Friday, February 22, 2008

The Commissioner speaks

On the matter of the petition that today exceeded 300,000 signatures and asks that New Zealanders have a say in parenting their children, Cindy Kiro says,

"If the petition backers truly cared about good parenting, they would, like all the reputable national and international child welfare organisations, be encouraging positive parenting. They would acknowledge that we know more about parenting and child health and development now than we did in our parents’, grandparents’ and great grandparents’ times."

We must all be profoundly grateful for the existence of such a wise and all-knowing Children's Commissioner. She recognises there is nothing to be learned from the past (unless it's tikanga passed through her whakapapa). She knows traditions serve no purpose. What came before should be spurned and replaced with the new knowledge.

Because latter generations have increasingly turned out well-adjusted, healthy, law-abiding, independent citizens, while our parents, their parents and grandparents failed to, embracing what Sue Bradford now calls "the forces of ignorance and bigotry".

What a wonderful new age of enlightenment we now live in. Free from youth crime, tagging, gangs, murder and mayhem. None of our children would dream of leaving such a paradise.

Posterity will be forever indebted to you Commissioner.

Utter hypocrisy

What a hypocrite Jim Anderton is. Here he is attacking National for promising an interest free loan to the meat export industry (quite right too);

"...And it [National] won’t say if it intends to use taxpayers’ money to subsidise our most important export companies, which we need to be successful in their own right.”

Hang on. What about Creative New Zealand and their looonnng list of grants? The Ministry of Economic Development with all their hand-outs to business? Why doesn't he apply his logic and indignation to all those beneficiaries who also "need to be successful in their own right"?

Mr Anderton is on very shaky ground here. He shows he understands the principle of letting enterprises fail or succeed on their own merit but only applies it when it suits his political purposes.

This is the kind of absurdity we will have to endure this year while leftists try to defend their patch against the marauding copy-cat National party.


Murupara College is apparently plagued by violence, drug use and abuse of teachers and students.

Now, whenever left-wing politicians and other various advocates talk about the issue of family violence they always drop in the obligatory, "Family violence is not unique to any one community. It happens across all cultures and social classes." Strictly speaking that may be true but the statement should be qualified with, "...but it predominates among poor, brown, incomplete families."

We know that the issues affecting the home, violence and drug/alcohol abuse, spill over into the schools and community. So let's have a look at what else is going on in Murupara.

38.1 percent of people in Murupara were under the age of 15 years, compared with 27.2 percent in Whakatane District and 22.7 percent for all of New Zealand.

It is a very young population.

23.8 percent of people in Murupara said they belong to the European ethnic group, compared with 67.0 percent for Whakatane District and 80.1 percent for all of New Zealand.

Almost 90 percent say they belong to the Maori ethnic group (explained by identifying with more than one group.)

The median income of people in Murupara is $11,900, compared with $15,900 for Whakatane District and $18,500 for all of New Zealand.The total average annual spending for households in Murupara was $30,529 compared with $38,351 for households in Whakatane District and $43,682 for the whole of New Zealand.

They are relatively poor. The school is decile one. The poorest.

And finally the most common family type is one parent with children at 43.3% of all families compared to a national average of 18.9 percent.

Murupara is just one of many small North Island towns with a similar profile and no doubt similar problems. Their lifeblood is welfare. They are a bit like gangs. Sure there are other sources of income but these are sporadic. The regular "pay" comes from Work and Income. And probably a good number of the men are shacked up with the women who identify as single parents and depend on the DPB.

That's just the way it is.

NB The stats are from Census 2001. Between 2001 and 2006 the population of the district was pretty much static. I would be surprised if there was significant change in Murupara.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

OECD reports on NZ Youth

The OECD has just released a report, Jobs For Youth, New Zealand. Some of it is positive but this is not;

"....there is a hard-core of youth who are at high risk of poor labour market outcomes and social exclusion. Among them are most of the 11% of youth aged 15-24 who are neither in employment nor in education or training. This rate is in line with the OECD average, but it is still much higher than the best-performing countries – notably Denmark, Iceland and the Netherlands – where it stands at 6% or less. Among the hard-core group, Māori and Pasifika youth are more than twice as likely not to be in employment, education or training as Pakeha youth (those of European descent). There is evidence that some of the young people neither in employment nor in education or training in New Zealand find it very difficult to get a job or go back to education. About one-third of youth who were not working or studying in 2003 were in the same situation two years later."

No surprises there. Unfortunately this hard-core group have plenty of time on their hands for making babies. Thus ensuring another generation that will follow in their footsteps. And New Zealand makes this a moral and viable option.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Art and politics

This is my entry into the biennial National Portrait Competition. The exhibition opened this evening at Shed 11 and runs until April 2. Around 100 paintings were selected from 300 entries. Rodney was good enough to pose for me and I really appreciated it. We had rather a few laughs in the process....with a serious moment caught in between. I wanted to catch the intensity that he often conveys in his expression or just a look. When the painting was still sitting in my studio I had a plasterer doing some work in there. He said to me, "Your paintings are awesome. That politician guy is scary. Every time I look up his eyes are staring at me and they are so real."

The awful thing about the opening was the chappy who sponsors the whole thing (Mr Adam and good on him for it) actually believes the government should be doing it - or at least paying for a permanent portrait gallery. Every opening (I've been in each since 1998) he tells us so. So it turns into a bit of a bitch session against politicians. Rodney brought along Katherine Rich so the two of them had to endure the audience enthusiastically applauding this man chastising them and government - not that I thought it was bothering them particularly. For me, his words couldn't have fallen on less sympathetic ears. The artists all paid an entry fee regardless of whether their painting was hung or not and the gallery will pocket commission on any sales. The gallery I usually exhibit at doesn't rely on the government. Any commercial enterprise could sponsor a NZ Portrait Gallery. But, really, artists seem to be predominantly elitist, gimme, whingers. And their private patrons would gladly pass the task onto government. Another band of state-lovers who just don't understand that government funding corrupts the best intentions. We don't need it. If it's good, if it has value, someone will pay - willingly.

Lessons in life

This is an e-mail from nearly 3 years ago. I wrote it during the 2005 election campaign;

Yesterday I went calling on businesses in ____. I spent a long time talking to a man (who wants to remain unnamed for obvious reasons)
who runs, amongst other transport operations, a towing and salvage outfit. He does contract work for the police.

Frequently he tows vehicles that belong to beneficiaries. They ring up to find out how much recovery costs. They can't pay. Then they ring WINZ and plead they need the car for getting the kids to creche or doctor etc. Next thing is WINZ rings him for his bank account number and they deposit the fee on behalf of the beneficiary. He mentioned a figure of around $300. He says this happens frequently. So, in his words, the govt pays to tow away and impound the vehicle and then pays for its recovery to the owner.

I guess the payments may be "grants" but when you see how much deeper into debt many beneficiaries are getting (see growth in special benefit) I doubt they get repaid.

My son was watching National MP, Judith Collins expounding on the issue on the news last night. He said to me, "Do you think that when I get a car and a job if I go into WINZ they will give me the money to get my car back if it gets towed away?"

I think he was being sarcastic but I replied, only if you were on a benefit and then they would wipe your bottom for you if you asked. He disgustedly screwed his nose up. I think I have permanently put him off the idea of asking Work and Income for anything.

"A welfare state revolution"

I am afraid I have gotten a bit out of date with what is going on in the UK. Their welfare system is very similar the ours.

The great-grandson of Sigmund Freud, an investment banker who apparently gets given all the dirty jobs, was hired to review the British welfare system. Here is some of what he found;

"It's a mess nobody understands or can manage."

"There are about 3.1 million people not working, I think we can get about 1.4 million back to work."

"The system we have at the moment sends 2.64 million people into a form of economic house arrest and encourages them to stay at home and watch daytime TV. We're doing nothing for these people."

"If you want a recipe for getting people on to IB [incapacity benefit], we've got it: you get more money and you don't get hassled. You can sit there for the rest of your life. And it's ludicrous that the disability tests are done by people's own GPs - they've got a classic conflict of interest and they're frightened of legal action."

Mr Freud's recommendation? Privatise the unemployment problem. Pay employers a huge fee to keep a previously unemployed person in a job for 3 years. Treat everyone on benefits not working the same (except for lone parents with children under school

"We can pay masses - I worked out that it is economically rational to spend up to £62,000 on getting the average person on Incapacity Benefit into work."

"[There is] one simple reason why it's got to be the private sector. You cannot incentivise someone on payment-by-results if the person who is paying is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There has to be some risk."

"The point about my approach is you don't need to make a huge fuss about categorising people - everyone should be able to work."

Mr Freud has now been hired by the new Secretary for the Department of Work and Pensions (WINZ equivalent) to help implement "nothing less than a revolution in the welfare state."

I will watch with interest.

Source: The Welfare State We're In

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The smacking debate goes on

"I had not expected a serious campaign to overturn last year's amendment to Section 59 of the Crimes Act to be part of the election year, but now we have at least one political party, ACT, who seems prepared to go to the polls on a platform of re-legalising the hitting of children."

So says Sue Bradford.

ACT wants parents to be able to raise their children as they see fit, not as the state sees fit. If parents inflicted harm on their children laws existed to deal with that.

There are a number of countries which have rejected calls for anti-smacking legislation - Australia and the UK are just two - preferring the status quo. Public opinion has held sway. In New Zealand public opinion lost. ACT should make no apologies for standing, in this case, firmly with the majority. And they shouldn't tolerate that position being misrepresented by Sue Bradford.

Just a theory

In 1990 for every 24 road injuries there was one fatality.

In 2006 for every 38 road injuries there was one fatality.

More people are surviving road crashes.

Where am I going with this?

What if we replaced road injuries with assaults and concluded more people are surviving assaults? That would mean the murder rate would be dropping irrespective of the assault rate.

In fact that is what is happening. That is what Jim Anderton bases his specious decreasing-violence claims on. The rate of death through intentional injury has fallen. But the rate of serious and grievous assault is climbing.

The same can be seen in the rate of child death due to intentional injury. It has dropped. But the rate of known child abuse has not.

The medical fraternity are getting better at saving the lives of injured people. Whether the injury was the result of an accident or inflicted intentionally is irrelevant.

The argument would be that the injuries from car crashes and/or assaults are not as serious or life-threatening today. That would take some proving. It is more likely that the survival rate is higher regardless of the seriousness of the injury. This is also evidenced in the rapidly climbing number of invalids.

Where there's a will, there is a way

Source: Police Department City of New York

New York law enforcement classes murder, rape, robbery, felonious assault and GLA (I think) as violent crime. Between 1998 and 2007 the change was -53%.

New Zealand's violent crime rose from 40,221 in 97/98 to 52,883 in 06/07 - a change of +31%

Monday, February 18, 2008

Squabbling over paying state school fees

The principal of one Hamilton school refuses to pay the "donation" due for his two daughters who attend another Hamilton school. He says,

"...the way Te Pahu School was getting money off parents was ethically and morally wrong."

He says the school should make it clear that the fee is voluntary. It is a "donation" and not a "fee" or "levy".

Here's the bit I found interesting (but the reporter didn't pick up on). The objecting principal is Mr Shane Ngatai.

Mr Ngatai said instead of asking parents to pay, principals should "cut their cloth" according to their resources. They should budget to be without the extra money.

But Mr Ngatai is the principal of a decile 3 school, which means his school will be receiving considerably more funding from the ministry per head than the school he is criticising, which is a decile 9 school. Here's the response from the 'richer' school.

Te Pahu School principal Jeff Falconer said the school ran at a deficit and this year had to find 20-30 per cent of its income through fundraising.

So the 'winner' from the variable funding system is criticising the 'loser'.

What they should both be criticising is the state funding system. It attempts to equalise outcomes but fails miserably (decile 10 schools have double the NCEA pass rate of decile 1). What it succeeds at is creating envy and resentment.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Coddington on Rich

Deborah Coddington writes about Katherine Rich;

Rich is also loyal. She was sacked by Brash, remember, for flatly refusing to go around the country trying to sell a welfare policy stating women on welfare would get no increase for a second child, and single mums should consider adoption.

How could Rich, mother of two very small children and sitting pretty on a substantial taxpayer-funded salary, tell struggling beneficiaries to live on the smell of oily rags? She was correct to refuse, but she was cruelly punished - not only by the party - for sticking to her guns.

This observation is as much about Deborah's discomfit as it is Katherine's. As an MP I believe Deborah felt the same ill-ease. My own earlier comment about Katherine being a loss to National because she is intelligent was genuine. I won't forget that she wrote an excellent report about welfare reform and showed a sound grasp of what should and could be done for starters. But then she bailed on it.

Why should we keep paying women to have more children when already on welfare and what is wrong with a young pregnant single female trying to finish her education, or have a career, or travel, considering adoption as an alternative to getting stuck on welfare for years as an unskilled, unemployable mother?

If Katherine refused to say these things because it made her feel personally hypocritical or, heaven forbid, judgemental, then she was either letting her opponents silence her or she was in the wrong party.

I have two children. I am financially comfortable. I don't feel unqualified to advocate welfare reform because of my personal circumstances. Hell, do we have to find a beneficiary to stand on a soap box before anyone will listen? In fact, that is what political parties do. They buy into this nonsense. Get a Maori or you can't credibly talk about matters Maori. Get someone who used to be on the DPB so we can talk about welfare credibly. Think Donna Awatere Huata, Paula Bennett, Metiria Turei, Sue Bradford. And then they use these people as shields. How can we be racists or beneficiary bashers when we have Maoris and ex-beneficiaries in our midst??

But this is just collectivist crap. Your skin colour, your sex, your sexual orientation are NOT more important than the ideas that drive you.

If you are committed to your beliefs then it doesn't matter that someone rings you up at some ungodly hour and screams "rich bitch" down the phone. Or writes letters about the material symbolism of the wine rack they saw in the photo of you sitting at your living room table. If you really do want better for those people and children who are being hurt by the welfare system then you have to take a deep breath and carry on.

I suspected this was why Katherine and Brash parted company on the reform front. Having had it confirmed I now think she is most definitely doing the right thing.

Until the right starts valuing MPs like Rich for their loveliness, as equally as they promote MPs like Judith Collins for their balls, they'll never get women like me to vote for them.

I care neither for "loveliness" nor "balls" . I want the truth and I don't care whose mouth it comes out of.

Coddington's column really tells us what is wrong with politics right now. There is precious little courage of conviction.