Saturday, May 03, 2008

Waiting a long time

The failure of the petition to force a referendum on the anti-smacking legislation to deliver the required number of signatures rekindled the debate on talkback this week. Some callers insisted that the issue is not dead and they are still very angry; others said that we need to give the legislation a chance, time to work.

Consider this;

Children at risk

For a number of years, attention has been drawn to conditions for children at risk. The work of the social services and other authorities in this area is undergoing continuous development. This group of children includes children who grow up in homes in which physical or psychological violence takes place, children who are neglected, children who have been subjected to sexual abuse, children of substance abusers, children of people with mental disorders and children who live in conditions of economic vulnerability.

Children who have experienced domestic violence have long been disregarded by society, but are being given increasing attention. According to the Committee on Child Abuse, around ten per cent of all children have at some time experienced this type of violence, and five per cent experience it often. Attention has been given to the need to develop support for children who have experienced violence and in other ways have been affected by violence by and towards family members.

No. This is not an excerpt from a New Zealand report although the statistics quoted mirror ours. Click on this link to see which country the report is referring to. Smacking was banned there in 1979.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Sexual abuse of Maori children

On the eve of Rape Awareness Week, an Anglican Minister reiterated these claims;

“Organisers of this week estimate that 1 in every 3-5 girls, and 1 out of every 6-10 boys are likely to be sexually abused or raped before they turn 16. Maori children are twice as likely as other groups to be abused so rape and sexual violation of children is a very serious issue for us.”

Just using some loose numbers let's say that means 1 in every 1.5 - 2.5 Maori female children are sexually abused or raped before they turn 16.

Right now there are around 104,000 Maori female aged 0-15.

So between 41,600 and 68,640 are sexually abused or raped over fifteen years. Get real. Unless 'sexual abuse' includes inappropriate touching or unwanted kissing.

In the 11 months to December 2006 there were 397 findings of sexual abuse among Maori children (not to be confused with 397 children being sexually abused - multiple findings may apply to one child.) Extrapolate that over 15 years to get 6,496 findings which could apply to either sex.

Yes, an amount of sexual abuse will go unreported and uninvestigated but let's keep some sense of perspective here.

Why long-term migration matters

Chris Trotter writes in today's DomPost that there really is too much fuss over people leaving NZ. That's what they have always done apparently. Jilted lovers, greedy acquisitionists, adventurers.

The long-term departure tables I could quickly get my hands on (1993 - 2007) show that in the five years from 1993 236,682 people left. In the five years from 2003 this rose to 325,461 or by 37.5 percent. Interestingly a lot more people left during a period of lower unemployment on both sides of the Tasman.

One gets the feeling that Trotter is a bit miffed about the idea that our "best and brightest" are leaving. He is still here after all.

Probably the talent and drive that goes is replaced by the talent and drive that arrives but as I have said before, the disruption to families is significant. There was a time when all of my siblings and me had moved to the UK and had established ourselves there. My parents had all but decided to join us because they wanted to be there as we started having families of our own. In the event it wasn't necessary but I know a number of elderly people who are badly missing being part of their grandchildren's lives. I don't want it to happen to me. And so making NZ a place that people want to stay in or come back to is very important.

But Trotter is right in one respect. It will take more than a cut in personal income tax to make New Zealand economically competitive.

Anti-Social Behaviour Orders

Now a subject for NZ debate.

The Government has a guarded view on ASBOs.

In a recent Cabinet paper, Justice Minister Annette King rejected them as a way of tackling organised crime.

She said the orders were designed to counter social problems peculiar to Britain. They had an economic and social cost, and their benefits for the criminal justice system were unclear.

I am struggling to think of a social problem that would be peculiar to Britain. Can you?

Roger and Rodney on Eye to Eye

Sir Roger Douglas and Rodney Hide will appear on Eye To Eye this weekend. You can participate by e-mailing a question to host, Willie Jackson. Eye To Eye shows on TV1 at 11.30am Sunday but also a various times on TV7.

Update and correction; Rodney is not appearing. The guests are Laila Harre, Matt McCarten, Alisdair Thompson and Roger Douglas.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Proportion of teenage child births internationally

This is a chart just released from the OECD social/family database. Why they couldn't get a more up-to-date figure for New Zealand I don't know. In 2005 the percentage was 7 and in 2007, 7.6 percent.

There is a general consensus that reducing teenage births is desirable because teenage mothers tend to be disadvantaged and that is transmitted to their children. It contributes significantly to child poverty (and haven't we heard a lot about that recently) yet there are some people eg Tariana Turia who refuse to accept this reality. Which is unfortunate given Maori teenage child birth accounts for just over half of the total.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Car insurance is fear-mongering!

Making car insurance available is 'sending out the wrong' message, it is fear-mongering and leading people to believe they might have an accident when in fact the chances are very small. After all there are over 4 million vehicles on the road in New Zealand but only around 40,000 crashes occur. A 1 percent chance.

Does anyone agree with that? These two would have to given their statements regarding insuring unborn babies.

New Zealand College of Midwives chief executive Karen Guilliand said the college would be "really concerned" to see the policy introduced in New Zealand.

She agreed with the response of New South Wales Midwives Association secretary Hannah Dahlen, that ING was marketing fear to expectant mothers.

"It is making women think about the terrible things that can happen, when the reality is there are very few mothers who suffer from complications during pregnancy," Dr Dahlen said.

Very few but more than 1 percent. Combine still births,neo-natal and post neo-natal deaths and the percentage in 2004 was 1.4

Stupid women.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Swimming against the tide

This is a summary of the press releases issued on the subject of child poverty over the past few hours.

Mine is the only one disagreeing with the Child Poverty Action Group's solution for eradicating child poverty by 2020.

What a wet and naive country this is. What hope for individual responsibility?

I am probably the only one who works unpaid. As David Farrar notes, this is the poverty industry.

* Child Poverty Action Group - Download CPAG Report Executive Summary
* NZ Govt - Child poverty report welcomed
* Maori Party - Tax cuts for poorest families, says Maori Party
* NZ First - End Of Child Poverty Worthy Goal
* NZ Council of Trade Unions - CPAG Commended For Highlighting Child Poverty: CTU
* Public Health Association - More Money Needed To Eradicate Child Poverty - PHA
* Grandparents Raising Grandchildren - Child Poverty Action Group report
* Lindsay Mitchell - CPAG At Loggerheads With OECD
* Problem Gambling Foundation - Suffer the Little Children
* QPEC - “Tail” of underachievement is tale of poverty
* Playcentre Federation - Playcentre supports the call to end child poverty
* Paediatric Society - 'Left behind' report a sobering reminder
* National Distribution Union - Kids biggest victims of current food price crisis
* NZCCSS - Child Poverty: Give Breaks To Those Who Need It
* Barnardos - "Left Behind" report welcomed
Media Release


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The latest Child Poverty Action Group report has slammed work-first policies as discriminating against children of beneficiaries and 'insufficient to eliminate child poverty'.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell says the CPAG wants child poverty solved through higher benefits. "This ignores international research* that shows an increase in benefit payment results in increased rates of sole motherhood and subsequent benefit uptake."

The group states that, 'generous welfare need not result in a poverty trap...' . According to Mitchell, however, "This is exactly what generous benefits do already. The OECD showed out of 23 countries New Zealand has the third highest sole parent benefit payment at 54.8 percent of the median income. Because our benefits are not time-limited they draw young and unskilled women into many years of dependency. As many of half of those sole parents currently on welfare started there as teenagers. "

"The CPAG acknowledges that the vast majority of children in poverty are living in one-parent welfare dependent homes yet reject work as the best way to reduce child poverty. This puts them in direct conflict with the OECD. In 2007 , on the back of extensive international research** exploring the comparative effectiveness of using benefits or work to reduce child poverty, the OECD recommended to New Zealand 'reforms to reduce joblessness among families with children should be a priority.' Sweden, the most effective country at reducing child poverty, has a sole mother employment rate almost 60 percent higher than New Zealand."

Mitchell concludes, "It is the availability of welfare that is central to the child poverty problem - not the availability of work. The solution does not lie in simply giving people more money. As a strategy this has already proved extremely unsuccessful."

Lindsay Mitchell
Welfare commentator
ph/fx 04 562 7944

* The Effect of Benefits on Single Motherhood in Europe, Libertad Gonzalez, August 2006
**What Works Best in Reducing Child Poverty: A Benefit or Work Strategy?, Peter Whiteford and Willem Adema, OECD, 2007

Monday, April 28, 2008

No, no, no!

Oh no. The Sensible Sentencing Trust is going overboard. I see the Trust as fulfilling an important role by giving voice and support to victims and lobbying on their behalf. But this is draconian.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust are promoting a return to compulsory Military training combined with the Tent City prisons and chain-gangs as a means of combating a rising violent crime rate and escalating prison population.

What on earth is to be gained from forcing all young men (and why not young women as they commit crime as well) to do compulsory military service? How dreadful. This ties in with my earlier post about how we swing from one extreme to another.

Thank You Mr Gibbs

Gibbs Donates $100,000 To ACT
Monday, 28 April 2008, 9:41 am
Press Release: ACT New Zealand

Gibbs Donates $100,000 To ACT

New Zealand developer Alan Gibbs – known for such projects as high-speed amphibian vehicles like the Aquada – today said he is delighted to donate $100,000 to the ACT Party.

“ACT is the only Party with the guts to do what's right for New Zealand, and I think it's fantastic that the Hon Sir Roger Douglas is coming back into active politics," Mr Gibbs said.

"Just recently Margaret Thatcher was voted the most successful British Prime Minister since the war. She's universally regarded as having dragged Britain out of its socialist bog.

"Sir Roger Douglas did the same for New Zealand and he's certainly the greatest New Zealand politician of the 20th Century. It would be tremendous to have him back helping us catch up with Australia.

"To those who say ACT can't do much good under MMP, I say look at what the Progressive Democrats did in Ireland. A small ACT-like Party in a similar political system had a major role in transforming the Irish economy from the ‘poor man’ of Europe to the envy of the world."

ACT Leader Rodney Hide welcomed the donation.

“Alan Gibbs’ donation is a big vote of confidence in ACT. That’s what we’re now seeing up and down the country with members, support and candidates. More and more people are realising that a vote for National is a vote for Labour policies plus Winston, but a vote for ACT is a vote for good policies plus Sir Roger.”

“Alan Gibb’s donation will help ACT get the message out and do well this election,” Mr Hide said.


Time for a change

A recent commentor wrote;

Welfare is as much part of the NZ scenery as the Southern Alps.

I have two conflicting views about this. The first is that I despairingly believe the statement to be true. NZ has now accepted that there will always be a huge pool of people reliant on the state. We have 'officially' one of the lowest unemployment rates in the developed world and crow about it, while a quarter of a million people can't or won't work. Bill English says there are no more people to put into jobs. There is a general attitude that this is as good as it gets. Societies are structured differently now. One parent families are as useful as two parent even though the majority are not self-supporting. The levels of crime, violence, drug and alcohol abuse mean that we need the benefit system more than ever and everybody deserves support regardless of whether or not their problems are self-inflicted. The welfare state has expanded (WFF) to take in more and more recipients so being reliant becomes more 'normal' and there is only a minimal residual stigma attached. Hand-outs are renamed tax credits to blur the lines.

But there is a second view which logic tells me is the correct one. A study of countries with longer welfare histories show that a cycle operates. Or a pendulum swings. The welfare blow-out of the past forty years is a first experience for New Zealand. The US and the UK first experienced it in the 1830s. And they acted on it. By changing laws they pulled back from widespread reliance on 'outdoor relief' and then moved into the Victorian age which saw values of thrift, independence and temperance holding sway. From one extreme to another.

Societies are dynamic; constantly changing. People change their values and laws. It's a two-way flow. Add to this the ageing phenomena - 65+ will make up an ever-growing proportion of the population - and one can see our expectations about welfare are going to have to change.

If I live another 40 years I expect to see substantial reform. The important thing is to make the reform as effective and kind as possible. The sooner we act the greater the chance of achieving both.

Welfare isn't as much a part of the New Zealand scenery as the Southern Alps. But it is part of the current wallpaper. It's not really a very nice wallpaper. Those of us who don't much care for it should keep saying so.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Peter Dunne's piecemeal approach

Peter Dunne is once again rolling out his big policy plank - income-splitting for couples with children for tax purposes.

And he said it was time to give something back to middle- and higher-income earners who might be earning too much to qualify for other financial support programmes such as Working for Families.

Why stop there? Isn't it time to give something back to middle and high income earners who don't have children?

If income-splitting would be fairer than the current system, a flat tax would be fairer again. My family would benefit from Dunne's policy but it's still unfair and doesn't provide the economic stimulus the country needs.

Advocating income-splitting is just more of the messy piecemeal approach to taxation.