Friday, June 11, 2010

A wrap on the forum and a rap on the knuckles

The 2 day Welfare Working Group conference was not an uplifting experience. My sense was that most of the delegates were lobbyists from organisations that favour greater redistribution and the state playing the quintessential role in the lives of New Zealanders. If not, those were the delegates making themselves most evident.

My own presentation left a lot to be desired and I am rapping myself over the knuckles hard. It began OK but a slide was missing midway which made me lose the sense and direction momentarily. There was quite palpable hostility to my statements which came pouring out during Q and A. A number of Maori, including Cindy Kiro objected to my labelling Maori a minority group and framing the Maori teenage birth rate as a problem. She described my depiction of their birth rate as "unsophisticated", though I am unsure why. The slide showing rates per 1,000 15-19 year-olds from the early 90s to the present was correct in every sense. I was asked for the absolute numbers and didn't have them at my fingertips and made an inaccurate guess which I quickly realised was an error. No excusing that. Lesson to learn. Never guess under pressure. A Catholic representative went on the offensive about abortion and the potential for reform to increase the rate. Would I be happy with that?? No. (In fact the US abortion rate had been increasing before the reforms and declining since but I didn't have that information at the ready). A demographer pointed out that the teenage birth rate was much lower than in the early 70s. Yes, it was, I agreed. But those babies were mainly born within marriage (audible audience hiss) or a supportive relationship and did not go on benefits. My assertions that the US reforms led generally to lower single parent poverty and higher single parent employment were claimed to be non-factual. I cited my source, the US Census Bureau.

It was unclear to me whether the hostility was more towards me or towards the US. Probably a combination of both.

And I was out of step with the OECD presenters who had put up the case that work-testing when children are young correlates to higher employment rates as seen in countries like Finland, Norway and Sweden. My presentation was about how the NZ pathway to long-term DPB dependence is frequently through teenage birth and we should look at similar countries, namely the US. Scandinavian countries do not have to grapple with that particular problem.

If you have a look at what Sue Bradford was saying yesterday, and imagine a audience far more representative of her views than mine, you'll get the picture.

Ms Bradford said shifting to an insurance system here would overturn "a fundamental principle of the 1938 Social Security Act, that there is a community responsibility for making sure that people are helped when economic conditions mean they are unable to help themselves".

She predicted that when insurance payments ran out people would be forced into begging, crime, prostitution or death.

The same alarmist admonitions that opponents of the US reforms (which weren't to their insurance programmes but to their basic social assistance) put forward. Yet the US crime rate is going down. The physical child abuse and neglect rate has dropped. When I put this to the audience at my presentation antagonists reverted to the correlation/causation argument.

However, I will pick myself up, shake myself off and carry on. The best advocate for real reform I may not be, but we are in short supply. The big state, pro-welfarists are not.

Up date: Some NZ Herald coverage of the session by Simon Collins


Anonymous said...

The reality is of course that you can't do it alone Lindsay, particularly in an environment where the "audience" is in fact constituted almost entirely of those with strongly opposing views (and one might add) who probably all are actually paid of your pocket to provide this opposition.

Anonymous said...

lindsay you are a brave lady for fronting up on the day.

As Shane Jones also discovered yesterday, it only takes one slip to be savaged by the pack.

If i have learnt one thing in my life, it's "Shit happens."


Linda Reid said...

How about next time we go with you, offer some support.

We owe you that for all the hard work you do on behalf of NZers.

Keep going Lindsay. We really appreciate it.

Eric Crampton said...

Don't beat yourself up too much. Hostile crowds aren't easy.

Anonymous said...


Having read your post and the comments I am left with the impression that Kiro, Bradford and co made it a tough couple of days for you.
Why is it that these public troughers always make it personal?.

Anyway, as others have said, next time let us know before hand, I would be more than happy to come and lend some moral support.

Keep up the good work.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Thanks all but I shouldn't need my hand holding:-) As my husband reminds me, I dish it out to the leftists, the feminists and the welfarists on my blog and through letters to the editor etc. I'll chalk it up to experience.

Anonymous said...

Ask them whose fucking money it is? Answer it's not even our money - we're borrowing from overseas bankers by the truckload! We can't afford it if we ever could. There isno more fucking money!

Why is it that these public troughers always make it personal?

but if course it is personal: it always is. For us, we won't even get tax breaks because NZ will be paying off Labour debt for the rest of our lives.

But for them, for the bludgers and the troughers, they'd be out of their nice jobs and warm houses, their kids would get spat on then thrown out of schools, wouldn't get treated at the GP or hospital, wouldn't be able to but takeaways - and so they and their kids would die in the gutter.

We don't think bludgers and troughers have any place in NZ or anywhere.

Of course it's fucking personel.

sagenz said...

Lindsay - You had a tough audience. Chalk it up to experience and spend some time looking at the UK proposals. They seem far more in tune with your views vs the views of the forum. David Cameron has appointed labour MP Frank Field to a review on poverty so it is cross party. Not link whoring but I did a blog on the subject recently with a few links you could use

Manolo said...

I congratulate you for fighting the battle.

It may feel at times you are alone, but let me assure you are not. Some of us share your beliefs.

All the best.

Shane Pleasance said...

I wish to echo Manolo's sentiments, Lindsay. I am in awe of your efforts and compassion.