Friday, September 16, 2011

Need a laugh?

Did my dough on the All Blacks to be ahead at half time by a margin of 16-25.

It's depressing for the Japanese and I don't think it is going to get any brighter somehow.

But this made me laugh, just arrived in my inbox from a non-rugby-watching philistine friend:

How attempts to protect children might backfire

The NZ Herald reports:

Turning a blind eye to child abuse will now be classified as criminal after Parliament tonight passed a law to hold people accountable.

The Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) creates a new offence of failing to take reasonable steps to protect a child or vulnerable adult from the risk of death, grievous bodily harm or sexual assault, which comes with a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.

Parents or people aged over 18 could be found liable if they had frequent contact with the victim, including if they were a member of the same household or if they were a staff member at an institution where the victim lived.

There is a distinct possibility this law will increase the danger for abused children. That is because children may become more isolated as people who merely suspect abuse remove themselves from the circle of liability.

This may appear to be an abdication of responsibility but even for the best intentioned people, those who give freely of their time to work in high risk communities, the potential risks to themselves may become too high.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What is Rodney Hide going to do?

Sorry if I have missed something significant on this subject, but what is Rodney Hide doing?

Twice it has been reported that he is not giving a valedictory speech because he is not leaving parliament.

He isn't on National's list. He isn't standing for National in Epsom.

He isn't on ACT's list (with number three yet to be confirmed) and he isn't standing for ACT in Epsom.

Don't think he will be standing for the Mana Party somehow.

Which leaves another distinct possibility. He will stand as an Independent in Epsom.

Traditionally independent candidates do diddly squat. BUT Hide is a Minister. If National does a deal for him to continue in ministerial capacity he can continue to be an effective electorate MP. Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton have essentially been doing the same thing at various times.

I imagine that Rodney has a fair bit of personal loyalty saved in the Epsom bank. If I lived there I would vote for him even as an Independent.

And even if he failed he would probably do for Banks in the process. John Banks, who has to win Epsom to keep ACT in parliament. Can't see that worrying Rodney somehow. And why should it?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Interview about child poverty

Did an interview with Geoff Robinson on Morning Report today. I was asked to comment on the latest child poverty report released yesterday by CPAG. For some reason I was introduced as a researcher from a conservative right-wing think-tank called the Institute For Liberal Values (a contradiction in terms.) I haven't been in that role for years.

Anyway a local business couple came into my shop this morning saying I should be hiding. That people would be "ripping shreds off me" for suggesting that parents need to take more responsibility for those choices and actions which resulted in their children living in 'poverty'. They were tongue-in-cheek. But what a strange world we live in. Only governments are to blame for every ill that befalls us and only governments can resolve every ill that befalls us. It seems to be a mindset that many people and many media players can't get beyond. Perhaps it's because there is no story if individuals are at fault.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Absurd response to income management

The following is an Australian editorial about income management. It largely argues against the practice of allocating 50-70 percent of a benefit to a payment card, on the basis it restricts freedom and impinges on dignity.

A PROPOSAL by the federal government to manage welfare recipients' income has some merit if it is aimed at protecting children.

But any intervention - that most inflammatory of words - into the lives of people and denial of their basic human rights must be treated with great circumspection.

Income management, which is on trial in the highly cosmopolitan Bankstown region of western Sydney, involves apportioning between 50 and 70 per cent of a person's welfare payment to their BasicsCard.

The percentage is determined by Centrelink public servants on a case-by-case basis and the card can be used only in approved outlets such as supermarkets, department stores and motoring retailers. The card cannot be used for alcohol, tobacco or gambling.

It may seem hard to argue against an initiative that diverts money from the pub or the betting shop to the weekly food, clothing and medical budget. But income management impinges on people's right to make their own choices. It also risks stigmatising sections of our society.

The Howard government no doubt had its heart in the right place when it introduced its intervention policy into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.

How can protecting women and children from the brutal legacy of drug and alcohol abuse be a bad thing? Well, nominally, it can't.

But the reality is that such interference has an Orwellian aspect that must be questioned. The government and its hired help - the public service - assume the right to tell people how to live their lives.

Eradication of dignity, independence and freedom belongs in a totalitarian state, and even the suggestion of a move in this direction must be subject to rigorous scrutiny and debate.

While some in the Northern Territory have praised the intervention policy - now being sustained by the Gillard government - others have been implacably opposed to what they see as a denial of liberty.

Supporters argue that lives have been saved or greatly improved by intervention.

But while governments must do everything possible to educate and even regulate so that vulnerable members of society are protected, they must not trample people's rights to shape their own destiny.

There are many examples in Australia of a nanny state and most, such as anti-smoking legislation, helmets for cyclists, compulsory seat belt wearing and blood alcohol limits enjoy the support of the sensible majority.

But if income management threatens our democratic foundations its implementation must be such that it in no way encroaches on Australian ideals.

Note that it begins by saying intervention is the most imflammatory word. Absolutely. State intervention is something to be limited as much as possible. But has the writer forgotten what pays for benefits? Massive intervention by way of taxation.

So how come it is OK to intervene in the lives of working people but not in the lives of the non-working people they support?

Then he or she invokes Nanny State. Well really. The welfare state is the nth degree expression of Nanny State. If the prospect of income managment puts off some of the not-so-needy that would represent a reduction in Nanny State. Not an extention.

"Eradication of dignity, independence and freedom belongs in a totalitarian state..."

The eradication of these things is the very result of a sprawling benefit system that sees one in seven or eight people living off the state; dosed up and addicted to hand-outs; caught in debt traps, and having to live cheek by jowl with people they are afraid of.

The editorial arguments are pompous and fickle.

It is morally defensible to income manage all beneficiaries.

But that still doesn't get to the crux of the problem of having ridiculous numbers of people treating benefits like a legitimate alternative to work or reliance on each other.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

No evidence of Maori family violence?

A story about the "dark side" of NZ characterised by Maori gangs and violence, written by a Sydney-based journalist and running in UK's Independent contains the following:

Jim Anglem, of the Violence Research Centre, rejects this notion, saying women and children were revered in traditional Maori society. Moreover, between 1950 and 1970 there was little evidence of Maori family violence.

He hasn't been looking very hard for it.

Historian Bronwyn Labrum reviewed child welfare files from the 1950s and 60s.

"As with Pakeha however, domestic conflict contributed to a sizeable number of cases, and appears to have intensified, or become more visible, under pressures of urbanisation, relocation and living in a nuclear family style. Money troubles and commonly accepted rates of Maori drinking only made matters worse. In 1958 the Secretary of Maori Affairs informed the minister that welfare officers were constantly being called on upon to mediate in 'domestic disputes' and ' needed tact and diplomacy plus a fair share of good fortune' to solve such cases. The reports from the districts suggested excessive drinking, unequal distribution of family income, unfaithfulness, and bad living conditions, among other things as reasons."

Bronwyn Dalley, in Family Matters, described a 1967 investigation into child abuse that found the reported rate of abuse for Maori children was six times that for Pakeha.

And there are other first-hand testimonies from social workers of those decades detailing domestic violence in rural Maori communities.

A trip to the local library alone would provide the evidence he can't find.
(Can't embed the link)