Saturday, March 28, 2015

"Ageing population doesn't matter: Bill English"

That's a headline from the NBR, March 27. The NZ Initiative has helpfully circulated the article in its weekly newsletter.

Image result for bill english
His comments explain why he backs the PM's promise not to raise the age of Super qualification.

Not very well.

There are costs and associated behaviour that can be changed. He uses the example of inter-generational welfare dependence. National is making those costs its focus.

Ageing, on the other hand is a fact.It's an unavoidable demographic change. So the PM made his promise and ensured National could avoid, "wasting any time in retirement commissions ...or arguing retirement policy".

That's a cop-out. All National need do, to save billions that could be spent on the increasing costs of aged healthcare (thus avoiding raising tax on the general population) is make raising the age of entitlement an election policy. There are policies being implemented in the US, the UK and Australia which provide a policy framework basis.

Then they get a mandate by winning the election.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Justifying benefit fraud

It's a typical and tired response from the Left, when the subject of benefit fraud arises, to try and move the focus away from beneficiaries and onto tax evaders. The strategy is pathetic. And problematic because it sends a message to people ripping off the welfare system that, in the scheme of things, their crime is somehow justifiable.

Labour tried it again yesterday and here's what happened.

Benefits—Savings 6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Associate Minister for Social Development: How much has the Government saved as a result of its benefit fraud initiative?
Hon JO GOODHEW (Associate Minister for Social Development): Since benefit fraud reform initiatives began 2 years ago we have saved the taxpayer over $60 million in future benefit payments. Only a small minority of beneficiaries take money they are not entitled to, but those who do cost tens of millions of dollars each year. These changes make it difficult to defraud the welfare system and hold people accountable for their actions.
Hon Judith Collins: How is the Government encouraging beneficiaries to comply with the welfare system?
Hon JO GOODHEW: Over the past 2½ years around 9,500 benefits have been cancelled after fraud was discovered. We expect to see fewer cases of benefit fraud as our case officers continue working closely with clients to ensure they declare their income and any changes to their relationship status. We have also identified 3,000 clients who have previously committed fraud. By managing these clients more closely, we can help to ensure that they do not reoffend.
Poto Williams: Will she be advocating on behalf of taxpayers that her Government place more of a proportionate focus on recovering the $1.2 billion per annum of money lost through tax evasion, compared with the slightly lesser amount of $20 million to $40 million per annum of benefit overpayments connected with prosecuted benefit fraud, or is white-collar crime just more acceptable to her Government?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Jo Goodhew, in as far as there is ministerial responsibility.
Hon JO GOODHEW: I thank the member for her question and the opportunity to correct her misassumptions. Last Budget this Government actually provided an extra $132 million to Inland Revenue to bolster its tax compliance activities, and, boy, has that been good value for money. Targeting the hidden economy, tax avoidance initiatives returned nearly $50 million—$5.51 for every dollar spent. Targeting property speculators returned $52 million, a return of $7.88 for every $1 invested. I thank the member for the opportunity to show her how wrong she is.

It is disappointing though that the debate never progresses to which party is more immoral. The one taking too much money from the pot or the one trying to minimise what he puts in?

(Note Poto Williams stepping in for Carmel Sepuloni who is effectively shut out of the benefit fraud debate. Will Poto pick up the portfolio permanently? On second thoughts, to be fair, John Banks rose to the office of Police Minister).

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Craving" for single parenthood

An interesting piece from the Acton Institute recommends the wealth gap be referred to, in future, as the 'marriage gap'. No surprises in the statistics that show children born into the lowest income quintile have little chance of moving out of it  except when their parents are married and stay married.

But what caught my interest was quoted writing from a single mother whose ambition had always been to raise children alone.

Being a single mom is an experience I have craved for as long as I can remember. Women who become single mothers against their desires have a different story than mine. As a young teen, I romanticized even the mundane experiences: balancing my night classes with kids’ homework and tucking them in bed (leaving on a soft light). I imagined walking, with socked feet, into our tiny living room, picking up a car or a doll from the floor and wiping oatmeal from the arm of a chair, before spreading my homework or a book I was writing on our table. Raising children alone didn’t seem like a struggle to avoid, but rather an exciting opportunity to come up with creative and clever solutions for daily living.
I want to devote myself to motherhood, something I fear I can’t do with the additional demands of a partnership. Romantic relationships can occupy a lot of mental and emotional energy. I’m not sure I could balance being both a solid partner and mother right now.
Oh well, it's a free world.

Hang on. It's not a free world. By and large those people who are married and stay married (and the childless) end up paying for those who make the opposite choice. Even if the mother is financially independent (note this one expects to struggle) there is the small matter of children learning how a partnership works, learning about compromise, and commitment. The small matter of the child potentially relating better to the other biological parent. The small matter of what happens to the children if she isn't around to care for them? She has presumably already cut out the paternal grandparent side of their heritage. And where did the sperm come from anyway? A dispenser in a convenience store?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bill English - badly advised?

Earlier this month I did a brief analysis of state housing stock based on MSD data publicly available (released Feb 2015).

Of 63,988 households, 18,539 are described as "one-person". 29 percent.

Talking about the Housing NZ stock not matching the need in parliament yesterday, Bill English said:

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Around one-third of Housing New Zealand houses—$18.7 billion worth of them—are the wrong size and in the wrong place. Just, for instance, 45 percent of current tenancies are for one single person—45 percent of our houses are occupied by one person—but only 9 percent of the housing stock has one bedroom.

I immediately thought the first figure was too high so went back and double-checked my figures.

The data is split initially into five main regions, then broken down further. The following is the largest region in terms of tenancies, East and South Auckland:


Total %
Couple only 794 4.7%
Couple only and other person(s) 70 0.4%
Couple with child(ren) 3,873 22.8%
Couple with child(ren) and other person(s) 533 3.1%
Household of related and unrelated people 223 1.3%
Household of related people 1,746 10.3%
Household of unrelated people 111 0.7%
One parent with child(ren) 5,878 34.7%
One parent with child(ren) and other person(s) 1,183 7.0%
One-person household 2,501 14.7%
Other multi-person household nfd 51 0.3%
Total 16,963

The next one is Northland, Western and Central Auckland (though the percentages do not add up and neither do they in the remaining areas.)


Total %
Couple only 979 5.8%
Couple only and other person(s) 50 0.3%
Couple with child(ren) 2,623 15.5%
Couple with child(ren) and other person(s) 332 2.0%
Household of related and unrelated people 139 0.8%
Household of related people 1,019 6.0%
Household of unrelated people 214 1.3%
One parent with child(ren) 4,290 25.3%
One parent with child(ren) and other person(s) 717 4.2%
One-person household 4,618 27.2%
Other multi-person household nfd 41 0.2%
Total 15,022

You can check the rest of the data yourself if interested. Time constraints at this end. Perhaps the error lies with me but I can't see it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Parents should feed their kids - not schools

Jim Rose points out that the Mana News editor, whilst railing against the cruel dispensing of the Feed The Kids Bill by National, inadvertently revealed that breakfast is actually exceedingly cheap to provide. Not that we don't know that. In fact if he is paying $5.55 for 2 litres of milk, he isn't shopping around.

Mana News editor writes,

Just to get breakfast for the kids is $12.55 that’s not including sugar or fruit so kids aren’t eating tasteless soggy Weetbixs.

Reminder.  Government assistance for each low-middle income child averages around $78 per week. Sure there are many other expenses children incur. But if families can't provide the essentials then maybe they need to go under income management. The facility now exists, and even Labour recommended families that neglect their children should be subject to it in their 2014 welfare manifesto.

Time for some honesty and objectivity about 'feeding the children'. National are to be commended, not condemned, for standing their ground.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sallies say NO

Not long ago I wrote, in personal correspondence (I thought it was on the blog, but no):

I am confused by the social housing policy. Or more correctly, confused about whether I approve. There is sense in a  family mentor also being the landlord eg Salvation Army and addiction services, and to a degree they already operate thus. But do they want to expand their landlord role significantly? The bigger their clientèle becomes, the more difficult it is to control. As evidenced by the problem English is trying to solve.
So it was unsurprising to read in the NZ Herald this morning that the Sallies will not be progressing the idea of buying state houses from the government.

...  Major Campbell Roberts, of the Salvation Army, says the church organisation does not believe "the lives of tenants would be sufficiently improved by such a transfer".
Nor did it have the "expertise, infrastructure and resources to successfully manage any social housing transfer of size", he said.
"It's just that to take on a significant number of houses is a very complex operation ... the numbers require huge inputs of capital." Housing NZ was in an appalling state, he said.
And he will know that at least some degree of that "appalling state" is due to tenant damage or neglect. The benefits of repairs and maintenance are short-lived.

What can the government do?  Those tenants that abuse property tend to be anti-social and lower the quality of life of their neighbours, also state house tenants. No doubt they can or have been identified.

Perhaps as MSD re-adjusts tenancies to meet need, it could also put 'undeserving' tenants together in the same location where they could collectively absorb each other's disruptive dysfunctionality thereby relieving  other innocent parties. The opposite of pepper-potting. What a heretical thought.