Saturday, February 17, 2007

How NZ is portrayed in the Danish media

The DomPost today ran the translation of a full page article printed in Denmark's leading newspaper (by circulation) in January this year. It's entitled Kiwi-miraklet, der falmede or The Kiwi miracle that faded, by Lars From

Here's the poster boy, Happy Eli;

According to the author, "His sign says it all: 'No money. No work.' "

Well that more or less sets the credibility level for the rest of the article. No, his sign does not say that. In fact if you can read it, his words suggest he may have been asked to write something and has duly obliged.

From there the report is based entirely on statements from Diane Robertson of the Auckland City Mission, who advises the Danish government not to adopt what New Zealand did - reforms that comprised lowering taxation, liberalisation, privatisation and lowering of help to the weaker.

And to give you a taste of how cruel the effects of those reforms have been , "In some classes, 25 to 30 percent of children do not know when their birthday is because their parents have never told them, simply because they can't afford to buy them a present."

Painting NZ children as incredibly hard done by, three out of ten live today in regular poverty, is one thing.

But this major article then goes on to quote Ms Robertson as saying, "New Zealand is no longer a safe place to be. Circumstances have changed dramatically in the past five years.....A Swedish couple in a campervan were recently attacked. The girl was raped and the couple were robbed of everything."

Such is the ruination of the Kiwi-dream welfare state.

Should I be cheering for this "candid missionary"? After all, I report on what I believe are the shortcomings of welfare - no holds barred.

No. Because A/ Diane Robertson blames a lack of collective responsibility whereas I blame a lack of individual responsibility B/ I want less state intervention and redistribution and she wants more and C/ to paint NZ as particularly mired in poverty and crime does it a disservice. Many developed nations are suffering from exactly the same problems.

But it is fascinating, and sobering, and irritating, to read what other countries are being told about New Zealand.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Teenage birth rate climbs again

Media Release
Friday, February 16, 2007

Figures released today indicate the teenage birth rate is up again from 27.4 in 2005 to 28.4 per 1,000 15-19 year-olds in 2006.

According to welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell, "This is the fourth consecutive annual rise in the teenage birthrate and it is not a trend we should welcome."

"With around 4,000 teenage parents on welfare benefits at any given time, a growing number of babies being raised on an Unsupported Child's benefit, increasing numbers of grandparents raising grandchildren pressing for welfare support, clearly teenage parenthood is a problem."

"Ministry of Social Development research shows that children most at risk typically first present with a teenage mother who is Maori. Only this week I was talking with a social worker who works with teenage girls and their babies. When I asked her why, with the abundance of contraceptive advice and availability, with family planning clinics in schools and now the morning-after pill, so many girls still get pregnant. She gave me two answers. The first is they want somebody who will love them and need them even after the father has shot through, and two, they think there is money there."

"Clearly the financial incentive is influencing decisions about pregnancy and birth. We do these girls no favours in encouraging them to shun education, jobs, financial independence, and even an abiding relationship - all things we want for our daughters."

"It is a heartless practice and one that must be reconsidered. I would urge all political parties to look long and hard at this issue for the sake of our daughters and sons, whose lives are being adversely affected by government encouragement to go down this difficult path."


Peter Boshier makes a habit of speaking out. I wish more ,with knowledge of what is really going on, would. He is saying that the justice system needs to find better ways of dealing with under 14 year-olds.

Judge Peter Boshier, who has been a judge since 1988, made the politically charged statement at a foster care conference in Hamilton yesterday, where he said he was shocked at what he saw happening in families now compared with what he saw 19 years ago.

I am frequently shocked when I hear about what some 'children' do. Ramming pencils up bottoms of youngsters they want to intimidate for example. When I listened to Alan Duff speak last weekend it surprised me not one bit when he said he has only written about some of what goes on.

The Judge makes another utterance which should pass without comment. It should be a given but I now doubt it is shared by people who are in a position to change things.

"What concerns me about the present situation is that for every 12-year-old criminal there is a victim. It's the victim I am more concerned about."

Amen to that. Let's start directing our compassion towards the right people. Start putting some of these vicious types under supervision - and I don't mean out in the community. It was coincidentally 18 years ago when New Zealand adopted the ground breaking Family Group conference system and started steering youth away from court. Ron Mark chimes in;

"Of course family involvement must be sought, but this has to come to an end when that family proves that they cannot care for the child or make the decisions that are required."

But Boshier can have the last word;

"Unless we get this right, when they are 14 they are going to be in the Youth Court, and when they are 19 they are going to be murderers, and a lot of our murderers these days are young."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dubious UNICEF statistics

Simon Collins has reported overnight on the new Unicef Innocenti Research Centre's seventh set of international league tables.

First, some of the figures are hopelessly out of date, and second, some are quite dubious. Here's an example;

On average, 95 per cent of the children in developed countries live in homes where at least one parent is in paid work.

New Zealand fell slightly below the average when these figures were gathered in 2000, with only 93 per cent of children living with a parent in paid work. Only six countries, including Australia and Britain, scored lower.

Bearing in mind the number of children living in households dependent on benefits has dropped due to the lower number of people on the dole, the current percentage of children living in households with a parent in paid work couldn't be above 84 percent, and that's a generous estimate based on latest Census and MSD figures.

It was certainly lower than that seven years ago.


Only population estimates would have been available in 2000. So using Census 2001 figures and adjusting them slightly to reflect change since 1996, there were 1,150,400 0-19 year-olds. So the percentage of children in benefit dependent homes in 2000 was 25 percent. Even allowing for 1 in 6 of their parents doing some paid work the actual percentage of children living in a household with at least one working parent was 79 percent - not 93.

Then let's look at what happens if we observe a stricter definition of 'child' (14 and under). The percentage drops to 71 percent.

That's a significant difference in anybody's language.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New software system for Work and Income

Given the biggest group of beneficiary clients are now sickness and invalid beneficiaries the name of the new client management software system being phased in from July 2007 at a cost of $54 million seems entirely appropriate but somewhat optimistic.

I hope this doesn't mean another loss of data, as happened when systems changed in 1993.

Repeal of section 59 one step closer

Yesterday Clark gave a clear indication that she wants Sue Bradford's Crimes Amendment Bill passed.

The changes recommended by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee to Section 59 of the Crimes Act would also have a positive impact on violence in the home, and it is my hope that Parliament will support them this year to help make our children safer.

As far as I understood the matter, it still wasn't decided whether or not Labour would treat the repeal of section 59 as a conscience vote. With the latest developments regarding Taito Phillip Field, and the ensuing increase in Green influence, it wouldn't surprise if Labour now votes en masse for the passage of this bill.

If you want a change of government this will be a good thing. Don't underestimate how incensed the public are over the prospect of the state interfering ever more into their private lives on the pretext of doing good.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

More taxes to pay

It's that time of the year again when state schools send home "donation" invoices. The actions of one Fielding school have triggered a talkback debate about school funding and many, many people are not at all happy with the way schools are putting pressure on parents to come up with what I think we can safely call an extra tax.

So is the government simply under-funding education and hoping to screw the balance out of medium to high decile school parents?

In 1967 education accounted for 11.9% of total govt spending with 30% of the population aged 5-19

In 2007 (forecast) education spending will soak up 14.7% of govt spending with only 22% of the population aged 5-19

Considerably more spending on proportionately fewer children with, it would seem, no improvement. Just like the health system. Of course this is the result of a political philosophy that says spending money is the answer to everything.

Minister Wrong About Sickness And Invalid Benefits

Media release

Minister Wrong About Sickness And Invalid Benefits

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

December 2006 figures show that the numbers of people on either a sickness or invalid's benefit continue to grow, welfare commentator, Lindsay Mitchell said today.

"Last year David Benson-Pope, the Minister for Social Development, was assuring us that the rate of growth had slowed. It has not."

"During 2005 the increase was 3,171. Last year the total caseload grew by 4,104 to reach an incredible 125,466."

"This despite the government's intensive and expensive efforts to get people off these benefits and into jobs. In many cases these benefits have become the de facto dole. The OECD estimates that across western countries only one third of people relying on incapacity benefits are suffering the sorts of 'severe disabilities' that make paid work difficult or impossible."

The more govt gives the more people want

In a comment on this blog Dave says people are better off on a benefit because of the cost of childcare and the government has to provide more free childcare.

Let's think about this.

We are paying thousands of people (around 50) a benefit to look after just one child. There is enormous capacity there for extra private child-caring which would free up many more people to work.

Instead of 50,000 mothers looking after 50,000 children on a benefit why not 10,000 looking after 50,000 children, and getting paid for it by the other 40,000 who are working?

Sharing care of children is an age-old practice and what people do when left to find their own solutions. Why is the government the solution to every problem?

Prolific progeniture

There is an interesting discrepancy in today's DomPost. The front page story tells of a 35 year-old Levin man who dies after, it is suspected, taking horse sedative at the pub.

I just happened across his death notice on the back page.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Culpability for under-age sex

I am still investigating paternity testing, liability etc and came across this is a booklet from the Auckland Women's Centre.

If you are under 16 & trying to get paternity established,
will criminal proceedings be started against the baby’s
father because you had sex before you were 16?

If the baby’s father is under 17, & you had sex willingly, it is
unlikely that Police Youth Aid would feel it was in the best
interests of either of you to charge him with an offence.

However, if he is over 17, he could be charged because it’s a
criminal offence to have sex with a female under 16 years of
age, even if you were willing. The Police are more likely to
prosecute if there is a larger age gap & they think you may have
been pressured into sex. If you didn’t have sex willingly or you
were forced into having sex, the man committed an extremely
serious crime (called rape) & you may want to talk to someone
you trust about this.

Am I right in assuming then that only the male is culpable for under-age sex?

About time too

When the government wants to legislate it can do so at the drop of a hat and make the legislation retrospective. The following has taken years and years to change.

On April 1 2007 Work and Income will begin treating same-sex couples the same way as heterosexual couples. This report, originally in the SST, describes how benefits will be cut to the couple rate instead of two single rates.

What it doesn't cover is what I am picking will affect far more same-sex couples. Currently a mother can be on the DPB and her female partner working. This because they are not recognised as a couple under the Social Security Act.

But from April 1 the lesbian female getting the DPB should not be getting anything just as a heterosexual female wouldn't qualify for the DPB if she had a working partner.

Now that could affect far more couples than those who are both on benefits. I wonder how many will front up about their relationships and how many will stay mum? Perhaps they could simply deny there is any degree of companionship demonstrating an emotional commitment and therefore their relationship does not fit the legal definition, 'in the nature of a marriage'. That's worked for thousands of heterosexual couples.

Better off on a benefit

A front page story from the DomPost is headlined, "Agency tells worker she is better off on benefit."

Her ex-employer has obviously gone to the press, appalled by this. Because she was a good worker he had increased her pay from $10-25 an hour to $11-50 giving her a maximum weekly income of $402-50 plus the accommodation benefit. She told the press she wanted to spend more time with her child and that WINZ told her she would be better off if she left the job. She was also having trouble getting babysitters.

"I want to enjoy being with my baby while she is so young - I won't be able to have that experience again."

Well neither will all those mothers who go back to work so she can stay home. That's the crux of the matter. Those who don't plan and don't mind taking welfare get subbed by others prepared to take responsibility for their choices.

Not to mention the employer loses a good worker. She plans to return to work eventually. Let's hope so. Not working is fairly habit-forming.

As for WINZ, I've heard this before. Most recently when the mother of a boy turning 18 was told he would be better off on the dole than working part-time at Burger King (while also attending a course). She was about to lose his family support payment and he didn't earn enough to give her the equivalent. Fortunately she rejected the idea and so did the boy, preferring to earn his own money.