Friday, December 14, 2007


Here is a married couple charged with 'P' offences. Not convicted. The judge says that it will be a long time before the trial takes place. They are remanded in custody and CYFS take their four children aged 4 weeks to 13 years.

The thought occurred to me that Sue Bradford has a bill which would allow mothers to keep their very young children in prison. Some already do but this bill wants to extend the period and expand the practice.

Here is a mother of a month-old baby being separated from it when she hasn't even been convicted of an offence.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The wrong motivation

I came across this on another blog. It's a Left blog that appears to have attacking David Farrar and others as its reason for being. It is even styled after the very popular Kiwiblog. Naturally its contributors are anonymous.

Linking whoring to Lindsay Mitchell is not going to help you, Ms Mitchell’s barely numerate.....I’ve read Mitchell’s commentary before and she struggles to make out coherent argument and doesn’t deal with stats well. Her problem of course may not be numeracy, it may be that her arguments don’t stack up with you look for data…

Wouldn't it be better if the poster had simply questioned my arguments here? If I get things wrong - and I do - I'm not going to get it right without somebody pointing out the error. But what this comment really brings home is the propensity of some (many?) on the Left to malign people rather than their ideas. Trevor Mallard leaps to mind.

And I question the motivation of these types. Their interest in politics seems to stem largely from the pleasure they take in fighting and hating. That's a shame because they give politics a bad name and ward off others who might have a worthy contribution to make. We mustn't let that happen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More jiggery-pokery from Minister

Here are Ruth Dyson's answers to Russell Fairbrother's questions in Parliament yesterday. I will intersperse my own comments;

1. RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has she received regarding the number of New Zealanders receiving an unemployment benefit?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment): I am delighted to report to the House that the number of New Zealanders receiving an unemployment benefit is at its lowest since 1979. Our Government has invested in New Zealanders. We have rebuilt the tax credit system to make work pay and we are providing active support to help people find jobs. More than 141,000 people have come off an unemployment benefit since 1999, which is a decrease of 88 percent.

This is not right. Her answer implies there is a static pool of people on the unemployment benefit. In reality there will have been over 1 million cancellations over that period with slightly fewer grants hence the total at any given time trends down. (For the critics, you might find an instance of my own sloppy description of the situation but I am not the Minister.)

Russell Fairbrother: What progress has been made in reducing the number of young people receiving the unemployment benefit for long periods of time?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Great progress. Five years ago our Government made a commitment with the Mayors Task Force for Jobs to ensure that all young New Zealanders are on a clear pathway to economic independence and well-being. That collaborative effort has resulted in a tremendous achievement. This week, fewer than 250 18 and 19-year-olds have been on an unemployment benefit for longer than 13 weeks. That is a drop of 97 percent since December 1999. This afternoon my colleagues and I will meet with the Mayors Task Force for Jobs to look at our next challenge.

No mention is made of the 2,000 18-19 year-olds who receive emergency benefit, independent youth benefit,unemployment benefit training and unemployment benefit training hardship and unemployment benefit student hardship.

Russell Fairbrother: Are people leaving the unemployment benefit only by simply transferring to sickness or invalids benefits?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The answer is no. The reason that most people leave the unemployment benefit is to enter paid employment.

Madam SPEAKER: It is impossible to hear the Minister’s reply. I ask the Hon Ruth Dyson to please start again.

Hon RUTH DYSON: The answer is no. Most people leave the unemployment benefit to enter paid work. Only 8.5 percent of all unemployment benefit cancellations between September 1999 and September of this year have been as a result of transfers to sickness benefit. Over the same period, 60,000 people went the other way. That makes a net transfer of 31,000. One-third of 1 percent of unemployment benefit cancellations over the same period were as a result of a transfer to an invalids benefit; and over the same period 450 went the other way. That makes a net transfer of just 2,850. The combination of those two factors is nothing like the 141,000 people who are no longer dependent on the unemployment benefit.

This is interesting. Now Dyson correctly utilises the inflow/outflow process (while continuing to wrongly describe what has happened to the unemployment benefit). That's because it suits her argument to talk about net transfer. However there is no proof that those people who went onto sickness from unemployment benefits are the same people who transferred the other way. In fact some will have progressed onto the invalid's benefit. Therefore the gain from a benefit may be much larger than the net transfer. Here is what MSD research has to say. It doesn't matter that they looked at an earlier period because under Labour the net transfers have increased.

We estimate that growth in transfers explains 60% of the growth in Invalid’s Benefit inflow rates at ages 15–59 between 1993 and 2002. This translates to a 31% contribution to the overall growth in inflows to that benefit (Table 2)19, a share of growth that is bigger than the independent contributions of either the demographic changes or the increase in inflow rates at ages 60–64 shown in Table 1.

In summary a great many people now on an invalid's benefit came from an unemployment benefit via the sickness benefit. Ruth Dyson had managed to make it look as though only 2,850 of the 78,000 came from the dole during Labour's administration.

Update - And this is how it turns it translates in a news item;

Benefit switching labelled a myth

12/12/2007 6:12:03

The Social Development Minister is debunking accusations beneficiaries are moving from the dole to sickness and invalid benefits.

Ruth Dyson says only 8.5 percent of all unemployment benefit cancellations between September 1999 and September of this year have been as a result of recipients going on the sickness benefit. She says over the same period less than one percent went from the dole to an invalid benefit.

Ms Dyson says the reason most people leave the unemployment benefit is to go into paid work.

Unemployment is at a record low of around 20,000 people,but more than 100,000 people are collecting sickness and invalid payments.

Labour only scratching surface of welfare problem

Although I would have liked to tackle the unemployment spin it was too complicated for a media statement so I settled on the following. Something had to be said. National didn't even put up a single supplementary to this question yesterday.

RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has she received regarding the number of New Zealanders receiving an unemployment benefit?

Media Release
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Minister for Social Development Ruth Dyson has announced that the number of people on an unemployment benefit is at a 28 year low. She did not release a companion press statement announcing that the number of people on a sickness or invalid benefit is at an all-time high.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell notes; "In fact twenty eight years ago there were 23,000 people on these benefits. Today there are over 127,000 and the numbers continue to rise unabated.

While people on unemployment benefits tend to respond favourably to a strong job market, those on other benefits do not. People on the sickness, invalid and domestic purposes benefits therefore pose a far greater challenge for government.

While Ms Dyson, who has only recently assumed responsibility for the Ministry of Social Development, boasts in Parliament about 'low' unemployment figures, thousands of people are continuing to enter the benefit system destined to become long term sickness, invalid and domestic purposes beneficiaries."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

This level of spin is disgusting

Let's go back to what Ruth Dyson said yesterday;

The number of New Zealanders receiving an unemployment benefit is at a 28 year low, Social Development and Employment Minister Ruth Dyson said today.

“In December 1999, when the Labour-led government came into office, 161,000 people were receiving an unemployment benefit. Over 141,000 have come off this benefit since then, with just over 20,000 people receiving it now. These numbers haven’t been this low since 1979. In addition, this government has radically reduced youth unemployment numbers,” said Ruth Dyson.

Now consider the following;

Those on the 'Unemployment Benefit related' numbered 1,214 whereas the number on 'other main benefits' numbered 3,214. Yet the definition of 'other main benefits' includes Unemployment Benefit Training and Unemployment Benefit Hardship, etc. Surely these would be considered Unemployment related. Not if you don't want to count them.

Here's another thing.

Between 1999 and 2006 the numbers dropped from 161,000 to 40,000 or 75 percent.

This chart relates to ALL unemployment related benefits and shows expenditure has only dropped 54 percent.

Obviously some gains have been made under Labour. Or perhaps in spite of Labour. But why do they have to spin so much?? And calling it 'spin' is being very polite. The practice really does disgust me.

Update; Even allowing for cost of living adjustment, which a critic on another blog has pointed out I have neglected, the expenditure of $819 million is too high for the publicised 40,000 unemployment beneficiaries. The basic rate per year ranges from $6,000 to $13,000. Whereas the figures made sense in 1999 they don't in 2006. The figures above are taken from the MSD Statistical Report which is not the official measure for expenditure but they serve the purpose of showing that the numbers touted are by no means the full story.

The DPB problem remains

The following is a graph contained in a report released yesterday into the 2002 DPB reforms. The 'reforms' constituted removal of work-testing and implementation of Personal Development Plans. At a glance the results look promising.

Account should however be taken of the following;

1/ Between September 99 and September 06 there has been a drop of about 10,000. Over the same period there has been an increase in the number of single parents with dependent children on either the Sickness or Invalid's Benefits of over 4,000.

2/ An unknown number have moved onto the In Work payment which means they are still receiving the same or greater level of assistance with, in some cases, no change to their hours of work.

3/ The demographic from which the DPB draws is shrinking

4/ In the year 2006 alone 500 recipients moved on to Super.

Overall the employment rate of single mothers is however rising. It has climbed from around 40% in 1999 to just over 50% in 2006. That's the good news (although given overall unemployment dropped from 7.4 to 3.6 percent between 1999 and 2006 one might have expected a larger rise).

The bad news is the exit rates fell for those with children over 14 and those with;

- no qualifications
- who were teenagers when their oldest child was born
- who had already spent a large proportion of their time in the benefit system
- Maori and Pacific recipients

So my argument remains that we are not reforming the DPB in any way that will prevent more people with these characteristics (or who will develop them) from entering the system in the first place. Therein lies the problem. One neither Labour nor National seem prepared to face.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What's with the Unemployment Benefit?

New Social Development Minister Ruth Dyson says that only 20,000 are now on the unemployment benefit. The September Household Labour Force survey says there are 79,000 unemployed. Now I know they are different measures but in Australia the two roughly tally.

In September 2005 the HLFS had exactly the same number unemployed - 79,000 - as September 2007, but then there were 50,000 on the unemployment benefit. Now there are 20,000.

"We're Here To Help"

The casting of Rodney Hide in We're Here To Help was just awful. Having read elsewhere that Michael Hurst's characterisation was very good, I was disappointed. Expecting Michael Hurst to play Rodney Hide was a bit like expecting Maggie Smith to play Dawn French. It was just so not Rodney. I couldn't help but imagine how much better it would have been if Rodney had played himself.

Otherwise the movie held my attention. Some of the complete dorks at the IRD provided quirky entertainment. For me the classic line was when they discovered Henderson's development finance links to the BNZ Lower Hutt. The BNZ Lower Hutt?? Whoop,whoop, pull-up, pull-up. It was so nerdy. One of the jerks was styled physically on the manager from the brilliant series The Office, David Brent; another was played by an actor who has effortlessly played the same slimeball in other productions. He must be good because I am now convinced he is also a slimeball off screen.

Naturally, simply by default Dave Henderson's charisma is pushed up a notch or three.

A good Kiwi movie but I would have drawn out the time-line and cut down on some of the detail. They could have added a closing scene some years down the line - like in The Way We Were for instance - which rapped the movie more satisfactorily than just a few sentences on the screen. Both David and I had the same reaction. Is that it?

So three stars from me.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Stop trusting your intuition, Kerre

This is a quote from Kerre Woodham's column in today's Herald on Sunday;

...I'm becoming a political agnostic. Intuitively, I believe well- meaning left-leaning policies and state intervention are the answers to helping the disaffected, but in the absence of any proof after nine years in that direction, I'm suspending my belief. Instead of expending so much energy on politics, I'd love to see this Government spend some time on policies.

Try sixty nine years 'in that direction'. If well-meaning state intervention to help the disaffected can be pinpointed to a key date I would choose 1938. That was when Labour introduced a social security tax and a raft of benefits hitherto unknown.

If Kerre could accept that instead of nine years of failure we've really had 69, perhaps she might start calling for fewer government policies instead of more.