Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why choosing a benefit is rational

The following chart is from a report called Dynamic Benefits and is based on UK data. The UK has a lone parent benefit rate similar to NZ in its generosity.

Note the statement under the figures - choices other than work are realistic and even rational ones to take.

Here is a rough comparison for New Zealand. The median weekly income from working is taken from NZ Statistics Income Survey with 20 percent tax applied. The others are the result of some googling and are fairly arbitrary. The benefit incomes include other top-ups like accommodation supplement, family tax credit, etc.

Occupation/ Net income p.w. from median female wages

  • Single person out of work $250 (all benefits)
  • Median weekly income 15-24 year-olds $384
  • Waitress/Bar staff/Cleaner $400
  • Receptionist $415
  • Hairdresser $418
  • Single parent with one child out of work $430 (all benefits)
  • Shop Assistant $448
  • Typist $512
  • Librarian $544
  • Nurse $569

Seriously, if you had no or few school qualifications or little work ethic/inclination, why not choose motherhood?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sue Bradford - shame about the causes

This won't be a very popular post but I am going to say something - or two if I can stretch to it - positive about Sue Bradford.

When I made submissions to the Social Services Select Committee Sue was never rude or intimidating (unlike Philip Field and Liz Gordon who could both became apoplectic). And she listened and would ask questions.

She has two strong personal attributes, courage and commitment. Shame about the causes she brought them to.

But I am glad she has resigned from Parliament. Because she is a thorn in the side of welfare reform - a particularly sharp one. She will, of course, continue to be, in some capacity. What capacity awaits to be seen.

With the extreme leftist welfare ethos gone from the Greens, Labour may be freer to look afresh at what needs doing. After all, it is more often than not that Labour is the party of reform.

The "lynch mob mentality" is just as ugly

A Palmerston North judge banned photographs of the accused and the accused is not seeking bail. The reason for both actions is the "lynch mob mentality" alive and well in the community meaning the accused and his family would not be safe if either of these things happened. Threats have been made against the accused's brother. The accused is allegedly responsible for the death of a 3 year-old girl.

Some children live in a culture of neglect and violence. It occurs to me that there can be more than one potential killer within a group of people that have contact with a child. The people brimming with retribution are quite probably just as bad as the accused. And while they are posturing and slagging off and brewing, they are no doubt doing it around children. It's a dismal picture. Clueless, valueless people in charge of young minds.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hone on the warpath

Hone Harawira plans to slaughter tobacco industry executives when he drags them before a Maori Affairs select committee 'full inquiry' into their industry.

He says, "...tobacco companies are responsible for the murder of 100,000 New Zealand citizens in the last 25 years."

Are you comfortable with that statement? National obviously is because they have given this retributive bully session the go-ahead.

... I thank the National Party leadership and in particular Prime Minister John Key, his deputy Bill English, and Committee Chairman Tau Henare for supporting this because if they hadn’t, it would have died on the table

This inquiry will be New Zealand’s greatest opportunity to have Tobacco companies explain their actions of promoting and maintaining tobacco addiction, which leads to these horrific deaths.

It will also provide New Zealand's greatest opportunity for parliamentary representatives to explain why they support the promoting and maintenance of tobacco addiction by taking their own sizeable cut of the profits.

Perhaps Hone could appear in that capacity?

He says, "To be brutally frank Mr Speaker, I’d like to lynch these #$^&** tobacco company executives."

In which case a murder/suicide would be the most elegant solution. Which amply illustrates the hot-headed stupidity of Hone's rhetoric.

Phoney accusations of racism

A post over at Oswald's reminded me of two protest signs recently waved at the President of the US;

"The problem with Obama isn't that he's black; it's that he's red."


"Do I look like an ATM to you?"

Lower the age Garth George can drive until!

Garth George's column today is the work of a grumpy old man not thinking straight. It's a punitive rant against young people driving. I have showed before that the statistics for young drivers have improved considerably over the years yet people like George, who was young during a time when there was more irresponsibility and death on the roads, want to take away freedoms across the board. Put the driving age up to 18! Put the legal drinking age up to 20! Make people with fast cars pay more insurance!

Well two can play at that. Take the driving age down at the other end when the age-risk factor demonstrably climbs again. Let's campaign against the elderly on the roads. Lower the age Garth George can drive until!

Not likely. Because we are all going to be elderly one day.

Whereas we have already been young and now resent that we are no longer. So let's blame young people for as much as we can. Let's take away their freedoms and preserve our own. Because we are old and drive sensible cars at sensible speeds. Some of us get slow and doddery and, to be frank, dangerous, but why should we all suffer? Why should we all be tarred with the same brush?


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kids need 'free computers'

Apparently the PPTA are going to make submissions to the government regarding accessibility of computers to poor kids. Thousands of - one estimate puts it at 100,000 - kids need 'free computers'. I wonder how many homes with no computer/internet access have Sky TV? A good number.

So this is the next 'public good' argument. These children are our future and they need to be properly educated which won't happen if they can't get to the internet to research their homework.

Well actually they can get to the internet. At their local library, internet cafe, at their friends houses and when they are at school. In fact, these are possibly better places for them to be doing their research if their own home is chaotic and overcrowded.

It is the parents who have to do the prioritising. It is the parents who have to put a value on learning over leisure. It is not the job of perfect strangers. And it pains me to say so. Because education is key to raising aspirations and expectations. But what lesson is learnt when people can constantly look to others instead of themselves for solutions?

Police passing the buck

Yesterday I posted statistics showing that convictions for crime had increased by 28 percent in the last ten years and one commentor said that we need far more cops. I am not sure that we do. What we need is for cops to focus on crimes against people and property instead of a myriad other things. The writer of the following latter, spotted in the Hutt News, encapsulates the sentiment;

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kitten, anybody?

That was quick - 6 weeks old, eating solids, drinking cow's milk and house-trained.

Now they need homes - except for Geoffrey. Geoffrey stays. A most ungainly, misshapen but clever cat. A go-getter which will unfortunately probably include go-getting things we wish he hadn't gone and gotten.

Palangi (behind Geoff) is a boy. He has been the least interested in trivial matters like food but is the most interested in the outdoors. Sits at the window watching more than the others. He's a big picture boy.

Eddie likes being handled. He is the most like his mum. Small and fine featured. Not that you can tell from this shot. He's the sensitive type.

And last but not least is Tabs - another boy I think. Possibly the prettiest and knows it. He likes to watch his reflection in our highly polished piano. A self-aware sort. Sam's favourite so parting will be tricky.

David would keep the lot. I am a tad more practical. If we can find good and caring homes they will go. Kitten anybody?

Conviction and sentencing statistics

Conviction and sentencing statistics 1999 - 2008 contains lots of interesting stuff. For instance;

* Between 1999 and 2008, the number of charges prosecuted increased by 27 percent.
* From 1999 to 2008, the number of charges resulting in a conviction rose by 28 percent.
* The number of charges that were not proved increased by 29 percent from 1999 to 2008.

Consistent increase throughout. The population increased by 11 percent over the same time - the 15-40 year-old age group, from which most crime hails, increased by only 8 percent.

Between 2003 and 2008, the number of convictions for violent offences rose by 40 percent and the number of convictions for traffic offences rose by 29 percent.

Yet during the 2008 election campaign I constantly heard that crime, including violent crime, was decreasing. Yet every measure - victimisation reports through to conviction rates show the opposite.

# The prosecution rate was higher than average in many rural North Island areas (Figure 3). In 2008, rates ranged from less than 170 per 10,000 residents in Kaikoura, Te Awamutu, Waipukurau, Feilding, and Gore to over 450 per 10,000 residents in Rotorua, Kaikohe, Gisborne, Whangarei, and Taupo.

Ethnicity and gang factors. Not surprising but unsettling that some of NZ's most popular tourist destinations are relatively dangerous places.

Total prosecutions look like this;

The number of people sentenced to imprisonment increased by 32 percent between 1999 and 2006. From 2006 to 2008 however, this number has decreased by 17 percent.

And yet the prison muster has just reached an all-time high. This must be due to longer sentencing/rejection of parole.

The number of offenders receiving deferment rose by 74 percent from 1999 to 2008.

The ONLY type of sentencing that is decreasing is imprisonment. But in 2008 2,479 convictions resulted in home detention sentences.

Overall, nothing to write home about.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Drink/driving and tougher penalties

Some discussion on talkback about two recent deaths due to drink/driving highlighted in the DomPost, prompted me to look at a country where penalties are tougher.

According to the Singapore police these are the current penalties for drink driving. (Their limits are the same as in NZ by the way);

First Time – Drink driver will be fined between $1000 and $5000 or six months imprisonment.

Second Time – Drink driver will be fined between $3000 and $10,000 fine and imprisonment for a term of up to one year.

Repeated Time – Drink Driver will face enhanced punishment up to 3 times the penalty, a maximum of $30,000 fine and three years' imprisonment.

Offenders causing death or serious injuries can also be caned up to 6 strokes.

All those convicted will be disqualified from driving for at least 1 year, even if they have not caused any traffic accidents.

Is it working? The police say:

The significant rise in drink-driving arrests is a worrying trend – recording a 7% rise from 3,733 cases in 2006, to 4,009 cases in 2007. The total number of drink-driving cases in 2007 has also been the highest for the last 10 years.

So now the police are trying something different;

Apart from maintaining regular enforcement efforts against drink driving, Traffic Police also collaborated with entertainment outlet operators in 2008 to launch several new Anti Drink Drive (ADD) initiatives. For example, the distribution of complimentary taxi vouchers and the provision of a complimentary chauffeur service to escort drunken patrons home.


A drop of 10.5 percent in arrests for drink/driving from 2007 to 2008.

Perhaps NZ has to start thinking beyond penalties.

What will break the bias?

Historian, David Thompson, wrote an essay in 1990 about the scholarship surrounding the New Zealand welfare state. He described it as uncritical, laudatory, containing a distinct left-wing bias, overwhelmingly political, naive, riddled with jargon. About the available critiques he wrote;

The superficial, shadow-boxing nature of many of these critiques should also be noted. At one level they are valid and trenchant counterblasts to the more familiar litanies of increase and success. At a deeper level, however, they stem from and serve to reinforce widely shared assumptions about the correct and inevitable nature of the welfare state. What is criticised is not the welfare state itself, but the failure to make ours more of a welfare state - more munificent, more redistributive, more dominant. Evidence of failure does not lead to a querying of the goals and ideals of the welfare state, or a search for other ways of organising a modern society. New Zealand lacks, perhaps most strikingly by contrast with North America, a parallel scholarship built on opposition to the welfare state. It is possible to oppose the welfare state in important aspects and yet be human, civilised and thoughtful, though one might doubt it reading the New Zealand literature. If one of the duties of scholars is to keep alive and develop alternative, unfashionable modes of thought, then it must be said that our intellectual traditions have been impoverished by an unwillingness or inability to reflect upon core assumptions - in short, to question ourselves.

And really, not much has changed.

A couple of books that criticised the welfare system were published by the NZ Business Roundtable during the 1990s, but neither were by New Zealand writers. This century, now nearly nine years old, has seen a continuation of dominance by left-leaning academia and policy analysts whose criticism of the welfare state extends only as far as changing delivery mechanisms, levels and targets. Margaret McClure's extensive work spanning one hundred years of social security is a mine of useful information but her language is full of loathing for private charity. Her approval of the welfare state is signalled in the title of her work, A Civilised Community.

The reform landscape is barren. There is absolutely nothing that would indicate National wants to have a debate about "the way a modern society organises itself." What will it take to break the uncritical bias towards the welfare state?

Or, is it already broken and just not reflected among the lofty elites, political leaders and sentinel civil servants?