Friday, May 01, 2009

What's left of the welfare state

Chris Trotter writes in today's DomPost that Mr Key and his right wing mates are showing signs that they are about to get rid of "what's left of the welfare state".

This implies most of what constitutes the welfare state has already been dismantled.

All that remains are the unemployment, sickness, invalid and domestic purposes benefits; the independent youth, emergency, and unsupported child benefits; super and veteran's pensions; accommodation supplement and state housing; the minimum wage; Working For Families; residential care subsidies; childcare subsidies; Paid Parental Leave; student allowances; interest free student loans; 'free' public hospitals and public schools; various family and child tax credits; universal no-fault accident compensation; widow's benefit; orphan's benefit; free dental care for the young; free healthcare for under sixes; the Super GoldCard; the Community Services card; the methadone programme; legal aid; Restart and Replace; 9 day working fortnight subsidies; subsidies to hundreds of 'charities'...

No. There's not much to remember. Did I miss anything? Oh yes, there is a case to include corporate welfare, and grants to the arts and sports as part of the broadest-sense welfare state.

I wonder what Trotter thinks has been dispensed with? The family benefit, which had deteriorated in value to almost nothing by the time National threw it out? Farming subsidies? I tell you what. It's a helluva sight harder trying to identify what went than what stayed.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Unemployment benefit - numbers almost double

Media Release


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Data just released by the Ministry of Social Development show that numbers on the unemployment benefit have nearly doubled over the last year to 37,000.

"While this was largely expected the equally bad news is that every main benefit has seen an increase in numbers since the end of March 2008. Of particular concern is a 12 percent increase in the sickness benefit when earlier indications and assurances were the growth was easing off. There are now 135,000 working-age New Zealanders receiving either a sickness or invalid's benefit - around one in twenty people aged 18 - 64."

"As well, the numbers receiving the domestic purpose's benefit have increased by 6,000 or six percent with much of the growth in the 18-24 age group."

"Being in a recession is no reason to accept that all benefits will take on numbers. The government needs to be toughening and tightening up. If it fails to keep a lid on growth in the DPB, sickness and invalid benefits, we will see exaggerated numbers for years to come, similar to the legacy of the last severe employment slump of the early nineties."

NZ - third highest reported crime rate

The net is great in terms of information accessibility and currency BUT sometimes one stumbles across depictions that really can mislead;

I have sent the following feedback;

Your reported crime rate for New Zealand is inaccurate. There were 431,381 reported crimes (source NZ Police) in 2008. The population is currently around 4.3 million. That provides a rate per 100,000 of 10,032 - not 12,586.64

It is unfortunate that those countries with accessible and transparent statistics consequently appear to be the most 'dangerous' when there are certainly riskier places to visit. South Africa, for instance, is notorious for its high crime rates.

In fact, thinking on it further, that a country has a 'reported' crime rate is reassuring of itself. It means there is someone to report crime to and some point in reporting it.

NZ Institute calls for welfare spending cuts?

The NZ Institute (funded by business subscription) is saying scrap the tax cuts and think about property taxes to raise additional revenue. You have to wonder how representative of their funders that position is.


The institute said health and welfare spending should be cut, but KiwiSaver should be enhanced.

Always interested in welfare proposals I had a quick look at the actual report. In fact the only proposal that could be construed as calling for a cut in welfare spending is a suggested review of Working For Families. Otherwise other references to welfare spending imply boosting expenditure on youth unemployment and support for those affected by the recession.

Prebble on balancing the budget

Why we miss Richard Prebble.

In the OECD only two countries owe more money per person than we do; Iceland which is bankrupt and Spain where unemployment has just hit 17 percent. New Zealand’s external debt is now $167 billion. Politicians used to say “Most of the money is owed by Aussie banks, it is not our worry”. The banks owe most of the debt but just days before the election the Labour government extended a guarantee to cover all bank borrowing. Potentially you owe $41 thousand; that’s what $167 billion divided by 4 million works out at. As only a third of us pay income tax as a taxpayer you potentially owe around a $120 thousand.

Only a third? He is probably right. While the workforce is around 2.2 million, many low income workers effectively pay no income tax.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Families Commission - biased and barking up the wrong tree

The Families Commission is once again wearing its utopian fool's hat for all to see;

“Healthy, positive relationships within families do not involve people hitting each other and the Commission continues to believe that repeal was one step that, combined with other nationwide efforts to address violence, will help us become a violence-free society."

The specific function of the Families Commission is to encourage informed debate about families.

Not discourage (as would appear to be the case with respect to Family First).

So with their blessing I will continue to debate what they expect to achieve with their romantic visions. The role model for the legislation which still sits very awkwardly on the shoulders of many New Zealand parents is Sweden. You may remember that Sweden banned smacking in 1979. No doubt then-protagonists of a total ban on physically disciplining children also talked about a violence-free society.

Here is the reality;

In case you miss it, "Reported assaults on children up to six years of age increased by 13 percent to slightly more than 1,550 offences in 2007. The number of reported assault offences against children aged between seven and fourteen (almost 8,100 offences) increased by eight per cent by comparison with the figure for the previous year."

I have read excuses about the values and behaviour of new immigrants being to blame but recorded violence has been increasing steadily over the entire period (during which the population increased by about 13 percent.)

Based on this result I will go to my grave still waiting for the promised land.

Size of child abuse problem "horrific"

Australian Community Services Minister describes the size of Australia's child abuse problem as "horrific";

Ms Macklin said more than 55,000 substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect were recorded last year. "We have to confront the reality that these numbers tell us that we are letting down far, far too many children in this country," she said.

Professor Fiona Stanley, a child welfare specialist and chairwoman of the research alliance that commissioned the report, described the level of abuse and neglect in Australia as an "epidemic".

The latest comparable statistic I have for New Zealand is from 2006. (Later statistics are available about the number of reports and those requiring further action but that is not the same as 'substantiated'.)

If we crudely multiplied 15,248 by a factor of 5 we would get 76,240. Putting aside that I have compared different time periods and there may be slight demographic differences, it is clear that our rate of substantiated child abuse is significantly higher.

I wonder what superlative Paula Bennett would use to describe our figures?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A job for Mythbusters?

I was ruminating over how people, especially feminists, might respond to an equivalent type of ad appearing in a men's centre newsletter focussing on girlfriend violence. Or doesn't it exist?

A welcome diversion

In the midst of economic woe, piggy pandemics and leaky-house inducing weather, something to laugh about is needed. Anything to laugh about actually.

The police must be quietly seething over this criminal chap down in Canterbury that keeps giving them the big finger before donning his invisibility cloak. But their anger is probably more directed to the communities that are watching on with such obvious glee. One of the entertained has produced a "Where's Billy?" teeshirt and Robbie Robertson, who normally pens songs about legendary New Zealand race horses, has come up with a rather pithy little piss-taker, a copy of which he has thoughtfully handed over to the local constabulary.

If the subject of the song has half a brain, and his antics would indicate as much, he will spend the next prison spell writing up his adventures, selling the movie rights, etc. IF they ever catch him.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Poetic justice

By uncanny coincidence Labour is asking Mt Albert to return a 'red' candidate on the same day we mercifully stop working for the government.

June 13

Anyone living in Mt Albert has a great opportunity to loudly and effectively protest the lateness of this year's Tax Freedom day by giving Labour the big brush off.

Labour lines up behind Geoffrey Palmer

Labour is supporting Geoffry Palmer's attacks on alcohol consumption, in particular, a tax hike.

Increasing tax on alcohol was about making those who buy alcohol pay for the harm it does, Ms Dalziel said, and there needed to be debate about whether this was the right option.

As previously stated, the use of alcohol is not evil in and of itself. Ms Dalziel's reasoning may seem sound at first glance but why not apply it to food and cars.

Let's hike the tax on food to pay for the harm it does to over-eaters; let's hike the tax on cars to pay for the harm caused by bad drivers. In fact let's hike the tax on cars to pay for the damage drink drivers do. After all it was the car as much as the alcohol that 'caused' the crash.

The problem is people and how they behave. The alcohol, the car, the gun, the cigarette, the food, etc., etc., are all incidental. The more we spread the burden of bad behaviour consequences, the more people will indulge in it.

Here is something else to think about. The tax on cigarettes far exceeds the cost of treating smoking-related health problems. Smokers are a cash cow. More than 70 percent of the retail price of cigarettes is tax. A lot higher than the tax on alcohol. Under Labour's desired option, are users of alcohol going to be the next one?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A cure for cancer, I kid you not

I must be quick because I have a cake to bake, cool, fill and ice by lunchtime. It is Robert's 15th tomorrow so we have a family get together today. No. Not a prompt to blog about birth and its politicisation. But. My, doesn't time fly? My beautiful little baby is now legal to drive a car. And there are two conflicting thoughts I have about the passage of time. One adage tells that the more folk change the more they stay the same. Is human nature unchanging? Because our environment certainly isn't. I can't find a better way to highlight this than a clipping from the first Evening Post, dated 1865. Not an editorial piece but an advert. Often advertising tells us more about the times than opinion. But it is worth a read just to shake us up to the reality. The pace of change over the last 100 or so years has been phenomenal. Hope this amuses you as much as it did me, the language as much as the exhaustive indications.

(Left click on image to enlarge.)