Wednesday, May 22, 2019

One in 12 doctors publicly say no to assisted suicide

A full page ad in today's DomPost (so possibly in other major dailies) features the names of 1,000 doctors who say no to assisted suicide. To be fair, here is their message.

For context there are 12,000 practising registered doctors in New Zealand.




Monday, May 20, 2019

50 years of fighting family violence

1970s Feminists started to pressure govt to recognise domestic violence as a public concern - not private. The first Women's refuges were established. Their collective body started to seek legislation, research and greater funding for the protection of women which the Social Welfare dept partially provided.
1981 Committee on Gangs - subsidies for rehab for a range of 'difficulties'
1982 Domestic Protection Act introduced non molestation orders. Emphasis still on private resolution and counselling. Low police priority
1983 subsidized emergency housing for street kids.
1985 new funding for those working with violent men on anger management and alcohol treatment; and to victims
1987 Ministerial Committee of Inquiry into Violence recommends domestic violence be treated as a crime. Police adopted a pro-arrest  Domestic Dispute Policy
1991 Hamilton Abuse Intervention Pilot Programme places family violence in the 'power and control' context rather than isolated incidents of anger and frustration. Suspected abusers arrested without complaint and compulsory re-education to address abusive behaviours
1994 Prevention of family violence identified by MSD senior staff as highest priority
1995 Domestic Violence Act definition broadened to include psychological and sexual abuse
1996 Statement of Policy on Family Violence introduced safety and protection needs of young child. Growing awareness of inter-generational violence. Breaking cycles of violence needed early intervention. Welfare to Well-being to promote the strengthening of families
1999-2002 CYF funding increase by 50%
2002 'Te Rito' a five year action plan to address family violence
2003 Care and protection Blueprint
2005 Family and Community Services FACS saw 600 separate contracts funded including family violence education, early intervention and prevention providers
2005 Budget funded 45 full-time child advocates
2006 Taskforce for Action on Family Violence allocates $11 million for nationwide 'its not ok' campaign
2007 Pathway to Partnership injection of $20.4 million to child and family service providers
2008 $446 million (for 4 years) for essential services with an initial focus on family violence and early intervention
2017 Budget extra $37.2 million for family violence and  $434.1 funding the development of the Orangi Tamariki
2019 $320 million on a package of initiatives aimed preventing family and sexual violence and breaking the cycle of violence.

So is this latest initiative aimed at a "violence-free Aotearoa New Zealand" finally going to do it?

(Summary complied largely from Tim Garlicks history of Social Developments.)

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Does Winston believe the PM?

RNZ reports:

Ms Ardern said 1,000,000 people - including 300,000 children - were victims of family and sexual violence each year in New Zealand.

I expect these eye-watering statistics come from the Victims of Crime Survey which estimates the level of reports NOT made to police. Otherwise, the usual stat we hear about is the 120,000 plus call-outs to family violence incidents police make annually.

Funnily enough just last week Winston Peters was rubbishing this survey. I wonder if Winston believes the PM?

"Political Correctness is Destroying Philadelphia"

Sometimes it feels as if I am living in a world where up is down and black is white...though I don't think I can say that last bit any more.

A brief but shocking reminder of the ideology infecting the developed world, not just America. For the record I believe in 'traditional values'. That doesn't mean that I didn't also spend much of my younger life questioning and rejecting them.I still don't 'respect' authority and see nationalism as just another form of collectivism. But in time it became apparent to me why family values and acquiring a work ethic are vital. In any case, if people disagree, and they are free to, I don't expect to be persecuted for saying what I think.

Equally nihilistic is a story out of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. On Aug. 9, 2017, tenured Penn Law professor Amy Wax and University of San Diego School of Law professor Larry Alexander co-authored an opinion piece titled “Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.”
Its thesis was that the rejection of American bourgeois middle-class culture is the primary reason for most social ills in America today:
[American] culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.
Within a few weeks, a petition was signed by 4,000 people calling for Wax’s dismissal, and the dean of Penn Law, Ted Ruger, wrote an op-ed in The Daily Pennsylvanian, ostensibly about Charlottesville but really about Wax, in which he implied her views were “divisive, even noxious.”
Most significantly, he wrote, “It is important that I state my own personal view that as a scholar and educator I reject emphatically any claim that a single cultural tradition is better than all others” (referring to Wax’s position that those bourgeois values are superior values).
More

Friday, May 17, 2019

Further on the Privacy Commissioner's inquiry into MSD practice

Further to yesterday's post I've done some more reading. The following (you will have to enlarge it to read or refer to p11 here) is the model that MSD uses to investigate reports of fraud.


The ministry investigates between 2300 and 5100 reports a year. When a report is categorised as 'high risk' (which is calculated from the amount of information the person alleging fraud can supply) it is referred to the investigation team.They assess whether informing the beneficiary of the investigation would prejudice the case eg parties start colluding. If the answer is 'yes' they issue  requests for information from third parties.

MSD began to do this more frequently in 2012. Historically in 95 percent of cases beneficiaries did not directly provide the information requested within a specified time-frame.

The Privacy Commissioner is unhappy with the frequency of the bypass of seeking information from the beneficiary first. He wants it stopped, or to be precise has recommended, "MSD immediately cease its blanket application of the ‘prejudice to the maintenance of the law’ exception when issuing section 11/schedule 6 notices."

I would question the use of the term 'blanket application'. His inquiry reads:

The Ministry categorises fraud allegations as low, medium or high risk using the DST. The Ministry has said that after the practice change in 2012, only high-risk cases were deemed to come within the prejudice to the maintenance of the law exception, even though policy documents from 2012 suggest that the exception could be applied to all fraud investigations. In either case, this meant that the Ministry authorised and encouraged investigators to go straight to third parties for information using their compulsion powers, rather than approach the beneficiary first.

In a nutshell the commissioner wants beneficiaries suspected of fraud accorded more privacy.

His note to editors reads:

The Privacy Act 1993 enables agencies to collect, use and disclose information that is necessary and proportionate to their lawful requirements. The Act provides that, in general, information should be collected from an individual directly.
Section 11 of the Social Security Act 1964 provides a mechanism by which the MSD can compel information from persons other than the individual. Before exercising this power, however, MSD is required in the first instance to seek the information required from the individual directly, unless there are reasonable grounds to believe that this would ‘prejudice the maintenance of the law’.
In my view discouraging  investigators from going directly to third parties (in high risk cases) will make benefit fraud easier. And that development will be consistent with the general approach this government wants to take. For example no longer requiring mothers to name the fathers of their children for the purposes of seeking child support (starting next year) and non-application of other sanctions (already happening).

This is a simplified reading and description of the situation. I stand to be corrected.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Privacy Commissioner sides with fraudsters

RNZ reports:

"[Privacy]Commissioner John Edwards has concluded that the ministry has been unjustifiably intruding on the lives of beneficiaries.
Since 2012, the ministry has been bypassing beneficiaries and going to third parties for information.
Mr Edwards said that's allowed fraud investigators to collect large amounts of highly sensitive information about beneficiaries without their knowledge."


When 5% of sole parent beneficiaries freely admit they have private child support arrangements with partners and 70% of sole parent beneficiaries in our largest longitudinal study ever say that they have partners, is third party investigation really "unjustified"?

MSD responds via new Deputy CE Viv Rickard:

"We take a prevention-first approach, using conversations with clients and data matching agreements to detect and stop anomalies early. We don't investigate lightly," Mr Rickard said.
"We will need to continue to go directly to outside parties for information without going to the client first, where we believe there is a risk of collusion, evidence tampering, witness intimidation, or we can't locate the client."
Mr Rickard said the practice introduced in 2012, in response to the then National Government's approach of taking a harder line on benefit fraud and speeding up investigations.
"Ninety-five percent of the time people didn't provide the necessary information when we asked them directly, meaning we had to go to third parties anyway, delaying investigations," he said.
I am the last person to encourage the state to snoop BUT if people want to live off other people's money that practice needs to be justified.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Children with no identified father much more likely to come to CYF attention


Of children born in 2010-2011 affected by Section 70A reductions, by age six 41% had a care and protection concern reported (P12).

The earlier 2000-01 cohort is depicted below. It's a horrible graph to comprehend hence I provided some context in my opening statistic

('Episide' is a typo - means episode)


(Right-click on image to enlarge)

Proof of the Section 70A rort

That's what Maharey called it back in 2004 when the Labour government increased the penalty rate to try and get more mothers to name the fathers of their children.

Here's proof that for some at least it is a rort.

MSD interviewed 4,000 sole parents who had a Section 70A penalty.

A small proportion (5 percent) said they did not report not applying for child support because they had a private arrangement with the other parent. 
I am surprised that many were honest about it.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

MSD ignores own research

To justify removing the penalty for not naming fathers of benefit-dependent children MSD now says:

A developing evidence base suggests that outcomes for some of the children affected are likely to be being harmed by loss of family income associated with the reductions. Recent studies from overseas suggest a causal link between family incomes and care and protection service contact. More broadly, a developing body of international research shows that lower family incomes have a negative causal impact on child development.[my emphasis]
Why look for overseas research when their own and University of Auckland's shows the  care and protection link is not to lower family income but benefit income. At their site, Children in poor families: does the source of family income change the picture?

"...receipt of welfare income is negatively associated with children’s outcomes, even when level of income is controlled. This effect derives not so much from welfare receipt per se, but from parental characteristics that make some parents more prone than others to be on welfare (Mayer 2002).
Taken together, the findings suggest that children in families reliant on welfare may be particularly vulnerable to negative outcomes, being not only relatively poor but also more likely than children generally to have other disadvantages. The findings suggest substantially lower vulnerability among children supported by market incomes who are not poor, with an intermediate level of risk found among children supported by market income but who are relatively poor....To summarise, the findings show that poor children reliant on government transfers, when compared with poor children reliant on market incomes, have lower living standards and a number of compounding shortfalls that can be expected to place them at greater risk of negative outcomes. The findings suggest a need for policies that have a wider focus than just income support."
Yet MSD now argue for a policy based purely on the income support aspect.

But simply asserting the "greater risk of negative outcomes" doesn't prove a link to CYF involvement does it?

No.

So, staying at the MSD website, Vulnerable Children:
CAN ADMINISTRATIVE DATA BE USED TO IDENTIFY CHILDREN AT RISK
OF ADVERSE OUTCOMES?

 "Of all children having a finding of maltreatment by age 5, 83% are seen on a benefit before age two, translating in to a very high "capture" rate."

It isn't low income that puts children at risk of abuse or neglect. It is, to quote the former research, "parental characteristics that make some parents more prone than others to be on welfare."

Increasing abusive parents benefit payments won't make any difference. MSD's justification is hollow.



Monday, May 06, 2019

Labour's 180 degree turn on the responsibility of fathers


On Friday the government announced it will cease applying Section 70 A penalties from April 2020.

Background

"Section 70A of the Social Security Act 1964 requires that the rate of a sole parent’s benefit be reduced for each dependent child for whom the person does not seek Child Support, subject to some exemptions. The benefit is reduced by $22 for each dependent child for whom the client refuses or fails to meet their Child Support obligations. After 13 weeks a further $6 a week reduction may apply. Close to one in five sole parents receiving Job Seeker and Sole Parent Support have these benefit reductions. Reasons include being unaware of the penalties and how to comply and grounds for exemption, and a strong desire to have no contact with the other parent."

From the 1990s the Green Party started to agitate against this penalty. they would argue about women's reproductive rights, the penalising of children etc.

Labour however dug in. Their view was that fathers should provide financially for their children. It should not fall to the taxpayer. The numbers of mothers (and occasionally custodial fathers) who failed to name the father of a child dependent on a their benefit continued to grow. In the early 2000s Labour introduced legislation to increase the penalty. From the parliamentary debates:

Heather Roy: When will he admit that this is just a rort so that fathers can dodge child support, and why should taxpayers always have to pick up the bill?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: 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.
                                                                    Hansard, August 25, 2004

And later:

“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. It is not a new philosophy.” Steve Maharey, Hansard, October 5, 2004

NZ First, represented by Bill Gudgeon also spoke in favour. The penalty was increased.

But 13 years on a new Minister said:

“The most common reason for not naming the parent was often family-violence related and so, keeping that mind, it’s almost like you’re doubly punishing these women and their children. So, we’re not going to allow that to continue.”
                        Carmel Sepuloni, RNZ, November 14, 2017

That is a red herring as the Work and Income Manual 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.”
                                         
Advice to cabinet said:

“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.”
                  MSD report to Carmel Sepuloni, November 10, 2017

And that has always been the problem.

Nevertheless Labour has been persuaded, along with NZ First (also traditionally of the view  that a father should be financially responsible) by the Greens to drop the penalty at a cost of $113.4 million over 4 years. But that is only estimated on the current number of mothers who aren't naming the father.

In the future, as there is no longer an incentive to name him (or disincentive not to) many more fathers will never pay child support for their children. 


Sunday, May 05, 2019

Another Working Group:Another Waste of Time and Money

The Welfare Expert Advisory Group has delivered what the Green-driven government wanted - a recommendation to wildly increase wealth redistribution - an ideological affirmation. The group advises, "The fiscal cost of improving the adequacy and design of income support is estimated to be around $5.2 billion a year." That's an increase of around 50% on current costs.

The report overflows with conceptual phraseology, much of it drawn from Maori culture; words like equity, fairness, justice abound. It lacks however any concrete suggestion as to where an extra  $5.2 billion is to come from. The only justification for such a massive hike comes in the form of:

"It is important to recognise that the current system has costs of its own – those associated with the broader negative effects of poverty including lower educational attainment,imprisonment and poorer health." Which is exactly the approach National had taken under Bill English's actuarial analysis, but without front-loading savings.

Unsurprisingly then, only two policies were announced in direct response to the report and have been scheduled for introduction in April 2020. 1/Scrapping the penalty for not naming the father of a benefit-dependent child (a 180 degree turn from the last Labour-led government's stance), and 2/ an increase in what beneficiaries can earn before their benefit is affected (which National quickly approved without considering  more people getting trapped in a part work/part benefit regime) .

The Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni, says, "The Government can’t deliver on every recommendation at once." Indeed. It can only deliver on two of forty two in a year's time,  just months before it stands to lose any ability to do more.

In that respect alone this working group has been another waste of time and money.

Many of its recommendations are pie in the sky. It wants core benefit levels raised by up to 47 percent. On top of higher abatement rates, paid work for the unskilled would become uneconomical. People respond to economic incentives. For sole parents benefit 'packages' already rival income from employment despite the report's claims about grossly inadequate levels of welfare.

Some recommendations are a straight reversal of the last National government's welfare reform measures. Single parents should only have to work part-time when their youngest is 6 - currently it is 3 in line with eligibility for free early childhood education. Removal of the 'subsequent child' policy, introduced to prevent sole mothers from adding children to their benefit to avoid work-testing, is urged. The compulsory 'money management' aspect of youth benefits should be scrapped with a return to  handing out unconditional cash to 16 and 17 year-olds

Especially cheered by the Greens no doubt, the panel calls for removal of obligations and sanctions for "... pre-benefit activities, warrants to arrest sanctions, social obligations, drug-testing sanctions, 52 week reapplication requirements, sanctions for not naming the other parent, the subsequent child work obligation, and the mandatory work ability assessment for people with health conditions or disability."

Under such a scenario New Zealand would have parallel worlds whereby one group of people - the producers and risk-takers - are constantly expected to meet work, tax, health and safety obligations - to name a few - while the other avoids any and gets paid for the privilege.

Increases to Working For Families tax credits and eligibility thresholds are advised. Child support payments to beneficiary parents, currently kept by Treasury to offset benefit payments, should be passed directly to the custodial parent.

With regard to Job Seekers, here's an odd one: "Establish an effective employment service of the Ministry of Social Development so it is better able to assist people to obtain and keep good, sustainable work." Surely the Ministry has an effective employment service already (though on currently increasing Job Seeker numbers, you may wonder). What constitutes "...good, sustainable work"? I am reminded of a previous Labour Minister Steve Maharey who protested against "dead-end jobs" for beneficiaries. Exactly who is going to do the unskilled yet vital work required by this country's economy? And why a downer on those who do the least desirable jobs? I am thankful for them everyday.

There are multiple vague wishy-washy recommendations like, "Improve the health and wellbeing of people with health conditions and disabilities, along with carers of people with health conditions and disabilities who interact with the welfare system by providing financial support that is adequate to live a life with dignity and is equitable across the social sector." Meaningless.

A call to "increase public housing on an industrial scale" conjures visions of future ghettos based on past experience.  And then of course demands for heavier regulation of landlords feature as if that will magically make rental property cheaper when evidence points to the opposite outcome.

One recommendation makes sense: to index benefits to the cost of living, as is Super. That would be fair inasmuch as beneficiary income would keep pace with inflation. That is the solitary saving grace amidst an utterly unworkable, utopian/dystopian manifesto (take your pick).

Instead of this charade the Green's 2017 welfare policy could've easily been printed and circulated saving over $2 million in the process.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Graph of the Day

Very informative piece in DomPost today by Justin Stevenson regarding the forthcoming Well-Being Budget argues we actually need to focus more on GDP and featured this graph:




Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Is it any wonder beneficiaries prioritise tobacco and alcohol

Stats NZ have provided interactive data that shows expenditures on 12 items in a variety of households.


Spending on alcohol and tobacco rates 4th highest in beneficiary households. No other household has a rating this high.

In absolute terms most other household types are spending more on alcohol and tobacco but it's lower down the list of items usually appearing 6th or 7th.

The other stand-out obviously is housing. All households bar the highest income/expenditure have housing as their number one cost - even Superannuitants, which is a worry. But the graph above has a pattern unlike any other in that all of the expenditures are close to the left (bar food) with housing hard to the right. Note the vast difference when compared to the highest income group:


Going back to the problem of housing making poor people poorer, look at the change for beneficiaries since 2008:


If I was on a benefit under this scenario I'd be prioritizing alcohol and tobacco too (notwithstanding rising accommodation supplement is meeting some of the increased housing cost).

The housing market is in a real mess. And it happened under a National government. After Labour set up the stifling regulations.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Silly Simon

Simon Bridges is making himself sound silly over the slushy 'scandal'. How much time (taxpayer money) did his staff spend digging up this dirt to throw at Corrections' Minister, Kelvin Davis, who sounds like a man with gravitas for a change?

It just makes me question Bridge's judgement even more. What goes on in his head?

For instance the prison population is on the rise again, despite Labour's pledge to reduce it; despite the Justice Summit which did cost a truckload and seems to have delivered little. Corrections says  a backlog of criminals due to be processed caused the rise. Why a backlog? Justice delayed is not justice. There are a myriad of serious questions the leader of the opposition could be asking but he picks the petty.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Youth Payments increase by 88.9%

That was sneaky. The March benefit statistics were due out last week. But they were never posted on the front page of the website. If you didn't know where to look, you would never find them.

I do and there they are.

All bad news.


Because the quarters fluctuate it is vitally important to compare year on year to get an accurate picture.

So amidst the glaring shortages of workers eg bus drivers, that are crippling services there has been an almost 11 percent increase in numbers of unemployed. Worse, those jobseekers classified as 'work ready' have risen by 14.5 percent.

While the base number is low Youth Payment has risen a staggering 88.9% from 126 to 238.

There are just 6 fewer sole parent beneficiaries putting the brakes on that downward trend. The same can be said for the ex invalid benefit, now SLP, where there has been a very small increase.

What this illustrates is how the benefit system had now evolved into a bona fide, state-sanctioned alternative to employment for too many. (Recall my earlier post that showed 75% of those in the Growing Up in New Zealand study receiving a sole parent benefit said they had partners.)

It isn't kind or compassionate to admit more young people into a system that traps them and saps any ambition they may otherwise have held. It's just a waste.





Friday, April 19, 2019

Ardern's no Lange

Currently reading David Lange's memoirs, I am reflecting on how different the two Prime Ministers
are. When Roger Douglas had almost unanimous caucus support for a flat tax (Lange: When it came to the crunch only Cullen and I opposed - "Dear God! What a terrible lot of people they were!") he unilaterally scuppered it by announcing an unscheduled press conference and telling the country there would be no flat tax. He'd said nothing beforehand to Douglas who was out of the country, or the rest of the caucus. He put his Prime Minister-ship on the line for his convictions.

If Ardern was as convinced about the CGT (another ideological economic device) she'd take it to the next election and set about right now trying to convince New Zealanders of its merits.

Friday, April 12, 2019

"Jacinda Ardern's economics of blindness": David Seymour

ACT MP David Seymour writes at Magic Talk:

Would you live in a country in which the average age at death is 45, few children attend secondary school, and most people don’t have access to a telephone or electricity?
Sounds awful, right? That was New Zealand in 1913. The difference between then and now is productivity.
Paul Krugman – a Nobel Prize-winning, left-wing economist – once wrote that “Productivity isn't everything, but, in the long run, it is almost everything. A country's ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker.”
Most serious economists would agree. 
More 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Media Release: Widespread benefit fraud identified by Auckland University

Widespread benefit fraud identified by Auckland University

April 11, 2019

Lindsay Mitchell, Welfare commentator and researcher

Widespread benefit fraud has been identified by the Auckland University of Technology in research published yesterday by the Ministry of Social Development.

For a number of years, and on a number of occasions, I have questioned the longitudinal Growing Up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) data because the level of reported sole parenthood does not match the reported national level. In new research by AUT the authors have made similar observations:

"A weakness of the GUiNZ data is that it may not be population representative and is not linked to administrative data.... Overall, 95% of GUiNZ children are born to mothers who are partnered. The GUiNZ sample seems to have low sole-parent status compared to a 2009 study that found one-third of families with dependent children were headed by sole-parents (Ministry of Social
Development, 2010). This could be because being partnered in the GUiNZ data is not the same as their domestic-purposes benefit status, from which partnership status is inferred by other studies. We find that 70% of those who say they receive the domestic-purposes benefit also answer yes to the question of whether they have a partner – confirming that the sole-parent status derived from GUiNZ is essentially different to those studies which rely on benefit status to infer partnership status." (My emphasis)

Work and Income rules state:

You may get Sole Parent Support if you are:
-aged 20 or older
-a single parent or caregiver with one or more dependent children under 14
-not in a relationship
-without adequate financial support

Claiming a sole parent benefit while partnered is illegal. Based on these new findings the practice may be widespread. It appears however to be tolerated.

The government is currently sitting on the completed Expert Welfare Advisory Group report. It is to be hoped that benefit fraud and better policy to prevent it, will form part of the ensuing discussion.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

There are no fathers now - just 'partners' of mothers

Are you a Dad? Do you want to be known as the father of your child or just the 'partner' of his mother?

Research released today by MSD into protective factors for vulnerable children based on the longitudinal Growing Up in NZ study refers only to mothers and partners, not mothers and fathers.

Fathers are only referred to in token reference to overseas research. Barely at all.

There is a huge irony in play here. I doubt the researchers noticed.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Stephen Franks nails it


Stephen Franks utterly nails it using gun control to illustrate how unknowingly incompetent the current crop is:
A general problem when censorious children are elected to govern
I see this issue as yet another where the urban ‘woke’ have utterly tin ears.
New Zealand has avoided many irreconcilable political fights over competing values. Now an ignorant generation are looking for ways to anger their opponents by deliberately kicking  sleeping dogs. Wise politicians pick no unnecessary fights that focus people on differences instead of on values they share.
Gun law has not been a tribal political issue here. My Select Committee 17 years ago reached a cross party consensus. But it is a badging issue in the US. So our “progressives” start the same chants to ape their US betters. They want to stick it to gun owners to show who is in charge – to anger “deplorables”. Whether the changes have any connection to a problem or a solution is immaterial to them. It is not so much ‘virtue signalling’ as IFF – identifying friend from foe.
From the same impulse they are trashing our 50 year old tacit deal  on abortion (‘we’ll pretend we have a law against abortion and leave the issue alone, if you too pretend the same”).
They look for any issue they can to stick the coercive state’s fat finger up the nose  of Christians – while excusing the ghastliness of Islamism, again to ape their US models.
They ended charter schools out of similar vindictiveness, thereby ensuring that whatever Hipkins does now in education will be reversed when he loses power.
And on free speech and so called non-binary gender and many other ‘me too’ (in its original sense) progressive causes their language, their solutions and their reasons are entirely derivative.
A consolation is that they are cementing their distance from the ordinary working people they have long scorned but claimed as the objects of their sanctimonious “altruism”.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Why child poverty claims are all over the place

MSD has helpfully produced a table that shows the extreme variability of official child poverty measures:

Depending on what political barrow is being pushed, the highest or lowest number can be selected.

The highest number - 341,000 - represents children living in homes under 60% of the median equivalised household income after housing costs. The lowest number - 65,000 - represents children living in severe material hardship experiencing eight or more specific deprivations.

Of interest the higher number has increased recently; the lower has decreased calling into question the relationship between the two.

The paper usefully goes on to point out:
Are all children in low-income households experiencing material hardship?
No.
The overlap between those in low-income households and those experiencing material hardship is considerably less than 100%, and the actual overlap depends on the measures being compared.
So next time you hear UNICEF for instance talking about one in three children in Aoteroa living in poverty you'll have some context to make sense of the claim.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Violence against women - some balance

Yesterday I received a press release from the White Ribbon Campaign containing the following statistics:

 KEY STATISTICS
·         New Zealand has the highest rate of reported violence towards women in the developed world
·         Police investigated 118,910 family violence incidents in 2016 or about one every five minutes
·         That’s 41% of a front line officer’s time
·         One in three women will experience partner violence at some point in their lives
·         Less than 20 percent of abuse cases are reported
·         Approximately 3,500 convictions are recorded against men each year for assaults on women
·         On average, 14 women a year are killed by their partners or ex-partners
·         Between 2009 and 2015, there were 92 IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) deaths. In 98% of death events where there was a recorded history of abuse, women were the primary victim, abused by their male partner.
 
 For balance here are some further statistics from the most recent 2018 Crime Victimization Survey:

The survey estimates that 16 percent of adults experienced one or more incidents of partner violence at some point during their lives. Women (21 percent) were more likely than men (10 percent) to have experienced one or more incidents of partner violence at some point during their lives.

21 percent is considerably lower than "one in three" so perhaps matters are improving. The correct expression of these percentages  should be one in five women and one in ten men.

 The survey also estimates that 23 percent of adults experienced one or more incidents of
sexual violence at some point during their lives. Again, women (34 percent) were more likely than men (12 percent) to have experienced one or more incidents of sexual violence at some point during their lives

Here we are closer to the one in three claim but note the distinction between 'violence' and 'sexual violence'. And again men are also affected albeit to a lesser degree. Of course these numbers rely on personal subjectivity and the individual's idea of violence. There may be gender differences between perceptions and willingness to acknowledge.

From 2009 to 2015 the Family Violence Death Review  Committee reports
There were 91 intimate partner violence (IPV) death events
Of the 92 deceased and 92 offenders in IPV death events:
• 68 percent (63 deceased) were women and 32 percent (29 deceased) were men
• 76 percent (70 offenders) were men and 24 percent (22 offenders) were women.

Almost a quarter of the offenders were women. Most of the women offenders were considered to be the victim of a history of abuse, but not all. Some cases are described as 'perpetrators in combination' which accounted for 8% in the 2002-08 reporting period.

Based on the above (latest) data, by my calculations, 9 women a year are "killed by their partners or ex-partners". Not 14. Googling 14 turned up this from the Christchurch Women's refuge:

About half of all homicides in New Zealand are family violence. There were 41 family violence homicides in New Zealand in 2010/11. On average, 14 women, 7 men and 8 children are killed by a member of their family every year.
So that claim is based on older data. Statistics are improving then for both women and men.

As for NZ having the "highest rate of reported violence towards women in the developed world," deaths are usually a good indicator for levels of violence, reported or otherwise. I had a quick look across  the Tasman where, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 99 women (and 27 men) were killed by a current or previous partner between 2012/13 and 2013/14. 50 women on average annually versus 9 in New Zealand. With a population only five times larger than NZ's, Australia looks slightly worse.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Causes of Poverty: Bad luck, bad choices and enablement


The Canadian think-tank, the Fraser Institute has just released a paper which suggests an elegantly simple framework in finding three causes of poverty: bad luck, bad choices and enablement. The first two need no explanation. The third is described thus:
We can say that poverty is “enabled” when systems and structures are in place to discourage the kinds of efforts that people would normally make to avoid poverty, i.e., find employment, find a partner (especially if children are present), improve one’s education and skill set, have a positive outlook, and take personal responsibility for your own actions. Ironically, it is government programs (welfare, in particular) that are intended to help the poor but end up actually enabling poverty.
In NZ, many of our current influencers (MPs and media) pooh,pooh the idea that bad choices are responsible for poverty despite this being self-evident. They base their disdain for the idea on a belief that greater systems, for example institutional racism, drive bad choices. Of course when they do this they excuse bad choices and even compensate the person making them. Undoubtedly, most of those sitting on the Welfare Expert Advisory Group would hold views of his nature.

There are people who will resist the suggestion that poor people might be responsible for their own poverty. Isn’t this just another example of “blaming the victim”? Shouldn't we be looking for other causes? Isn’t poverty really a condition of bad luck and something that just happens to people rather than a situation in which people find themselves largely due to their own bad choices? People who take the former view aren’t really looking at the implications of their own beliefs. Were we to live in a world where no one could be held responsible for making bad decisions that adversely affect themselves (and others who depend on them), then no one would be responsible for harm and no one could be held to account for the harm they do. But that is not the world in which we all live and,
indeed, is not a world that anyone would want to live in. The fact is that we all make bad choices from time to time. No one is immune. However, there are some critical choices we can make that will greatly reduce the chance of our being poor. Poverty researchers have identified those critical choices and this paper has discussed them at great length. Those choices are: 1) Finish high school—at a minimum; 2) Get a full-time job; 3) Wait until you are married to have children; and 4) Limit the number of children you have to those you can afford. Each of those four is a choice. This is what Sawhill and Haskins mean when they talk about “playing by the rules.” These choices are not always the easiest path. Making them well often means that you have to take responsibility for your own life, have some degree of self-control, and do some longer-term thinking. But there is certainly a lot of help available: remedial programs for completing high school; employment centres, skill upgrades, and job search apps; and various kinds of birth control. The problem, of course, is that we have institutions that, while nominally intending to help the poor, actually enable bad choices and thereby end up enabling poverty. 

The author, Christopher Sarlo, Professor of Economics, Nipissing University concludes:

Anyone who cares about the poor and wants to eliminate this horrible predicament needs first to understand what causes poverty. This paper suggests that a useful framework for understanding poverty is to look at bad luck and bad choices as the proximate causes, and to enablement as the key explanation for persistent and enduring poverty. I argue that bad choices are the dominant initiating cause of poverty in countries like Canada and the US, and that state policies like welfare are the critical enablers of poverty. 

Ditto New Zealand.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Good on David Seymour...

... who isn't afraid to say:

"You do not defy terrorism and defend our democracy by throwing out democratic procedure such as parliamentary scrutiny and the public's right to submit in full, at the first sign of trouble...
"We're missing out on the opportunity to make better laws and have more details come to light about how we can do better..." 
"But we're also, symbolically, allowing the terrorist to achieve his goal and dishonouring the victims by changing New Zealand away from a place that has a sober law-making process with parliamentary scrutiny and public input, and rushing things through at the first sign of trouble.
"I don't think that's a good way to respond."
Neither do I.

A balance needs to be struck between emotion and reason. Unfortunately, though understandably, the balance is tipped too heavily towards the former right now.

A small voice also nags away at the back of my mind that would-be terrorists will only see this ban as a challenge not in the sense of a hurdle, but a provocation.

But even if this particular passage of law is the correct and popular action, will the next be? What about privacy and hate speech laws? Do we want controversial and wide-ranging legislation enacted in haste with minimal debate?

Immense caution is required about the precedent being set.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Two strongly contrasting views

When I think about Christchurch I imagine what it would feel like if one of those young men were my son and it reduces me. To write any words from outside of and about the mosque members grief feels disrespectful. But plenty are being written. And some are worthy.

Yesterday Chris Trotter spoke on radio saying New Zealanders must not beat themselves up over the Christchurch terror act. His analysis of what happened and how we should react is here:

What happened at the Linwood and Al Noor mosques was horrific, but it wasn’t our doing. As we begin the long journey towards recovery, it is vitally important that we keep that fact squarely before us. New Zealand is a good place. New Zealanders are good people. We are not responsible for Brenton Tarrant’s dreadful crime. This is not us.
Today Anne Salmond writing in the DomPost infers New Zealanders are responsible if only indirectly:

In the wake of this terrible tragedy, let's be honest, for once. White supremacy is a part of us, a dark power in the land....In its hard version, it's violent and hateful, spewing out curses, incarcerating young Māori in large numbers, denying them a decent education, homes and jobs, telling them they have no future, and are better off dead.....The Muslim community has suffered a terrible, heart-breaking loss, and it needs all our love and support. It is not the only group who are targeted by white supremacists, however, and there are more ways of killing and maiming people than with a gun.

Interestingly Chris Trotter predicted this sort of reaction:

 The Prime Minister will, doubtless, come under increasing pressure from angry and misguided persons to curtail the rights of New Zealanders articulating unpopular views concerning Maori-Pakeha relations, the Islamic religion, multiculturalism and immigration policy. In defence of the liberal-democratic values that Tarrant assaulted so violently, Jacinda should calmly resist all such calls. We must not allow the unanimity of our grief to be translated into a demand for unanimity of opinion.
I hope, in this instance, Trotter's pen is mightier than the sword.

Friday, March 15, 2019

The re-abuse of children in state care

One of the longstanding debates regarding the removal of children who have been abused or neglected is whether Maori children should be placed with whanau/ returned to their families versus removal elsewhere. So new data about the re-abuse of children who are already officially in state care is interesting from that perspective alone.

In the quarter to September 2018 there were 200 findings of physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect concerning 130 individuals. Fifty nine percent of children in state care are Maori but accounted for 71% of the abuse findings.


A majority of the re-abuse occurred in a family placement (family member) or return to family care (usually parent). Most (60%) of the re-abuse was physical.

Most of the physical abuse occurred in a family or return/remain home placement. Almost all of the neglect occurred in these two categories, and most of the emotional abuse. Only sexual abuse (19 findings) had a different pattern and over half of that had occurred when the child was away from care eg had absconded.

Based on these statistics the evidence for keeping children within the whanau is not great. BUT there are around 6,300 children in state care so 130 isn't a high proportion.

(At this Stuff link there are also stats to December 2018)



Wednesday, March 06, 2019

The day the music died

Michael Jackson's music has made me and millions of others happy over decades; indeed, over half a century. Whatever else is or isn't true, I know for a fact I will be poorer for not hearing his music.

But apart from my bias, some questions:

How is this new phenomenon of retrospective 'catalogue cleansing' to be administered?

With or without criminal conviction?

Based on what type of crime and determined by whom?

Forever? For how long?

Before or only after the offending occurred?

And what about associated composers and musicians who will suffer from royalty loss? Will they be compensated?





Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Should Jacinda tie the knot?

Interesting conclusion to a thoughtful column about the forthcoming "well-being budget" that essentially argues people should be making their own well-being choices with personalised saving accounts instead of the government deciding what is and isn't worth spending on:

Marriage, for example, has a large positive effect on wellbeing. So should our Prime Minister be cajoled into it? Citizens must be the ultimate decision-maker.
Nice one.

It has been proven repeatedly that marriage is generally good for people. But all we need there is some acknowledgement, not government interference to boost it.

The point made by the writer sees the PM hoisted by her own philosophical petard, nanny-statism.

My well-being is my business. Butt out Jacinda.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

"Rape bias" as titled by NZ Herald


My 550 word opinion piece was too long for publication but a 100 word letter would be accommodated, I was told. The usual word limit for letters is 200.

What are they scared of?




Monday, February 25, 2019

What the Welfare Expert Advisory Group will recommend

Due to report back this week, here's a selection of what I believe the Welfare Expert Advisory Group will recommend:

1/ No more compulsion to name the father of a child dependent on a beneficiary. That's what scrapping the current penalty for not naming the father will mean. So expect the estimated cost of this move to be grossly under-estimated.

2/ Passing on child support to the beneficiary instead of keeping it to offset the cost of their benefit.

3/ Linking benefits to CPI and wage inflation (as per Super).

4/ Scrapping the 'additional child' conditions National imposed - ie work-testing the mother who adds a child to an existing benefit when that child turns one. They will justify this by showing the condition hasn't stopped people adding children anyway.

5/ Extending the In Work Tax Credit to other beneficiary parents. Perhaps it'll be named the Not In Work Tax Credit.

Then some possibilities:

5/ Scrapping the sanctions system.

6/ Lifting abatement rates to allow parents in particular to earn more without losing benefit component.

7/ Scrapping stand-downs which were introduced in the early 1990s

8/ Removing tax from benefits.

That last one is interesting. From memory Roger Douglas introduced taxation on benefits to solve a problem connected with people who work some of the year and are on benefit for the remainder. I can find reference to this as " a major package of tax reform that included the grossing up and taxation of welfare benefits" in October 1986.

(As an aside, in searching for information about the introduction of tax on benefits I came across this Tax Review report presented to Michael Cullen, then finance minister, in 2001. Searching capital gains resulted in the following, "We do not consider that New Zealand should adopt a general realisations-based capital gains tax. We do not believe that such a tax would make our tax system fairer and more efficient, nor do we believe that it would lower tax avoidance or raise substantial revenue that could be used to reduce rates. Instead, such a tax would increase the complexity and costs of our system.")

All of the above recommendations will cost a great deal and I wouldn't put it past the group to recommend lifting the super qualifying age as a means to afford more working-age welfare. I believe we should be lifting the age (as are the UK, Australia and the US) but not to pay for more welfare.

Remember that the welfare review is part of the coalition deal extracted by the Greens. The panel members are almost exclusively politically left. The public response, on the back of the controversial tax recommendations, will be most interesting.

Friday, February 22, 2019

On Jordan Peterson's 'rape' comments and the provocation of outrage

Regarding the views of Jordan Peterson, recently interviewed by NZ Herald journalist, Simon Wilson: "He's said several times it's wrong to believe the victim in rape cases.”

Without wishing to put words in Peterson’s mouth I expect he might have conveyed his intention better if the word ‘automatically’ had been inserted before ‘believe’.

And I suspect that Mr Peterson has talked about this issue on the back of feminist fixation with the issue of rape and consent. It is entirely pertinent to this country.

The message steadily gaining traction is, ‘No women laying a rape complaint must be disbelieved’. Prior to the 2014 election Labour wanted to shift the burden of proof of consent to the defendant.

In any event Labour did not win the 2014 election. But again in April 2017 Labour's sexual violence spokesperson, Mrs Poto Williams called for “…radical reform of the sexual justice system which would see rape accusers believed by police as a starting point.”

This would invert the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

Naturally Peterson would oppose this idea. We all should. The whole point of the justice system is to fathom out the facts and respond accordingly.

To further explain his position he also makes mention of the high number of false rape complaints that occur. There have been numerous examples in New Zealand. Reports from the mid-2000s suggested police put the level of false rape complaints as high as 60-80 percent. The Peter Ellis organization documents many. Not content with second-hand information, I wrote to the New Zealand Police in 2008 asking for statistics relating to false rape allegations. Their response:

“Police record statistics under the offence “False Statement/Declaration Etc”. However, these statistics do not distinguish/identify the nature of the false complaint e.g. ‘Rape’….official statistics for what you have requested do not exist.”

Hit a brick wall there. But in the late 1990s Jan Jordan, Victoria University, wrote a paper Beyond Belief? Police, Rape and Women’s Credibility.

Describing her own interviews with detectives experienced in sexual assault investigations,  Jordan writes estimates of false rape allegations  “…ranged between one detective who said 10 percent and another who estimated that 80 per cent of all rapes reported were false ‘in one way or another’.”

Jan Jordan was given unprecedented access to police files to make her own analysis of rape and sexual violation complaints. Police judgement on 164 cases from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch were examined. Factors that featured in findings of false complaint included drug or alcohol impairment, a delay in reporting, previous consensual sex with accused, previous rape complaints and intellectual impairment. Jordan observed “…a dominant mind-set of suspicion underlying police responses to reports of sexual assault.”

She also sensibly points out: “The police do, in fact, have to tread a fine line between the victim and the accused as they attempt to preserve the balance of justice and guard against the possibilities of wrongful conviction. However, an over-zealous commitment to the rights of the accused may unwittingly tip the balance the other way.”

The converse is equally true. That is the direction we are heading in, or indeed, a destination we have arrived at - an “over-zealous commitment” to the rights of the accuser.

This, then, provides context for Jordan Peterson’s comments which taken in isolation provoke the outrage the journalist intended.

Monday, February 18, 2019

An 'old white women's' view

My last post was about sole parents and their declining dependence on benefits. It was a public alert countering the messaging from welfare advocates.  My husband asked me, Why doesn't Paula Bennett tackle this stuff, promote her record of welfare reform?

I don't know, I replied.

But today we are privy to what she does spend her time doing My new look and life 12 months after gastric bypass surgery

Of course she is not alone.

Maggie Barry and her bolt hole was a recent DomPost piece Inside Maggie Barry's sea front home

Links for celebrity MPs on the left - especially the PM - can be found but I can't be bothered.

I disapprove of MPs magaziny muppetry. Makes me very old school, I know.

But these individuals are handsomely remunerated by the taxpayer to perform a public service. This fluff stuff is overt vote-buying. It's another form of pork-barreling.

And think about it. It's most commonly female MPs exploiting their gender - and the interest it elicits from their 'sisters' - that pimp themselves in this way.

But they might dismiss me as an 'old white women' clinging to a paradigm of policy over personality. Of service over stardom. Of serious, sustained endeavour over shortcuts.




Saturday, February 16, 2019

Welfare advocates start lining up

An article appeared in the DomPost on Thursday, Feb 14.

My response.




Wednesday, February 13, 2019

If leftists won't believe the Sally Army, then who?

If I had a dollar for every time some individual or organisation claimed inequality was growing, I'd be rich.

But the latest Salvation Army appraisal of the nation (an annual publication) has this to say:

Our prosperity is fairly shared
The past five years have seen increasing prosperity for most New Zealanders and a very modest narrowing of income inequalities. Those living on welfare benefits remain economically excluded, however.

The last statement is  not correct.

The report goes on to acknowledge this by mentioning extra supplementary assistance, the " one-off increase in benefit rates in 2016" and the winter energy payments.

It does not mention increases in the accommodation supplement, changes to benefit abatement rates allowing some beneficiaries to earn more, the significant Best Start payment for newborns and increases to WFF payments to children in beneficiary households.

They draw a depressing conclusion:

... the numbers of working-age adults receiving a benefit remains constant around 285,000, and this is despite the official unemployment rate in September 2018 sinking to a 10-year low of 3.7% of the workforce. The core of those receiving a benefit, around 150,000 adults, do so for health or disability reasons and so are paid the Supported Living payment or the Jobseeker/Health Condition payment. Their needs and this number of people are unlikely to change even in times of low unemployment. This permanence, alongside the economic exclusion suffered by those reliant
on welfare payments, suggest that a radical re-think is required for setting benefit levels. Such a re-think should look at avoiding the need for top-up and supplementary payments, and could consider indexing benefit levels to changes in wages and salaries as we already do for New Zealand Superannuation.
This final recommendation will undoubtedly be a feature of the Welfare Working Group's report due end of this month.

I don't have a problem with such an indexing, which is what we do for Superannuitants. But don't pretend that beneficiaries have been "economically excluded" without it to make the argument.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Flummoxed by latest political poll

I couldn't really give a fig if National tanks. They've been almost as socialist as Labour for a long, long time. They message otherwise then merely manage degrees of intervention and redistribution.

But I am surprised at the latest poll result that has Labour well up and National down. I'm not sensing any warming to Labour or Jacinda. Talkback, letters-to-editors, personal conversations don't find for Labour.

Topical issues have run against Labour. Don't need to spell those out.

Leadership? Personally I lost any interest in Bridges when his 'f...ing useless' descriptive remarks about a fellow MP came to light. Because he had painstakingly painted himself as Mr Nice Guy prior. BUT I am atypical.

Such a sizable swing simply makes no sense to me.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Another racist policy!

The government has announced it will ban smoking in cars that contain children:


Source

Seriously, what about the thousands of children who are affected by drugs and alcohol before they ever get to grace a baby car seat? This move is a superficial scratch on the surface of a much deeper problem.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Govt ignores own research

MSD monitors the effectiveness of its spending on employment assistance. The 2016/17 assessment has just been published.

"$149 million (72%) went on effective or promising employment assistance."

Not all of the spending is effective. Some results are "mixed" and some "negative".

But among the "effective and promising" interventions appears:

"Work obligation focused interventions: interventions that use work obligation requirements to ensure people are actively seeking employment."

In other words, sanctions. A failure to meet an obligation requires a consequence. Otherwise an obligation is meaningless.

In the year to December 2018, this government reduced the use of sanctions by 42.2 percent.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Brief comment on prison population

Based on the most recently available prison statistics the total muster is reducing. The PM says:

"We've seen about 1000 fewer people in our prisons, and so any work that we do on rehabilitation programmes ultimately does benefit Māori."
She must have more up-to-date stats than the public because the September 17 to September 18 reduction was only 418.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says:

"...tribes from Ngāti Whātua right through to Ngāti Kuri are working with the department to reduce the prison population in the north and support people when they emerge from prison."
Yet in September 2018 there were 625 prisoners in Northland Region Corrections facility. A year earlier there were 607.

The government is fixated on the prison population.

But they are ignoring where it begins. Births into unstable, dare I say it, unmarried, dysfunctional family situations. I blogged yesterday about Maori accounting for 93% of the increase in births to the year ending September 2018. Around a 1,000 more were ex-nuptial and 300 fewer nuptial.

Marriages (with proven greater longevity than de facto relationships) might not last, but they at least say something about parental commitment at the time of birth. There is no doubt that these babies have significantly lower risks of eventually becoming prisoners.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Maori births account for 93% of year-on-year increase

Ever-interested in the behavioural response to 'incentives' I was looking at recent birth data. Labour promised and delivered greater financial benefits for newborns and families with dependent children.

It is probably too soon to assess any response to this, especially as the latest data available is to September 2018, not December.

In the year to September 2018 there were 59,331 live births. An increase of 837 on the previous year.

Not particularly significant.

However Maori live births rose to 17,118 from 16,341 - an increase of 777.

So of the total increase 93% were Maori.

17,118 is also the highest number of Maori live births since 2012.

The increase is almost totally accounted for by Maori mothers aged 25-34.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Who should qualify for Super?


(Left-click to enlarge)

Sean Plunket ran a show attacking Super receipt today; those taking it while continuing to work, and any taking it when they don't need it. He personalised his attack using morning host Peter Williams, newly qualified.

He justified his argument through concern about inter-generational inequity. The baby boomers are stealing from the following generations.

I rang to make the point that in the 1990s some were making the same accusations about the generation born in the 1920s through 40s. David Thomson wrote a book called the Selfish Generations to this effect. These inter-generational inequities are probably swings and roundabouts.

Regarding Super, my view is that the qualifying age needs to go up to 67-68 with those physically incapable going on a Supported Living Payment. Anyone who is receiving Super and working is effectively paying for it themselves through their own tax. It's like WFF for the over 65s.

Some means-testing sounds good but it opens a can of worms just not worth opening.





Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Hawke's Bay headed for a 'labour shortage declaration'


What else would you take from today's release?

This is no more than an advance move to ward off criticism about the number of beneficiaries in the East Coast region where there are currently over 7,600 claiming an Unemployment Benefit (aka Jobseeker Support)

From memory, this is the third region to do so.

Historically Maori and Pakeha men moved around in search of work. At a guess, that work paid reasonably well because employers weren't having to meet the high levels of taxation required to meet social security. Maori may have been paid less because of communal living perceptions - and that was wrong.

But was it a model worse than today's?

Wealth redistributed voluntarily and constructively?

Individuals with a sense of worth, camaraderie and autonomy?

It wasn't perfect.

But is the replacement?

Maori perspective on welfare offices and procedures

PUAO-TE-ATA-TU (day break)
THE REPORT OF THE MINISTERIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON A
MAORI PERSPECTIVE FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE 1988

 "People felt the Department’s offices were unwelcoming and impersonal, lacked privacy and adequate soundproofing. Counters were seen as creating barriers between “them” and “us” and children were not catered for in waiting rooms."
"It was suggested that training programmes should be designed to raise the level of awareness of Maori culture and should also incorporate training in personal skills and some knowledge of New Zealand history. A compelling need was for front-line staff to be fully aware of the range of assistance available and to have the authority to make decisions and give authoritative advice."


Yesterday MSD released their latest attempts to consult with Maori about their experiences with WINZ and the responses are strikingly similar:

"You said that our offices needed to be brightened up and have
spaces where you could meet with your case managers privately.
You didn’t like open plan set ups as other people could easily
overhear your business. You want access to toilets and tea and
coffee facilities so that when appointments are running late, you
can freshen up and have a drink. You also wanted play areas and
changing facilities for your children and access to free Wi-Fi at
service centres. You didn’t mind the presence of security guards
and understood why they were there. However you said that
kaumātua or Māori wardens could also fill those roles as they were
less threatening to Māori and would likely diffuse situations before
they even began. With some site closures it has been harder for you
to get to other service centres."

"You said that it was stupid that we don’t tell you about all the different supports that you are entitled to receive when you register with us – instead we wait for you to ask."

"You told us you wanted to hear Māori being spoken/greetings | See Māori imagery around | Choose to have a Māori case worker | Be offered training on Māori things."

I can find no on-line data for benefit ethnicity during the 1980s. Currently Maori account for 36.4 percent of all working age beneficiaries. In 2003 the percentage  was 30.4 and in 1998 25.2 percent.

In 20 years the figure has risen from a quarter to well over a third.

Make what you will of that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The best of times and the worst of times...

In recent history, the NZ unemployment rate saw the best of times in the latest quarter - December 2018.  It saw the worst of times when the Great Recession of 2008/09 took hold.


(Click on image to enlarge)


From a welfare viewpoint - the % of working-age dependent on a benefit - this is what the two extremes look like:



There is a 2 percentage-point variation between the two polar points.

Is 10 percent of the working age population dependent on a benefit now as good as it gets?

Here is some context for you to digest.

There was a decades-long period post 1938 (when Social Security was created) when the norm was consistently around 2 percent of the working age population dependent on taxpayers.


Now we are expected to celebrate 10 percent.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Sanction reduction extraordinarily inconsistent across country

Nationally, since December 2017, the number of benefit sanctions has reduced by 42 percent. But the reduction is extraordinarily inconsistent across the regions.

For instance, the East Coast region has seen a 70% reduction in sanction application whereas Northland beneficiaries have experienced only a 17% reduction.

These two regions represent the highest and lowest reductions. Yet they are reasonably similar in profile. Which leads to the conclusion that there is a degree of arbitrariness occurring in the decision-making.


There is also speculation that the increased sanctions are leading to an increase in the number of people receiving a Jobseeker benefit.

Is any correlation showing by comparing the regions? No.

Canterbury had the highest growth in Jobseeker numbers but one of the lower reductions in sanctions. Northland and EastCoast have virtually the same increase in JS benefits but the highest and lowest sanction reduction.

This doesn't conclusively disprove that fewer sanctions lead to more Jobseeker dependence simply that other weightier factors are in play.

I come back to the glaring inconsistency between Northland and East Coast. Why has the East Coast taken a much softer line than Northland? 

Whatever your feelings are about welfare, beneficiaries should be entitled to a consistent application of rules.