You can’t really understand and fix a problem unless you have some reference points to measure progress against. So, when Paula Bennett’s Green Paper on poverty said that 20% of children live in poverty, people said ‘wow, what are you policies to reduce this and how much will they reduce it by’. But Bennett has no policies to reduce poverty, so she’s resorted to zen-like wavering over whether we can and should measure poverty.
Even Lockwood Smith got tired of her shit:
.JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by her answer to oral questions on Tuesday that “There is in New Zealand no actual poverty line” and “I do not see the measurement as a priority”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Yes, because it is correct. There is no official measure of poverty in New Zealand. The actual work to address poverty is perhaps what is most important—things like insulating homes, making sure that we legislate for CPI increases in benefits, getting people into work, and ensuring children have access to free health care. That is the priority for this Government.
Jacinda Ardern: When she said that the Ministerial Committee on Poverty was “getting things done” instead of “just worrying about measurements”, had she read the one Treasury paper provided to the committee, which stated that “getting a New Zealand-specific sense of the dynamic poverty data could be a useful place to start.”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I certainly stand by the work—the hard work—that is going on within that ministerial committee. What we are concentrating on is the things that matter to New Zealand, and particularly to those most vulnerable children. Quite frankly, the list of the work that is happening is so long that, Mr Speaker, you would not allow me the time to actually read it out at this time.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! What I would allow the Minister to do, though, is to answer whether or not she had seen the paper that was the subject of the question.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes.
Jacinda Ardern: What information was used to generate the figure in her own green paper that “Nearly 20 percent of New Zealand children live in poverty.”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think that is exactly where we say that the measure can actually be controversial and at the same level speculative. What we have done, as you have seen—you would have seen the research behind that green paper—is that we have taken it from a variety of measures and come up with 20 percent. But I would say to you that it is relative and it could be changed.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she agree that 20 percent of New Zealand children live in poverty?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think children move in and out of poverty pretty much on a daily basis. What I do not agree with—[Interruption] Well, they do. One week they can be in poverty, then their parent can get a job or increase their income, and they are no longer in poverty. Get in the real world! This is not “Labour Land”. This is the real world, and actually children move in and out of poverty, at times on a weekly basis. It is a fact. Read the research. What I do not agree with is that poverty and measuring it are what is most important for New Zealand children today. There is plenty of evidence that says that many, many, many parents whose children—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Paula Bennett was asked whether she agreed that 20 percent of New Zealand children are living in poverty. We have heard a diatribe but no answer to the most basic question. Does she agree, yes or no?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Well, Ministers are never required to answer yes or no to that type of question. The Minister has stated how she sees that figure, and she has argued, to some interjection from the other side, that children move in and out of poverty. It is clearly an answer to the question. It may not be the one that member was—[Interruption] Order! I am on my feet.
Hon Annette King: Sorry, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you. It may not be the best of answers—that is not for the Speaker to judge—but the House was clearly indicating what it thought of the answer. But it was in order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Now that there has been that interruption—and I apologise to my colleague for cutting in front of him again—I think it would be appropriate if the Minister started the answer again, because I think we have lost some of the flow of it. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not think that—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Now look, this point of order process will not go on too much longer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Surely the rudimentary assumption from the question is that on any given day—that is, the 20 percent—on any given day, does she agree that 20 percent are in poverty? Do we have to have these tortious explanations—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member cannot dispute answers by way of point of order. If the member does not like the answer, ask a supplementary question. That is what question time is about. It is not about raising points of order because the answer is not liked. I am certainly prepared to entertain points of order when questions are not answered at all, and I intervened with this—[Interruption] Order! I say to the Minister do not interject. I have had enough of this today and there will not—the Minister is showing no more discipline, or less discipline, than a 3-year-old child. It will cease. I am serious.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she agree that today 20 percent of New Zealand children live in poverty?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon—[Interruption] Order! I have not even called the Minister. Can I encourage the Minister to settle down.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have not measured them today.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 5, Dr Russel Norman. [Interruption] Now look! I apologise to Dr Russel Norman, but the noise will—[Interruption] Order! The House will settle down. This is absolutely disgraceful. Members of the public watching this will email me this afternoon about how disgusted they are by some of the behaviour. It has happened too often this week. I have had too many such communications this week and I do not like that kind of reaction from the public.
Just to be clear, this is the minister who told us that 20% of children live in poverty now saying that there is no measure for poverty. It’s a fucken disgrace that ministers spend thier time playing silly buggers rather than stnading up for their achievements, or ack of them.
Oh, and don’t get me started on Gerry Brownlee comparing people who speak out against government policy to the beast of Blenheim as both being people whom the government might release private information about.