Thursday, December 20, 2018

Crime down

RNZ reports:
The country's first crime and victims survey suggests almost two million crimes were committed last year, about seven times the number reported to police.
This isn't the country's first crime and victims survey. It may be a new format or design but over the years the Crime and Safety Surveys have consistently shown far higher rates of offending than police recorded crime rates. In that respect the results of the latest are barely newsworthy.

What is of interest is comparisons to earlier years. RNZ did not pursue that. The latest shows that:

The survey suggested there were just under 1.8 million criminal offences in the past 12 months - that compares to about 256,000 reported to the police.
The 2014 survey found:

 1.9 million incidents of crime were identified in 2013
– down 30% from 2.7 million in 2008.
So the trend is down.

You wonder why the RNZ reporter didn't bother to look for the salient story.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Relationship breakdown most common reason for homelessness

Thanks to Bob McCoskrie who sent me this Australian research which finds that relationship breakdown is  the most prolific cause of homelessness. While public perception is that drug taking is the major cause, when people who have actually experienced homelessness are asked, the reasons given are quite different:

"....this research ... shows that people who have experienced homelessness have a more reliable sense of why they found themselves in that situation than the general public.
They cited ‘relationship breakdown and conflict’ as the main cause for homelessness six times more often than substance use (64 per cent vs 10 per cent). In contrast the general public cites ‘marriage or relationship breakdown’ as being the main cause for homelessness less often than that of substance use."
(Naturally public perceptions and research findings are predicated on the definition of homelessness.)

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Are talk hosts like politicians?

This personal question arose on the back of my comments regarding the demise of Radio Live.

Hosts I like and listen to are genuine. Others are taking a pay cheque to be a mouthpiece and channel the chat. It's not hard to discern the difference.

Which led me to reflect on a parallel with MPs.

I aspired to the House of Representatives twice (with less enthusiasm on the second occasion).

My action was driven by my convictions about how destructive the welfare state is.

But many successful aspirants are purely concerned with the machinery of governing and representing. They are practitioners. It's comfortable (though not for the lazy) to assume this role. These aren't troubled questioners. They are cogs in the machine.

But what happens when we have too many cogs and not enough questioners?

Worse, what happens when the questioners turn into cogs overpowered by the sheer size of the machine?

I fear that would have been my fate if I had become an MP.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Link between poverty and marital status

This graph is from the US. NZ likes to think it is 'classless.' It isn't.

I have to say though, this graph raises questions. The labeling is confusing.

On further investigation I found it is a conglomerate of three separate graphs.

The blue column is  'Share of Adults Age 18–55 Who Are Currently Married, by Class'

The green column is 'Share of Adults Age 18–55 Who Are Currently Cohabitating, by Class'

The red column is 'Share of Children Born out of Wedlock, by Mother’s Class'

Personally I wouldn't have graphed them together because it presumes a relationship between the columns. Labelling 'Children born out of wedlock'  as 'Baby first' implies their mothers (and fathers?) went on to marry or cohabit. Also, some of those currently married or cohabiting will be childless.

But sticklers for accuracy don't necessarily make great communicators - visually or otherwise.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

I'll miss Mitch Harris

Radio Live is kaput

Haven't listened to them during the day for a long time. Not since Sean Plunket departed.

Back in the day Paul Henry was a great morning host (or was that when they were Radio Pacific?) Anyway, before he made the transition from normal human to over-weening human

JT and Willie was listenable when JT was steering but when Willie was in control,  an air of flippant insincerity prevailed.

When JT departed and Alison Mau joined Willie she brought an ugly element of female bullying to the afternoon. Opinions she cared not for were loudly talked over.

Why they picked up Nissen Windell (correct me please for I have never paid enough attention to remember) is unfathomable.

But Mitch. Mitch Harris combined a compelling mix of humour, self-deprecation, true two-way communicative skills and great musical appreciation and knowledge.

By no means a religious listener, many a night I have drifted off to sleep to his thoughtful utterances and  dulcet tones. I'll miss that.

Update: The idea of a radio station that combines talk and music - in this case Magic Talk - is doomed IMO. If I want to hear how people are reacting to something topical I'll tune in to NewstalkZB; if I want music, I tune into Coast. And even Coast irritates when the hosts start prattling. Most music stations like to boast they have more music and less chat because that's what the punters want. A talk/music channel is a hair-brained idea.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Making light of a serious subject

In my recent paper about  Imprisonment and Family Structure,  I touched on the phenomenon of multi-partner fertility and how it increases prison populations.

If you don't know what multi-partner fertility looks like...

Friday, November 09, 2018

Updating artist blog

Just updating artist blog with this pastel of Wesney, who is now the grand age of 15.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Unemployment numbers that don't stack up

The unemployment rate has dropped to 3.9% - a great result for the government.

But since the non-publication of latest official child poverty data due to "uncertainty" and a "lack of confidence" in the Statistics NZ  Household Economic Survey sampling, I am wary. More wary than I was anyway.

The unemployment data comes from the Statistics NZ  Household Labour Force Survey.

I had a dig into the tables looking for any stand out development.

Here's one.

In the Manawatu-Wanganui region, the unemployment rate (2nd to last column above) between June and Sept 2018  dropped three whole points from 6.6 to 3.6 percent.

This should be reflected in benefit statistics, no?

It isn't. The number on Jobseeker Support rose.

I checked out the number for the Manawatu-Wanganui region - a different stat which slightly more closely matches the region surveyed in the HLFS.

In June 2018 there were 8,352 people on a Jobseeker benefit: in Sept 2018, 8,532.

The Taxpayer's Union has also questioned the broader opposing trends.

We can measure unemployment three ways: through the HLFS, through the numbers on unemployment benefit and via the Census. Obviously the last count is too infrequent and time-lags terribly.

Just be aware that the positive HLFS result is not mirrored in the benefit data result.

The HLFS result is probably a facet of the growing working age population and labour force. The denominator is increasing faster than the numerator. But it could also be a 'rogue' result.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

No beneficiaries will be forced into jobs

The aged-care sector is asking government to change rules to allow more immigrants to fill the shortage of care-givers. Apparently some beneficiaries are being trained but according to MSD Minister, Carmel Sepuloni:
" one would be forced into jobs."
"First and foremost it's about making sure that MSD clients are going into work that is sustainable and meaningful to them. We know that that makes the difference with respect to how long they stay in that employment and whether they end up back on benefit. This is not a situation, and we won't be getting into a situation, where we are forcing people to take up particular work," she said.
So beneficiaries won't been "forced" to take available jobs, but the taxpayer will be forced to keep them.

There are over 70,000 work-ready JobSeeker beneficiaries and another 58,000 on Sole Parent Support.

While the Greens love this indulgence of the lazy,  how does the NZ First/Labour coalition deal with the conflict? Labour doesn't want to force New Zealanders to take the jobs and NZ First doesn't like immigrants taking the jobs.

What a shocker of a government.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Increased cash hand-outs reduce incentive to work

Seems obvious to you and I, but a fact that the Left has long resisted. Their response is always to indignantly insist, "...people want to work."

But MSD doesn't necessarily agree. At least the actuarial arm which produces an annual Benefit System Performance Report.

Below is a graph tracking exit rates among Jobseeker-Work Ready (JS/WR) beneficiaries. The associated commentary notes that recent exit rates are lower than during the GFC!

But notice also the bold type sentence below the graph. Paying those JS beneficiaries with children MORE has reduced their exits off welfare.

This slowing exit rate is further broken down into with or without children:

The report goes on to state:

 Establishing causality is difficult, though the widening of the gap appears to correlate with the introduction of the Child Material Hardship Package (CMHP) in April 2016. Benefit rates were increased by $25 for families as part of this package. 

It then speculates:

 Changes to the accommodation supplement from 1 April 2018 could have similar effects, although accommodation supplement is also available to low income families.
It doesn't mention the significant increase to Family Tax Credits (including the Best Start $60 weekly baby bonus) from July 2018 but presumably the same applies.

Further into the performance report comes another gem of commonsense:

IRRS is more generous than AS and can act as a poverty trap.
This means that Income Related Rents - whereby the state house tenant only ever pays a fixed percentage of his income - is a more generous subsidy than paying part of a tenant's rent in the private sector. 

The "poverty trap" describes what happens when the tenant is disincentivised to improve his income (through employment) because he will lose a substantial portion in increased rent. It's similar to the disincentive Child Support imposes. Not infrequently the two disincentives coincide.

There is a very real concern that state housing turnover has slowed up considerably due at least in part to this 'generosity' (causing lengthening waiting lists and recourse to emergency accommodation.)

This sentiment is reiterated later:

In previous reports we highlighted that the design of IRRS, AS and TAS creates financial disincentives for clients to move out of public housing and into the private market and employment.

Yet greater generosity of benefits and other assistance is synonymous with the current government which steadfastly ignores that the associated disincentives come at a devastating social cost, particular to children.

The socialist approach to alleviating poverty merely entrenches it.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Travesty over child poverty stats breaks at last

NZ Herald reports today:

Child poverty rates unknown as targets about to become law

I blogged about this over 2 weeks ago but far more 'important' issues have dominated. A fine example of how personality politics suppress matters of important policy.

This is the PM's priority policy. And it's based on statistics. It's bad enough that relativity defines 'poverty' but when the relativity is not even reliably measured, policy only deteriorates from bad to worse.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Graph of the Day

(The first bar is 2017; the second, 2018)

Maori now account for the highest share of Jobseeker dependence, reflected in the regional differences.

MSD comments:
We can and must do better to support Māori clients. While there are many programmes and services that are successful in achieving positive outcomes for Māori clients, the outcomes gap between Māori and non-Māori is getting worse. 


Monday, October 29, 2018


MSD has rewritten the old Social Security Act. Today they publish some legislative terminology changes.

Old term     
Attention and supervision substantially in excess of that normally required 
New term
Substantially more attention and supervision than is normally required.
Reason (for change)
Plain English


Old term
Normal functions
New term
Everyday functions
More inclusive language
Is 'normal' ok or not? Probably not but you can't say 'everydayly'.

What concerns me is the time and expense that went into the exercise bearing in mind:

The new Act replaces some outdated terms with more inclusive language and plain English. MSD is updating all its websites, forms and letters with the new terms.

Heavens to Murgatroyd!!

Yikes. That dated expression should no doubt also be 'updated'.

Any ideas for a 'plain English' or 'inclusive' alternative??

Nailing it

Final paragraph from this week's Free Press, ACT's weekly email newsletter nails it:

New Zealand’s real problems are not identity politics, no matter what the left may think. They are that the welfare state has failed. Too many kids don’t get educated. Too many working aged adults are on welfare. Too many are in jail because there is too much crime and they’re never rehabilitated. Housing has gone from a commodity to a ponzi scheme. Our productivity growth is anaemic. With government's and councils’ approach to regulation, it’s amazing anyone still does anything. That’s why we need an ACT Party in New Zealand.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

In general men are physically stronger than women

A fact.

But there are naysayers who will make a gender issue out of practical reality.

This one is lucky she received a personal and polite explanation for why her job application was unsuccessful. That's rare.

And she will find that she has a very long wait in the queue of people complaining to the Human Right's Commission - a highly dysfunctional body.

No, I don't give a fig for enshrined so-called human rights, now so far departed from original intention they provide 'legitimacy' to any and every trivial disgruntlement.

What is wrong with these crybabies?

They seem to live by the letter of bad law.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Benefit sanctions reduce by 36 percent

A thirty six percent reduction in benefit sanctions between the September 2017 and 2018 quarters.

And a 7.4% rise in Jobseeker numbers.

My comment in the Taxpayer's Union recent report into benefit sanctions:

Obligations are a reality in the workplace, in schools and in our relationships. Why wouldn’t they be part of the benefit system? Far from being unfair to beneficiaries they ensure integrity and a level playing field for all who have dealings with Work and Income. Beneficiary advocates should support - rather than oppose - obligations because they build public confidence in the benefit system, lift empathy and regard for those who rely on it, and willingness to pay for it. Most New Zealanders believe in a social safety net but also want to trust that it is not being abused.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Moral standards in politics

It's odd. I've been around politicians. I know they can be coarse of language, and that they try to bend rules within legal bounds.

Why then am I surprised, even shocked by Simon Bridges comportment?

Simon toured NZ telling us what a wholesome family man he is. Ironically the tour's expenses began (reportedly) this vendetta. (Jamie Lee Ross is well beyond the pale and not the focus of my thoughts.)

This now is his biggest problem.

The persona he was at pains to portray is at odds with the man who we now know casually and crassly passes judgement on those who have stood by him.

There is just something missing in him.He's a sham.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Breaking: MSD won't publish latest child poverty rate due to "uncertainty" and "lack of confidence" in data

Big news not reported in mainstream yet.

From the latest Household Incomes Report, (Headline findings), the source of official statistics for child poverty:

The 2018 reports do not publish low-income and material hardship rates for children for 2016 and 2017:
o Last year’s reports noted that several of the key rates for children for 2016 were surprisingly low compared with the relatively flat stable trend for the previous three years and warned against reaching any definitive conclusions on the short-run trends using the 2016 figures. The 2017 figures are much the same as the 2016 figures. There are no known factors in the economy, the housing market or policy change that can explain the falls to 2016 and 2017. While sampling error can account for some of the difference, considerable uncertainty remains.
o Stats NZ is scheduled to report on these statistics for children in their new Child Poverty Report in early 2019, using more up to date survey information, supplemented with administrative data.
o MSD has therefore decided to take a pause on reporting these rates for children in the 2018 reports. Stats NZ supports this cautious approach. 
You can read the Minister's briefing for detailed explanation which essentially blames sampling and non-sampling error. This sums it up:

"...the 2016 and 2017 samples may have some sample bias away
from poorer households with children. As noted above (para 17), one way that sample bias can occur is through non-responders being different from the responders in important ways that are not addressed by standard weighting procedures. If, for example, it proves more difficult to get responses from households with low incomes or high material hardship than it does to get responses from better off households, then the sample is likely to be biased and the bottom end will likely look better off than expected. The investigation to date is not conclusive on this, and does not explain why it suddenly appeared, but it does point to something unusual happening with the samples."
To not publish their data is quite extraordinary though labelled a temporary measure:

44 We have briefed the following parties on the decision to not publish low-income and
hardship rates for children, and the rationale for that decision: your office, DPMC, the Child Poverty Unit, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Minister of Finance’s Office and the
45 The relevant staff at MSD and Stats NZ have also been briefed.

Looks like the media has missed this. As per usual the report was put on the MSD site Friday.

Here's the big deal about this.

If the data can't be relied upon for whatever reason what is the point of the Prime Minister's Child Poverty Reduction Bill? Her self-proclaimed raison d'etre.

Sepuloni says:

This year’s report does not include low-income and material hardship figures for children in 2016 and 2017 because of sizeable changes in levels that officials cannot fully explain, even when the relatively small sample size (3500) is taken into account. More information can be found here
From next year, the Incomes Report will use improved data from Stats NZ. From 2020, it will provide greater precision by drawing on a sample of 20,000 households.

You could draw on 100,000 but if the non-responders are disproportionately poor the results will be skewed. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Taxpayer's Union defends benefit sanctions

The push is on to make getting a benefit and staying on it much easier. That's Labour's idea of 'compassion'. Sir Apirana Ngata would have termed it 'cruelty'.

The Taxpayer's Union released a new report by Jim Rose on Monday this week.

The author takes a straightforward yet quirky and highly readable approach to the subject.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “Beneficiary advocates have good intentions, but their prescriptions – removing requirements to seek work and removing sanctions – are a social and moral failure. The Green Party’s policy to make life on a benefit will simply encourage a culture of welfare dependency and fraud.”
“Rates of welfare fraud are many times higher than most New Zealanders would expect or find acceptable under the current system. The report canvasses the evidence that easing up on sanctions and obligations for beneficiaries would dramatically increase fraud and dependency. That means driving up the cost of the welfare system for taxpayers and leaving less room in the Budget for other forms of social spending.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Explaining the high prison population

The little-known Practice:The New Zealand Corrections Journal, included an interesting but unreported article in its July edition. Below are brief excerpts and a couple of the graphs:

The findings of this paper indicate that New Zealand’s prison population is unusually skewed in terms of sexual and violent offenders...The reasons for this are beyond the scope of this paper and require further research. However, one reason might be that the majority (63%) of sexual offenders in New Zealand prisons are serving sentences greater than five years.

Illustrating the opening observation the next graph shows has much greater proportionally sentencing for  sexual offending is in New Zealand

Given such a high proportion of sexual offenders are in New Zealand prisons, and the fact that they are mostly serving very long sentences, two hypotheses present: that similar offenders in other jurisdictions spend less time in prison, and/or New Zealand has larger numbers of these offenders entering prison....With a high prison population rate, it is clear that some features of crime and justice in New Zealand are problematic. One of these areas is the disproportionate number of people in prison for interpersonal violence. Understanding what drives this requires more research. It may be due to the nature of our judicial settings, it could mean there is a concerted effort to tackle normally under-reported violence, or it may be as a result of some feature of the nature of crime in New Zealand.

Personally I believe our judiciary has clamped down hard on sexual offending and interpersonal  violence (often overlapping or indistinguishable occurrences) because of political ideology (including tough- on- crime and feminist influence - right and left). This may or may not be an over-reaction. Each case has its own characteristics. But just as sure as there are victims on the outside there are some victims on the inside.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

The metamorphosis of social security

The metamorphosis of social security and the growth of expectations and entitlement began early...

 ...and continues

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

How does MSD head get his numbers so wrong?

With the establishment of a new Ministry for Housing and Urban Development the head of MSD is reiterating his department is the first port of call for those needing housing assistance:

"At the Ministry of Social Development we will still provide services such as covering emergency housing costs, providing access to transitional housing, and offering financial assistance such as the accommodation supplement.
"Last year we provided approximately $900 million in rental subsidies for those in need."
Last year MSD spent $1.942 billion on the accommodation supplement and income related rents.

That's a minimum figure for total subsidies. There are other expenses like putting people up in motels ie emergency housing provision.

What is he talking about?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

It's welfare Jim, but not as we know it

Let's be clear. There is no need for active nastiness and degradation in the welfare system. Just an even-handed application of the rules. The  benefit system - an alternative source of income to work - features rules, obligations and consequences for failure to meet them just like the workplace.

But the Greens are kicking off their obligation-free welfare campaign today. They want an open slather welfare system.
The party's own policy includes increases to benefits - particularly for low-income parents with children - and removing all of the financial penalties and sanctions currently in place for failing drug tests, not showing up for appointments, or not applying for jobs.
They call it a benefit system governed by compassion.

For who?

The children of beneficiaries whose parents are being enticed into self-destructive behaviours that currently result in sanctions?

Those working in physically hard jobs, labouring long hours and constantly required to meet demands of their bosses, who are constantly required to meet the demands of ever increasing health and safety bureaucracy? The neighbours of the beneficiaries who do as they please daily?

Victims of the crimes that will no longer risk loss of a benefit?

WINZ case workers who will be expected to dish out benefits and other grants to obvious malingerers?

Genuine users of a system that will engender far more reproach from the general public than in the past?

That's compassion?

The voters are amenable to some ideas. Sometimes they can be persuaded in time. Especially if they actually make sense.

This one? Not a show.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

PM selective on the world stage

According to Scoop:

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner received global recognition when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke about the Office’s work in her speech to the 9th Annual Social Good Summit in New York earlier this week.
As keynote speaker for the summit, hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Prime Minister highlighted the importance of viewing the government’s work “through the lens of children”.
“I was struck by the work of our Children’s Commissioner recently,” Prime Minister Ardern said in her speech....
“It was heart breaking for me to read the comments from children, who even at a young age were choosing not to ask their parents whether they could learn a musical instrument or join a sports team because they knew the cost would be too much."

Children's Commissioner research also found that,

"...many young people explained that because they had grown up in gangs with their natural family or whanau, if they wanted to leave this lifestyle behind this would mean leaving behind their families...Many young people saw gangs as a way of being accepted, a possibility of good times and of not having to live in poverty." [my emphasis]

How does that stack up? Gangs are the best way out of poverty? Join a gang if you want to play the cello? NZ doesn't support the war on drugs because the status quo is putting money into families that need it?

Most recently Jacinda's best shot at 'making NZ the best place in the world for children to grow up in'   - her globally expressed goal - is greater redistribution of tax into beneficiary families, who just happen to include gang families augmenting their illicit income with welfare.

Lack of money is not the problem. That's a misdiagnosis. It is not the cause of New Zealand's internationally high levels of child abuse, neglect, youth suicide and imprisonment.

The poorest families will scrimp and save to give their children opportunities. Immigrants from third world countries come here specifically to ensure their children will have educational opportunities and brighter futures despite their own inability to earn more than very modest incomes. And they succeed.

They don't fail their children because they are constantly told they have an excuse: that they are poor because someone else is rich.

Ardern does the country no favours internationally or domestically constantly talking up child poverty. Again, it's a misdiagnosis of what it actually severely hampering the outcomes of around 5 percent of NZ children.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

"The blame must stop if we're to break the cycle of family violence"

It's a shame Maanki cannot put her full name to her writing. Nevertheless, that does not detract from the compelling nature of the words. In amidst so much media dribble and dross of late, this is a gem:

OPINION: I am Māori. Tuhinga o mua Ngāti Hāmua a Te Hika a Pāpāuma. Ko taku iwi Ngāti Kahungunua a Rangitāne.

I am Scottish, I am English, I am a New Zealander. I am not defined by the colour of my skin.

I am a victim.

I did not choose to be a victim.

I am a victim of my father's hand. My father was brought up on the Pahiatua Marae. His mother was young, she became a victim of a kaumatua's violence. He was conceived by violence, a tamaiti (child) of rape. The rapist was a family member.

My father was taken from his mother, away from his whānau, his iwi and his marae after his father was incarcerated. He went on to live in state care until a foster family was found. My father was taught violence by the people who were supposed to protect and nurture him. Anger followed him, the violence forever ingrained in his heart. He knew right from wrong, he had a choice. He did not stop the cycle of abuse, and he punished me for the actions of his past.

I was a child when it started, an adult when it stopped. Like his father, he was incarcerated for crimes of child abuse, violence and rape. I did not choose to be a victim, but I chose not to harm others. I broke the ongoing cycle of generational abuse. The cycle of abuse that was carried through three generations of Māori stopped with me.

"Take care of our children. Take care of what they hear, take care of what they feel. For how the children grow, so will be the shape of Aotearoa." Dame Whina Cooper. Mohio ana ahau ko wai ahau, e mohio ana ahau ki te wahi e tu ana ahau. Me puta te huringa – I know who I am, I know where I stand. Change must happen.

At the recent Justice Summit in Wellington,  Cabinet minister Kelvin Davis shared these words: "As Māori we need to take care of our own, rather than closing our doors. We need to face up to and free ourselves from the violence that many of our people, our whānau, struggle with."

If we want to see fewer Māori in prison, our whānau broken apart because dad is in prison and mum is now in rangi (heaven), we must free ourselves and our whānau from the increasing level of domestic violence and abuse in our homes. The drugs must stop, the high level of drinking and violence among our own must be gone.

How many of our fathers are incarcerated, because their fathers taught them the only way to deal with anger was violence, to punch their way through a situation. How many of our whānau have lost a mother, a child, a brother from our people's own hand.

The blame needs to stop. It is not the police, the system, the state, the Government, the justice system or even the Pākehā who made a man beat his wife to death, to rape an innocent stranger, to murder their own child or to sexually abuse a daughter or son.

No, it was a choice, a choice made by a perpetrator. Māori make  up 51 per cent of the male prison population, and 60 per cent of the female muster.

No child asks to be harmed, nor to watch their dads beating their mums. If we were all true to our Māori traditions, our tikanga respecting the mothers of our children, our whānau, our honour, keeping our whānau safe would be paramount. Māori need to take an honest inward look at their own ongoing behaviours first. Our children need to have the chance to grow up safe, educated and free from violence.

Davis went on to say: "We need to do something together to create a different future for Māori and for their whānau."

This cycle needs to stop. The men, the fathers, the grandfathers, the elders in prison who have abused their own need to stand up, take ownership and responsibility and say "Enough". No more blaming everybody and everything for the crimes offenders have chosen to commit.

Prison is a punishment for those who have committed crimes; prison is not based on the colour of your skin. If you are sent to prison it is because you committed a crime, a choice made only by you.

To see a future with fewer Māori men and Māori women in prison will take more than talks and hui. It starts with Māori, rethinking and reteaching the respect, the whakaute, to our children and to one another. It will be a hard, long road but one that will benefit out future generations, to help our tamariki grow not as offenders, but strong, happy iwi that will have a positive influence on future generations to come.

Hapaitia tea ra tika pumua ai te rangatiratanga mo nga uri whakatipu – Foster the pathway of knowledge and strength, independence and growth for future generations.

* Maanki is a victim advocate.

 - The Dominion Post

Dear Editor

At last. Someone who gets it. Victim's advocate, Maanki (Blame must stop if we're to break family violence cycle, DomPost September 26) understands that offenders have to own their offending to stop their behaviour. Blaming extraneous forces for personal violence prevents this from happening. Sentencing discounts for cultural background conflict with this reality. Whether the offender is Maori or non-Maori, only they can decide to change. Making excuses for why people offend only makes it easier for them to continue.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Benefits are too low?

The Child Poverty Action Group said today that core benefits need to rise by 20 percent (doubtlessly timed to guilt-trip JA telling America she wants NZ to be the best place in the world to raise children.)

Below are two slides from my recent presentation to the 2018 ACT conference. I was at pains to point out that these are not 'apples with apples' comparisons but intended to provide context for the claim that benefits are too low.

NB. The second slide is taken from Statistics NZ. In Auckland the median rises to $1,010 weekly.

I use these slides not to argue that benefits should be cut but to explain why single parents default to and get trapped on them, along with their children.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Discounting sentences

Judges can discount a prison sentence due to "Maori cultural background and deprivation". In my paper regarding Imprisonment and Family Structure I briefly touched on the possibility (and evidence of) bias working against Maori in the justice system. I do not reject the notion. But this is clearly bias working for Maori. In the case outlined in today's DomPost a Maori female stabbed her partner multiple times. She received a 30% discount on her sentence for cultural reasons. The Crown appealed because it considered the discount too large.

The High Court ruled against the appeal.

"The judge [Justice Whata] noted the disproportionate number of Maori imprisoned and said the effects of colonisation were well-documented."
So it's official. This is what we tell Maori criminals. That at least some part of the blame for their offending is actually the fault of Pakeha ancestors. Who by the way are also their own ancestors.

Here's a thought. The quickest way to reduce the prison population would be to discount sentences up to 100% due to cultural background. Don't laugh. Nothing can be ruled out in this creeping, twisted travesty of apologism.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Jacinda's latest speech

I could find nothing to say about it.

But ACT has and it's worth repeating:

What Did She Say?
Ardern wants a growing economy that is working for all of us, wellbeing for New Zealanders and their families, and a country we can be proud of....

How to Tell if a Policy is Absurd
If the opposite of a policy sounds absurd, then the policy is absurd. Who would campaign for a shrinking economy that doesn’t work, misery for New Zealanders and their families, and a country we should be ashamed of on the global stage? The opposite of ACT’s policies are more state control in education, heavier handed regulation of the economy, higher levels of taxation and Government expenditure, and more Government ownership. All inferior opposites of ACT’s actual policies, but not absurd.

Friday, September 14, 2018

"Unobtainable dream"

"There was a time, in the not-so distant past, when housing was affordable and buying a house to raise your family was not the unobtainable dream it is today."

Source for both.

Is the text really an objective reflection of the facts?

The increase through the 1970s and 80s was significantly driven by State Advance loans and the ability to capitalise on Family Benefit. That particularly helped Maori and Pacific families with typically more children. But the boon for large families has also turned into a negative factor in that one family home cannot be passed to 6 or 7 children nor shared inherited wealth stretch to affording home ownership.

But a 10% fall in home ownership over thirty years is not an irretrievable disaster. Neither is it unique to NZ. The UK, the US, and Australia all have similar current rates and all have fallen over the past decades.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

WINZ: People believe what they want to

“The Ministry … gets most aspects of service right, for most clients, most of the time. Most clients we spoke with said that good case managers had made a real difference to their lives. When something goes wrong, the Ministry provides clients with good opportunities to seek redress, and the Ministry works well with those who advocate on behalf of clients.”
                        Office of the Auditor General, December 2014

April 2018, MSD Minister, Carmel Sepuloni says the culture at Work and Income is “toxic”:

“The culture under National was to make it as difficult as possible for people to be able to access what they were entitled to at Work and Income, and now our job is to turn that around.”
                              Carmel Sepuloni, Newshub, April 28, 2018

Clearly they can't both be right. 

But people will believe the one they want to. Like this guy writing in today's NZ Herald about what NZ would be like if National had won the election:

 "Beneficiaries would continue to have it pretty bad, with tough sanctions remaining and a mentality from WINZ to cut benefits where possible."
He has ignored that National increased benefits for those with children.

According to MSD  “Exit rates for clients without children are outpacing those for clients with children...the gap is continuing to widen over time . This correlates with changes in benefit policy that increased income for clients with children.” People staying on a benefit when unskilled work is plentiful doesn't point to having it "pretty bad".

He has also ignored that sanctions are entirely avoidable.

People believe what they want to and I am no exception, though I cast around for various evidence and weigh it up. The truth, at an individual level anyway, usually lies somewhere between two extremes.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Helen Clark lives in another world

"Men who hit women are really expressing a view, a feeling, that women are inferior to them, and they can do whatever they want," Ms Clark said.
What, then, are men who hit men feeling?

What are men who hit women in self-defense feeling?

Does she understand that outward behaviour is often a culmination of inward anger?

Does she have any idea what Alan Duff's theory of self-hatred means?

Has she any idea about men who are at their lowest ebb ever? Or, in her world, can males, by virtue of being males, never reach the lowest ebb?

I wish she would go away.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Top ten public housing areas

Below are the top ten areas for public housing in New Zealand. I have graphed the area followed by the region it lies in. The highest public housing area is Christchurch City but that is mainly because it holds most of the region's - Canterbury - share within the city area. The Auckland region, conversely, has over 30,000 leases but they are spread over many areas. What surprised me was that Lower Hutt City has the 4th largest number in the country.

There are 67,228 current leases and the government plans to add a further 6,400 by June 2022.

They'll need them the way they are pissing landlords off.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Driver licensing programmes show positive results

Having just reflected on the cost of reviewing welfare and whanau ora at $2.9 million, here's a better use for that money. Driver licensing programmes:

Just released research shows that these programmes are having a positive effect:



We compared a group of driver licensing programme participants who completed the programme in 2014 and 2015 with a similar group in the beneficiary population. We found that, over 18 months:

- 30 percent of participants held a full licence compared with 17 percent of the comparison group
participants spent an average of 20 additional days in employment (while off benefit), relative to the comparison group

- participants earned an average of $3,000 more from employment, relative to the comparison group
participants did not spend more time being independent on welfare assistance, suggesting participants continued to receive some form of income assistance while participating in the programme

- while having a driver licence may help people access education, there was no impact on people’s education outcomes

- there was no observed difference in the rate of offending or time spent in the Department of Corrections’ system between the two groups.

- While there is a correlation between participating in a programme and these outcomes, we cannot draw a conclusive direct causal effect from this analysis. There will be other factors, including participant’s individual motivation, which could impact their outcomes.

We continue to fund driver licensing programmes for people on a benefit. This evaluation confirms that there are likely employment and income benefits for people who complete the programmes.


A cost/benefit analysis may find these programmes wanting, but their outcomes are still more worthy than redundant reviews.

The numbers going through them could be quadrupled or more.

Welfare review alone is costing over $2 million

TV1 says the government is spending $170 million on reviews. The government has refused to comment beyond saying it is far, far less.

I can't speak for the rest but I do know that the welfare review is costing $2.1 million.

The estimated total cost of the group for the welfare overhaul for 2017/18 and 2018/19 is $2.1 million. 


In a related area, the Whanau Ora review is estimated to cost between $700,000 and $800,000.

Context: $2,900,000 would cover over 7,500 winter heating payments for families with children.

Damien Grant: Prison does not change you – I know from personal experience

Opinion from today's Sunday Star Times:

OPINION: It is hard to go to prison in New Zealand. It took me several attempts but I was finally successful and enjoyed a delightful time touring our penal archipelago in my twenties. Sadly, despite this hands-on insight into the criminal mind, I was not invited to the Justice Summit held in Porirua.

From the media reports over-representation of Māori in custody was a major focus. There are many reasons given for this. Colonialism. Racism. Poverty. The lack of free-to-air Rugby.

A wise person will look beyond race and seek a better explanation. Thankfully we have the dedicated researcher Lindsay Mitchell who has done just that. In a report for Family First published earlier this year she pulls no punches: "A sharp increase in unmarried births during the 1960s correlates markedly with a later rise in the imprisonment rate. Ex-nuptial births made up 79 percent of total Māori births in 2017. For non-Māori, the corresponding figure was 34 percent."

There are a number of causes of this disruption of the traditional nuclear family. Several government agencies point to the rapid urbanisation of Māori in the post-war period but another reason, affecting all races, has been the expanding availability of welfare that makes being a solo parent economically viable, though not especially comfortable.

Very few people's fertility decisions are influenced by the economics of welfare, but some are, and a disturbing number of their children end up in prison. Today there are nearly 59,000 people on a sole-parent benefit, 10,000 of them under 24 and almost half of these are Māori.

That's the cohort where the next generation of prison inmates are coming. Welfare is handed down from parent to child like a poisoned heirloom and nearly 5000 benefits a year are cancelled because the beneficiary is entering prison.

The cause and effect is obvious but Andrew Little and his coterie of advisors only want explanations that are politically palatable. They will not make the hard choices required to get young people off the welfare addiction that is a key factor in our rising crime rates.

I ended my penal tour, after 16 months, no better or worse than when it began. Prison does not change you. It is not a laboratory for crime and it offers no paths for redemption for people who do not want to alter their life's trajectory. It is simply the price we pay for a failed welfare experiment that we lack the courage to end.

The decision to downgrade the Waikeria mega-prison is a mistake. We will need more prisons in the decades to come, not fewer.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Suicide rate continues to increase

The coroner has just released suicide statistics for the period June 2017 to June 2018.

A stand out is the increase in females who have suicided, up by 44 on the previous year.

And I can't help but notice this coincides with the sharp rise in female prison inmates.

Why are (some) women getting more desperate? Is that even the right question?

I've graphed the yearly (June to June) rate:

Monday, August 20, 2018

Half of Maori prisoners are Ngapuhi?

That's the claim by Minister for Corrections, Kelvin Davis. The question mark is mine. RNZ reports:

Mr Davis said Māori make up over 50 percent of the prison population, and he wants that number reduced.
"Of that 50 percent, half again, are from Ngāpuhi, my own tribe, so this is personal.
That's news to me.

At June 2015 only half of Maori inmates expressed an affiliation.

Of these 24% are Ngapuhi.

At the 1999 prison census Ngapuhi made up 17% of sentenced prisoners and 20% of rendered prisoners. So the percentage is rising.But not fast enough to be at half in 2018.

There may be many more prisoners who express an affiliation with Ngapuhi but not as their primary. Also many who have an affiliation but clearly aren't expressing it.

But what does Mr Davis know that the rest of us don't?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Matters regarding Family Violence

There's a report at the NZ Herald about family violence. It's come from NewstalkZB:

Figures released to Mike Hosking Breakfast under the Official Information Act show police launched 121,739 thousand family violence investigations last year - or 333 a day.....Yet as those numbers increase, the number of apprehensions and prosecutions is trending down with 16,764 prosecutions made last year – down more than 2500 from 2008. 
I had to read the report twice cause I couldn't understand the point they were trying to make. Why?

Look at the table they made:

Coincidentally, directly before reading this I was chewing through a research report into Pacific family violence.

Amazingly reference is made to 'family structure' being a contributor:

Changes in traditional family structures and dynamics that may contribute to violence in Pacific families include an increase in single-parent households and the absence of
fathers (and male role models) within the immediate family structure (Pacific Advisory Group, 2009). 
That's highly unusual from anything funded or published by MSD.

Also of interest, the Pacific authors make a point not often heard that 'Pacific people' are grouped together but comprise seven different island groups that do not necessarily share homogeneous cultural or belief systems which results in differing behaviours. Highlighting that is a graph that shows how varying the types of family violence are across the different groups:

(Left click on image to enlarge)

Update: The NZ Herald table has now been corrected.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Not naming fathers a "rort"

MEDIA RELEASE: Not naming fathers a "rort"

MSD Minister Carmel Sepuloni, and Green Party MP Jan Logie are promulgating misinformation about sanctioning mothers who won't name the fathers of their children.

The sanction, which takes around $28 from beneficiary mothers who do not provide the name of the father, is neither cruel nor excessive. If the mother fears risk of violence from a named father, Work and Income already provides an exemption. The Work and Income manual clearly states:

'Your benefit payments may be reduced if you don’t legally identify the other parent or apply for Child Support. In some situations you may not need to do this, for example if you or your child would be at risk of violence. Work and Income can tell you more about this.'

Minister Sepuloni has been advised by MSD:

'Repealing Section 70a could provide an incentive for clients not to apply for Child Support and establish private arrangements with the other parent. This is because clients would retain their full benefit rate and receive the child support paid privately.'

The previous Labour government acknowledged this practice and labelled it a 'rort'. Former MSD Minister Steve Maharey said in 2004,

'It is a rort, and I have said time and time again in this Parliament that fathers must front up to their obligations, and we will make sure they do, as much as we can...It is not unreasonable to expect that single parents bringing up children on their own identify who  in law is the other parent, or to expect that they seek financial support for the child from the other parent. It is not unreasonable to penalise financially those who do not.'

The current government has shifted a long way from their predecessor's position with no good reason.

Whatever fathers do not pay for their children, someone else will have to.

Carmel Sepuloni needs to explain why this is fair.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

More children being added to a Sole Parent benefit

MEDIA RELEASE: More children being added to a Sole Parent benefit

Data released under the Official Information Act shows that more beneficiaries on Sole Parent Support are adding children to their existing benefit.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell says, "The number of children being added to a Sole Parent benefit has risen from 5,384 in 2013 to 6,584 in 2017 - a 22% increase."

The number of children who are dependent on any benefit by the end of their birth year has also recently increased.

"At the end of  2017,  beneficiaries responsible for a child born that year numbered 9,810  - an average of 817 a month. But in the six months to June 2018 that average grew to 937 per month. A 15% increase."

The Ministry of Social Development links lower exits from benefits to higher payments for beneficiary families with children. Staying on a benefit and possibly adding a child is a behavioural response to more money.

The National government lifted basic benefit rates for families with children in 2016. Labour has since lifted Family Tax Credits for children of beneficiaries and introduced Best Start - a further $60 weekly payment for newborns in workless homes.

Children long-term dependent on benefits are far more likely to be abused or neglected; far more likely to grow up to be reliant on a benefit themselves and more likely to receive a community or custodial sentence.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Jobs scheme: just another episode in a long-running saga

Hold on to your hats. Another new scheme has just been announced by the Labour government:

Mana in Mahi - Strength in Work will pay a wage subsidy to employers willing to hire a person receiving a main income support benefit, and offer that person an industry training qualification.
I'm underwhelmed.

This latest 'initiative' by Labour, specifically Andrew Little, is a big yawn. The country has' been there, done that' so many times before. Think 'Compass',  'Community Wage' and 'Jobs Jolt' operating respectively at the middle, end of the nineties and mid-2000s.

In fact we are doing it right now. It's called Flexi-wage subsidy:
If you're interested in hiring one of our candidates, but they need support to gain the required skills for the job, we may be able to help with a subsidy for things like training or mentoring.
Get Jacinda, stealing the limelight yet again,  in the fluro vest no less,  making another grand gesture to her demographic.

You can fool some of the people some of the time....

Thursday, August 09, 2018


What is this word now oft repeated to mean something of which I am unaware.  I could google it but some responses from people 'like me' (indulge me) would indicate that they at least get it, and I'm off the pace.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Drug-testing beneficiaries - suspend the sanctioning policy?

The NZ Herald reports:
Last year, there were 31,791 referrals for drug testable positions nationwide and just 55 sanctions for failing a drug test, according to Ministry of Social Development (MSD) figures.
 Seem low to you? No mention of sanctions for refusing to take a drug test.

The article highlights some reasons why the number could be 'artificially' low including people switching to drugs that are non-detectable, or many people's main employability problem being alcohol which won't necessarily lead to failing a drug test.

From the file of ‘unintended consequences’, a 2016 government report released under the OIA noted that, “There has also been anecdotal evidence that increased testing has led to employees and job seekers using drugs that have a shorter detection time but are more harmful.” 

But consider this:
Beneficiaries diagnosed with drug dependency would not be sanctioned under the policy, but would receive the support they needed to deal with their addiction, [MSD representative] said.
There are thousands of beneficiaries who will never be put forward for jobs that require drug-testing because they have a primary incapacity of substance abuse.

Here's the interesting thing though. They have decreased in numbers. The source for this data is my own and one other OIA request.

The number rose through Labour's last term (while unemployment fell) and has dropped under National.

A 'tougher' but more practical approach may be the driver of this fall. (Or the problem could still be there and hidden under other incapacity categories eg psychological and psychiatric conditions which risen 11% since June 2008.)

But that very few people receiving a benefit fail a drugs test is not reason to do away with the sanctions. Nobody should be able to render themselves unable to work and expect to live off taxpayer funding.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

How lies get legs

My last post highlighted how Simon Wilson claimed in a column in today's NZ Herald that the average teacher age in New Zealand is 57.

Next on The Nation this morning the interviewer repeated this to the the Minister who made no denial:

That’s true, and we will get to those. We’re talking about the level of remuneration right now. Under your offer, how much will an average teacher get extra?
It depends, because through the Ministry of Education, the offer has been loaded up at the beginning-teacher salary rate. So a beginning teacher, for example, stands to gain almost 15 per cent increase over three years. Those more experienced teachers would get less under the offer that’s on the table at the moment.

And the majority of those teachers are the more experienced teachers. The average age is 57 or something like that. They’re higher into the pay scale. So do you know how much they’re going to get?
Again, it depends on where they’re at on the salary scale, but also about 40 per cent of primary school teachers are earning over the top of the salary scale because they have additional allowances or additional management units or whatever. So it’s quite difficult to put nice clean numbers on it, because the pay scale and the pay system for teachers is quite a complex one.

This morning I linked to data from 2008 which showed the average age was 44.5.

After further probing I have data from the OECD showing the average teacher age in 2015 was 45. What you would expect based on the 2008 number. At this rate, the average age won't be 57 until 2183 AD.... or thereabouts.

My guess is that The Nation presenter simply repeated what he read in the NZ Herald.

Like Chinese whispers.

Don't worry about facts - just rage

Don't think I have come across this commentator before - Simon Wilson writing in the NZ Herald. All gloom and doom and crisis, crisis.


"Council of Trade Unions (CTU) economist Bill Rosenberg calls it a "hollowing out of the wage scale". Inequality is growing and the people taking the biggest hit are those in the middle and the lower middle. Mostly, that includes self-employed people.

It's worse for non-working beneficiaries. We don't have a DPB (Domestic Purposes Benefit) any more, but there is an equivalent payment package in the benefit system.

Rosenberg has calculated that even if we raised that payment by 25 per cent, it would still be no higher, in relation to the average wage, than the level it was cut to in 1991. For the single unemployed and invalids, benefits would need to rise by even more."

But is it facile to talk about just the benefit payment when there are other substantial add-ons. Someone who has a baby and is on a benefit now receives $151 a week for that child. If they have other children  they will receive substantial further payments for each child and,  and if they live in Auckland, can claim up to $305 in accommodation supplement.

As for overall income inequality you don't have to understand all the jargon and workings. If you can tell whether a trendline is going up or down you can see that the official stats show that inequality is not rising.

And he hasn't got other facts right.

For instance he says:

"The average age of teachers is 57.5 years."

He is so out of touch and would know this if he spent any time around primary schools.

The following pertains to 2008 but in it inconceivable such a massive change would have occurred since:

"...the average age of teachers has remained relatively steady at 44 for the past eight years; for the current period the average age is 44.5 years."

On his wish-list he writes:

"So what's next? What about Children First? A programmatic approach that says we identify what children need, from conception, make sure they have somewhere to live where they are warm, dry, safe and preferably loved, and wrap the services around them that will allow them to prosper ... through pre-school and school and into tertiary education or work, and especially if they are abused at home, if they have mental health issues, if they get in trouble with the law."

Identifying and targeting is exactly what  Bill English was doing. It is exactly what Whanau Ora services are doing right now.

"There is rage in the world. Rage in this country too. The big task for Jacinda Ardern and her Government is to set us on a path where hope subsumes the rage."

Yes. I get pretty annoyed when I read hyperbole unsupported by facts.

And here comes a cheer leader:

It may be a "good" overview if it confirms lazy prejudices but it is not an honest overview.


"Years of neglect and our schools are now in crisis" he writes.

Even Chris Hipkins, on telly, has just denied that the education sector is "in crisis".