Saturday, December 01, 2007

Equal pay does not lead to prosperity

Look at this harping headline, Women still paid 'significantly' less than men and then take a look at a OECD graph released yesterday here, which shows, amongst other things, New Zealand has the smallest gender pay gap of the OECD countries.

Not that it has helped us economically. It seems feminists are obsessed with two things; achieving equality and eradicating poverty. When are they going to make the connection?

Friday, November 30, 2007

DNA sampling disarray

Remember this recent announcement?

A National-led government would require DNA samples to be taken from anyone arrested for imprisonable crimes, allow police to issue immediate protection orders and would toughen up bail laws.

Here's a report from the UK which already takes DNA samples from anyone arrested for an imprisonable crime:

Civil liberties campaigners and MPs have raised doubts about the national DNA database after the Home Office confirmed it contained more than 500,000 false or wrongly recorded names.

Suspects arrested over any imprisonable offence, including rape and murder, can have their DNA held even if they are not charged or are acquitted.

The database, the biggest in the world, contains about four million names.

But it has been dogged by problems. Statistics released by the Home Office show it contains around 550,000 files with wrong or misspelt names.

It always gives me the shivers when I hear people say, if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide, and then go on to advocate taking DNA samples at birth. Their trust in the administration and use of these databases is touching. I do not share it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What a difference a day makes

Sue Bradford is hollering about the fate of babies whose mothers go home shortly (about one day sooner than is already the case) after the birth of their child.

"One of the major contributors to the battering and killing of babies and young children is a lack of successful bonding between mother and baby. The situations where this is most likely to happen are in households where people do not have enough money to survive with any degree of comfort.

"These are also the households where the mother is most likely to take a $100 bribe to vacate the hospital immediately.

"In some cases she will be going home to poverty, chaos, and an expectation that she will meet the demands of other children as well as those of her new baby.

"Such mothers risk not being able to establish breastfeeding properly; not bonding well with their new child; post-natal depression and despair, as well as sinking into the addiction and crime subculture to which such households are vulnerable.

Over-egging it I think.

You have to wonder, if they are going home to such a household, why they had another child. Perhaps because, (Sue says they are the most likely to take the $100 bribe), they are also interested in the extra money and on-going benefit the new baby guarantees.

The $100 'bribe'

Wellington mothers are being "bribed" with $100 grocery vouchers to leave hospital within six hours of giving birth.

But I thought people couldn't be incentivised with money?? I mean, nobody gets pregnant for the DPB.

I was part of the 'nappy-bribe' generation. Not that I needed them in either sense. I didn't need an incentive to get out of the place asap and I gave the nappies to somebody who might materially appreciate them. The place was dirty. I watched a 'cleaner' enter the room with a mop and create a wet snail-trail in and around the beds and depart. Doing the recommended walking during labour resulted in feet dirtier than if I had gone outside and walked up and down the footpath (No I don't possess a pair of slippers). The vending machines offered more appetising choices than the hospital kitchens. And lying awake listening to screaming babies all night is hardly restful. If I had been of the era when they made you stay in hospital for days to 'recuperate' I would have been tearing my hair out. I can't understand why anyone wouldn't want to go home at the first possible opportunity.

But I had to shake my head at the last line in the news item.

Hospitals used to offer free nappies to encourage mothers to leave early, but this policy had largely been abandoned.

In 2005, Hutt Valley District Health Board said it stopped the practice as it "had concerns this may be an inappropriate incentive for unwell women to go home".

How archetypically illustrative of bureaucratic bungling. Chopping and changing policies with neither reason nor rhyme. Propelled by pragmatism. In all its wisdom, Capital and Coast has decided incentives are appropriate with a qualifier - cash is and nappies are not.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Who to believe

Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft makes a habit of being outspoken. That's good. At least we get a view even if we choose to disbelieve it. Fewer youths are being given diversion and he blames it on a lack of police resources. The police however blame it on the more serious nature of youth offending. Not shown in this link but in the hard copy is the judge claiming that violent offending is rising in all cohorts, particularly 51-99. That's a twist. Violent youth offending is rising, but as every other group's is, we should discount it?

Despite the successful use of diversion since reforms in 1989, its use had fallen markedly in the past two years, Judge Becroft said.

What constitutes "successful"? That some potential criminal careers have been nipped in the bud by keeping the individual out of court? I am sure that is true. But how many other individuals have gotten deeper into the poo because they weren't punished? Their misdemeanours were pandered to by a justice system that teaches them they are the 'victims'.

Because if the present situation constitutes "success" we don't even want to begin to imagine failure.

"This is a great provision," he said. "There's no other youth justice system in the world that has a provision like that ... that instructs authorities: don't charge."

It fascinates me what people say when they are addressing the like-minded. Maybe my reaction is heightened because this statement is taken out of context. But really. For all those do-gooders who constantly chatter about 'sending messages' this is very much an own goal.

Try rephrasing it. New Zealand bends over backwards to avoid holding young thugs and thieves to account.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Where most babies are born

Part of this effect is people have babies at a time in their lives when they haven't accumulated much wealth but the graph still seems heavily skewed toward the Decile Ten areas.

Teenage birthrate almost ten-fold in poorest areas

Media Release
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Released today by the Paediatric Society of New Zealand, "Monitoring the Health of New Zealand Children and Young People " reveals teenage birth rates that vary enormously across geographic and economic regions.

"These statistics confirm a strong correlation between low income and teenage births, "said Lindsay Mitchell, welfare commentator . "The birth rate in the most deprived areas (decile 10) is 60.49 per 1,000 15-19 year-olds. This drops to 6.56 in decile 1 areas. This confirms that it is those girls who are least able to financially afford to raise children who are having them. Hence so many end up on welfare."

"The teenage birthrate also varies geographically from a low of 13.5 in Otago to a high of 59.4 in Gisborne, which is also home to the highest number of children living in one parent homes."

"Maori have the highest teenage birthrate at 77.64 compared to 16.43 for Europeans. Earlier Ministry of Social Development data shows that Maori are 8 times more likely to be a teenage parent on welfare."

"As the report notes, 'High teenage pregnancy rates are a cause for concern as young maternal age has been associated with a number of adverse birth outcomes ... and impact on the educational attainment, not only of the young women themselves but also the aspirations and opportunities available to their children.' "

"The government must now face facts and examine how paying girls to have babies is influencing this unacceptable situation. Employing eight people to work with teenage parents, when over 4,000 give birth each year, is not an answer."

Helping children from poor homes

The children who form the group covered by a damning Paediatric Society report are overwhelmingly those on welfare and those living in one parent homes - the poorest homes by a long margin. The automatic response from child health advocates therefore is to call on government to give more money to their parents - they cannot give it directly to the children - and to spend more money on their housing.

The second recommendation may have some substance. If the government is going to keep a stock of state homes it would be wise to maintain them. However that maintenance doesn't fall solely to the landlord. Tenants would benefit from looking after properties too. That means not breaking windows and leaving them unrepaired during winter months. Removing condensation in bathrooms so paint and wood do not deteriorate. Spending money on heating homes instead of using the money on alcohol, tobacco and drugs - the last of which can gobble up a benefit payment within a couple of days. Unfortunately when people do not own their property they have far less interest in looking after it.

The first recommendation is however made without thought and is without merit. In fact I would go so far as to say pumping more cash into the homes of these children may even worsen the overall picture.

That is because raising benefit levels has been demonstrated to attract more people onto benefits. It is interesting that the government accepts that raising the pay levels of teachers, nurses and policeman will attract more of them but doesn't use the same argument to resist calls to increase benefit levels - the current campaign being run by the Child Poverty Action Group and supported by the Greens and the Maori Party.

New Zealand's social assistance levels are already generous by international standards. So generous that many parents prefer living on a benefit to working. Not all, by any means, but a good percentage. They will justify this preference by pointing out that taking a job will mean they 'earn less' than they do on a benefit. This may have been the case in previous years but with the lowered abatement rates and In Work tax credits nobody should be disadvantaged when moving into work. And yet we still see thousands of parents move onto the DPB every year, especially teenagers who have little idea about child rearing or home maintenance yet are given that responsibility.

So in our employment-rich environment many parents would be better off - which is what the advocates want - if they got a job. Maybe not much better off immediately but there is more chance of income from employment rising than income from a benefit rising. As well many have only school age children. If the parent were also absent from the home more frequently less electricity would be used, power bills being one of their main expenses. And if some pre-school children's home environments are so very unhealthy then it would benefit them to also be elsewhere for at least some of the day.

At some point the role of a parent, the adult in the equation, must be questioned. It cannot continue to be the financial obligation of society to solve problems knowingly caused by individuals. Those caused by people producing children they cannot afford to raise being a major example. Socialising problems exacerbates rather than alleviates them.

So yes, the government may need to put some more money into existing state home stock but even more importantly, tenants need to take responsibility for keeping their homes in a sound and hygienic state.

Meantime what would make a huge difference for those parents who are struggling, be it their own fault or not, is more personal attention. More mentoring and practical help from private citizens. The faceless bureaucratic services cannot sort out the current mess by simply pouring more money into the homes of these children. Over thirty years of doing that already has shown it will not work.

The many child advocates promoting this solution mean well. I have no doubt. But they must look at the bigger and historical picture if they want the lives of New Zealand children to be better in the future.

In 1904 a Wellington trustee of the Charitable Aid Board said that the more the Government tried to assist the destitute the greater became the demands. This is as true today. Yet it seems many are destined to promote soft but unsuccessful solutions.

Monday, November 26, 2007

'Buying elections'

There is an obvious point about Labour's justification for the Electoral Finance Bill which needs fleshing out somewhat. Chris Carter's assistant highlights it here when defending Carter's response to an e-mailer;

A spokeswoman for Mr Carter said the question was the minister's standard response to messages against the Electoral Finance Bill.

"He was making a point about people trying to buy elections. He's trying to make the point that the Exclusive Brethren tried to influence the 2005 election secretly."

For Labour 'buying the election' means people spending their own money to influence how other people vote.

It doesn't mean spending taxpayer's money, half of whom do not support them, furnishing bribes to would-be voters. This type of politicking has gone on so long in New Zealand that most people are inured to it. Perhaps we should start pointing out that if those of us opposing the EFB are 'buying elections' then Labour and its lapdogs are 'stealing' them.

Let's just remind ourselves of the many ways this is so;

The whopper 'steal' was of course Working For Families which promised substantial pay-outs to earners and beneficiaries with dependent children. This is costing over $1 billion a year. There are at least 360,000 families benefiting. A very quick guess is non-recipients are paying on average around $6-700 each to fund these fairly secure votes for Labour.

To keep the more secure working-age beneficiary vote (beyond the WFF recipients) costs taxpayers around $4-5,000 each.

Then there are all those people who pay for private health insurance and private schools for their children who fund the votes of those staunch believers in the 'free' public health and education systems.

We have the ongoing and expanding system of health and education funding according to residential decile rating leading to large subsidies for Labour voters.

Other 2005 election bribes included interest free student loans, free 20 hours childcare, increased Super and issuing the Goldcard, Kiwisaver, and Welcome Home loans.

I am guessing next years bribes will include a full years paid parental leave, and some way of capitalising WFF for first home buyers (in the way family benefit used to be able to paid up front for a home deposit).

So the gall of these harping hypocrites who tell us those who oppose them are trying to 'buy elections' is staggering. It shows just how out of touch and removed from reality these redistributive robots are.

And the very worst aspect of it all? Their ideology is steadily diminishing New Zealand's prospects - economically and socially.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Working the System"

From the Times;

Frank Field, a former Social Security Minister, said last night that too many people were working the incapacity benefit system to avoid work. “It is a racket, which governments have allowed to exist for far too long. I do not blame people for working the system, it is the job of politicians to stop them doing it.”

Mr Field added that because job seeker’s allowance is lower than incapacity benefit, there was an incentive for people to try to be classified for the higher benefit.

The number on incapacity benefit has more than trebled since 1979 but in recent years it has been broadly stable at about 2.7 million. In the past 12 years, however, there has been a dramatic shift in the illnesses for which people are being given the benefit: 40 per cent now claim for mental health problems compared with just 20 per cent in 1995.

Mr Field said: “The big change over the last decade has been into illnesses which largely defy a clear medical classification: depression, dizziness and such. It is a move from the tangible illness to the intangible.”

NZ politicians take comfort from the fact that other countries have the same problem as ours. But there are differences. The number on a sickness or invalid benefit has more than just trebled since 1979. The increase is nearer six-fold. Whereas in the UK the numbers have stabilized, here they have not. But in terms of classification we are seeing the same trends;

Incapacity group Proportion of working aged Invalid’s Benefit recipients

Psychological or psychiatric conditions 27.8

Intellectual disability 14.1

Musculo-skeletal system disorders 12.7

Nervous system disorders 8.1

Cardio-vascular disorders 7.0

Accidents 6.8

Cancer and congenital conditions 6.8

Other disorders and conditions 16.7

Total 100.0

Incapacity group Proportion of working aged Sickness Benefit recipients

Psychological or psychiatric conditions 37.0

Musculo-skeletal system disorders 16.2

Accidents 9.4

Cardio-vascular disorders 5.8

Pregnancy-related conditions 2.8

Other disorders and conditions 28.8

Total 100.0

Underneath the Times article is this comment. Pathetic. Pathetic because the writer can only see a government-based solution.

Mental illnesses are a genuine reason not to be able to work. As a sufferer of clinical depression and Anorexia Nervosa, I can safely say there have been times when I would have been totally unable to do any job satisfactorily because of my illnesses.

Depression and anxiety disorders can be crippling. And eating disorders are life-threatening illnesses which can leave people unable to work long-term. I know people who have suffered from eating disorders for decades.

I was flatly told by the doctors that I was unfit to take up my place at university or have even a part-time job. I'm not even allowed to do a lot of walking because I have to keep my weight up, so why shouldn't I be allowed incapacity benefit? And yet I had to get private treatment because I'm not ill enough for the NHS.

At the end of the day if the government put more money into PREVENTING obesity and TREATING mental illness, they wouldn't HAVE to pay those people benefits.

Teeth trivia

According to an Australian report (hence the highlighted bar);

New Zealanders have the worst teeth in the OECD! Crikey.