Saturday, November 27, 2010

Liquor ban in Day's Bay

Some locals, led by one councillor Ross Jamieson, are pushing for a permanent liquor ban in Day's Bay, a traditional day-out picnicking destination for Wellingtonians, especially the young. My letter to the local rag:

Dear Editor

Law that relies on police discretion to administer it is bad law. The policing of a permanent liquor ban in Days Bay would apparently permit "a decent family" to break it. This is a recipe for harassment of the 'wrong' people, whoever the wrong people are. Probably young, brown and loud.

Councillor Jamieson has discounted "personal freedoms" in favour of preventing "loutish behaviour". He might reflect on the slippery slope he is embarking on.

Young people have been coming to Days Bay, enjoying themselves and, God forbid, drinking, for generations. Most stay out of trouble. If they break some existing law protecting person and property, police and prosecute by all means. But introducing 'discretionary' law to target one sector of society sets a very bad precedent.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A snapshot of children born in NZ today

Some useful information will come out of this long-term study launched yesterday. 7,000 children in and around Auckland will be followed from birth. This will probably be a similar exercise to the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study into children born in the 1970s. Some key facts were released yesterday. TV3 highlighted that 45 percent of the mothers in "high deprivation areas" were not aware of Working For Families. That is probably because they have no connection with the tax system through work. They will be well aware of the benefit system and using it.


* 40 percent of children were unplanned
* 90 percent of mothers made changes to their diet during pregnancy.
* 16 percent of all mothers did not take folate at any time before or during their pregnancy.
* More than one in 10 mothers continued to smoke through their pregnancies (with an over-representation of those identifying as Maori and living in the most deprived areas.)
* Many mothers consumed alcohol during pregnancy.


* Forty nine percent of mothers identify as NZ European, 18 percent as Maori, 15 percent as Pacific and 15 percent as Asian.
* One in three of the Growing Up children have at least one parent born overseas.
* There are a multiple number of languages spoken by parents with one in three children being born into families where parents speak more than one language competently. One in five children will grow up in homes where English is not the main language (although 97 percent of mothers and partners are able to converse in everyday English). The most common languages spoken in the home after English are Samoan, Hindi, Tongan and Mandarin. Maori as the main language is spoken in less than one percent of homes.
* Twenty-eight percent of mothers live either on their own or with extended family (sometimes including their partner).
* Five percent of mothers are teenagers.
* Ten percent of mothers needed fertility assistance to get pregnant.
* Half of the children are born into families living in rental accommodation (public and private).
* Forty percent of children are born into families living in the most deprived areas of New Zealand (according to NZDep 2006 indices).
* Nearly half (45 percent) of mothers in high deprivation areas were unaware of Working for Families.
* Children are born into families which are highly mobile with more than half having moved more than twice in the last five years. This is often within a neighbourhood.


* The mothers of the Growing Up children were recruited during their pregnancies during 2008, 2009 and 2010.
* The mothers lived in the Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waikato District Health Boards at that time.
* Many have left these areas but remain in the study.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Welfare Working Group Options Report

The WWG report is very long and laced with tens and tens of options. Some sound and some silly. But they seem resigned to putting up everything bar the kitchen sink. There are various media reports which attempt to pick out what each author considers the main options.


The NZ Herald.

Otago Daily Times.

The mistruths from the left start.

Sue Bradford:

By using figures that assume people on the DPB and Invalid's Benefit, will stay on them for the rest of their lives, assumptions are made about welfare costs that are completely biased and unrealistic.

The assumptions are based on the actual average time that DPB and IB recipients stay on a benefit.

This is what the report says;

For someone currently on a benefit, it is estimated that the total cost of all future benefit payments will be $192,000 for a person on the Invalid’s Benefit and $161,000 for someone on the Domestic Purposes Benefit, compared to $65,000 for a person on the Unemployment Benefit.

I only had time to read the executive summary yesterday. There are options covering time limits, work-testing the DPB much earlier than is currently the case, investing up front based on what a beneficiary is likely to cost if left to their own devices, a far more paternalistic approach to teenagers, changing abatement rates, supplementary assistance regimes etc. Responses are invited if you feel inclined to. (Try this link later)

The alternative group's report is due out December 9.

Must read about the mine and minds

Superb post by Stephen Franks regarding the mining disaster.

Provoked by it I have two thoughts. There are families who want to be at the site, camping out, whatever. They want to be as near as they can to their loved ones, an understandable human impulse. According to an interview with a father yesterday they are being prevented from doing so. Until something as devastating as this event occurs you will not know how unfree you are in this country.

Two. There are fathers and brothers and others who want to go in, even against the odds. Perhaps they feel that they would prefer to lose their own life trying, than live it in the knowledge they did nothing - or were forced to do nothing. That is how I would be feeling if my son was down there.

I do not know how much longer the coasters are going to stand for this.

Trying to keep up

My shop is going well. I am sketching from 8.30 to 4 daily and the time flies. What was going to be 2 weeks is now 4. We have the Eastbourne Carnival on Sunday and Xmas market December 12. Trying to keep up with my other stuff - welfare, blogging and my other part-time pharmaceutical stock take business - is tricky.

The Welfare Working Group options paper is being released today. I don't have an internet or wireless connection at the shop so I am going to be behind the eight ball. An offer of an embargoed copy late last week hasn't materialised. Neither is it up at the website.

Nevertheless it is good to see Rebstock focussing on young people in her pre-release comments. My presentation to the WWG had the same focus. I was asked to present on , Should NZ adopt the sole parent policies of other countries? My aim was to persuade that teenage birth - Maori in particular - was driving the long-term reliance on the DPB and all of the attendant problems. The teenage birth(s) is usually just the first of more that will produce children dependent on welfare.

My fear is that the paper will recommend more support for teenage parents as opposed to changing the system so as to not encourage them in the first place. After all, NZ does have one of the highest teenage birth rates in the developed world.

Reflecting further on the subject of yesterday's post, the kicking to death of a two year-old child by a gang associate, whose mother was also jailed for assaulting the child, criminals have always had children and always will. That's just the way it is. But if you were going to design a system where they were encouraged to have even more, paying them to is surely it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Never, ever kick a baby

Reading about the death of a toddler after being kicked by some guy screwing (I was going to say 'in a relationship with' but that seems overly generous) the mother I wonder if it isn't time for a campaign telling young men (again 'men' seems inaccurate) to never, ever kick a baby. Obviously telling them to never, ever shake a baby hasn't sunk in in this instance. Or maybe as babies can't be shaken, and babies can't be smacked, only kicking is left.

I hope he is found guilty of murder and goes away for a lot longer than he will if his defence team successfully argues for manslaughter. In all likelihood he was probably wretchedly abused himself as a child but that has made him a danger to any other children of women he hooks up with (if they aren't already at risk from their own mothers). He needs detaining until age takes its inevitable ameliorating effect on his innate violence.

For God's sake, "a poor parenting decision?" What kind of twisted disinfecting crap is that? Whoever dreamed up that description insults the memory of the dead child and somehow mitigates what was a brutal killing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Testing the Spirit Level thesis in NZ

Unbeknownst to me last week Victoria University hosted a conference about wealth inequality. They invited academics to address the findings of the Spirit Level (already widely criticised and exposed for some dodgy representation of statistics). According to the NZ Herald;

The greater the gap between rich and poor, the more likely people will grow up a drug user, a criminal, less educated, obese, pregnant while a teenager, even less trusting of others.

The New Zealand poor comprise non-wealthy welfare recipients and the non-wealthy workers. The problems that are attributed to wealth inequality are more prevalent among beneficiaries than among the working poor. That is amply illustrated by the difference in the incidence of these problems (bar obesity which has its roots in traditional diet/lifestyle change) between Maori and Pacific people. Teenage pregnancies, criminality, and substance abuse are more prevalent among Maori. Maori are far more likely to be on benefits than Pacific people.

What is even more striking is that Asians are the least wealthy group yet, thus far, do not under-achieve, abuse drugs or offend in disproportionate rates. Their various cultures are not beset with social problems. I don't suppose any academic raised these flies in the ointment.

The two things that work against the problems identified are strong families and work. Both are eroded by unconditional welfare. Not by income inequality.

Blaming income inequality is too easy. It also means the wrong solutions are identified. Those solutions are however very seductive to people who frame any and every problem as a lack of money.

Forum chair Jonathan Boston, the director of Victoria University's Institute of Policy Studies, said there was enough evidence to support the general thesis in The Spirit Level.

"My personal view is that we can have some confidence that more equal societies - other things being equal - have better social outcomes across a range of measures. It may not be absolutely conclusive, but I think it's reasonably persuasive."

Great. If the academics don't get it you can be sure the politicians won't. What concerns me is the host institute is also the home for the Welfare Working Group, providing advice and research etc. That they embrace the Spirit Level thesis doesn't bode well for that exercise.