Saturday, March 31, 2007

And the award goes to......

Rodney Hide notices that while the entire ACT caucus walked the whole section 59 march from Civic Square to Parliament the Nats only joined in at the big house.

For her dramatic ability to dominate the stage in a non-speaking role, Judith Collins did however deserve the best late-arrival award .

Enviable eloquence

If you thought I couldn't possibly find anything new to say about the section 59 fiasco you are probably right. But Jim Hopkins can, and it's superb.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Please can I have my pie ,Sir

Great. It's hard enough getting my 8 year-old to eat anything at school, let alone fruit and yoghurt. She is a bundle of energy and has the sturdy strong lean body that goes with so much activity. But she does like a pie on Friday, the one day I let her buy lunch. Now the miserable Ministry of Health wants schools to declare pies and sausage rolls once-a-term treats!

See. This is more of what I was talking about yesterday. Punish all kids because some have a problem. It's a dreadful message to deliver to young minds.

New twist

Chris Trotter has a new twist on why the Bradford Bill should go in his DomPost column, Withdraw your failed bill, Sue.

Despite being a supporter of the bill he writes;

Passing this legislation now, over the objections of four fifths of the electorate will not settle the matter. The people will punish the Left and themselves by voting the far Right into power.

And how will that help the children of New Zealand?

He can only mean voting National into power. I struggle to think of anything that would change for New Zealand children under a National government. Seriously, can you?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bradford way off target

If you have ever wondered how many cases of child abuse or neglect come out of beneficiary homes here is some indication. Researchers matched caregivers of children who were the subject of a care and protection notification (or youth justice referral) with Social Welfare's computer system (SWN = social welfare number);

It should be noted that when a child's name was not matched on the SWIFTT child index, this did not guarantee that the caregiver was not in receipt of a current benefit. A failure to match may have arisen where a child had alternative names or where there was a variation in spelling. As Table 1 shows, the young person's name and details were matched on SWIFTT in 82% of the care and protection (notifications).

In my experience it is not at all uncommon for children of beneficiaries to have different surnames from their caregiver. DPB children carry a departed father's name. So the match could easily go considerably higher than 82%.

Having said that, not all those caregivers were currently on a benefit and could conceivably have never been on a benefit but receiving supplementary assistance only. But key here is that 'clients' of CYFS are nearly always 'clients' of Work and Income.

Which brings me back to Bradford's bill. If she is really so hellbent on stopping child abuse why isn't she focusing on the known culprits? I think we all know the answer to that. Beneficiaries are her constituency. She can't say beneficiary parents are mainly to blame so she has to say all parents are to blame. (I should break here to wash my mouth out with soap for use of that blasphemous word 'blame').

If a teacher decides to punish an entire class for the misdemeanors of one culprit, should the innocent pupils feel angry at the teacher or the offender? Because that scenario is an analogy for what is going on in this country - time and time again. We are all persecuted for the sins of a small minority. And I am very bloody angry at both...not to mention the mottley band of masochists egging the teacher on.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

How rare the truth has become

It was worth going on the rally to Parliament for this moment alone;

"You are not the child abusers," libertarian Lindsay Perigo exhorted the 5-600 strong crowd, "We all know who the child-abusers are. They are the people who have children they don't want because those people in there," spinning and pointing to the Beehive, "are paying them to do it. They are the child abusers."

The crowd was momentarily stunned. I clapped loudly. And so did a few others. That is cutting to the heart of the matter.

But there were a couple of other 'warm fuzzies'. I was signing a petition and another gruff geyser about my age was also asked. A young Bradford supporter tried to intervene. "You don't understand what you are signing, " she told the man. "Yes I do," he replied.

"But these people collecting signatures are christians," she protested.

"And you are a weird mole" he said, "Now go back to your sisterhood."

Then there was the imposing Maori lady all in black, with megabuckets of mana, standing her ground.

"Where are the Maori Party?" she cried. All cameras swing her way. "WHERE ARE THE MAORI PARTY?" she intoned again and again.... Of course we saw not hide nor hair of the Maori Party....although ACT's Hide and Roy joined the march.

All in all, it was a wonderful respite from the mealy-mouthed political correctness that has killed the cut and thrust of politics.

This time Helen, you are wrong

"New Zealand has it on its conscience that our rate of child death and injury from violence, including in the home, is appalling," she said.

"It is a stain on our international reputation, and I cannot see how those who are demanding the right to be able to thrash and beat children can possibly then turn around and confess concern about what is happening to our children."

So says the Prime Minister in support of Bradford's Bill.

Why is is that Labour understand the idea of targetted tax relief or cash assistance but not targetted social policy?

New Zealanders are badly aggrieved because they feel everybody is being scrutinised and dictated to when the kind of maltreatment the Prime Minister describes happens to children in almost exclusively a very small minority of the population.

I have already cited New Zealand historical surveys. Here is an excerpt from very recent US research into child abuse. The authors were unhappy with relying on a number of studies based on data from Child Protective Services, which showed a relationship between poverty, unemployment, transience,female-headed families and a greater risk of maltreatment, because "poor parents may be both more likely to be accused of child maltreatment and less able to defend themselves against such charges".

So they looked for other data. The following findings are from a extensive health survey of more than 90,000 students, and from these, further randomly selected in-home interviews. A total of 20,745 adolescents were interviewed for Wave 1.

"We see, for example, that children who were maltreated were more likely to have a mother with less than a high school education, more likely to have a father in jail at Wave 1 , more likely to have been on welfare at Wave 1, and more likely to have had a mother who was a teenager at the time of her child's birth."

So I would suggest to the Prime Minister she takes off her ideological blinkers and starts thinking seriously about how to reduce the size of the group from which most of the problems hail. Until she and her fellow travellers do so, she has no right to claim a genuine concern for abused children.

Go out and protest today.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Maori Party ambiguous

I am puzzled by this press release from The Maori Party, specifically Hone Harawira. It came out in the last hour but doesn't acknowledge the decision not to debate Bradford's bill under urgency. Instead he says;

Last week I thought the Bill might take a while before it came up for the vote, and that the Maori Party was hoping to take the issue on tour to get a handle on how people felt about it. If the bill is tabled as a matter of urgency, that won’t happen which will be a pity.

So now there will be time to "take the issue on tour" and they may still change their vote?

Have I missed something?

The following are Steve Maharey's words from 2002;

There is no doubt that any changes to laws concerning the physical discipline of children will be controversial. That is good. It is time for New Zealanders to think long and hard about the amount of violence that is aimed at children. The horror stories we read about in the newspaper are just the tip of a very large iceberg which sees far too many children hurt by the very people who are supposed to be caring for them. Changing the way adults think about children and what is an appropriate way to discipline them is central to lowering the number of children who are scarred for life by violence.

In the many nations where this issue has already been considered, there has been a strong emphasis on education. The law cannot be changed without a very extensive programme aimed at ensuring parents and caregivers have positive alternatives to force. Children need to be provided with clear boundaries for their behaviour and where parents have relied on physical discipline they will need to know what to do.

All of this may sound like hard work. However, the smacking debate will not go away. The UN is not working in isolation. Its attempts to protect children from violence come from a worldwide concern about the issue. New Zealand is not at the cutting edge of the debate, it is following at least fifteen other nations (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Austria, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Israel, Cyprus, Denmark, Croatia, Latvia, Belgium, Bulgaria and the Republic of Ireland).

Of course, New Zealand started down this track back in 1990 when it removed the cane and the strap from schools. It was a tough choice. Teachers needed training so they could use alternatives to physical punishment. However, no one seems to be lobbying for a return to the old days. It is time to push out the frontier again.

Well, I am not on my own. Sue Bradford missed it too. Five years on;

Sue Bradford admits a public education campaign will be needed when her bill is passed into law.

Of interest from last week's UK Budget

The bombshell from Gordon Brown's 2007 Budget speech, delivered last week;

Indeed to reward work, to ensure working families are better off, and to make the tax system fairer, I will from next April cut the basic rate of income tax from 22p down to 20p.

UK 2006/2007 rate of tax 0 - £2,150 10%

£2,151 - £33,300 22%

Over £33,300 40%

But he also abolished the 10 percent rate.....and raised National Insurance.

Of interest to me, however, is the increasing drive to eradicate child poverty. Here Patricia Morgan points out that the government is failing to get significant numbers of single mothers into work by on one hand paying them more if they work but on the other upping payments to their children which effectively makes working less attractive. She maintains that the focus on poor single parent families is breaking up poor two parent families who have not received the same financial assistance.

A couple with two children need to work 74 hours a week at the minimum wage to clear the poverty line after housing costs; but because of the way the benefits and tax system operates, a lone parent with one child working only 16 hours at the minimum wage is above the threshold......

....Tax credits are running at about £20 billion a year. But is the money buying better kids? Extraordinarily, no investigation into the effect on child outcomes of all the extra expenditure seems to have been undertaken. When Unicef published its comparative assessment of the lives of children earlier this year, it put the UK last; brought down by its poor family relationships, bad behaviour and risky conduct (drug taking, drunkenness, early sex and pregnancy rates, bullying and violence). For the entire spending binge, there are no detectable improvements in social outcomes.

What is certain is that the erosion of family structure, with children more and more born to lone women, often of low ability, who may or may not be in transient relationships with various men, are creating such fragile, feral conditions that child-rearing cannot be adequately accomplished. And this escalating family disintegration is being incentivised by the tax and benefit structure.

NZ's rate of working single mothers is almost identical to the United Kingdom's.

Monday, March 26, 2007

But wait. There's more...

Many thanks to PC for this improvised table (Left click on image to enlarge).

Here is the problem. The downward trend for all benefits (the top red line) must be very close to arresting given the upward trend of sickness and invalid benefits. DPB is trending down but that is largely a smoke and mirrors story to date.

Unemployment is not going to go much lower. We had been the lowest but are currently fourth equal lowest in the OECD.

Historically unemployment numbers were lower when full employment was a policy practised by government as a welfare policy. It was based on a 1 wage earner per family scenario. Those days are gone.

So look again at the graph. In there is a huge block of people who are lifestyle beneficiaries - the product of the last thirty years. A good few are genuine but a good few (probably more) are living quite deliberately and unnecessarily on the public purse.

All main benefits nationally

Here's a good graph. It's from the Social Policy Journal Of New Zealand November 2006. The population change over the thirty years was 33%.

"A violence free society"

Here's an excerpt from a speech given by Lianne Dalziel, Minister of Women's Affairs, on Saturday (not that you would know it - I had to read through to the end to discover who was delivering it). A violence free society is a utopian idea. It will never be achieved but is used to justify all manner of a vain attempts. She should go back and take a look at the speeches given by moralists and prohibitionists a hundred and more years ago. Dream on Dalziel;

I have been saying for some time now that we need a zero tolerance towards violence if we are ever going to have a violence free society, but that is easier said than done. It means not just changing the perpetrators' attitudes, but also the attitudes of those who accept violence as inevitable, or who think victims are somehow to blame or who think it is a problem for someone else to solve.

I often refer to this quote:

"The public through the submissions made to this Committee, has expressed its concern at the increase in violence and has called on it to find solutions. It is not unfair to say that the public now has the community it deserves. For the last two or three decades permissiveness has gone unchecked; domestic violence is rampant; the 'macho' image has been encouraged by advertising for commercial interests to the detriment of women; aggressive behaviour and violence in 'sport' has become accepted; pornography has become accepted as the norm, as has violence in the visual media; racism has increased; economic inequality with its attendant stresses and frustrations has increased; illiteracy and lack of parenting skills are common and awareness of spiritual values is sadly lacking."

This is a powerful piece of text, and can be found in the Ministerial Committee of Inquiry into Violence (the Roper Report) under the heading 'the Unpalatable Truth'.

It is unpalatable, because it tells us that we are all responsible for the kind of society we have today, and I say today, because those words could have been written today, but they were written nearly two decades ago. This section of the report ends with the phrase :

No one can afford to be complacent about the problem. Violence occurs by acts of commission and omission and we are all responsible."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Half of the picture

Trev's skite sheet arrived in my letterbox today. Here's a graph from the front page;

That's one half of the picture. Here is the other;