Saturday, June 08, 2013

In poverty but not hardship

Thanks to the reader who drew my attention to a recently released Ministerial Committee on Poverty report. It contains information familiar to me but presented in new and revealing ways. For instance the chart below shows that of the 270,000 children 'in poverty' around half are not experiencing hardship. That's because income is arguably less important than outgoings, or budgetary prioritising:

This report is very encouraging in that it identifies children of beneficiaries and particularly sole parent beneficiaries as forming the major share of children at risk of deprivation, but it resists leftist solutions. It finds for more targeting (eg of services), not universalising payments (no child benefit as proposed by the Children's Commissioner), and is clear that getting sole parents into work, or increasing their hours, is the best strategy. It notes that in Nordic economies parents are expected to return to work when their child is 13 months old. It also makes mention of the need not to disincentivise work (or encourage fertility patterns that are not in the nest interests of children) with higher benefit payments.  I will blog more of the graphs later.

Friday, June 07, 2013

OECD GDP per capita - a question

The NZ Initiative featured this graph (courtesy of Capital Economics) in its weekly newsletter today. It poses a question for me. Why is the Australian line so erratic compared to NZ's? A guess: there is more competition/changeability of rankings amongst the richest nations, whereas relativity between the poorer nations (of which NZ is one) is steadier. (The 10 years to 2011 gdp per capita stats are here. Both countries showed steady growth from 2002 flattening over 2008-11 but Australia's gdp per capita grew by 14 percent whereas NZ's grew by 6.)

Ed Miliband proposes "one nation"

UK Labour leader Ed Miliband has given a speech called, "A One Nation Plan for Social Security Reform" in which he repeatedly refers to "one nation". I can't get the echoes of Pauline Hanson out of my head but I don't suppose most poms would have heard of her.

James Bartholomew has summarised and commented on the speech here.

As always it's interesting to note the shared language and ideas between UK Labour and NZ Labour. For instance he talks about David Cameron's "dirty secret" -  a phrase I've heard Jacinda Ardern use against Paula Bennett.

But I don't think NZ Labour will be picking up on this particular term.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Good stuff from Affordable Auckland

I like Stephen Berry and wish him well in his local government candidacy campaign. Here's a cut and paste of his press release today:

‘Not Your Usual Hui’ Patronises Homosexuals

‘Not Your Usual Hui’ Patronises Homosexuals
“I would be hard pressed to argue that engagement with Auckland ratepayers and residents is not a core function of Auckland Council. Of course it is. However, the ridiculously politically correct manner in which this Council goes about this interaction is wasteful and ineffective.” Affordable Auckland Waitemata & Gulf candidate Stephen Berry is referring to one example; ‘Not Your Usual Hui’ being held at Auckland University on 7 June 2013.
“Not Your Usual Hui is a forum for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (GLBTI) communities to start the conversation about how we strengthen and build capacity in Auckland to create ongoing, positive social change,” says Auckland Council’s media release on the event.
Mr. Berry, who is openly gay, says, “I find this Council’s PC overbearing foppishness in its desire to be inclusive of everyone highly patronising. Why ‘Not Your Usual Hui?’ Is it an unusual hui because it will be full of homosexuals? Are homosexuals incapable of gathering in a usual manner? Is this a warning that there may be men with sparkles on their cheeks wearing shorts with pockets hanging out of the bottom? Is a meeting of heterosexual Irish seagull hunters considered to be a usual hui?”
“I also question what value is attained by boxing all individuals with varying sex lives into otherwise unrelated collectivist packages and expecting to find one opinion representative of an entire ‘community.’ According to Council logic, men who have sex with men will hold the same opinions as women who have sex with women, individuals who have sex with anyone, people who have had sex changes, people who want a sex change and people who haven’t really made up their minds.”
“Some homosexuals are leftist, some are libertarian, some are even conservative. All are individuals who have varying belief systems and do not live their lives separated in a gated community working gay jobs, driving gay cars and living in gay houses. Holding a forum to obtain a gay view will be as successful as seeking men’s views, women’s views, European’s views, Maori’s views, Pacific Islanders views and Asian’s views. You’ll get the opinion of a few activist self-appointed representatives demanding more public money for their special interest group and little else.”
Stephen Berry says that the Council should engage with those who live in Auckland. “Engage with as many individuals as possible about what happens in this city. Do not patronise them with collective labels in the process!”

Find yourselves some volunteers

If "charitable" organisations were truly voluntary they wouldn't be bemoaning the necessity of laying off staff due to government funding cuts.

Five out of eight staff at the Mangere Budgeting Service will lose their jobs at the end of this month because of a funding cut.

The 'cut' was the cessation of temporary funding by the way.

I worked for a charitable organisation for a few years. Some of the volunteers went on budgeting courses and were able to offer that service to the 'client'. All they were ever paid was petrol money to make the home visits.

"We have staff wanting security of jobs. We simply can't offer it."
What you need then is staff with a different motivation. People who have an existing source of income. Perhaps more superannuitants - a growing pool of able and time-rich people. That's your answer.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Libertarians not interested in social order or cohesion?

This is a excerpt from Colin James' latest ODT column (not on-line yet) about politics and inequality:

The social security state and its successor, the welfare state, bedded in not because the liberal-left initially triumphed. It endured because National adopted it in the late 1940s.
National's reason was not kindness. It was a liberal-conservative belief in the intrinsic value of a cohesive society to all its members. Exclusion of some from the community undermines social order and social order is precious to most conservatives. (Libertarians such as ACT and some National ministers are a different breed.)
Some days John Key and at times some other ministers exhibit that instinct, which some call a "communitarian" conservatism, traceable back to Edmund Burke.
So later this decade will that instinct prevail in National if a future different government tries to restore a secure, because less unequal, society?

I can only take from this that James thinks Libertarians (and "some days John Key"?- Edmund Burke was a classical liberal) are not interested in a cohesive society. Is it the leftist  every- man- for- himself characterisation?

Speaking for myself, social cohesion and social order (as opposed to chaos) are hugely important but when sought after through coercion by either government or individuals, won't endure. People can only be forced  to be each other's keeper or to think in certain ways for so long.

Yes, social cohesion (amongst Pakeha society anyway) increased after the introduction of social security. Every worker made a dedicated contribution to ensure that a very tiny minority of needy people had a better standard of living than they would have had pre -1938. It was post war and post depression. To an extent people were in shell-shock (some literally). It was a time when people valued living peaceably and each other. It was a time when personal courage and integrity were valued as people mourned those they had lost and lauded those who had survived. (It was also a time when certain behaviours were heavily stigmatised and thus controlled by individuals backed by government - divorce, unmarried childbirth, non-sobriety, homosexuality).

But, and this isn't a new theme for me I know, values have changed. And intrinsically caught up in that change, both as a cause and an effect, is welfare. It stopped being port of last call and started to develop into support all had a right to call on for whatever reason they chose to promote. The numbers on benefits exploded through the 1980s.

Family life, particularly for Maori, started to break-down. As the units broke down, the larger community lost cohesiveness. Yes, inequality grew (the topic of James' column) as a growing percentage of people received low incomes via benefits, and the middle class increased their incomes through women progressively working and professionalising. Middle class working two parent families are now relatively rich and single parent families are relatively poor; compared to the rest of the developed world NZ is now poorer - the inequality the left don't talk about.

Wages haven't kept up, in part, because the government keeps trying to subsidise low incomes through various methods, letting employers off the hook in the process. We have reached the stage, thanks to social security, where we have more redistribution of wealth going on than at any other time in New Zealand's history (barring perhaps the early 90s) and yet we still have inequality and a less ordered and cohesive society than during the 50s and 60s. More violence, more dysfunction, more child neglect, more mental illness, and more reliance on artificial means to relieve stress.

What's left for a government to force people to do in the name of equality and security?

Monday, June 03, 2013

Gangs committing most of the crime in NZ?

This RNZ reported statement from Corrections Minister Anne Tolley, on the back of the Springhill riots, intrigues me:

She said most crime in New Zealand is committed by gang members.

How does she know?

One would assume that the number of gang members in prison might provide a pointer but I don't believe that has been measured since the Prison Census was discontinued in 2003, at which time patched and associates made up 11.1 percent of the prison population.

Now if the percentage was unchanged (unlikely) and her statement was true, that reflects very badly on those charged with detecting crime and locking up offenders.

There were 376,013 crimes recorded in NZ in 2012.

Yet according to National MP Todd McClay:

 Police estimate there are 3,500 patched gang members in New Zealand.
(Revealing comment at the bottom of that op-ed)

The Sensible Sentencing Trust claims there are 21,882 gang members and affiliates. That's very specific.

Anyway, the numbers don't  stack up.

I've tried to verify that Tolley actually said this, but there's no press release on the matter.

Don't you wish that journalists would be a bit sharper and dig deeper when confronted with quite startling claims?

Jarrod Gilbert, who has researched gangs for a decade says,

"There's a lot of hysteria which is unnecessary for the most part."
So what's the truth of it? Even if she intended 'violent' crime I'm dubious about the accuracy. (And when gangs are committing crime it's often against each other or other gangs though that's not really relevant to the topic of this post.)

Finally, after a bit more searching I've found this from a 2009 paper prepared for Parliament about young people and gangs:

Recorded apprehensions where the offender was recorded as gang affiliated at the time of offence declined from 4,711 in the 2002/03 fiscal year to 3,706 in 2004/05 but then increased to 6,392 in 2005/06. [19]   The Department of Corrections’ Census of Prison Inmates and Home Detainees 2003 found that 62 percent of sentenced gang members were imprisoned for violence or sexual violence. This was slightly higher than for those without gang connections (58 percent). [20]  
As at 16 May 2007 a total of 1,471 prisoners were identified as actively affiliated with gangs. The largest numbers were affiliated with the Mongrel Mob (523) and were Black Power (426). [21]   This compares to a total prison population at 30 June 2007 of 8,083. [22]   In June 2008 the Minister of Police Hon Annette King said Police estimated the total number of patched gang members and associates was between 3,000 and 3,500. [23]   Police Association President Greg O’Connor thought the figure was higher – probably over 3,500. [24]  
I can't find any basis for the Minister's claim. It could come from Victimisation Surveys which capture non-prosecuted crime but....I'm still skeptical. Looks like she was wrong or mis-reported.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Sole mum spoiler

We probably all know someone like this.

A father-son bonding session planned by a North Island primary school was cancelled after a single mother demanded to be included.
Two "Band of Brothers" seminars were arranged by Matakana School to help fathers get more involved in their sons' lives, and as a forum for dads to share their issues. One session was for dads and another was for fathers and sons.
A solo mum wanted to attend but was told she couldn't because her presence would inhibit discussion. She was told a mother and son seminar was planned for later in the year.
"We really just wanted an opportunity for the guys to open up and chat, and they wouldn't particularly want to do if there were females around - which I think is understandable," said principal Darrel Goosen.
The woman's son was welcome at the second seminar and the guest speaker offered a specific session with her and her son but she continued to insist on attending, Goosen said, so the school board decided to cancel the event.
She is probably still defiantly claiming the high ground.

This bothered me though:

Psychologist Sara Chatwin, from MindWorks, said in today's society - where almost 50 per cent of Kiwi households are single-parent households - the session should have been promoted as a parent-child affair.
"I understand where the mother is coming from. The implications are that that child will feel incredibly left out if they are the only child without a dad who is going to a seminar like that."

Since when were half of NZ households single parent? Try 18 percent of all families, or 30 percent of families with dependent children (and possibly declining). When someone can't even get factual information correct I'm disinclined to listen to their personal opinion. And unsurprisingly, what she says next is in fact silly. If there are so many single parents, but the event was open to their children, the child wouldn't feel left out. And nobody was barring the father from attending even if he is estranged from the mother.

This mother sounds like someone with a lot of baggage who unfortunately isn't making life for her child any easier.