Friday, November 15, 2019

Is having to feed kids breakfast at school cause for celebration?

MSD thinks so:

The KickStart Breakfast programme will tomorrow celebrate 10-years as the only national breakfast programme of its kind in Aotearoa, serving more than 30 million breakfasts since 2009.

73% of Northland schools participate down to 26% in Canterbury.

Now this government 's goal is to replicate the dependency on lunches as well.

Truly aspirational.

Monday, November 11, 2019

If only Huntaways could vote

Switch on the computer this morning and  kick off with the really important stuff - an article  and short movie about my favourite dog - the Huntaway (mine waits impatiently as I write to get out and into it, despite the foul weather). Designed to run up to 20km a day, they relish their work, their freedom to work and purpose.

Feeling cheery I move on to an opinion piece by David Seymour at Magic Talk.

While encouraged to see him published for wider consumption, as I read it I am reminded about how bad this government - and National - really are. As well as last week's Zero Carbon abomination,

In ‘Red October’ last year, it was left to ACT to vote against the entire Parliament on three issues. Market studies legislation gives massive powers to bureaucrats at the Commerce Commission to demand sensitive commercial information from entire industries even if no allegation of uncompetitive behaviour has been made. The Prime Minister’s child poverty legislation focuses on inequality (and therefore ‘fixing’ it with income redistribution) rather than child poverty and neglect. ‘Equal pay’ legislation gives courts the power to decide how much workers in entire industries get paid.
Aside from a few brave academics and activists, we’ve been the only voice against new restrictions on what New Zealanders are legally allowed to say. Freedom of expression is important because it respects the fact that every one of us has a unique view of the world and because it allows us to make progress on difficult social issues.
Only ACT said ‘no’ to the first tranche of firearms legislation because it treated firearms owners with contempt and because rushed law is bad law. We are now seeing the consequences – just 32,000 of perhaps 240,000 firearms have been handed in to Police.

Matthew Hooton made mention of UMR polling last week finding ACT pushing 3 percent.It is probably premature to get excited about doubling (or more) their 2017 vote.

But as Seymour says, "...we believe in a free society..." They appear to be the only party in parliament that truly does right now. And they need support.

If only Huntaways could vote.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Home ownership falls but barely

Over recent years the narrative amongst the media has been 'falling home ownership'. Today in Stuff Susan Edmonds writes:

"According to the 2018 census, only 64.5 per cent of New Zealanders own their own home, compared to nearly 74 per cent in the early 1990s."

Note the front page of Stuff  says an economist blames "greedy" boomers.

The rather more tempered headline reads, "Home ownership at lowest level in 70 years, economist says Baby Boomers to blame." I wonder if he actually used the word "greedy"?

In fact the rate is down by 0.3% since 2013 - a much smaller change then between previous census takes. From Stats NZ:

"By 2013, home ownership had fallen to 64.8 percent of households – the lowest rate since 1951 (when 61.5 percent of private dwellings were owned)."

It's possible the downward trend is arresting.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Single parents better off in work

Yesterday Statistics NZ released results from the General Social Survey which asks respondents whether they have enough money to meet everyday needs. Here is the result by family type for 'Not enough money'

The accompanying text reads:

"The proportion of single parents who felt they didn’t have enough money to meet everyday needs decreased from over one-third (36 percent) in 2008 to around one-quarter (24 percent) in 2018 – the biggest decrease of any family type."
There is a very strong correlation with the numbers on the DPB (which became Single Parent Support in 2013).

Obviously the strengthening economy after the GFC has provided more jobs. But also Bill English realised that is was just as important to focus on parents on benefits as it was the single unemployed. In fact probably more important as their well-being would effect the next generation.

Unfortunately between September 2018 and 2019 the numbers rose for the first time since 2010. They went from 58,620 to 59,715 - a 1.9% increase.

I hope that we are not looking at a future where more single parents will be saying they don't have enough money to cover their costs because of the current government's attitude to welfare.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Housing waiting list increased 139% since September 2017

Just released 139 percent increase.

Update on child poverty statistics

The Child Poverty Action Group is holding a summit later this month. This statement is from the release about it:

Late into 2019, 174,000 children living in the most impoverished, desperate situations are yet to see any real gain.
It is quite incorrect to say "late into 2019" and put a number on it. But thanks anyway for prompting me to update myself on where the statistics are at.

Statistics NZ says:
"We have made improvements to the data source for measuring child poverty in the future, including increasing the sample size from between 3,000 and 5,500 to 20,000 households. These improvements were implemented in the 2018/19 HES, which is collected between July 2018 and June 2019. First child poverty results from this survey will be available early in 2020."
The figure of 174,000 is for the year ending June 2018. The definition for this group is:

 h) Percentage of children living in households in New Zealand in each financial year who fell in: Low income: less than 40% median equivalised disposable household income after housing costs (AHC) for the financial year
But there are multiple measures of poverty. Here's another:

i) Percentage of children living in households in
New Zealand in each financial year who fell in: Severe material hardship 

That number is 65,000

As that is the lowest number by any measure, these must be the "most impoverished".

You can find the various measures here.

They comprise a) through to j) 

The numbers range from  65,000 to 341,000

By 7 out of 9 measures (there is no d) table) child poverty grew between 2017 and 2018.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Are benefits protection money?

I heard Kim Workman expressing a view this morning that withholding benefits from gangs would result in more crime.

He may well be right.

But is that what Mickey Savage's grand and noble idea has come to? That benefits are now paid as protection money to some individuals or groups to ward off violence and lawbreaking?

Maybe a society could live with such an arrangement if it worked.

But it doesn't. The crime gets committed anyway.

If we want to reduce crime, by Mr Workman's logic, gang members should be paid more.

The tragic thing is that many current politicians actually believe and want that. If we just pay the unemployed and the unemployable more, Aotearoa will become some sort of nirvana. A shining beacon of social justice.

They are dangerous delusionists.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

"Welfare crackdown"

Couple of quick points.

Stuff is reporting that Labour abolished the sanction for not naming the father of a child on a benefit and that National would reverse this.

The removal of the sanction does not kick in till April 2020. Hasn't happened yet.

Also reported is National's plan to apply "money management " to beneficiaries under 20. This already happens. Introduced under the last National government.

The idea to withhold benefits from non-vaccinaters has been proposed repeatedly in the past. The problem seems to be if something untoward happens to a child post a vaccination received purely because the parent needed to retain their benefit, 'enforced' by the state, what responsibility does the state bear? This could be argued much further re what is and isn't a 'choice.'

But from a philosophical viewpoint, anti-vaxers rely on the herd immunity without contributing to it. Should they be allowed to rely on the herd's financial safety net without making that contribution?

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Towards a Code of Social and Family Responsibility - Mark II

National is revisiting the past with its 'Social Services - Discussion Document.'

When Jenny Shipley was Prime Minister,

" February 1998 the Department [of Social Welfare] distributed copies of a discussion document to all 1.4 million households in the country. Towards a Code of Social and Family Responsibility described current laws and the role of government in relation to eleven issues, and posed questions that were intended to prompt discussion and stimulate feedback... John Angus and Maree Brown, the senior DSW officials responsible for analysing much of the public reaction to the Code, concluded that many of the negative responses were related less to the content of the proposal than to distrust of the government's motives. "
It is wearisome when you have followed political responses to social problems for so long.  The politicians come and go. The issues remain.

Can't help but conclude that working groups and public consultations are not much more than avoidance tactics.

Gangs are not good for children

If National comes out promising to attack gang welfare dependency you can bet your bottom dollar the Left will counter with, "But what about the children?"

The Left is as prone to manipulating children as pawns in their pro-welfare arguments as the gangs are in using them as meal tickets.

Just remember when you start hearing the objections:

The vast majority of adult gang members have received a main benefit. 62 percent for 5 or more years. Over half (59 percent or 2,337) of all gang members had benefit spells that included dependent children, either with or without a partner.

This will not include those children on a sole parent benefit whose mother is the main recipient.

Sixty percent of the 5,890 children of gang members have been abused or neglected. The alleged perpetrator of abuse or neglect was more often recorded as the children’s mother than the gang member.
How can anyone advance an argument that the taxpayer should continue to fund an environment that is so bad for children?

Statistical source

Monday, October 28, 2019

Why you can't trust RNZ

Last week I blogged about RNZ skewing benefit numbers.

Now they have just posted a report about National criticising the rise in Jobseeker numbers.

Spot the problem?

Thursday, October 24, 2019

MSD: no desired outcomes achieved

The MSD Annual Report has just been published.

No desired outcome achieved.

All against a backdrop of lowest unemployment in 11 years.

But wait. There's some good news. 

MSD has achieved greater gender diversity than the rest of the public service and NZ workforce:

Public too ignorant to own their own lives

Alex Penk from the Maxim Institute had an opinion piece regarding the proposed End of Life referendum, MPs are paid, and better equipped, to make these decisions,  published in Tuesday's DomPost.

My response:

I was surprised that 70 percent of the politicians who voted against a referendum were National MPs.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

RNZ badly skews benefit numbers

According to Radio NZ:
There are still 109,000 people in New Zealand on a benefit, out of work. Fifty-two percent of those people have either a disability, health or mental health issue; or are caring for someone who does.
Here is the current situation:

I have tried to understand how the RNZ reporter came up with the 109,000 statistic. One possibility is the reporter referred only to Jobseeker beneficiaries and excluded those working part-time; that someone gave her unpublished data.

However she includes in her definition those 'caring for someone' with a disability. They receive the Supported Living Payment (SLP) which appears  missing from her statistic.

It is true that 44% of people receiving the Jobseeker benefit have an injury or health or disability condition but it is expected they will return to work. Those on SLP are not expected to work though some do want to, to the extent that they are able.

Those relying on the Sole Parent Support (SPS) have also been totally ignored in her statistic. Today it is the norm for mothers with children to work. When their youngest is three SPS beneficiaries have part-time work obligation which many do not meet. So surely many in this group are also "on a benefit, out of work".

RNZ is a strange outfit. Note they include in the broadcast soundbites of Mike Hosking railing against growing jobseeker numbers then run a piece dominated by Carmel Sepuloni. It's like pro-government propaganda.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Duration on dole

Over at Kiwi Blog a commentor has posted on a discussion about the rising dole numbers:

I would suggest the problem is with the long term unemployed. According to this article 13.27% of our unemployed have been without work for a year or more. This puts us at the better end of the OECD spectrum and far ahead of a lot of European countries and the UK.
From what I’ve heard 90% of unemployed are reemployed within six months.
This would suggest that most people are out of work not because they want to slack around.

I like this kind of comment because it is at least backed up by a source. Trouble is another source, MSD, provides a completely different statistic. My response:

The top number is those who have been on the dole (Jobseeker benefit) for a year or less and the bottom number is for more than a year.
55% long-term unemployed
For all main benefits 71% for been dependent for more than a year.

I checked the source of the OECD data. It is as I expected the HLFS:
The length of time (to reference week) since worked for pay or profit. Duration of "Less than one month" refers to the duration of unemployment during the previous four weeks, including the survey reference week.
This is a sample survey and relies on self-reporting. It is also the source of our official unemployment rate. The publicly available data does not include that which the OECD is using.

But the commentor indirectly raises an issue which I mentioned to Mike Hosking. There will be people on the Jobseeker benefit who are working a few hours but not enough to get off the benefit completely.  This might account at least in part for the discrepancy between the two long-term unemployed percentages presented by two different sources.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The moral imperative to work

I had a discussion with Mike Hosking on NewstalkZB yesterday about why the numbers on Jobseeker continue to escalate. There are at least a couple of trends driving it but Mike was more interested in the political aspect.
Listen here

Host Kerre McIvor played a part of the interview and ran with it after 9. People were almost unanimously in her corner. That if you can work you have a moral imperative to do so.

It struck me later that National's welfare reforms have had one very interesting effect. Because so many more people are classified as  'Jobseekers' (those who used to be on a sickness benefit and those who would have been on the DPB even when their youngest was 14 or over), now that the unemployment rate is at only 3.9% the public is far less tolerant.

Remember that when Labour was last in govt and unemployment dropped to 3.8% in 2008, the same % of people were on welfare - just spread mainly over the other three benefits - DPB, Sickness and Invalid. So the argument about working and supporting oneself was muddied.

I don't know if this consequence was intended by National but it certainly makes the argument more black and white. The lack of workers in many industries and regions is holding back growth. An unjustifiable scenario with so many people receiving the dole.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Sean Plunket interviews Jim Flynn

Yesterday Sean Plunket interviewed Jim Flynn on Magic Talk and it was a fascinating 15 minutes. 

Flynn left the US to escape the persecution under McCarthyism so full well knows the experience of being shut down (or worse)  for beliefs. He talks here about that but also other scholars with whom he disagrees, the likes of Charles Murray, a "very nice man" who he regularly corresponds with. Another in danger of becoming a 'non-person' for his ideas.

He also talks about his specialist subject, 'intelligence' and what he thinks has happened to our collective intelligence that people have become less tolerant of alternative ideas. From memory described heightened sensitivity as a key driver.

And of course he discusses what his forthcoming book is about. Sounds like some Women's Studies departments on US campuses are fortresses of fundamentalist feminism. Otago's isn't he reassures.

This is really worth a listen:

"University of Otago emeritus professor Jim Flynn joins Sean Plunket on Magic Afternoons to discuss his book, ‘In Defense of Free Speech: The University as Censor’, being turned down by a UK publisher due partly to legal concerns around the inclusion of scholars with inflammatory views."

Monday, October 14, 2019

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

The Child Poverty Action Group has a list of goals it believes will improve outcomes for New Zealand children. They are:

Substantially improve core benefits;
Remove harsh sanctions that impact on children;
Ensure that all benefits and all part of Working for Families (WFF) are indexed annually to prices and wages;
Remove the hours of paid work criteria from the WFF In-Work Tax Credit and extend it to all low-income families;
Treat adults in the benefit system as individuals without penalising them for being in a partnership;
Focus on what will give children better outcomes and less on moving their carers into  paid work; and
Ensure that applicants receive all the assistance to which they are entitled.

I've addressed these below point-by-point:


Sole Parent Support basic weekly rate is $340 net. The rate is the same for a sole parent on Jobseeker support. A couple on Jobseeker support with children receive $195.50 each.

It is impossible to consider basic rates without taking into account accommodation subsidies:

And tax credits for children of beneficiaries:

(The new IRD site does not publicise rates but these were current in 2018.)

There's not a lot of point in tallying possible incomes but you can see that the components above and beyond the core rate are significant.

I do not doubt that life is tough on a benefit but - for the large majority - it is supposed to be  a temporary state of affairs. When the margin between working and welfare is reduced, the risk of dependency is increased. No study I am aware of has ever shown children  in long-term benefit dependent homes have better outcomes.


Sanctions exist to ensure that beneficiaries meet their obligations. We all have obligations, whether to our partners, employers or employees. That's the real world.

We wouldn't adopt a general attitude that people with children should be exempt from obligations and it shouldn't be applied in the world of welfare.


The first part of this has already been implemented by the current government. If workers collectively get a annual wage increase so do beneficiaries.


The CPAG has fought for this through repeated court cases and lost. It was the 1999 - 2007 Labour government that created the in-work tax payment with the explicit purpose of getting beneficiaries - especially sole parents - into work. The Clark administration believed that the best way out of poverty is work. But working has other benefits too. It provides purpose, social contacts (not to mention romantic partners), and self-esteem. It also role models expectations to children.


In 2018 economist and social policy advisor Michael Fletcher was commissioned by Superu to investigate individualising entitlements in New Zealand’s benefit system. He modelled changes that “… suggest the cost of individualising all entitlements would be in the order of $1.5 billion to $2 billion.” But he also cites forthcoming work from Anderson and Chapple that estimates
individualisation would cost several billion dollars per annum. A Universal Benefit Income would achieve the same end. In 2010, when Treasury modelled a UBI of $300 per week for all individuals aged 16 and over, it identified a $45-57b annual price tag (which would replace the current $27 billion cost.)

What did Churchill say, something about a society trying to tax itself into prosperity is like a man trying to lift himself up by the  handle of the bucket he is standing in? He might as well have a child in the bucket with him. The same would still be true.


So many studies on so many outcomes have shown children have better outcomes with two parents. Having two parents improves outcomes even when income is low. The two-parent family was the prevalent type before we began subsidising single parents.

Notwithstanding, some children are better off with just their mother or father, and a period of being supported by the taxpayer to stabilise a family situation doesn't present a problem. But again it should be temporary. Carers should be looking to work to provide for their children.


Which should be the case, as should ensuring parents on a benefit are meeting all their obligations eg trying to find a job. Surely it's a two-way street? But CPAG disagree as per their prior goal calling for the abolition of sanctions.

It isn't at all clear to me what this brave new world of bigger benefits with no strings attached is going to do for children. Money can't buy love. In fact unconditional money finances lifestyles unconducive to happy and safe childhoods.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Your kids won't need an inheritance

There's been discussion over the past two days about taxing wealthy pensioners more to claw back their Super. More and more 65+ year-olds are continuing to work. According to Age Concern in 2013, 22% of New Zealanders over the age of 65 years were in paid employment. This is up from 16.8% in 2006 and 11.4% in 2001. I'd imagine many are already paying enough tax to cover their Super. Personally, I prefer simple regimes and, to reduce the Super bill, think the age of entitlement should rise as is the case in US, UK and Australia. The PM is resisting it.

But one point made by a spokesperson from Infometrics irked me:
"... if people are worried about passing on money to their children when they die, people's increasing life expectancies mean that inheritances are often being received by children when they are themselves retired and don't really need the money..."
Apart from the obvious, that it is the individual's business what he or she does with his or her money, this statement, as a generalization, makes a false assumption.

Yes, people are living longer but they are having children later. Consider this graph depicting the age of mothers:

Teenage births now match those of the over 40s. The next two most divergent age groups (20-24 and 35-39 years) have also merged and 30-34 has grown from being the 4th (in 1974) to 1st most common age for child-bearing. 

And that doesn't take into consideration the age of fathers. There are 44 years between my youngest and my husband and that's not terribly unusual.

Increasingly parents will reach their life expectancy (and hopefully go beyond) while their offspring are a long way from retirement.

Friday, October 04, 2019

Preposterous idea from National

If this is true...

While Bridges wouldn't speak directly to the policies being considered, it's understood they include fines of up to $3000 for parents of children who leave high school and don't enter further education and training. 
... it's a preposterous policy.

If a 16 year-old wants to leave school and get a job what's that got to do with the government?

If the idea is about not having to support them with welfare payments, then stop the payments.

Plenty of people leave school with no further 'formal' education and do OK for themselves.

National risks the taint of authoritarianism when they come up with this kind of thinking.  It makes it much harder for them to rightly criticize the current government for over-regulating and over-taxing.

And Bridges just handed an opportunity to Ardern to look like the more sensible of the two when she responds that "reducing barriers" is a better option than fines.

Overall National's approach to welfare, especially under Bill English, was much more visionary and far-thinking than Labour's but this is a stupid idea and it will probably become the soundbite and what sticks.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

WINZ tougher on beneficiaries in regions with high Maori populations

A post at the Daily blog complaining that Carmel Sepuloni had only reduced sanctions by 20% led me to check because I thought it was higher.

In fact sanctions are on the rise again, up 34% between December 2018 and June 2019. What is fascinating is how unevenly they are applied however. The regions of East Coast, Northland, Bay of Plenty and Waikato have really ramped them up. All high Maori beneficiary populations. So has Wellington. 

As you can see from the chart below the application of sanctions is changing quite rapidly. In December 2018 Auckland applied more than double the sanctions that Waikato did. By June 2019 the two regions were almost on par - with vastly differing beneficiary population numbers.

I am not going to do the classic left thing and label this uneven application as 'racism'.
On my reading of WINZ history and Maori politics it is usually Maori who are tough on Maori. Many of the case managers are Maori. And you only have to reflect on Shane Jones attitude to his nephews...Sir Apirana Ngata even managed to get prohibition introduced on the East Coast when he was in parliament. Or a ban on sales of alcohol to Ngati Porou at least.

Anyway it is good to see that sense is prevailing in those regions when there is so much demand for labour (with a small 'l'). Carmel's corrupted concept of 'compassion' has not prevailed.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Peak neuroticism

Are we there yet? I bloody hope so because I am sick and tired of it.

Is this what 'real' people do all day? Worry and blame.

I don't hear it when I am out walking the dogs which just about covers the extent of my daily comms with the outside world. I don't hear it in most talk back callers. If anything they reflect my 'get a grip' attitude. The odd one comes on to give the rest of us a smug lecture about how embarrassing and selfish we are, those of us who don't think the world is about to draw its dying gasp.

The sun comes up and the sun goes down. A human's time on earth is a mere blip. Make it mean something. Getting your kicks out of joining in the hype and  hysteria will work today.

But what about tomorrow? Your tomorrow.

I'm not taking it away from you.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Census 'highlights'

Thought I'd have a browse through the census tables released yesterday. My 'highlights':

273 census respondents said they worked 168 hours every week

84 people said they spoke 'Australian'

2,778 women had given birth to  ten or more children (that's working day and night)

15 people gave 'socialism' as their religious affiliation

363,819 people reported doing no housework, gardening, childminding or cooking

46,719 people didn't know whether their home was damp or not

156 people said they were an MP


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Labour's soft-on-welfare policies hurting South Auckland

According to RNZ gang problems are exacerbating in South Auckland leading to their question, What's behind south Auckland's recent crime spike?

Apparently deportees from Australia are now setting up new gangs resulting in turf wars.

But alongside Australia's relatively new hard-line deportee policy is New Zealand's soft-line welfare policy which includes a huge reduction in the application of sanctions, a suspension of the requirement to name fathers and a generally open slather philosophy.

So what effect is this having in South Auckland?

I chose three service centres (including Otara as it was mentioned in the article) and looked at Jobseeker numbers between June 2017 and June 2019.

In total the number of Jobseekers has increased from 3,749 to 5,054 - or 35 percent. The national increase is 15 percent.

Is the unemployment rate increasing?

Not nationally. I don't have data for South Auckland but I do have ethnic data and South Auckland has a very high Maori/Pacific population.

Down for every group.

Benefits are the staple of gangs. Sure the money isn't particularly lucrative but is it predictable and secure.

Here's Corrections official advice for deportees from Australia:

What if I have no money?
Work and Income in New Zealand is like Centrelink in Australia. They will talk to you about finding employment and can provide income support. They’ll sort out some immediate things to support you in the first few days and they’ll continue to work with you to support your relocation to New Zealand.
Of course all the extra beneficiaries in South Auckland aren't just gang members.

This area is a mere microcosm of what's happening nationally. On steroids.

Unemployment down from 4.7% in June 2017 to 3.9% in June 2019

Jobseeker numbers up from 118,776 to 136,233 over the same period.

Labour's soft-on-welfare policies are hurting South Auckland. It's par for the course. Labour always hurts those it pretends to care for the most.

Friday, September 13, 2019


My most hated word is 'survivors'.

A survivor used to be someone who lived through the Titanic sinking or Auschwitz.

Now it's anyone who has experienced bullying or harassment.

And what about 'sexual assault'?  So broadened and bastardized as to now include any kind of unwanted touching disconnected from intent?

I have no idea what has been going on with Labour volunteers and staffers.

But it just goes to show that he who controls the language does not control the argument.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Australia to move on substance abuse and benefit dependence

Only one more voted is needed to pass the legislation that will see random drug-testing of people receiving unemployment benefits roll-out in trials across Australia.

If the beneficiary refuses to be tested their benefit will be suspended. If they test positive they will be moved onto income management which means only 20% of their benefit is paid in cash. A second positive test will see a referral for medical assessment (at which stage many will probably shift onto some sort of disability benefit I expect.)

But it's hard to argue with the sentiment behind this move.

...substance abuse is "not consistent with community expectations about receiving taxpayer-funded welfare payments"

And let's not forget that many of these people who effectively render themselves unemployable are also parents.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

NZ mothers and relationship transitions

A new MSD/Victoria University study, The influences of social connectedness on behaviour in young children: A longitudinal investigation using GUiNZ data December 2018, was released last month. A large part of the investigation was about relationship transitions, their effect on children and interconnection with vulnerability.

Broadly extracting from the paper,

Children raised in families that had experienced relationship transition(s) also reported higher externalising (aggression, fighting) and internalising behaviour (worry, depression) and lower pro-social (kindness, empathy) behaviour.
Children in the first year of life typically develop strong emotional bonds to their parents and caretakers, and disturbances of these attachments may not only cause emotional difficulties, significant stress may also actually harm the all-important foundation of the infant’s brain.
…numerous family transitions, especially early in life, put children at cognitive, emotional, and neurological risk for later adverse outcomes. Family transitions are usually accompanied by financial hardship, a reduction in parenting ability, changes of schools and consequent instability of peer relationships, and changes in neighbourhoods that can all adversely affect both child and adult relationships. However, strong emotional bonds within the family, termed family connectedness, and strong relationships with neighbours, termed community connectedness, may buffer these stressful events and states...
… higher family connectedness predicted significantly reduced externalising behaviour for those children whose mothers were consistently in a stable relationship but did not have an effect for those children whose mothers experienced relationship transitions or were consistently unpartnered 
That's just a small sample of findings.

Now, the analysed Growing Up in New Zealand data showed, "1095 (17.3%) of mothers were categorised as having experienced 1-4 relationship transitions from pregnancy to the 4.5-year interview."

I've done some further analysis to allow for the drop-out rate.

There were originally 6,938 conceptions. By age 4.5 there were only 6,392 children. That’s 7.9% attrition. If, conservatively, half of the lost mothers had experienced a relationship transition then 17.3% would rise to 21.25%

It's not inconceivable that most of the mothers who dropped out of the study experienced instability of relationships.

It would be wholly reasonable to suggest that between one in four and one in five NZ mothers experience 1-4 relationship transitions between pregnancy and their child being 4.5 years of age.

Speaks volumes about our social problems.

Monday, September 09, 2019

New Zealand's Falling Fertility Rate

Late last month Family First published my paper Families: Ever fewer, or no children - How worried should we be? It contains data that NZ's public service doesn't seem to be on to.

For the last three years the total fertility rate has dropped. In 2015 it was a smidgen under 2 births per woman  - last year it was 1.7

Treasury has been somewhat sanguine about the birth rate and has not yet considered the recent decline.

Treasury’s Long-Term Fiscal Modelling from 2016 assumes fertility, “Falls to 1.9 babies per woman from 2032.”  It fell progressively below that optimistic projection in years 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Additionally, in a ‘high level’ initial briefing to the 2019 Welfare Expert Advisory Group the Ministry of Social Development described fertility as “…low and relatively stable.”

It doesn't look particularly "stable" to me.

The fastest falling rate is Pacific and the only rate climbing (slightly) is Asian. Demographer Ian Pool suggests this is due to Filipina contribution.

Each country similar to NZ - The UK, Australia, and the US - is experiencing the same scenario. We appear to be heading toward the low fertility rates that many European and Asian countries have fought against for some time.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Shocking revelations about Dunedin Women's Refuge

The title of this post may look like a mere attention-grabber but I was genuinely shocked as I read through this RNZ report about Te Whare Pounamu in Dunedin.

1/When children had told staff about sexual abuse it was not reported to Oranga Tamariki. There are some legitimate reasons why I can imagine this happening concerning the child's well-being. Some operatives have very little regard for Oranga Tamariki and might consider they could better handle a situation without involving the state. Still it appears to be a breach of procedure when it comes to accreditation and funding. MSD and Deloitte are both investigating.

2/ A very strong culture of staff using the organisation to feather their own nests; helping themselves to goods donated before they get to clients eg $1,000 of new toys donated by the Warehouse.

3/ The attitude of a manager who described the clients as  '... a pack of skanks and slags'.

4/ Inventing client names to attain or retain funding.

If it was just one complainant there might be a temptation to suspect someone with a grudge and good imagination, but the reports are corroborated. And I've only touched on some of the problems.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

David Seymour: The speech Jacinda Ardern should have given on Ihumātao

"E ngā mana, en ngā reo, e ngā karangatanga maha. Tēnā kotou.

Greetings. It’s my special privilege to address this nation today about Ihumātao because it’s an issue that goes to the heart of who we are as a country. This Government believes in shared prosperity, and I want to tell you what that means in relation to Ihumātao.

I’ve heard some barracking that I should provide leadership on this situation, but curiously that’s where the alternative ‘leadership’ stops. So, as Prime Minister, please allow me to lay out how our nation will find its way through this impasse.

First, let me acknowledge something. It’s wrong that the land at Ihumātao was taken against the wishes of its owners in 1863. But lest we forget, that land was taken by conquest before then. That was wrong, too."

More at Magic Talk

Fewer Men Celebrate Father's Day

Saturday, 31 August, 2019 - 19:58
'Families: Ever Fewer, or No Children: How Worried Should We Be?' - a new report just released by Family First NZ - drew attention to New Zealand's all-time low fertility rate of 1.7 births per woman in 2018.

Fewer women are becoming mothers. 16 percent of 45-49 year-old women were childless at the 2013 Census - almost double the 9% in 1981. But international data shows even fewer men are becoming fathers.

Report author Lindsay Mitchell says, "Childlessness affects more men than women. In the absence of New Zealand data, two countries with total fertility rates not dissimilar to New Zealand - Norway at 1.56 in 2018 and the US at 1.728 in 2018 - have collected data relating to childless males."

According to Science Norway: "Fertility figures from Statistics Norway show that fewer and fewer men in Norway are fathering children. The share of men who are childless at age 45 rose from 14 percent in 1985 to 23 percent in 2013. The share of women who had not become mothers by age 45 increased from 10 percent in 1985 to 13 percent in 2013."

In the United States, 2014, the US Census Bureau reported, "Just under a quarter of U.S. men between ages 40 and 50 were childless."

These percentages are unsurprisingly similar and quite likely to mirror male childlessness in New Zealand.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Ever Fewer or No Children, How Worried Should We Be?



30 August 2019

Pros and Cons Of “All-Time Low” Fertility Rate - Report

New Zealand's total fertility rate has reached an all-time low, with an average of 1.71 children per woman in New Zealand, well below population replacement level.

“Families: Ever Fewer or No Children, How Worried Should We Be?“ - a new report from Family First NZ -  looks at the reasons behind falling fertility, and discusses what might influence future trends.

Report author Lindsay Mitchell says, "In the past, government policy could positively affect the size of families. The Universal Family Benefit strongly influenced peak fertility in 1961 when women had an average of 4.3 children. But as females have become better educated and increased their work force participation, more have chosen to have fewer or no children. Economic pressures like student debt and insecure employment play a role. And now they face additional pressure from environmentalists. Meanwhile, policy interventions appear less and less effective."

The report examines the historical context of family size; identifies some of the underlying factors affecting fertility rates, including derivation, marital status, ethnicity and ageing mothers; discusses the implications of smaller families; and analyses some of the policies which could reverse the shrinking family. It also reviews other countries’ efforts to incentivise fertility.

“To date, New Zealand has been complacent about its total fertility rate because firstly, it fluctuated around replacement rate for a long period, and secondly, it was higher than most other OECD countries. Now we are trending down to resemble many other European and Asian nations struggling to boost fertility. As New Zealand’s fertility rate falls progressively further below population replacement level, the need to address the issue becomes more urgent."

“Without population replacement or growth, economies decline. A nation's strength lies in its young: their energy, innovation, risk-taking and entrepreneurship. The new blood drives the exchange of ideas and experimentation. If these attributes aren't home-grown, they have to be imported. At an individual level, single person households are the fastest growing household type in New Zealand. Increasingly people face old-age with few or no family supports.”

“These are just some of the big picture considerations New Zealanders need to be thinking and talking about.”

“The matter of fertility is critical to New Zealand’s future. If not actively worrying about the shrinking family, at the very least the topic should feature regularly in our private and public conversations.”

"Ultimately, whether or not people choose to have a child or children is a highly personal matter, but they shouldn't be denied balanced information to help them decide."


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

More Clinton than Trump

Here is the latest $74,000 rate-payer funded 'artwork' to grace the rooftops of Wellington.

People don't like it. I do. And after discussing it with my year 3 art student daughter get some of the rather dubious connotations.

Yesterday Stuff asked passersby for their reaction:

Ruhe said his peers had compared the sculpture to Donald Trump's face. 

The Trump paranoia, obsession, mania, call it what you will, results in people seeing him everywhere. In fact the face has more similarities to Bill Clinton than Donald Trump.

Whoever - if anyone - it is styled on, the work has done exactly what the artist wants: caused a stink.
And from the council's point of view it will fulfill its stated purpose of attracting more people to Civic Square.

Image result for young bill clinton

Friday, August 16, 2019

Oranga Tamariki "Euro-centric"

The Minister for Children, Tracey Martin, yesterday attended a hui to talk about the changes at and failings of Oranga Tamariki.

Also attending the hui was Annette Sykes, activist lawyer, who said,

"Yes Oranga Tamariki has transformed, but the culture of practices hasn't, it's essentially Euro-centric."

The Maori child mortality has improved vastly under whatever practices were and are being advanced in the field of child health and safety.

The infant mortality rate was down to 3.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018, compared with 5.0 per 1,000 in 2008, Stats NZ said today.
Infant mortality for Māori dropped from 6.7 in 2008 to 4.9 in 2018.
When it comes to child safety there are basic practices that transcend culture. The minister should have the gumption to say so.

Her response was, "Nothing will change unless Māoridom gets the chance to design it [new systems of state care]."

Well hell I thought that's what whanau ora was all about.

While all this political bickering goes on, all 'transformation' really takes is for one individual to assume dedicated care of a child.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Unemployment rate down - benefit numbers up

According to Statistics NZ:

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent in the June 2019 quarter, down from 4.2 percent in the March 2019 quarter, Stats NZ said today.
This is the lowest unemployment rate since the June 2008 quarter, when it was 3.8 percent.
That's a drop over the year to June 2019 from 4.4  to 3.9 percent.

Many have expressed puzzlement over this  given Jobseeker benefit numbers are rising. As a percentage of the working age population the number rose from 4.2 to 4.5 percent over the year to June 2019.

How can this be explained.

First we need to look at the denominator.

In the case of the Jobseeker benefit the denominator is the working age population defined as 18- 64 year-olds.

The unemployment rate uses a denominator also called the working-age population but is defined as "the non-institutionalised population 15 years and over, who usually live in New Zealand."

So apples are not being compared with apples. 15,16 and 17 year-olds are counted when calculating the unemployment rate.

Of course this has long been the case and it's the trend that matters.

But it may be that demographic changes are more influential in the low unemployment rate than the health of the economy.

If the cohort size of the 15-17 year-olds is larger than previously, that will lower the resulting unemployment rate. As these cohorts mature they will start affecting the older working age population used by MSD.

Immigration is also effecting the denominators constantly.

What we do know for sure is that those on Jobseeker benefits; 136,233 at June 2019, are actual numbers.

All other percentages are estimates.

Note also that last time the unemployment rate was so low, according to Stats NZ, 3.8% in June 2008 the numbers on the unemployment benefit were also very very low:

At that time there were many more on DPB and the Sickness benefit.

For all the jiggery pokery here's the bottomline:

258,317 people were on any type of benefit at June 2008  - or 9.9% of the working age population
291, 969  people were on any type of benefit at June 2019  - or 9.7% of the working age population

Absolute numbers up - percentage down.

Not much in it though and sad to say, this might be as good as it gets.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Ethnicity matching

"The state thinks it's ok to place children outside their genealogical links."

This from Dame Tariana Turia speaking at the 'Hands off our Tamariki' rally at parliament yesterday.

Clearly the state tries very hard to keep children within their whakapapa links. That may actually be part of the problem of re-abuse in 'state care' - that children have been left  or placed with unsafe family members.

But the state certainly tries very hard to place children within their own ethnicity. (Again not something I necessarily agree with if the child's best interests are not being served.)

That's why they measure their achievement in this endeavour:

 Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson, who attended the protest with a host of other MPs, said the "torture and abuse" at the hand of the state must stop.

That is one seriously misguided, dangerously inflammatory individual.

If  abuse at the 'hand of family' were to stop Oranga Tamariki, the focus of all this venom, wouldn't need to exist.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Active engagement with beneficiaries declines - numbers increase

Another of the 'key facts' advanced by the WEAG was:

In June 2014, employment-focused case managers engaged proactively with 50% of their clients every month to support them into employment. This has fallen to an all-time low of 19%, and, over the past year, has continued to drop by an average of one percentage point per month.

Again I OIAed the statement:

Under the OIA  please supply the data source and current percentage relating to the following claim:

"In June 2014, employment-focused case managers engaged proactively with 50% of their clients every month to support them into employment. This has fallen to an all-time low of
19%, and, over the past year, has continued to drop by an average of one percentage point per month."


A table of data has been provided along with this statement:

I have charted the data:

I took the liberty of adding in jobseeker numbers though 'active engagement' could I assume be happening with other beneficiaries, those on sole parent support for instance.
What the picture appears to be telling us is that as active engagement with beneficiaries has declined, their numbers have increased.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

"Key fact" is not

We live in a time when so many 'facts' turn out to be lies. They are not facts and the untruthfulness degrades the level of understanding and debate.

According to the Welfare Expert Advisory Group:


Curious and dubious I sent an OIA to MSD:

Under the OIA  please supply the statistical evidence for the following claim:
"Over 50% of Māori children are growing up in households receiving a main benefit."

Here is their response:

 "...we have not been able to locate any data that was provided that might support the statement."

Neither can I.

This is a big deal.

If MSD didn't provide the data, where did it come from?

Who wrote the 'key fact'?

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

'Harm in state care' does not mean harm inflicted by the state

Not my first post on this subject but there now seems to be an official response from Oranga Tamariki clarifying the true situation.

While Maori organisations plan to protest the uplift of Maori children many people are under the misapprehension that the state is actively harming children under its care.

That only happens in a handful of circumstances and usually as part of attempts to manage the child or young person.

Oranga Tamariki deputy chief executive Hoani Lambert said the majority of the harm to Māori children happened in placements where they had been left with their family.

OT has to front-foot this issue due to biased media reporting. For instance, a letter I wrote (published) to the DomPost back in March:

Michelle Duff (DomPost, March 28) writes about the 220 children abused "in state care", they were "...taken from their families, from their homes, to a place that's meant to be safer". Most children who are 'in state care' are placed with an approved family member or returned to their original caregivers. They are under the legal custody of the state (Oranga Tamariki Chief Executive) but not living in foster care or residential homes. Most of the abuse occurred in placements that were family-related or having been returned to parents. Most of the abusers were family members or parents. No abuse or re-abuse of children is acceptable. But the facts show that family members and parents posed the greatest danger to these victims. This suggests that where the state primarily fails is in poor decision-making and monitoring of risk. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Does Duff exaggerate?

Maori organisations have just announced a rally to Parliament a week tomorrow, July 30,  to protest the state removing Maori children from their whanau caregivers. It'll be called the Hands Off Our Tamariki rally.

I felt weary reading about it.

Then by chance I read an excerpt from Alan Duff's new book, A Conversation with My Country.

Poor Shahlaya wasn't 11 when I first saw her — she was 111. She was discreetly pointed out to me at a low socio-economic primary school many years ago. She came from a place like Pine Block, my fictional suburb in Once Were Warriors.
The school principal whispered, "See that girl . . . the sad-looking one? The one not smiling? We know she's on a house-to-house circuit, suffering sexual abuse. A tragedy, and too many like her."
The sub-society she was born into stole and violated her right to childhood. Men took turns at possessing her body, subjecting it — not her, the innocent child — to indecencies. Too weak to resist, she was an "it", a body solely to give pleasure to sick-minded adult males. And you can bet they figured out that should she go to the police or to the school authorities, her allegations would not be believed. It probably did occur to her abusers that what they did was wrong, but wrong only if they were held to
account. As to evil, it has to be assumed that abusers like this lack
a self-reflective, moral mechanism.
They may as well have put her brain into an electric mixer. 
I've read most of what Alan Duff has written over the years. In my estimation he falls into the 'been there, done that' category (though I hasten to say not as a child abuser.)

If his description of the abuse of Maori children by Maori is not an exaggeration - indeed if it holds any weight - doesn't Hands Off Our Tamariki suggest an entirely different visual image?

Friday, July 19, 2019

"Most of us don't come close to paying our way in the tax system"

In a flippant attack on Superannuation the writer states:

"Most of us don't come close to paying our way in the tax system."


12 percent of individuals are paying 48% of income tax.

But that doesn't mean that a young person with no dependents isn't "paying their way" ie putting in more than they take out in either transfers or services.

Most people tend to "pay their way" at different times during their lives.

I'm not "paying my way" as an individual but I am as part of a couple. 

So it's a fraught statement. As is much of the opinion piece bursting with generalizations.  Interestingly, the comments (closed almost immediately) aren't very favourable.

(Update: Comments have gone from 8 when I first read the article to 285. My observation was based on the 8 I read.)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Justifying beneficiary increase

According to TV Three News:

"...the number of people on benefits has increased by 15,000 since the Government took office - but it's insisting that's down to population growth..."

And "...the number of people on a benefit has increased by 15,000 - though the numbers remain in line with population growth."

Labour is backtracking to "since the Government took office" because it can't defend its more recent record.

Another big jump in benefit numbers

"The number of working-age people receiving main benefits as at the end of June 2019 was 5.2 percent higher than at the end of June 2018."
Here's ACT's press release on the matter:

Beneficiary numbers spike by almost 15,000
Thu, 18 Jul, 2019

“A massive spike in the number beneficiaries shows Labour’s anti-growth policies are slowing the economy and making it easier for people to stay on welfare”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“There was an increase of 14,559 people on a benefit in the last 12 months.

“That is a shocking indictment of Labour’s economic record and a reflection its approach of failing to sanction beneficiaries who don’t comply with their obligations.

The number of New Zealanders on a main benefit has grown to 291,969, or 9.7 per cent of the working-age population.

“Even more damning is an 11.2 per cent increase in the number of people on Jobseeker Support – that’s 13,720 more than this time last year.

“Uncertainty over a capital gains tax, industry-wide collective bargaining and foreign investment and a higher minimum wage are starting to take their toll on the economy.

“Labour needs to take responsibility for the harm it is doing to the economy.

“It is completely unacceptable that nearly 300,000 New Zealanders are on a benefit when some industries are desperate for workers. If people can work, they should.

“The Government should alleviate genuine hardship, but Labour’s anti-growth policies will see many more New Zealanders dependent on handouts, rather than living productive, independent lives.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Why children are uplifted

(Left click to enlarge)

Above is a graphic from a short article by Ian Lambie, Chief Science Advisor for the Justice Sector, which appears in the latest edition of the New Zealand Corrections Journal.

It shows that 292 children aged 0-5 had been exposed to 5 or more known family violence incidents within a year.

Lambie writes:
"Talking about the wellbeing of babies seems a long way from arguments about the prison muster, but that is where the evidence says we must begin."
This should be to the forefront of thinking while the controversy about uplifting Maori children plays out. There are certainly cases where Oranga Tamariki have been heavy-handed or overly rules-bound, and while social workers continue to be human beings, variation in the way they approach cases will exist. But there is also a great deal known about the circumstances some babies are being born into and it would be reprehensible not to act.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Steep decline in fraud prosecutions

Having scanned through the OIA responses mentioned below I found a couple of interesting tables. The first shows that fraud prosecutions are well down:

The reduction began before Labour became government. The decrease was 27% from 2016 to 2017; and 35% from 2017 to 2018. Have people suddenly become far more law-abiding?

The accommodation supplement is topical given high rents are always in the news.

At September 2018 there were 292,006 payments in place.
Two thirds were to beneficiaries; the rest to veterans, super-annuitants or non-beneficiaries.
66% were renting, 22% boarding and 11% owned their own home.
24% were receiving the maximum amount available.
8% were couples with children; 26% were sole parents with children; 57% were single.

And finally this caught my eye. Another accommodation problem that's been in the news but here's some stats:

Perhaps it isn't a 'problem' for the owners of ageing motels being displaced by better quality establishments.

Well done MSD

On June 27 I posted about MSD lagging behind in its publication of OIA responses at its website.

They have now got up responses from January and March 2019.

(Which does kind of beg the question, were there none in February?)

Saturday, July 06, 2019

RNZ witch hunt finds ... reasonable numbers

RNZ is constantly on Oranga Tamariki's back trying to show them as a failing agency.

Oranga Tamariki published data not long ago detailing the number and nature of abuse/neglect cases happening to children in state care. I pointed out then that many children who are 'in state care' officially are nevertheless in the day-to-day of their parents or family members.

Today RNZ reports:

Oranga Tamariki released data showing its own staff have harmed children in care eight times in the space of six months: six cases of physical harm, and one each of sexual and emotional harm.
My immediate response is surprise at how low the number is.

'Children' can include individuals up to 18 years of age. Some will be incredibly difficult to handle. Doubtless they will require firmness; may provoke and may attack. Some will be pre-prison characters.

I would dearly love to know more about these cases but privacy dictates details can never be released.

But I don't see 8 cases in 6 months as a rod to use on the back of people doing extremely difficult work.