Saturday, January 08, 2011


Donna Wynd, from the Child Poverty Action Group, responded to my column in the NZ Herald.

There are some statistical mistakes or misunderstandings I could comment on but the point I want to highlight is this.

For ten years I have been actively, purposefully and methodically attacking the DPB. When I began the detractors were outnumbering the supporters easily.

I would diligently, obsessively, deal with any arguments using fact. But in the early days I also invested emotion and took counter-attacks very personally. That is a no-no now.

The comments in the NZ Herald responding to my column ran roughly 50/50 pro and agin. Progress. Great.

The first three comments to Donna Wynd are negative. I read these because they came out on the printed version. Haven't perused the others as yet.

My personal battle with the DPB protagonists isn't important. We could spar endlessly and never persuade each other.

The vital aspect of the debate is to allow people who agree (with either viewpoint) to say so, or even if they don't voice their thoughts aloud, to know they are not alone.

The process of advancing ideas is slow but requires persistence. It doesn't feel as though this particular cause is lost.

My brief response to Wynd by way of a letter to the editor;

Donna Wynd, in Make villains of sole mothers at children's peril (NZ Herald, Jan 7) rebutted my suggestion that children are abused because they are meal tickets, by unnecessarily defending the entire sole parent population. Clearly all sole parents do not abuse or neglect their children. Nor do all beneficiaries.

However NZ research shows that a notification to CYF is almost 4 times more likely to occur in a benefit dependent household. She can access this study, The Benefit Status of Caregivers of Children and Young People Who Come to the Notice of CYPFS, on-line.

Yet Wynd writes, "Abuse and neglect of children cuts across income, class and ethnicity." Yes, instances can be found to support this assertion but the fact remains that the predominance of both occurs in lower socio economic, Maori, welfare-dependent settings. It is this blinkered denial of reality that actually perpetuates abuse.

The Ministry of Health, for instance, does not target Pakeha, middle-class females for smoking reduction despite the fact that some smoke. They focus their efforts and resources where the problem is greatest; among Maori, particularly women and girls. This is more likely to effect an overall reduction in smoking.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Shortage of news

A rather breathless headline says,

Youth jobless rate soars to 19.4%

We all know that unemployment is currently relatively high. Unfortunately youth and minority groups always bear the brunt.

Here is the OECD paper the reporter has been looking at. NZ's rate of 15-24 year-old unemployment is 0.9 percent above the OECD average. Not desperately alarming by international standards.

And checking the HLFS rate over the year to September 2010 reveals that the percentage for 15-19 year-olds has dropped slightly from 25.1 to 23.3. The rate for 20-24 year-olds increased slightly from 10.9 to 11.8 percent. So the use of the word "soars" needs some context.

The story is, in line with rising unemployment due to recession, New Zealand's youth unemployment rate climbed after 2007. It has steadied over the past year and is just above the OECD average but below the EU average.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Half-arsed reporting

Here is a stupid headline from the NZ Herald;

More US kids report abuse
Nearly half of United States children who've been victims of crime or abuse are stepping up to tell school officials, doctors and police, according to a 2008 telephone survey of more than 4500 US children and teens. That compares with 25 per cent in a similar study done in 1992.
That's it. Two sentences.

This leaves more questions than answers the central being, how many of the 4,500 were victims?

According to the National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, overall abuse is down on the 1990s. The data reported on is gathered from various state Child Protection Services (CPS). NIS 4 was published this year. Excerpt:

The number of children who experienced Harm Standard abuse declined significantly, by 26%, from an estimated 743,200 in the NIS–3 to 553,300 in the NIS–4. This reflects a 32% decrease in the rate of Harm Standard abuse per 1,000 children in the nation. Moreover, the incidence of all specific categories of abuse decreased: The incidence of sexual abuse decreased significantly, while the declines in physical abuse and emotional abuse were both close-to-significant.
What the survey reported in the Herald shows is that of the children experiencing a crime or abuse, more are reporting it.

To illustrate my point, let's say 100 children were abused in 1992 and 25 (quarter) of them reported it. In 2008 only 68 children were abused but 34 (half) of them reported it.

More children reported abuse but fewer children were abused.

Yet the headline, without greater context, leaves the distinct impression that child abuse in the US is getting worse. The alternative headline may very well have been that

Fewer US children abused

(Although the half-arsed type would probably say, Less US children abused, if bothering).

And yes I could go hunting for the survey myself but that is irrelevant to the point I am making about half-arsed reporting.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Don't frigging tell me how to have fun

One thing that really raises my hackles is being told how to have fun.

"Ideally, parents will be in the water with the child. They'll also have more fun that way. And, if they are in the water with the child, there is less opportunity to be distracted."

A child will swim, especially if the pool (corrected typo 'pot' - must have been subliminal) is well-heated, all day, every day, of a holiday. It is not my idea of fun being in the water remorselessly badgered with "Mum, watch me do this", and "Mum, watch me do this, " and "Mum, watch me do this" which come at the rate of about 60 per minute.

Once big enough for water-wings my kids were off. Kicking around the motel pool happily while I could enjoy a rare read with one eye and ear on them. They were happier with more swimming time, and I was happier with more intellectual stimulation.

Have you noticed how busy the fun police have been this break? And people have started wishing each other a safe and healthy holiday?? I went to Tauherenikau races. They issued bottled water at the gate and kept making public announcements about keeping your fluid level up. I was trying but someone knocked over my glass of Lindauer. Then the cops were breath-testing every punter leaving. I don't object to the last. We make provision for it. But I can do without the constant hectoring about staying out of the sun because the "current UV reading is ---".

Now some utter killjoy has come up with the idea of alcohol-free February. Not happy with a day, these greedy bastards want to impose an entire month on recalcitrant pleasure seekers. Not in my house.

And who is sick of Paula poster-girl-for-the-police Rose? Nanny supremo banging on about road safety every time you turn the telly on. She leads me to having utterly paranoid thoughts like, what if David and I are killed on the road going to the races? The road is the most dangerous place a human being can venture to? What will happen to the kids? Now that they are too busy reading to want to come and have fun with me??

And spare a thought for the poor smokers. Whammo. There's another three bucks penalty for doing something that gives some relief from all the stress of worrying about getting fat, dying in an earthquake or on the roads or from skin cancer or dehydration or just the interminable nagging.

Let the smokers smoke themselves to death if they want. Because that's one less ageing baby-boomer, the new cause célèbre for the anxiety addicts.

Then somebody came into my shop and told me that pastels are highly carcinogenic. I should be wearing a mask and gloves. Oh fuck. No.

I may as well curl up in a little ball and die right now.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Who is John Key's "untrustworthy and obnoxious" suggestion?

Have your guess here as to who the "untrustworthy and obnoxious" character is that John Key has apparently suggested for the next Governor General.

I didn't have to think very hard at all who this description fits.

Winston Peters.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Laws and his problem

The trouble with Michael Laws is he makes statements about Maori which are founded in fact but the qualifier never sees the light of day. Embroiled in a conflict over his use of another child victim's photo on his facebook page he responds;

"I have no intention of letting the feral Maori underclass keep killing their kids. They are almost all exclusively Maori ... victim and perpetrator. Look at the local roll call: Karl Perigo-Check, Cherish, Jhia Te Tua ... now Sahara. Notice the common thread?"

Now "feral Pakeha underclass" could have been substituted and the sentiment still founded in fact. Not all of the children killed through maltreatment are Maori. And most Maori have Pakeha blood anyway (stating the tiresome obvious there.)

The simple truth of the matter is the Maori underclass is more obvious because it is bigger. It is bigger because of historical factors; the massive urban drift, and dislocation and isolation of individuals. Grandparents, and older family members, were not involved in the upbringing of children the way they traditionally had been. Substitute whanau developed; gangs. Economically Maori were the poor NZ race and the creation of benefits therefore had a much greater effect on them than Pakeha. The same happened in the US with Blacks and Hispanics. Family formation (Travis Snyder) was hit harder. And, in the main, Maori cultural values didn't hold education and provision for the future as dear. Understandable when only 100 years ago merely surviving was the priority.

From Nga Iwi o te Motu, Michael King offers:

[Peter] Buck wrote in his annual report [as Native health officer], “The [Maori] communism of the past meant industry, training in arms, good physique, the keeping of the law, the sharing of the tribal burden, and the preservation of life. The communism of today means indolence, sloth, decay of racial vigour, the crushing of individual effort, the spreading of introduced infections, diseases, and the many evils that are petrifying his advance.” [Maui] Pomare added: “The Maori having been an active race and always having been kept in a state of excitement by wars and the rumour of wars, can now only find vent for his feelings on the racecourse, gambling and billiard-playing, with an occasional bout in the Land court”.

The traits Buck describes are still evident today.

But there are Pakeha aplenty essentially mired by the same "communism" - living off other people by right. No vent for their energy through work, they look for excitement elsewhere. I do not believe a young Maori male who is unemployed, abusing drugs and alcohol, mentally scarred by his own upbringing and in a gang, is any more dangerous than a young Pakeha male in the same circumstances. The last time I spent a day in court observing proceedings the more desperate types, as confirmed by their ongoing state custody, up on domestic violence charges, were young white men.

But returning to my main point, there are fewer of them in relation to NZ European numbers.

There are things that need saying in NZ. But for mine Laws just puts it too bluntly and in doing so probably goes no way towards improving matters. Quite possibly he pushes some into resentful, reproachful retreat and doubly deviant.

What we actually need is for (some) Maori to do way better. That is up to individuals and those people who have the most influence over them. Their whanau or whatever is left of it. It isn't for Laws to singlehandedly solve.

BUT ... exactly the same can be said for (some) Pakeha.

(I cede the point in anticipation that constant qualification is a pain in the butt and often fail myself to adhere.)