Saturday, July 22, 2006

Severe hardship

Gerry Brownlee, speaking at the National Conference in Christchurch has drawn attention to increasing hardship for many New Zealanders, especially Maori. Many families experiencing severe hardship are single parent families on benefits.

What does it mean to be in "severe hardship" in New Zealand?

Severe hardship constitutes the lowest standard of living of seven levels.

The following table shows the constraints on children's consumption.

Here we can see that while only 37 percent went without a play station or X-box (or participation in these items) 65 percent said their children wore poorly fitting clothes or shoes.

Many poor people have topsy turvy priorities. This is why they are poor and why they stay poor.

Quote of the Day

"Many commentators have accused me of not being a 'natural politician'. If what it takes to be a natural politician is to evade the question, give misleading answers and act deceitfully, then count me out." Don Brash

Friday, July 21, 2006

Career options

What I don't get about the cop who has been moonlighting as a prostitute is, why doesn't she give her day job the flick in favour of her part-time number? I mean, she can obviously handle that kind of work and at $500 a night she could earn more being a prostitute two days a week than working full-time as a policewoman. I'd be writing myself a pro's and con's list; Prostitute or Policewoman?

Which one is more appreciated?
Which one is safer?
Which one has the better uniform?
Which one gets more perks?
Which one has more free time?
Which one has better job morale?
Which one is better paid?

It's a no-brainer!

Some Aussie state politics

Here's a brave Liberal tucked away in Victoria, Australia, Ted Bailleau. The current Conservative leader is Steve Bracks.

Running up to November state elections these are Bailleau's positions;


■ Baillieu wants the ban lifted; Bracks supports the ban.


■ Baillieu supports decriminalisation; Bracks supports the status quo.


■ Baillieu advocates its introduction; Bracks does not.


■ Baillieu advocates the idea; Bracks does not.


■ Baillieu wants a cut of at least 5000; Bracks supports the present cap of 30,000.

Life expectancy research

This is interesting although the report doesn't provide enough information.

BEING working class or marrying into the working classes could dramatically reduce an individual's lifespan, new research has claimed.

A study of hundreds of female twins found those deemed working class - employed in a manual, unskilled job - can expect to age significantly faster than their middle-class peers. It could reduce life expectancy by seven years.

Consider it in the context of the life expectancy difference between Maori and non-Maori.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Credit where credit's due

Good on United Future MP Judy Turner;

United Future health spokeswoman Judy Turner has taken up the cudgels on behalf of the New Zealand Association of Bakers' concerns about the proposed mandatory fortification of bread with folic acid.

One and a bit percent of the population are pregnant over the course of a year but the government are considering making the entire bread-eating population consume and pay for folic acid to be added to their loaves. Talk about the proverbial sledgehammer.

No-go zones for cars

Here's one for PC who hates children being dropped off at school. The Scots, those great regulators, are considering introducing no parking zones around schools.

A total of 27 per cent of primary pupils were taken to school by car, and 15 per cent of secondary pupils. Walking has declined overall from 56 per cent in 2002 to 51 per cent in 2004. Cycling has remained at around 1 per cent.

What a great idea. It's not as though it ever rains or snows in Scotland is it? And just over one in four being driven to school! What a disaster.

Blogger sacked

Another plus to being self-employed.

From the Herald;

The single mother and award-winning "blogueuse", whose on-line diary gets up to 3,000 hits a day, has never revealed her own identity; that of "Mr Frog", her former French partner and the father of "Tadpole", her three-year-old daughter; or that of her former employers.

But senior managers at Dixon Wilson, which has offices in London and Paris offering a "personal service to wealthy individuals and their businesses", took a dim view when word of Catherine's pensees on love and work became known in the firm's plush offices in the centre of the French capital.

On 26 April this year, she was summonsed before a senior partner and told she was being suspended pending dismissal for "faute grave" or gross misconduct.

Now we get to the nub of it

The Herald reports, Answers to parliamentary questions from Act MP Heather Roy show 16,173 children received attention from CYF in the year to June 30, up from 10,763 in 2003.

At last someone asks the right question to get the right answer.

Contrast this to the DomPosts's claim which I posted on earlier in the week;

I don't know what the ethnic breakdown is for Heather's answer. But IF it is consistent with notifications and Maori children make up forty six percent, then around 7,500 Maori children came to the attention of CYF in the year to June 2006.

The DomPost reporter has more than trebled the real number. It will have been a mistake but by lunchtime the Prime Minister was commenting on the figure. This is how misconceptions develop a life of their own.

Update; And here the mistake is repeated again in an editorial

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

As you asked.....

From Robson On Politics, ACT spent nearly 5 times more than Progressive According to NZPA, ACT spent $1.4 million last September and the Progressive Party $318,297. With that $1.4 million, ACT gathered 34,469 votes; Progressive's $318,297 yielded 26,441 votes. Applying the magic formula to empirically measure the relative efficiency-ratios of the 2 parties' labour-intensive canvassing to raise funds, and votes received, I invite you to calculate the size of the efficiency gap between ACT and Progressive labour.

You are Matt, thank goodness.

Party Politics

I've been a bit slow on the uptake here. The radio news is reporting that United Future MP Gordon Copeland will lead a committee reviewing the prostitution law reform. So I assumed that this must have been part of the deal when the legislation was originally passed and that the committee would be made up of a cross section of parties or members who voted for and against. But looking at the press release I find that a review is a requirement of United Future's confidence and supply agreement. So who else is on the committee? Ex UF MP Larry Baldock, the leading opponent of prostitution law reform.

Also on the committee are Marian Hobbs and Mark Burton both of whom voted for the bill. But they are Labour MPs with an overriding interest in maintaining the support of United Future. This makes me feel rather suspicious. Are we looking at party politics undermining legislation passed by a conscience vote?

Incentivising bad behaviour

Ex-MPs John Tamihere and Willie Jackson have a daily talkback programme on Radio Live. Yesterday I was feeling particularly frustrated about the mis-reporting of Maori notifications to CYF which by lunchtime had escalated to the Prime Minister saying she was not surpised that 25,000 Maori children had been reported to CYF for suspected child abuse (I blogged on why this is wrong yesterday).

As the report was on the Radio Live news I decided to give Jackson and Tamihere a call about it and ended up having quite a long discussion with both about the benefit system and Tamihere's suggestion that the Maori Urban Authority take control of some people's benefits. One thing Tamihere and I were in agreement over is the terrible incentives inherent in the current system.
One example he described is the situation whereby parents are splitting their kids so they can both go on the DPB and receive more money. In reality they live together in a garage and the bulk of the income stream is poured into all the wrong things; drugs, alcohol, junkfood, violent DVDs and games.

At the outset the DPB was supposed to support a mother and children while the father made a living to offset some of her DPB payment. Not any more.

Here is a Jan 2005 news item about how this little rort came about;


The media serves up what people want. The front page of the DomPost features a story about some family group who have published guidelines about how to discipline a child by smacking.

Tucked away somewhere in the NZ Herald (I don't have the hardcopy but it's 14th in the news list) is coverage of what Don Brash told the Local government conference yesterday;

"We have seen a major blow-out in public-sector employment in this country that has unnecessarily constrained the growth of the private sector - the wealth creators.

"Both central and local government ... have started to believe that it's all about us, when in fact it is all about the hard-working individuals who make investment and employment decisions. We are here to serve them."

He went on to describe what National would do about this.

Which story has more relevance to more lives?

Update on US welfare reform

Here is a concise overview of what has happened in the US since President Clinton canned welfare "as we know it" in 1996.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 was signed by President Clinton on Aug. 22, 1996. The law has transformed the way the nation helps its neediest citizens. Gone is the promise of a government check for parents raising children in poverty. In its place are 50 state programs to help those parents get jobs, says USA Today.

In 1996 4.4 million families were on AFDC (similar to our DPB). In December 2005 that number has dropped to 1.9 million. (Follow the US Today link for state by state statistics).

(In New Zealand in December 1995 there were 108,627 families on DPB. By December 2005 that number had dropped to 106,302.)

Not happy to stop there, the Bush administration renewed the push earlier this year by introducing regulations requiring states to get a further 50 percent of those still on welfare into jobs.

And we call ourselves a 'can do' country.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rules and fools go together

This is a nonsense. The Kaiapoi pool has a ban on poolside nudity, which precludes even very young children being changed. A mother of four was asked yesterday to desist from changing her 16 month old away from the changing facilities.

She said the two family changing-rooms at the centre were busy when she opted to change Ophelia at the poolside, and it also allowed her to keep an eye on her other young children who were swimming.

The aquatic centre management is standing by its policy, which is also in use at other facilities nationwide.

Them's the rules.

Of course a woman can breastfeed at the poolside. I witnessed one (to borrow Oswald's description) "she-mountain" do just that. A huge mammary gland was flopped out for all to see while a large baby hung off the end. Is this nudity? No. It's that sacred cow, breastfeeding.

Not a soul would have challenged this right.

Whatever happened to exercising commonsense and a bit of decorum?

Doubtful claims

The DomPost has published a piecemeal item on latest child abuse figures. It contains a false assumption and mis-matches information.

The article leads with, Nearly 25,000 Maori children have come to the attention of Child Youth and Family Services in the past year - more than any other group.

25,000 notifications does not equal 25,000 children. A substantiated case of abuse might be the result of multiple notifications.

There have been more than 63,800 cases of suspected child abuse or neglect in the past 12 months, up from 53,000 the previous year.

Then an ethnic breakdown is given which includes figures of 24,500 for Maori; Pakeha 20,300; Pacific Island 6,938; and Asian 1,247.

These figures total 52,895. Unless there are further ethnicities providing another 10,105 cases, the breakdown must refer to the previous year.

So did the reporter use the previous year's breakdown to make the already dubious claim about the most recent twelve 12 months?

It is important to get the data out there but even more important that a false picture isn't painted. The leading claim is exactly the sort of thing the Maori Party is justified in objecting to.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A new role for public health

The following is synonymous with the public health view across the world.

Now some Americans believe the only solution to funding future healthcare is to have a government-run compulsory health insurance system. This from Ron Bailey provides a glimpse of such a future;

"When anyone dies at an early age from a preventable cause in New York City, it's my fault," New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden declared recently (Financial Times registration required). In his campaign to make sure that no New Yorker dies before his or her time, Frieden has adopted an expansive notion of public health.

Historically, public health has focused on protecting people from the risks of communicable diseases. Thus public health officials have been empowered to mandate vaccinations, require the chlorination of water, order that milk be pasteurized, and quarantine sick people in order to control epidemics. Even the city's recent broad smoking ban was justified in part on the grounds that smokers were harming the health of others by exposing them to second-hand smoke.

But safeguarding people from the risks potentially imposed on them by third parties is no longer enough—Frieden now wants to protect people from themselves.....

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Easier to rip off

Here is one of the reasons so many people are on the invalid benefits. This WINZ case manager, now jailed for fraud, was given a birth certificate found on a street;

He used it to create an imaginary person named Manuel Jakes, who began to receive unemployment benefit and later an invalid benefit because checks on that benefit were not so stringent.


According to Stuff some sectors are finding it tough;

Businesses might be feeling the pinch, but an unemployment rate at 3.9% is still about as good as it gets anywhere in the world.

But figures in fine print in the latest Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion tell a different story.

In manufacturing, for example, a net 25% of businesses surveyed by the Institute of Economic Research laid off staff during the three months to June.

The last time manufacturers did that was in 1997.

A net 14% of merchants - retailers and wholesalers - also laid off staff.

In both instances, the culprits were the same, said institute director Brent Layton.

Margins are being squeezed as costs soar - more than 60% of manufacturers and merchants reported increased costs, compared with 20% previously. Higher prices and a high dollar are largely to blame.

Profits are down - for 49% of merchants and 38% of manufacturers.

Businesses say they intend to raise prices to recover those squeezed margins, but markets are so competitive that few do.

Instead, workers are laid off.

On the plus side the services and building industries are holding up well.

Organised crime

There was an article in yesterday's DomPost about gangs and the escalation of organised crime and links to overseas organisations. Police Association president Greg O'Connor says that it is "inevitable" that gangs will infiltrate government departments, local bodies and even the police eventually. Their spheres of influence and intimidation are widening. A couple of years back I asked a friend in the force for almost thirty years why gangs were less visible on the streets and on bikes. This was after I saw a group pulled up in an expensive late model car. He said more or less what Greg confirms. That having moved into organised crime, and having more at stake, they keep a lower profile.