Saturday, February 10, 2007

Something whiffy

Yesterday I learned about a low-income family whose mother works caring for the elderly. Her partner runs her to work in the morning. They are stopped and he is breath-tested. He's over the limit and loses his licence for 6 months. She can't drive. She has to now scrounge around trying to get lifts to her workplace.

The law is the law and if someone is driving over-the-limit there is little to be said in their defense, but I do question where and when these road blocks are set up. For instance, there is a regular cohort at the bottom of the Wainui Hill Road on a Saturday morning. It is rather difficult to avoid them because there is only one way in and out of Wainuiomata. The police obviously figure that these are people the most likely to have been drinking the night before and off to work or sport on a Saturday morning. Low income people, some of whom stayed home drinking the night before to avoid drinking and driving, and who have jobs, unlike their benefit dependent bros still in bed.

I have never seen a roadblock checking high income people coming out of the Eastern Bays, another one-way-in, one-way-out area. Funny that. Aye.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Madness from the mother country

Here's a couple of senseless safety stories from the UK. First, a school bans football because people are getting hit by the ball and second, police refuse to chase motorcycle thieves because they aren't wearing helmets (the tea leaves that is).

(Spotted in the Adam Smith newsletter)

Unemployment drops....and so does penny

Back in November I wrote about a report in the DomPost describing the falling level of employment amongst women. It said women were bearing the brunt of unemployment as "10,000 lost their jobs".

I pointed out that as those women hadn't joined the ranks of the unemployed they had most probably decided to leave the workforce as they had two other sources of income - a partner and Working for families.

Today the coverage of the latest HLFS results says, Women especially moved out of jobs in the last six months of the year (note the change from "lost their jobs" to "moved out of"), possibly reflecting the introduction of Working for Families government assistance package in April.

Women were moving out of the workforce in big numbers, by 13,000 in the last three months of the year, driving down the overall "participation rate" - the number of people working as a percentage of the population.

So in a country that needs to lift its production the government has enticed women out of the workforce. That's no surprise. Means-tested benefits have always produced disincentives to work. The family benefit caused just this problem in the 40s.

And here's another thing. Where are all the women who moved off the DPB and supposedly into jobs? Perhaps they aren't showing up because most of them simply changed from being on a partial DPB to being on the In Work payment without changing the hours they work.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

"Hand-outs are not the answer - schools"

Ah ha. So I am not alone on this. Schools don't want hand-outs. Politicians are trying to create a giant muffin out of a mini muffin I suspect.

Give us a break

All this angst over eating is unappetising. For the past few years hysteria over the obesity 'epidemic' has wound up and up. Our kids are too fat, especially Pacific Islanders and Maori. Now our kids are too hungry, especially Pacific Islanders and Maori. Give us a break.

The political spat over how many kids go to school on empty stomachs is something of a disappointment. Compared to the debates that came out of the Brash speeches it hardly rates.

My girl regularly goes to school on an empty stomach because she refuses to eat whatever I put in front of her. It is offered every morning. She can't wait to get to school. Last year she got straight As bar one. My son always eats breakfast and is still grabbing something from the cupboard on the way out. I have a nice cup of tea. We are all different.

At school, if asked, I imagine my daughter would say she has had breakfast because having breakfast is the 'right' thing to do. Other kids would say they hadn't in order to get some more. Kids aren't 100 percent reliable.

But we are nevertheless wringing our hands over a survey saying
kids are not eating breakfast and scrambling around for new ways to remedy the situation.

Key thinks because he is asking businesses to intervene it's OK. But it's still intervention that adds to the sum of dependence. Labour gives people the money for the breakfasts and National gives out the breakfasts. Figure that out.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The saga so far

This tit for tat going on between John Key and Steve Maharey is starting to look quite silly.

Let's see if I can track it;

Sunday - National Party Leader John Key has announced the first initiative in what will be a National Food in Schools programme. "National is committed to providing practical solutions to the problems which Helen Clark says don’t exist," says Mr Key.

During his State of the Nation speech on Tuesday, Mr Key indicated National would seek to introduce a food in schools programme at our poorest schools in partnership with the business community.

Mr Key has since received an approach from Auckland-based company Tasti foods. "I approached Wesley Primary School yesterday, a decile 1 school near McGehan Close, a street that has had more than its fair share of problems in recent times. I am told Wesley Primary, like so many schools in New Zealand, has too many kids turning up hungry.

Yesterday am - The Government is denying it bullied an Auckland school principal into rejecting a National Party offer of free food for her pupils.

National's leader, John Key, announced on Saturday his party was launching a Food for Schools programme, with Wesley Primary School the first to receive a donation from the Tasti Foods company.

But Wesley principal Rae Parkin said all she had been expecting was some muesli bars for fund-raising.

"John Key hasn't even visited my school," she said.

"This is embarrassing. I don't want to end up with parents thinking I'm putting something in place because I don't think they can feed their children. They can feed them."

The decile one school is near McGechan Close, one of the "mean streets" Mr Key identified in his speech last week when he talked about an "underclass" in New Zealand.

Ms Parkin said she had been shocked when she read about Mr Key's announcement in a newspaper.

Mr Key said his offer had been clear, and he had told Ms Parkin there would be media interest.

He said she had changed her attitude during the last 48 hours.

"The only assumption I can make is that there was external influence.

"I think what you can assume is that there's been influence from the ministry, from the Labour Party."

Education Minister Steve Maharey said Mr Key's allegations were disgraceful.

Yesterday 2pm - Maharey says, Key out of touch

National leader John Key's offer to supply breakfast to Wesley School shows how out of touch he is, says Education Minister Steve Maharey.

Mr Maharey said today that John Key arranged for Te Atatu cereal maker Tasti Products to supply breakfast to students without properly consulting the school.

"The breakfast plan for Wesley School was not needed nor asked for. It is just another national party stunt; an insulting stunt for which John Key should apologise to the school and the community."

This morning - Mr Maharey said low-income parents were keen to look after their children as best they could and "don't need this kind of patronising attitude that comes from people like John Key who never go near them except for publicity stunts".

He said allegations by Mr Key that Labour pressured Wesley Primary School into rejecting free food were untrue and insulting, and the National leader should apologise for them.

"That school has an enormous amount of help and the parents are good parents," Mr Maharey said.

"It is a strong local community and the school was deeply insulted by the thought that its parents were going to get a national profile for not feeding their kids when they went to school."

Mr Key yesterday said he stood by his claim that that Wesley came under Labour Party pressure.

1pm today - Key says, Labour’s standover tactics on school food won’t work

National will not stand for bullying and will carry on with its Foods in Schools initiative by not identifying the schools involved, says National Party Leader John Key.

“Wesley Primary has been subject to standover tactics and bullying from this Labour Government, which cares more about making political points than making sure kids are well-fed.

2pm today - Maharey says key is seeking to cover his embarrassing mistake

Education Minister, Steve Maharey, says John Key has mounted a ridiculous cover up campaign to try to hide a political stunt that went wrong.

Mr Maharey restates that no government member or official had any contact with Wesley School regarding the National party's plan to offer the school breakfast supplies.

He says John Key is persisting with the silly notion that Wesley School was pressured by the Labour government, and that is simply not true

Not a good look on either part. Key should have stopped taking the bait.

Have you noticed that Maharey has been doing all the running on Key. Labour has pitted its youngest best-looking against National's.

Update; But wait....there's more....just in...will Key bite again?

Today 4.23pm - National should apologise for its legacy of poverty

The National Party leader should come up with some clear policies on eliminating poverty, rather than just handing out muesli bars, says the Education Minister, Steve Maharey.

"In fact John Key should apologise for the levels of poverty National subjected New Zealanders to through its policies of the 1990s", says Steve Maharey.

Mr Maharey says the National Party needs to admit its own actions, such as slashing benefits and market rates for state housing, created misery for many.

"He says National needs to demonstrate a real commitment to moving away from such damaging policies."

"Grandma glad boys life of 'hell' over"

That's a headline to grab your attention. And it's worth grabbing. Grandma is a smart lady.

Mrs Tahana did not blame police or "the system" for the end to her grandson's life, but said many young people today were displaying similar traits.

"They are just slipping through the cracks. They don't put value on life. I'm 67 and I treasure every second now."

I have said this many times. They don't put value on life. But I add, they don't value their own life and consequently they don't value anybody else's.

This boy was trouble/troubled from the word go. What might have made a difference?

Police were aware of the youth's criminal behaviour, but had been limited in what they could do because of his age.

In times gone by he would have been institutionalised. Today that word has unpleasant connotations. But thousands of children went through children's homes, often kept until they were ready to work. They were taught skills and eased into the outside world.

I know of a boy who is very much like this kid. He is so difficult nobody wants him. He's a danger to anybody who takes him in. He has already assaulted younger children in a particularly nasty fashion. I expect I will read about him in the papers one day in the not too distant future and he will end up in prison. He needs to be detained right now - for his own sake and everybody else's. But he is under 14.

Monday, February 05, 2007

More on child support liability

At my request, this is further information from the author of a piece I referred to from

Child Support and Paternity

The whole area is full of vagueness and uncertainty but it basically goes like this.

If a supposed father is named by the mother, IRD will send a demand to the father. He has 28 days to file an objection to the demand. If he does not file an objection within 28 days he is assumed to be the father and then it becomes almost impossible to change anything after that.

If the father does get to file his objection within 28 days, and his name is not on the child’s birth certificate, he should be able to get off paying child support. If his name is not on the birth certificate and he misses the 28 day objection deadline, he will almost certainly never get off paying child support.

In odd cases men who are not the fathers, but have been trapped, have managed to prove they are not the father and get off paying child support, but we have seen that take years and many court appearances by the father.

Now the real rub. In a large number of cases, at the start, IRD don’t have the supposed father’s address, or they are given the wrong address (surprise, surprise). So the father never gets the IRD demand before the 28 day objection period expires. So regardless of whether or not his name is on the birth certificate, he has to pay. This works very much in IRD’s favour (they are tasked with collecting as much revenue as they can), so IRD don’t have any incentive to get the father’s address right. What’s more, IRD calculate the amount the Child Support the father (who has not responded) has to pay, and they tend to assess the father for the maximum amount. So he starts off with huge Child Support bills and quickly runs up huge penalties as he is unable to pay the huge amount of Child Support demanded.

Poke in the eye for prohibitionists

The Taranaki Daily News applauds the District Council carrying out the wishes of the majority of submitters opposing the restriction (and possible elimination) of pokie machines. My, it's good to read some commonsense.

Given the overall tenor of the submissions from the public, the committee had little choice but to recommend the status quo – and good on it for doing so. You don't not have an airport because planes may crash, and you don't not allow for the growth of facilities to cater for the increasing popularity of poker machines just because a very small minority of users abuse them.

Dubious statistics

Don't believe everything you read. For example, from;

Last summer, in a press release that accompanied his report on secondhand smoke, Surgeon General Richard Carmona claimed "even brief exposure to secondhand smoke" adversely affects the cardiovascular system and increases the risk of heart disease. How brief? Supporters of smoking bans have been competing to answer that question, with each claim less plausible than the last.

Michael Siegel, a physician and a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, has been tracking the claims on his blog ( In November 2005, Siegel faulted the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids for asserting that "as little as 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger harmful cardiovascular changes, such as increased blood clotting, that increase the risk of a heart attack." The following April, Siegel counted 65 anti-smoking groups that were attributing various adverse cardiovascular consequences, included hardening of the arteries and heart attacks, to a half-hour of second-hand smoke.

One of those groups, SmokeFree Ohio, was also claiming that merely 20 minutes of exposure causes a nonsmoker's platelets to become "as sticky as a smoker's," increasing the chance of a heart attack. Not to be outdone, SmokeFree Wisconsin began warning that after five minutes of exposure, "your body starts closing off arteries." In October the Minnesota Association for Nonsmokers declared that "just thirty seconds of exposure to secondhand smoke can make coronary artery function of non-smokers indistinguishable from [that of] smokers."

As Siegel notes, neither Carmona's report nor the "fact sheets" produced by anti-smoking groups offer evidence to support such claims. Since cardiovascular disease takes many years to develop in smokers, who absorb much larger amounts of the chemicals generated by tobacco combustion than bystanders do, the activists' accounts suggest that cigarette smoke defies the rules of toxicology, becoming more potent as the dose becomes smaller. Imagine what zero seconds of exposure could do.

I was reminded of this type of 'stretching the truth' when I read this yesterday in the Sunday Star Times;

Let's have a look at some other claims;

A New Zealand woman is killed by her (ex) partner every 2 ½ weeks. Stuff.

One woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner every five weeks. NZ Police.

Which should we go with?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Compassionate Conservatism is contagious

It's all very complicated, and I hope the National Party doesn't fall into the trap of expecting all single parents to get a job. When kids are under 5, isn't mothering or fathering a fulltime, rewarding, hugely important job? Instead of castigating DPB mums or dads with pre-school kids, we should set conditions on their being paid by the taxpayers and make sure those conditions are met: health checks, vaccinations, learn to count, read and reach all the milestones.

Now what political philosophy would one expect that view to come from? Compassionate conservatism. Deborah Coddington, the state-embracing conservative. Who would have thought it.

Of course parenting under-fives is a hugely important job. Which is exactly why we shouldn't be paying a benefit to people who don't see that or know how to do it. Those who do value parenting are those most likely to take full responsibility for it.

This 'policy' has a gaping hole in it. It doesn't stop young newcomers starting on the DPB and it doesn't stop them continuing to grow their families to maintain their DPB lifestyle. Don't forget that a majority on this benefit started there as teenagers.

And the state laying down requirements? Next she will be promoting Cindy Kiro's grand plan for all parents, on benefit or not, to submit their children for state-checkups.

I know Deborah is a sincere, caring person but it's increasingly difficult to rely on her to pursue any one idea or approach over time.