Saturday, April 04, 2015

An Easter quiz

James Bartholomew's new book, The Welfare of Nations is now available.

As with the prior book, The Welfare State We're In, he opens with a quiz.

You can test your knowledge here.

17 out of 22.

I like his comments at the end. The chapter headings look tantalising. Can't wait to read it.

Inhumane and assinine decision

Because the incident happened just down the road from me, and proximity piques interest, the fate of the young  student, Boobesh Palani, had been occupying my mind on and off. Sadly (or maybe not from his perspective) he died.

But I was appalled at the hospital's attitude to the youngsters who saved him from drowning and performed CPR to keep him alive.

Kelly was told yesterday morning Mr Palani was still alive. But yesterday evening she received a call from Victim Support telling her the sad news.
"It's just been awful," she said.
She said the cousins were with Mr Palani when he was first hospitalised.
Kelly said she was told she couldn't see him when the cousins went back to visit him later in the week.
"So we stayed there for about three hours and then they said they can't give out any information because we don't know him or anything. Me and Payge really, really, really wanted to go and see him. But I guess we can't now....The hospital said it did not allow people to visit patients in intensive care or the maternity ward without family permission.

Not even an exception made for two exceptional young people. Whatever they are left thinking and feeling, the tragedy has been made worse.

Hospitals need rules. But they also need to exercise compassionate and rational application of them.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Raising children on a benefit is not an "unpaid activity"

From Census 2013:

Proportionally, more Māori and Pacific peoples spent time looking after children from their own households (42 percent and 41 percent, respectively), compared with other ethnic groups participating in this unpaid activity (around 30 percent each).

I dispute the term "unpaid activity". For many parents, time spent "looking after children from their own household" is time spent on a benefit, usually the Sole Parent Support (SPS). Each week they receive a payment from the government to look after their children.

"Unpaid activity" somehow suggests an altruistic motive. It is misleading to lump together people who are sacrificing earnings to raise children with those whose are raising children as a source of income.

Characteristics of working-age recipients of SPS at the end of December 2009, 2013 and 2014

Dec-2009Dec-2013Dec-2014Annual change
Male 8,391 6,823 6,093 −730 −11%
Female 78,676 71,020 66,441 −4,579 −6%
NZ European 32,378 26,976 24,329 −2,647 −10%
Mäori 37,275 35,662 33,940 −1,722 −5%
Pacific peoples 8,797 7,536 7,052 −484 −6%
All other ethnicities* 7,059 6,552 6,196 −356 −5%

Thursday, April 02, 2015

"Beyond the Microphone" - a brief review

The process of reading is difficult because it sends me to sleep, quickly. And because bed-time is the only time I don't feel guilty about indulging in a book, getting through one is a challenge. Day-time reading makes me feel guilty. Surely there is always some other obligation requiring my attention.
Image result for leighton smith beyond the microphone

So to get through Beyond the Microphone, Leighton Smith's 2013 auto-biography, in a matter of days, is extraordinary. So readable was it that I even broke my day-time rule reading upstairs whilst son practised Scriabin, Debussy and Rachmaninoff on the piano downstairs (most ably). This strangely and poignantly provided a soundtrack to much of the book. Quite suitably for the chapter on Leighton's visit to the Soviet Union - an eye-opener for someone who has not travelled to that part of the world. The grimness, yet refusal or inability of indoctrinated citizens to recognise their circumstances are stark, shocked me.

Almost immediately, on beginning to read, the question poses itself. Are there two Carolyn's? Who knew Leighton's producer, Carolyn, is also Leighton's wife, Carolyn? Obviously lots of people but not me. The discovery made me happy and somehow more kindly disposed to Smith. Romance that grows out of a lengthy working relationship has something of a fairytale yet solid quality about it. His deep regard and affection for Mrs Smith (if indeed that is what she calls herself) is terribly evident.

Beyond the Microphone is an engaging and easy read. By 'easy' no slight is intended. Easy is what good writing should be for the audience. Hard is for technical information. Easy is for when you want to be entertained.

Smith is one of those characters that gets obsessed with something to a degree most couldn't find the energy or means to. An interest in wine culminates in establishing a successful vineyard. (Don't believe him about Minchinbury. By coincidence it was on special when I did my weekly shop. To my palate - cheap - it isn't great fizz. Too sweet for Brut. Though he would probably be embarrassed that he thought it once was, having moved on to more sophisticated wines and varieties.)

An interest in greyhounds culminates in ownership of a hugely successful racehorse trained by none other than the larger- than - life Gai Waterhouse. An interest in Italy culminates in building a replica villa in Clevedon.

From a childhood influenced by strict religious values, to teen rebellion amidst 1960s music and culture, to a shot-gun wedding, to sporadic university education, to meaningful drifting (though he may disagree with that description) to numerous radio jobs, to eventually putting down roots in a country seemingly better suited to his persona and values, he must never have experienced boredom. Would that we could all lay claim to the same.

Leighton's personal life is not delved into deeply. Good. A respect for the privacy of other players doesn't detract. It adds. This auto-biography proves that an otherwise intensely private character can create a story that holds the interest from go to whoa.

Highly recommended for Easter reading.


A caller to Leighton Smith earlier this week talked about the 30:30:30:10 principle.

It's new to me but sounds entirely plausible.I am assuming he is talking about the population aged 15+

-30 percent  relies on government benefits.

-30 percent  relies on tax credits and effectively pay no tax.

-30 percent  pays the tax that supports the first 30 percent.

-10 percent pays for the other big ticket items like  health, education etc.

As the caller observed, the ratios might differ slightly over time and at various times.

Has anyone come across this before?

The caller was concerned about how far down the 10 percent could be whittled....

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Why people commit benefit fraud

1/ Because they can

2/ Because it's easy

3/ Because the consequences are trivial

Anne Sepuloni is a case in point, and typical.

She has effectively been given a 14-year, $20 weekly penalty on her benefit (or Super.)

The NZ Herald reports:

For defrauding the Ministry of nearly $34,000, he gave her a sentence of four and a half months' home detention.
He said other mitigating circumstance - including her clean record, early guilty plea and show of remorse - cut the starting-point sentence further to nine months' jail.
The judge then accepted the pre-sentencing report recommendation that the jail sentence be converted to home detention. Sepuloni must also do 250 hours of community work and repay $15,000 at the rate of $20 a week.

It's pathetic.

But it happens in thousands of cases. The offender remains on a benefit, supported by the taxpayer albeit it at a slightly reduced rate.

It's pathetic.

If NZ was serious about benefit crime it would bar fraudsters from eligibility. That might be the deterrence factor required.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

7,239 Northlanders stayed home

7,239 fewer Northlanders voted yesterday than voted last September. That's a lot of people who really didn't care one way or the other. Or who didn't want the incumbent party, or anyone else.

Additionally,  if people came out yesterday that hadn't voted in September (conceivable when you have a phenomenon like Winston rolling through the province) that makes the  newly disinterested or disenchanted non-vote even bigger. Who did most of them vote for last time?

I'm not familiar with by-election research. The turn-out is always lower but I don't know who this generally favours. In any case, new precedents are set.

So Winston won the seat. But the other big winner looks like 1. Apathy - voting wouldn't change the government and/or  2. Disaffection. And not just with National.

The result doesn't particularly bother me. I'm not a cheer leader for National ( though I prefer them to a Left block). But it astounds and dismays me that so many people would put their hand up for a charlatan like Winston Peters.