Welcome to Poverty watch, a weekly update on the National government’s lack of response to the urgent and growing issue of poverty in NZ. A lot of background issues and links are set out in Poverty Watch one two and three.
Another week, another warning about the damaging effects of poverty in NZ:
Record on rheumatic fever ‘shameful’
A medical leader has hit out at New Zealand’s “shameful and intolerable” rate of rheumatic fever, a Third World disease associated with child poverty and overcrowding.
Professor Norman Sharpe, medical director of the National Heart Foundation, has thrown his support behind draft proposals to the Children’s Commissioner by a group of experts to reduce child poverty, which include a universal child benefit, expansion of social housing and a free-food programme in schools.
In today’s New Zealand Medical Journal, Professor Sharpe laments the findings of a new study on rheumatic fever that it has “persistently defied control”, and he says this is an indicator of “how we value our children”. ….
He cited earlier research that had shown a big increase in the two decades to 2008 in the rate of hospital admissions for serious infectious diseases, with disproportionate increases for Maori, Pacific Islanders and poor people. This occurred while the income gap between rich and poor widened.
The legacy of the neoliberal reforms of the 90s. Poverty (and inequality) were falling (albeit too slowly) under the last Labour government. Now they are on the rise again, in fact a Waikato University professor says that poverty is our biggest growth industry.
This week also saw a bill designed to alleviate poverty – Metiria Turei’s Income Tax (Universalisation of In-work Tax Credit) Amendment Bill— voted down at the first reading by the Nats and John Banks (as expected of course), and by the crucial vote of Peter Dunne (who should know better). As covered by Karol on Thursday, Dunne’s disregard for children in need is particularly callous. In General Debate Turei made a final plea to Dunne to support the Bill. She asked him to honour a2011 election pledge, which stated:
As a politician I choose to commit to building a fairer New Zealand, and will actively support policy measures that reduce income inequality and ensure that will bring people closer together.
When the opportunity came it was Dunne’s one vote which instead of supporting such a measure, made sure that it failed instead. Shame on him.
Finally this week, in the wake of hurricane Sandy, we are reminded again that the impact of natural disasters fall most heavily on the poor. David Rhode’s piece “The Hideous Inequality Exposed by Hurricane Sandy” created quite a stir – go read it. As extreme weather events ramp up, it’s a taste of things to come. Climate change is racist.
Poverty Watch always ends with the following list, the National government’s response to rising poverty in NZ:
• National has not yet set any target for reducing poverty