head to Canberra to argue that such discrimination is not only desirable but crucial. In the meantime, work proceeds on the ground — talking to communities, determining what the problems are and what mechanisms might fix them — with a plan to roll out the changes from March.

Many of the households on the cape are kept running by grandparents raising children. The generation in between is too disabled to do the job, bequeathing only inertia and hopelessness, says Pearson.

His welfare reform pilot aims to spring the poverty trap of "perverse incentives" that he says causes people to lose ambition for themselves and their children. He says countering this will require a revolution in attitudes within the communities — towards education, aspiration and mobility — and beyond in the mind-set of the "well-intended progressives" who shape welfare policy. It's a line that delights conservative politicians and commentators and discomfits the softer elements of the left.

Personally I am not big on the conservative approach but it is better than what we do now. The crucial aspect of this reform is the 'disabled' generation will be sacrificed (if they don't respond) to create opportunity for the next. That is what we currently cannot accept in this country. But we will come to it

Friday, October 27, 2006

DPB Sleight-of-hand

Media Release
Friday, October 27, 2006

Ministry of Social Development, David Benson-Pope, yesterday told National Radio host Mary Wilson, that 10,000 people moved off the DPB last month.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell says, "This has been expected for some time due to the In-Work payment becoming available to single parents who work a minimum of 20 hours per week from April 1."

"Unfortunately the Ministry of Social Development does not record whether the person leaving the DPB went on to receive an In-Work payment, which is administered by Inland Revenue. Neither does Inland Revenue record whether a person applying for an In-Work payment has just left benefit."

"Which begs the question, how does the government track the effect of its policies?"

"In essence people leaving DPB have moved from one form of welfare to another. Instead of being on a partial DPB they are on an In-Work payment. Both are funded by the taxpayer."

"The advantages are the 'former' beneficiary is better off financially and David Benson-Pope can claim a substantial drop in DPB numbers."

"This is no more than political sleight-of-hand."

Weaving Pathways to Wellbeing

Children's Commissioner, Cindy Kiro and Barnardo's CE Murray Edridge were once again hand-in-hand yesterday over the matter of state-monitoring of all children from birth, now referred to as Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga Tamariki or Weaving Pathways to Wellbeing.

Here is their economic reasoning; Economic modelling shows that the optimum return to investment in human capital occurs in the first years of life. Estimates of the benefit to cost ratio of early childhood intervention for disadvantaged children in the United States are as high 17:1 as by age 40 (i.e. US$17 net benefit to society for every dollar spent.)

Let's see. Take a typically 'disadvantaged' child. They will be raised on welfare. Even if they only spent the average time on the DPB (which includes paying their caregiver) they will have consumed $151,060 in cash assistance alone. Add in the cost of early childhood intervention (pulling a figure out of the air - $10,000 per annum?) by age forty they can be expected to have returned $3,758,020 worth of net benefit to society.

May as well put your dollar on a horse paying 17 to 1. The chance of it coming in are better than the above proposition.

Update; Sue Bradford wants a cross-party accord to get this thing up and running. She says, "I realise some parents will be horrified by the idea that their children will have regular checkups at key stages of their lives - just after birth, before starting school, starting adolescence and leaving school - but I think it is even more horrifying that so many children in New Zealand today are enduring violence, abuse, neglect, ill health and despair because either no one knows or no one thinks it is their role to take responsibility for what is going on." To use somebody else's analogy we will be checking every piece of hay to find the needle. Actually, it is generally known where the needles are anyway. Madness.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


This website is recommended by the Ministry of Social Development funded Family Violence Clearing House

It is a site for pro-feminist men and features many articles such as "Degendering Daddy";

Ours is a society in which males are still encouraged to think less of females than they do themselves. From entertainment and ads to much relationship counseling and clothing fads, women are constantly paraded and parodied as sexy but shallow at best or outstanding but out-of-place at worst. Though it is not politically correct to claim one's allegiance to this attitude, the thinking yet prevails among males that females are not any more fit to lead men, families, institutions, and societies than an infant attempting to steer the Titanic.

or “I am a woman. My screams are silent,” by some really creepy guy writing about how he has changed (it's so creepy I won't quote from it),

or "Are men evil? Reflections on the tactics and motivation of men’s rights advocates" and "Starting your own group for men against sexism".

Not feeling inclined to read any more, I get the idea this is a site for men who have had a bad attitude to women and are now 'reformed'. What bothers me is they think their former views are representative of most men. And what bothers me even more is that I got to this "useful" site through a recommendation from a govt-funded newsletter, NZ Family Violence Clearing house, June 2006.

Think about it. Imagine an equivalent site where women confess to their previously appalling attitudes to men while intimating that they left the majority behind. Would the Clearing House link to that? Of course not. No such site could ever exist as there are no such women.

Sue has it back to front

About the welfare system Sue Bradford said yesterday,"Those in need deserve the dignity of having enough to live on so they can participate fully in society without being treated as second class citizens by the department whose job it is to serve them....The Green Party would ...start again with a much simpler system operating on principles of sufficiency and universality."

I would reword that opening phrase to say those who are deserving need dignity.

Some beneficiaries are absolutely deserving and none of us would deny them help (not even diehard libertarians who believe in supporting genuine cases, just under a private system).

But many are in need due to their own relentlessly stupid actions and they give beneficiaries in general a bad name, thus robbing the others of dignity.

I may have used this analogy before but it's one I expressed when speaking to people at the Laura Fergusson Community (for people with disabilities) last year. People who misuse the welfare system are like people who park in disabled carparks. They park themselves on benefits making it that much harder for those who really need them.

Universality is the cause of the problem - not the solution. Any welfare system, state-run or private, needs to be able to handle people as the individuals they are.

Who should pay for costs of crime?

Victim Support groups want the state to compensate victims of crime. Garth McVicar wants a levy on all offenders to fund compensation payments. I prefer the second idea. But if criminals don't have the means to compensate their victims as it is, where are they going to get the levy from?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Which govt department to believe?

According to the Ministry of Health I must be doing fruit buying for three or four households which makes me extremely skeptical about a report which says the average household spent $5-90 a week on fruit in 2003/04 (presented as though it is current).

According to Statistics New Zealand the average household spending on fruit (first column) in 2003/04 was almost $10. Call it $9-50. Only 61 percent more than the Ministry of Health figure.

Of course the MOH has a vested interest in painting alarming pictures about poor nutrition and obesity. Keeps them in work.


...from FFF

The election is three weeks away and there are rumors the Republicans are getting ready for an election night disaster, which would be a first -- a disaster they were actually prepared for.

— Bill Maher

'Safety' before sanity

BBC News reports health and safety regulations have made it too expensive for a local rugby club to have a Guy Fawkes bonfire in Ilfracombe, Devon. So they are going to have a 'virtual ' bonfire. The obvious question is, why not virtual fireworks too? I'm sure David Benson-Pope could get excited about this idea.

(And we complain about children going from one screen to another...)

Things are looking up

The road has re-opened and Firefox is ops OK.

This is an interesting bit of Canadian research which claims that with more generous unemployment benefits more long term unemployment is created.

Still, at least they have a better system than ours. Canada operates a contributory scheme which means workers have to pay something in to get something out. Eminently sensible. Stops youth developing a welfare habit. But Brunswick's (exploited?) scheme is subsidised by Maine's so is still not perfect. What's needed is competing unemployment insurance programmes.


No newspaper this morning which may mean we are cut-off again. Unless one wants to get on the cross harbour ferry. There's always the internet except Firefox doesn't want to talk to blogger. Blogging in Internet explorer is such a pain.

The problem of lazy welfare bludgers continues with a scheme to be approved allowing orchardists to bring in 5,000 mainly Pacific Islanders to pick their fruit. You've got to laugh. The scheme must allow Kiwis first refusal. They aren't exactly queuing.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Apposite quote

The end of this quote is familiar to me but the rest is worth sharing;

The state -- or, to make matters more concrete, the government -- consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting 'A' to satisfy 'B'. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advanced auction on stolen goods.

— H.L. Mencken

Being Pakeha

I was not born here but my children are sixth generation New Zealanders. Many of you will no doubt identify with Michael King's words from Being Pakeha Now;

Deadbeat dads burden for us all... the title of a Hawkes Bay Today editorial inspired by Judith Collin's constant railing at effect rather than the cause. This is my response;

Dear Editor

'Deadbeat dads' today are largely a product of the state. Having made itself a formidable replacement for fathers, via the justice and welfare systems, the state can hardly be surprised that redundant ones resist further financial responsibility.

MP Judith Collins is aggrieved at the increasing levels of child support debt yet National gave us the iniquitous Child Support Act of 1991 and would have given us the DPB (through a private members bill) if Labour hadn't beaten them to it.

Your editorial acknowledges the displacing role of welfare by referring to the fact that we have "made our bed" with "all-embracing state hand-outs."

If fathers are to be held irrevocably responsible then the state must relinquish its destructive interventionist role. We cannot have it both ways.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Stabbing of an innocent 14 year-old

We are in danger of becoming inured to what is going on in Auckland amongst the youth. The security guard in whose arms the 14 year-old died (after he had told him to go outside for a smoke) called talkback in the early hours and this is a recording of it. It's not hysterical, nor overly dramatic. The man is trying to come to terms with what happened.

Scots to go sexless

Now I am sure I have heard Betty on Coro St calling men 'pet', 'dear' and 'love'. She should have her mouth taped up. If she lived in Glasgow she would know better. The Glasgow City Council has just released guidelines about sexist language to be avoided. Women, and presumeably men although that is not explicit (which is sexist of itself)are not to be addressed using the above terms of endearment. Neither are they to be called 'girls'. The suffix 'ess' must not be added to words like 'conductor' to denote gender. It's all soooooo offensive you see.

What utter twerps local government bureaucrats are.

What the?

I find myself in a state of having nothing to say which could last until at least....lunchtime.

Oh, I could bitch about the STUPID transit system the LTSA has set up at SH1 Paremata which consists of endless signs (all the same) which are unreadable at 50kmph. I gather one tells you which lane to use on Mon-Fri and the other what to do on Sunday and Public holidys. Um. I'm driving Southbound on Saturday? I thought I registered a makeshift flashing sign saying I could use the left lane if the car carried one or more passengers (do dogs count?) Well that's all well and good until you are suddenly faced with a stationary driverless and passengerless vehicle parked in the left lane. Perhaps that qualifies too.

Tell me, if you came across these signs for the first time (or even second or third) would you have any idea what to do?

Anyway as I am suffering a dearth of ideas I will recommend this very funny piece from Oh Crikey....another "failed" Maori.