Thursday, July 31, 2014

What is Labour's Super policy?

One of the neglected aspects of raising minimum and public service wages is the effect that will have on average wages, and as a consequence, the level of Super payments.

Super is indexed to the average wage as well as the CPI. And as everyone knows, the proportion of the population aged 65+ is set to grow rapidly.

Labour could argue that they will offset the icreased resulting financial costs through lifting the Super qualifying age. Which gave me pause for thought.

They have gone very quiet on that front.

Here are the senior policies so far announced:

Senior Citizens

Here's a Radio NZ report from late 2013:

Labour Party delegates have rejected a proposal that the party drop its plan to raise the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation at its annual conference in Christchurch.
At the last election, Labour campaigned on a transition to raising the age to 67 over time.
David Cunliffe announces his leadership bid.
David Cunliffe.
Photo: RNZ
Electorate committees Northland and Coromandel both put up amendments at the party's annual conference in Christchurch on Friday to axe any move to raise the age of eligibility. But after a feisty debate, that was rejected by a substantial vote.
Instead, it was agreed that Labour would consider all options to make New Zealand Superannuation sustainable, including raising the age of eligibility.
Labour's finance spokesperson David Parker says he is happy with the amended policy.
"We've got to a really good outcome. We're given freedom to make the decisions that are necessary to ensure the sustainability of superannuation. That's what we wanted, so we've reached an agreement through our policy process that's consistent with that."
Labour leader David Cunliffe says the change is not a watering down of the policy.
"I think there is some confusion. Our policy platform is a high level in general document and it leaves room for us to fix an age. It indicates the age will rise, but it's not at a level of detail of saying how much, by when."
The policy will be debated by the whole conference on Saturday morning, but David Parker is confident it will be supported.

Clear on that?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Susan Devoy lambasts Jamie Whyte

From Scoop:

In the run up to the general election Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy is urging politicians to “do the right thing and stick to those major issues that will help make New Zealand a better place for all our children to grow up in.”
“Equating Maori New Zealanders to French aristocrats who were murdered because of their privilege is a grotesque and inflammatory statement. Accusations of Maori privilege are not borne out by Maori socio economic statistics.”
“Whether we like it or not the reality is that ethnicity and disadvantage are connected and found in damning statistics that on average sees Maori New Zealanders life expectancy, education and health outcomes lagging behind non Maori New Zealanders,” said Dame Susan.
“The connection between ethnicity and disadvantage did not appear overnight and breaking it won’t happen overnight either. Treating everyone exactly the same will not necessarily make everyone exactly the same and anyone who thinks so is incredibly na├»ve.”

What Whyte said:
Maori are legally privileged in New Zealand today, just as the Aristocracy were legally privileged in pre-revolutionary France.
But, of course, in our ordinary use of the word, it is absurd to say that Maori are privileged. The average life expectancy of Maori is significantly lower than Pakeha and Asian. Average incomes are lower.  Average educational achievement is lower.
Legal privilege offends people less when the beneficiaries are not materially privileged, when they are generally poorer than those at a legal disadvantage... the principle of legal equality is far more important than any redistributive or compensatory impulses that people may have.  It is not some philosophical nicety to be discarded because you feel guilty about what people with the same skin pigment as you did 150 or 200 years ago.
 I can't figure out whether Devoy  is OK with affirmative action but doesn't think it's a major issue, or doesn't  think equality before the law is a major issue? Either way, as race relations commissioner they should both be major issues for her.

Update: Whyte responds by calling for Devoy to resign.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ombudsman - public sector could do better

OIA requests to the Ministry of Social Development are now never met within the required maximum  20 working day time limit. A notification of an extension is received. And then sometimes a second extension. Complaining to the Ombudsman is a waste of time.

Or is it....

I decided to write to the State Services Commission and ask about average response times to OIA requests and how MSD compared to other departments . This resulted in the SSC referring my letter to other departments eg Education and Health. But SSC also advised me to write to the Ombudsman who, while not subject to the OIA, might provide information on complaints received about MSD.

That is what I did.

The Ombudsman duly obliged and told me that 110 complaints had been received against MSD in the 2013 financial year. 62 were about delays.

On its own that doesn't mean very much. But then I received a letter from MSD (the one that had been passed on to them from SSC) refusing my request for information about average response times. However they did tell me that in the 2013 financial year they had received 482 requests.

Context then shows that the complaint rate against MSD is quite high. 482 requests and 110 complaints.And this happens even when many people consider complaining to the Ombudsman a waste of time.

Anyway, there is good news.

The Ombudsman finished:

You may also be interested to know that the Chief Ombudsman is intending to conduct a wider administrative investigation into concerns that the broader public sector is not managing requests for information under the OIA as well as it should.

Perhaps a better public service target is required.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Labour just not serious

There have been weaknesses in the welfare reform results.

The educational achievements of those on the Youth Payment are mixed.

Yet last week in Parliament the following patsy and response went unchallenged.

Youth Programmes—Reports 5. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent reports has she received about the Government’s Youth Service initiative?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Youth Service, which is about reaching out early to young people on or at risk of going on a benefit and engaging them in education or training, is already producing great results. The latest evaluation report shows that four out of five young people enrolled in Youth Service are now in education or training, and 63 percent of 16 and 17-year-olds on the youth payment achieved National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) credits in their first year on the Youth Service, compared with just 24 percent of young people who were on the old independent youth benefit. Fourteen percent of those on the youth payment achieved NCEA level 2, compared with 5 percent before the Youth Service. Achieving NCEA level 2, of course, makes someone far more likely to be able to support themselves and be financially independent.
Melissa Lee: What evidence has she seen that the Youth Service is working to stop young people becoming dependent on the benefit in the long term?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It is early days but I am pleased that we are already seeing a drop in the number of young people on the youth payment who go on to a main benefit when they turn 18. Seventy percent of young people on the youth payment did not go on to a main benefit when they turned 18 in the year to March 2014. These are young people who have often come from very difficult backgrounds. Wrapping support around them early and ensuring that they are not on a lifetime of welfare is what our Youth Service is all about.

Not a supplementary in sight.

Another example - Last week I provided data showing that the policy to discourage adding children to a benefit wasn't working.

It is the job of a good opposition to monitor government policies, especially if they oppose them. Yet Labour's Sue Moroney does little but push her paid parental leave bill.

Now, on balance, I think Paula Bennett has a better grasp on the welfare problem than previous Ministers and there have been good reforms with good results.

But there are vulnerabilities a credible government-in-waiting would be exposing.