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Children First

Written By: - Date published: 10:00 am, March 18th, 2011 - 67 comments
Categories: education, families - Tags: , , ,

Firstly: a quick thank-you to The Standard for letting me blog here.

Secondly: today our thoughts are (still) with Christchurch and the difficulties those there face.  Especially those whose friends and relatives are still on the missing list.


I was going to have my first post on the economy, but that will have to wait until the weekend as I’m all inspired after hearing Judy Bailey give a Brainwave Trust presentation this week.

Most of the presentation was not new material to me – a lot of it has been covered at Labour conferences in the preparation for the evidence-led policy Putting Children First.  Having 2 pre-schoolers also gives one an interest in the area.

But the incredible importance of providing the best possible start to our children in those very early years was good to have reinforced.

For a better future New Zealand we need to make all our children a priority.  The Brainwave Trust rightly focuses on the need for cuddles, love and attachment, and their importance on the development of the brain – but as a society we have a responsibility to support parents to be able to provide that care.

This means a lot of things.  From Working For Families, to lessen the stress of the extra costs of those early years, to freely available parenting classes for all who want or need them.  Enrolment of all in Plunket or other Well-Child providers, and the ability to intervene early if things are going wrong.  The restoration of free primary health for young children, and reduction of child poverty.

It certainly includes high-quality Early Childhood Education.  Economically, at no point does investment in education provide the return that it does in under-5s; but far more importantly, socially it is vital.  Here children learn to interact with their world.  They learn the empathy that will keep them from crime.  They don’t just learn the motor-skills to move about their world physically, they learn the emotional skills to move through life with resilience.

Instead of improving that education system, National have slashed $400million from it, raising fees and reducing access for those who most need it.  They have also introduced changes to allow 75 children under-2 in a centre – meaning incredible stress for babies and no chance of making a vital attachment to a teacher.

Meanwhile they have reversed the child poverty improvements Labour made in their last term.  People are no longer able to afford to take their kids to the doctor after-hours.

Parenting classes could easily have been integrated into Adult and Community Education Night Classes – if they hadn’t been almost entirely wiped out.

National have also shown no interest in working on a cross-party solution for our children that would greatly benefit our future.

Because those who have the gift of top-quality pre-school years will go on to be life’s successes.  Much more able to cope with stress, to learn and adapt, to empathise, control their emotions.  Those who have a troubled early childhood will instead develop a “fight or flight” brain – with no empathy or remorse, a high likelihood of crime and violence, low concentration impairing their learning ability, and low control of their basic urges resulting in poor health and addiction to food, drugs and other things.

Instead of wanting to help our next generation to be better, National prefer to bash beneficiaries – forgetting, like the Welfare Working Group, that the DPB is for the children, not the parents, and so any reduction of the benefit is punishment for our most defenseless little members of society.  There is some twisted logic that sees that those whose early years are in poverty will likely grow up to have their adult years in poverty and concludes the way to help them is to reduce their income.


[Ben Clark is Labour’s candidate for the open seat of North Shore at this year’s election (as we covered here). He’ll provide us with a candidate’s eye-view of the campaign. Welcome aboard, Ben – The Standardistas]

67 comments on “Children First ”

  1. lprent 1

    Nice to see you here.

    I’ve worked with Ben, both as a party activist when he has helped campaign for North Shore (even though I had no idea who he was then and I never met him) and in real life in my professional work (he is a mean AI programmer). We were thinking about him doing guest posts. But in the end plumped for just asking him in as an author.

    If he manages to get into parliament at the election, then we’d lose him to Red Alert. So this is one candidate of the left that I have mixed feelings on them winning at the election. 😈

    You’re going to enjoy his writing and the way he thinks (well most of you probably are).

    • higherstandard 1.1

      Unless he’s highish on the list I don’t think there’s much chance of him getting into parliament.

      National could run Judith Tizzard on the Northshore and still be confident of winning the seat.

      • lprent 1.1.1

        It is a hard sell. But it isn’t that bad when you look at the numbers, especially if you think of MMP.

        But the neighboring north shore electorate in Birkenhead has been held by a Labour electorate MP until 2005 (from memory). The North Shore electorate is somewhat variable (from memory the party vote went to Labour in 2002). From http://2008.electionresults.govt.nz/

        LAB / NAT electorate
        2008 9250 / 23824 Twyford / Mapp
        2005 12274 / 21975 Twyford / Mapp
        2002 9970 / 15068 Duncan / Mapp

        LAB / NAT party
        2008 8381 / 22738
        2005 11252 / 20125
        2002 10841 / 9507

        Only went back to 2002 as the 1999 results are in CSV’s. And I haven’t looked at boundary changes.

        I like the party vote in 2002 :0 … But generally it depends on turnout, candidate, and the general political mood. In this case Mapp is retiring which almost invariably means a electorate vote fall. The Nats are in power, which tends to drive votes away over time. And there are useful amounts of party vote available – which is what really counts.

        You’re still thinking FPP style….

        • higherstandard

          If he’s running for the Nth Shore electorate he has no show of getting into parliament in November as an electorate MP and will have to rely on the list.

      • mickysavage 1.1.2

        The North Shore currently is a barren wasteland for Labour. But with candidates of the quality of Ben and Paula Gillon and Vivienne Goldsmith things could change.

        Northcote is the fourth most marginal seat in the Auckland area (excluding maori seats) and with a good campaign Labour could win it. I think that Paula could give the odious Coleman a considerable fright. Maybe not this time but next time the seat is a possibility. And North Shore is not out of the question. As Lprent points out Labour won the party vote in 2002.

        Ben is a candidate of considerable potential. If not this time then next time I would expect to see his prospects as being really rosy …

  2. prism 2

    This excerpt from the post says it all for achieving a better New Zealand for all, not just families themselves. For a better future New Zealand we need to make all our children a priority. The Brainwave Trust rightly focuses on the need for cuddles, love and attachment, and their importance on the development of the brain – but as a society we have a responsibility to support parents to be able to provide that care.

    Parents are often treated in a coercive or punitive manner rather than a helpful one which is respectful of their great responsibilities. The support for parents is presently patchy, available through pilots which even if successful, are not extended for all and made permanent, or gets withdrawn if the government wants to give more money back to those whose only interest is having money and things.

  3. Afewknowthetruth 3

    I feel sorry for any child born now. They will grow up in a world which has already been severely depleted of resources, and what lttle remains will be fought over. They will grow up in a world in which the evironment is being degraded at an utterly staggering rate which is accelerating. And all that avoidable calamity just so that a corrupt and inefficient economic system can persist for a few more years before falling over.

    The CO2 content of the atmosphere is now 393ppm -well above the acknowledged safe level of 350ppm for continuation of life on this planet- and is rising out of control. Escallating CO2 emissions will almost certainly trigger positive feedbacks that will probably make the Earth largely uninhabitable in a few decades.

    And ‘nobody’ cares about any of it -especialy not the hypocritical bought-and-paid-for cronies who inhabit the Beehive.

  4. fabregas4 4

    If that most loathsome of people Michael Laws stated this morning that there is a direct link to pedophilia and lack of education. There are some educated class criminals but at least (and I don’t mean to minimise the hurt they do) they mostly do white collar stuff rather than, in my view the worse type of crime, violent offending. Main point – we are all better off if our society is educated well and this begins from birth.

    • mcflock 4.1

      “If that most loathsome of people Michael Laws stated this morning that there is a direct link to pedophilia and lack of education.”

      Didn’t hear him. It’s a sad comment that I honestly don’t know whether his solution was to a)give poor families more money and assistance and/or make education more accessible; or b) lock up the poor because they’re probably pedophiles.

  5. just saying 5

    Those who have a troubled early childhood are likely to<will instead develop a “fight or flight” brain – which sometimes, impairswith no empathy or remorse, a high likelihood of crime and violence, Other possible effects of the “fight or flight brain” include low concentration impairing their learning ability, and low control of their basic urges resulting in poor health and addiction to food, drugs and other things.

    Don’t want to be pedantic, and I completely agree with what you are saying about the importance of the early years, and the political implications, but the way it is written is downright defamatory to a big section of the population.

    • Ben Clark 5.1

      Fair point.

    • Treetop 5.2

      I don’t want to be pedantic either. Children have a lot of resilience, however when certain things happen and the perpetrator is not held to account this does a lot of damage. Often it is not until the child becomes an adult that they can begin to address being perpetrated against. When not taken seriously by who you have complained to when an adult, the child will battle with the adult and the adult then becomes absorbed by the child’s pain.

      I was sickened to hear of the non custodial sentence (sometimes) the filth of society (paedophiles) get. This is an insult to children who have been harmed by such filth and minimises the gravity of what has been done to them. I praise those who work in the field of tracking sickening imbalanced scum. Those who work in the filed of protecting children and do nothing about processing a child who is at risk I could spit on you.

      The cuts ACC have made to children who were sexually offended against prior to 1974 is overwhelming. I want to be assured that adults do not have to hold onto childhood pain. Clearly there is an issue when it is 2011 and a person has gone to ACC. ACC will drag up any family dysfunction and use this against the person desperately asking for help and validation for childhood sexual offending.

      Of course I want to see infants and children being nurtured, educated, receive good health care/nutrition and be protected.

  6. Bill 6

    1. Being subjected to a wholly contrived social environment where ‘everybody’ is of the same age probably retards rather than enhances social development.

    2. Working For Families introduces stress because low wage earners know that a job loss will be compounded by the loss of the wff payments. And that’s not to mention the unconscionable discrimination of wff insofar as it excludes non-working parents and their 150 000 children. (But then, it wouldn’t act as an ‘incentiviser’ if it didn’t systemically consign the poorest to severe and significant hardship, would it?)

    3. Not convinced that hyper alertness that can result from trauma can be claimed to be precursor for the maladies you list.

    4. Labour bashed beneficiaries during their time in office too. Remember the introduction of Temporary Additional Support? The biggest single cut to benefit levels since the early 90s?

    5. I’m pretty sure QoT went through Annette King’s ridiculous ‘Putting Children First’ pap like a dose of salts some time back. Suffice to say that ‘Putting Children First’ gets a 10/10 for vacuous rhetoric.

    6. NZ has some of the highest instances of preventable diseases among children (pneumonia etc) in the OECD, the highest child suicide rate, and has among the lowest (perhaps the lowest?) rate of state spending for children in the OECD. And that didn’t kind of suddenly occur following National’s election victory.

    • just saying 6.1

      “3. Not convinced that hyper alertness that can result from trauma can be claimed to be precursor for the maladies you list.”

      Quite right Bill, hypervigilance, anxiety disorders and depression are far more likely negative outcomes than the sociopathy Ben has described. Individuals who have experienced trauma can also become more rather than less sensitve to the needs and feelings of others as a result of their own difficult experiences. And absence of empathy and remorse aren’t necessarily the result of a “troubled early childhood”. (In fact, they seem to be fostered by capitalism given they constitute a competitive advantage where ‘dog eats dog’). Which is not to say that Ben isn’t quite right about the advantages to society of safe, happy, and securely attached early childhood experiences. And the need to do everything we can to help families achieve this.

      Also quite right re Labour’s miserable track record in recent years, and its current “vacuous rhetoric” in this regard.

      • Puddleglum 6.1.1

        I’ve linked to this article before, but if you want a quick summary of how personal well-being is connected to neurodevelopment it’s a good “horse’s mouth” summary.

        Attachment processes are linked to ‘socio-emotional’ difficulties later in life and to the quality of relationships. They also link to future ‘substance abuse’ and OCD, among other ‘pathologies’.

        In the realm of socio-emotional development, the measurement of security of infant–parent attachment has proved a powerful predictive source of future competence in later life (Denham et al. 2002). From the perspective of developmental psychopathology, there are several ways in which to view the relationship between attachment and subsequent clinical disturbance. Anxious attachments may be conceived as a risk factor for subsequent socio- emotional problems. Attachment theory predicts that by middle childhood the internal working models relate to coping strategies evoked to deal with situations where distress and insecurities are aroused. Children classified as secure are more likely to seek help from others than are children classed as insecure. Anxious attachments predict more difficult, aggressive peer relationships and few good, close friends.

        It’s this kind of research that the Brainwave Trust emphasise, correctly. As Keverne puts it:

        Humans tend to worry about the uterine environment and toxic agents or drugs, which may damage the fingers and toes of babies, but perhaps we should pay more attention to the post- partum period when the social environment exercises its effects on the developing brain and lays down the foundations for future well-being.

        The ‘first three years’ mantra, however, oversimplifies the neurodevelopmental literature. Up until our early twenties our brains are adjusting their ‘wiring’ to produce as adaptive behaviour as possible in the environment we find ourselves in. After that age, plasticity reduces (but does not disappear) and we have a greater tendency to adjust our environment to fit with the ‘wiring’ that has been established (e.g., seek out environments and people/social situations that we have become adapted to and are competent within – for better or worse.).

        It is, in particular, the prefrontal cortex that continues to develop in this way and it is that area of the brain that is most implicated in such functions as planning, decision making, social negotiation and consciousness (amongst other functions). We are, in effect, still within a ‘social womb’ until early adulthood so far as neurodevelopment is concerned. One last quotation from the article:

        It is clear, therefore, that different regions of the PFC that are engaged in decision-making, forward planning and emotional control, undergo a surge of development modifications at puberty that continue throughout adolescence that are complete around the age of 20–22 years and are important for adult well-being.

        It’s not all about the first three years.

        (Neuro)biology might not be destiny, but living a good life with a brain designed for other purposes is like hammering a nail with a screwdriver: It’s having to make do with the wrong tool.

        • just saying

          “Those who have a troubled early childhood will instead develop a “fight or flight” brain – with no empathy or remorse, a high likelihood of crime and violence, low concentration impairing their learning ability, and low control of their basic urges resulting in poor health and addiction to food, drugs and other things.”

          Thanks for this PG, very informative. But I was reacting against the extremity of the above, rather than denying that attachment problems and childhood experiences can create serious problems

          • Puddleglum

            Completely agree with your point.

            That’s why I tried to emphasise that it is the social environment lasting well beyond the first few years that matters (not just a troubled early childhood). I didn’t make it clear enough but I was trying to be supportive of your point – first, by agreeing with Ben that the early years are important but, second, pointing out that so are all the rest when it comes to determining adult actions and outcomes.

            I guess I was trying to play the neurodevelopmental game to show that such correlations can be misleading because we continue to be a work in progress (then there’s the fact that neurodevelopment is not destiny – even if it can make life harder to ‘do’).

            I could have added that control over emotional processes uses prefrontal cortex circuits that develop during and after puberty. More importantly, I could have also added that you are quite correct about absence of empathy and remorse being associated very strongly with social and economic arrangements. There’s long been a debate in economics over whether or not thinking like an economist undermines empathy and the like … not sure where that’s at now.

        • Rosy

          A good link. From what I’ve seen this article gives the less dramatic but probably the more widespread maladies of troubled childhoods. I’m not saying that the more dramatic empathy issues, violent crime etc aren’t due to attachment issues, but I reckon most with these backgrounds just truck along with the said depression, OCD, substance abuse and other “socio-emotional issues”. One of the big problems I’ve noticed is the wasted opportunities in adult years learning things that should have been learnt as a child – how to socialise, seek help (not mental health, just the general idea that others are around who may know things you need to get along – advice, know-how, training etc). ECA, if it is good can provide a reasonable basis for dealing with these things for children who are already in troubled lives sooner.

          Over-egging the violence and doomed to fail issues risks writing off a pretty big section of society and won’t gain traction except for the moral panic people. IMO.

          • Puddleglum

            Agreed. The main point to push is that these ‘thwarted’ developmental processes harm the individuals themselves.

            That some small minority of those individuals may cause problems for others should not be the principal reason for seeking policy options that minimise the effects of a ‘troubled childhood’.

            • Ben Clark

              Indeed the harm is mostly to the individual, and that is the prime motivation; although the harm to others may be the aspect that’s more saleable to the electorate sadly.

              • Rosy

                Ben. I am in complete agreement about the need for early childhood education, but I think you’re pandering to talkbackland but what are you offering with to them with this sale? an alternative to eugenics? another way to make sure those brownies and white trash don’t invade our homes for their druggie habits? I mean I understand this, I use it myself when talking to the family rednecks – i.e. you and your kids will be safer if the underclass are fed, housed and educated – but surely this isn’t your key demographic?

                Just imagine you were trying to ‘sell’ primary education for 5 year-olds – would you use the same tactic? I suggest you’ll outline the benefits for the child as well as for society and assume the benefits of education were widespread and multifactorial and not just to protect society by improving the lot of a minor bunch of misfits.

                • Ben Clark

                  I think all good selling points are worth pushing, and different demographics will take different things out of it. Hopefully most will be taken with the selling points about benefits across society, but it’s worth pushing all points to be sure.

                  • Rosy

                    See that’s where we part company. You’re Labour – you’re meant to support the people who come from the background I had, not talk in terms of a fight and flight brains and lacking empathy and a propensity for violence. If this is the selling point, I’m not buying. It’s up to Labour, I guess, to calculate how many votes they’ll shed for the talkback votes they’ll gain because of the way they choose to sell a very important policy.

                    “you can take the boy out of loserville but you can’t take the place from the man” (Stuart Adamson)…remember that – nice middle-class people like me can have absolutely sh*t backgrounds and feel totally alienated when standing around listening to other nice middle class people unknowingly dissing them because they don’t understand where they came from. Sorry, Angry 🙁

    • Ben Clark 6.2

      Hi Bill,

      There is no one correct way for people to raise their kids. I find my eldest gets an awful lot from her time in an environment where ‘everybody’ is of the same age. In fact not everybody is of the same age – there are older and younger pre-schoolers and adult teachers. She learns from all of them, and enjoys her playing. But naturally children do have a lot of enjoyment spending time with others of similar ages – I’m not sure how ‘artificial’ the situation is.

      I can’t really accept the WfF introduces stress, and it was not introduced as an ‘incentiviser’, as National likes to do. Giving people more money to be able to afford more for their kids is not really going to increase people’s worries over not giving them the money. Labour also strived for full-employment, so there were a minimum of families without any income. Yes they might have done more for beneficiaries.

      Puddleglum’s nicely pointed to the research around 3, just saying is correct in that I missed adding a couple of qualifiers. I worry that js suggest that I’m defaming a big section of the population – hopefully not that many have had sustained trauma in their first 3 years.

      I didn’t agree with QoT’s attack on ‘Putting Children First’. Those of us within the party have seen the policy research, the consultation with those on the Dunedin Study and others as to what could be best for our children know it is far from ‘vacuous rhetoric’. There is serious policy behind it, starting with reinstating the $400million for ECE, but a whole heap of connected work in all departments too – ensuring that there is no ‘silo thinking’ and all of government must consider what is best for the very young, our next generation. Automatic enrolment in Well-Child providers will help an awful lot who miss out on those important checks. Increasing paid maternity leave will give people more options. And there is much more if QoT had wanted to look rather than write it off. In contrast to her, I would say it is some of the meatiest policy-platforms in a number of elections.

      NZ has a lot of things happening to our children of which we should not be proud. That’s why Putting Children First is so necessary. The 5th Labour Govt made good progress on lots of those statistics – you can’t change them overnight – but 2 years of National has seen us head rapidly back on Child Poverty and so much more. Putting Children First is a long-term policy that won’t have results in a 3-year electoral cycle – that’s why I’m so pleased to see there is the courage to put it forward. It aims for a truly better New Zealand for which those who implement it will never be rewarded.

      • Rosy 6.2.1

        “I worry that js suggest that I’m defaming a big section of the population – hopefully not that many have had sustained trauma in their first 3 years”

        I worry that you must have had a sheltered life if that’s what you think. Just goes to show that most people get on with it, albeit with personal problems. Understanding that a focus on early childhood can benefit a big section of society may give you a better platform than focusing on the anti-social few.

        captcha: potential – aim to reach it early 😉

        • Ben Clark

          Well I guess there’s a definite spectrum and it depends on how serious we term trauma and many make a big section of the population – let’s just agree that far too much trauma happens to far too many of our young ones, and we need to do something about it.

          (edit) And indeed I agree that this focus on early childhood will benefit pretty much everyone in the next generation, not just the anti-social few. I really have no disagreement here.

      • Puddleglum 6.2.2

        I think this kind of research is a real argument for a society that refocuses on children and child-rearing as an imperative that should underpin social and economic structure, so I’m pleased that Labour appears familiar with what is being established (not that it should surprise anyone).

        On the point about ‘same age’ peer experiences. The anthropological literature on hunter-gatherer and tribal societies (i.e., the social forms closest to some assumed, basic evolutionary social environment) suggests that children do tend to form non-adult groups but that these groups have a wide age range (often siblings ‘bring in’ younger children into the group). In those groups, older children ‘naturally’ gravitate to caring for, and inducting, younger children, which has important life lessons in child-rearing.

        I have to say that same age stratification – in developmental terms – is a bit like the blind trying to develop the blind (if you get what I mean). My five year old, as a personal example, is attracted towards older children (2-3 years older) and certainly ‘aspires’ to be like them and, interestingly, already adopts a caring and nurturing approach to those she sees as ‘littlies’.

        Development – in the human species – is largely an imitative process. It is imitative of those more developed than ourselves. Age-stratified schools can be obstacles to this process. While I don’t deny that ‘peer’ relationships are important, I think we – conveniently, given current social structures that involve institutionalised schooling – tend to be drawn to a post hoc justification about ‘how important’ it is for children to be accepted by their ‘peers’. Same-age ‘peers’ were not the focus for the tens of millenia of our evolutionary history.

      • just saying 6.2.3

        I believe about 35 percent of children have an insecure attachment style. Puddleglum can probably give us the gen here. Obviously there are varying degrees, but sadly unhappiness is far from rare for under-threes (or any age-group). I wish trauma was as rare for very young children, as you seem to believe it to be.

        Politics is not divorced from this reality, so I’m glad Labour is making helping families a priority.
        This had better be more than mere rhetoric. It’s far too important to be just another vote slogan. Politicians could make a real difference.

        • Puddleglum

          yes, 35% would be the usually accepted figure for non-secure ‘attachment styles’. I should add, though, that attachment theory has its critics (both in terms of method and measurement, on the one hand, and theory on the other).

          Some of the more interesting work has looked at the effect on the development of neural systems (for the regulation of the child’s arousal levels and stress response) of maternal stress (i.e., the mother’s stressful circumstances).

          I think that if one idea needs undermining it is the idea that babies are simply ‘unfolding’ from the inside out (a botanical metaphor). That is, the idea that development is just something that happens and is driven by internal processes and parents simply provide a bit of food and warmth and the rest just happens (like watering a plant but, in between times, wandering off and ignoring it).

          That’s not how (neuro)development occurs – instead, it is a constant process of adjustment and response by the developmental process as it tries to ‘predict’ the form of the world into which the organism is being thrown: It is a process of designing ‘on the hoof’.

      • Colonial Viper 6.2.4

        Ben I hold you in the highest respect. However, if Labour are going to put children first there is a very easy final policy objective to describe to the NZ public:

        The creation of our resilient economy where one parent can elect to be a full time child rearer, while the other parent can earn enough money doing a 35 hour a week job to support the family and pay the mortgage. Give the parent who is the full time rearer all the support, facilities, advice they need to do a great job.

        ECE and well child examinations are all good but finally they also all dance around the fact that children are a prime casualty of our current economic structure. A huge number of families are benefit dependent, or both parents need to work long hours away from their children just to make ends meet.

        The 5th Labour Govt made good progress on lots of those statistics – you can’t change them overnight – but 2 years of National has seen us head rapidly back on Child Poverty and so much more. Putting Children First is a long-term policy that won’t have results in a 3-year electoral cycle – that’s why I’m so pleased to see there is the courage to put it forward.

        This is, and please excuse me, crazy talk. I’ve seen the same stats that David Craig has presented. The 5th Labour Government did good things yes, but in the main, they halted the continuing rot in NZ child statistics, and in places made some minor albeit temporary reversals.

        Very few if any of the child stats are as good as the NZ of the early 1980’s, before Rogernomics.

        Further, how on earth is Labour going to implement long term policies of putting children first, and prevent it being all rolled back in the first new National term which comes along?

        Labour restores ECE budgets, National take it away. Labour restores it. National takes it away. This is merry go round charade which does minimal good, if any.

        No you may describe these steps as “courage”, but they are also steps which will only live as long as the next National government.

        • Ben Clark

          I think the answer is to not keep voting National governments in 😉

        • todd

          A very good post CV. I often wonder how much the merry go round actually costs the country. Unfortunately both National and Labour have allowed our negative childhood poverty statistics to get worse. Labour being the lessor of two evils in this respect, but still not good enough.

          Much of this is due to politicking instead of tackling the core issues and trying to alleviate poverty in New Zealand. It not only requires a change in mind set, it requires a change in direction. National promised a change but have not delivered. The last Labour government was meant to uphold its fundamental policies but failed to do so in the many years of its administration. Both political parties have proven they have little concern for children who live in poverty. We can no longer trust either of these parties.

          If you look at some of the stats, Labour made the situation far worse. Saying otherwise is just incorrect, no matter how much you might believe auntie Helen’s warm bosom has a beating heart. Labour did not look after children living in poverty, it increased those numbers and made their situations worse. Shame on Labour for their right-wing ideals. Shame on those who supported them in their abuse of impoverished children. Shame on National for carrying on that negative trend.

          Child poverty in this country makes me ashamed to be a New Zealander.

      • Bill 6.2.5

        Ben. Are all of your friends roughly the same age as yourself? Do you think it would be the most rewarding social environment if you were constrained to spend the majority of your social time only with those your own age? We were all subjected to that throughout our school years. And it’s not natural. If it was, then we’d continue to socialise rather exclusively with those around our own age throughout our lives. And our experience of life would be that much limited.

        But anyway, you say…

        There is no one correct way for people to raise their kids.

        And yet

        Those of us within the party have seen the policy research, the consultation with those on the Dunedin Study and others as to what could be best for our children…

        See, there’s an implicit expectation there that all parents bring up their children to be some middle class approximation of what is best for ‘our’ children. (Love that phrase our children and the old Labour speak our people. So…patronising and paternal!) Anyway. The parents in the broken down estates where self medication may be the norm and where habits and behaviours have adapted to deal with the harsh environment they inhabit are meant to apply some ideal to their children that doesn’t account for the realities of their lives, or produce ideal children as though they inhabit a vaccum? I don’t get it. The apparent (apparent, because it’s from the perspective of a different social position) dysfunction of these people and families is actually normal given their circumstances. I wish liberals could ‘get that’ and help tear down the economic edifice that produces the environments that shape the behaviours and attitudes they find so undesirable.

        Whats that saying about you can take the boy from the slum, but you can’t take the slum from the boy? Mind you. We could build a slum free society. But no. Let’s just develop inappropriate parenting classes and ‘teach’ people how their correct adaptation to their environment is ‘wrong’ and ‘damaging’. Teach them long enough and hard enough and give them tools that are suited to a foreign environment and all the human tragedy inherent to our social set ups will disappear. How’s that work again? Oh, that’s right. It doesn’t. But it sounds nice. All that sincerely insincere concern for the truly fucked over. Wanting ‘them’ to be just like ‘us’. Actually, it’s just ‘us’ not wanting to question ‘our way’ or the economic factors that sustain the social ‘us’ and ‘our way’. ‘Our way’s’ just natural innit? And it doesn’t do anybody any harm, does it? I mean, it doesn’t come at a price…a price that’s paid by ‘them’ others. God, no. Perish the thought!

        Meanwhile. You can’t accept that wff causes stress? So you can’t accept that the threat of a return to significant and severe hardship, thanks to the double financial whammy coming your way if you piss off your boss or get made redundant from the crappy arsed, ‘pay cheque to pay cheque’ low paid job you endure is stressful? Okay.

        • Puddleglum

          Exactly Bill. People – being humans – adapt to the world they are born in to. I remember some story about how humans are almost the opposite of many other animals. A pet anteater, for example, treats its owner as if the owner were another anteater. A human raised with wolves, however, starts to take on the manner of its wolf ‘parents’ (i.e., it doesn’t assume the wolves are just hairy people). Humans are the quintessential adaptors – they’ll become just about anything that’s needed to get by in the world they experience from birth.

          ‘Education’ classes to ‘persuade’ people of the errors of the ways they have ‘chosen’ miss the obvious – ‘our’ society is not benign to people and their development, largely because it is not organised in a way that has that as a priority.

          To put it starkly, we’re organised for production and consumption, not reproduction (of well functioning – and simply well – adults).

        • just saying

          Very well said Bill.
          How’d you get to be so wise?

        • Rosy

          Just a point on socially constrained age-groups – I’m not sure that it’s a problem in pre-school. But anyways… as you clearly point out economic factors need to be questioned and this fits in, I think…

          One of the disasters of economic policy since the ’80s is families moving around either for work (i.e. because they have to) or to get ahead (i.e. because they have aspirations). For working class social cohesion this has been an unmitigated social disaster and is still unquestion in mainstream political discourse (IMO). Big families, with a range of ages and lifestyles are reduced by losing support from, and interaction with, peers and trusted (wider family and neighbourhood) advisors.

          In terms of constraining children to certain age groups, let me stereotype just to illustrate the point. Big working class family networks – lots of babysitters, but as well, children are involved in social gatherings and everyone looks after the kids. The social gatherings often have a wide range of people as well, given that they are not work-based events. The kids are there and involved – (and if kids are involved they are learning). The little ones look up to the big kids and the big kids take responsibility, although for them (esp teenage boys, the hero worship from said little ones is an ego-boost of the best kind). When you move for work, this is all broken.

          For the middle-class with small families a lot of the socialising does not include kids, or if it does it is scripted. Children are left with a ‘responsible’ babysitters, so kids miss out on all that spontaneous interaction with people outside their own age and social strata. A lot of middle-class social spaces do not welcome children. It’s not so bad for the middle class, they have money to pay for the socialisation of their children and to pay for advice (this comment is not meant to downplay the problems of isolation in nuclear families btw). The working class cannot buy their advice and support. The result is a lack of interaction until social networks can be rebuilt, a lack of suitable advice and lost previously built-up family and relationships knowledge.

          Early childhood education can mitigate these problems by providing, not just socialisation for children, but parents can absorb hints, information and child-rearing techniques from high quality staff and build networks that may replace what was lost to the free-market gods. And thats why it is important in the world we now live in.

  7. Pete 7

    Ben, good to see you having a go here, some of what you say is fair enough, but to be honest it doesn’t enlighten me at all. It sounds to much like familiar palaver that could have come from any number of sources. It may be suitable material for a party selection process to show how much you know about standard party lines, but it doesn’t reveal anything about you and what you could contribute to an electorate.

    Policies are important for parties, but people (outside the bubble) often want to know what people are like. I think there are a lot more votes for perceptions of people than for policies. Would you be comfortable being a reliable cog in the machine? Or sometime would you want to jump on deck and try and make a noticable difference?

    • Pascal's bookie 7.1

      Pete, this isn’t a candidate selection meeting and you live in dunedin anyway; also, you’re a dick and you’re not fooling anyone.

      • Pete 7.1.1

        I know it’s not a candidate selection meeting, I made that point. If he ends up on the List (which presumably he will) then he can make a difference nationally. If he wants to.

        If Ben wants to post on a NZ wide blog, and if he wants to respond to any questions, it’s up to him isn’t it? He may actually get the idea that to get more votes a party has to engage more. And not diss anyone a few (who aren’t putting themselves before the electorate) choose to exclude from their wee club.

        I’m still an ex-Labour voter. I haven’t seen anything to encourage me to change my mind. You sort of comment is part of the 30% problem.

        Ben – I want to see better candidates and MPs in all parties, so our parliament and our government will improve.

        • Pascal's bookie

          I’ve voted labour exactly once, and I had to get good and drunk to do so. If you are going to to base whether or not to vote for labour on what I say to you on the Standard, then you are a bigger idiot than even I took you for. Perhaps you’d like to explain your reasoning there?

          i)Someone I know nothing about was rude to me on the Standard


          iii) Don’t vote labour!

          No one is excluding you from any sort of club, people are just pointing out that you are pretty transparent, and that your oh so sensible platitudes are actually, empty.

          Take this most recent example. Ben writes something about policy, which you simply dismiss on the grounds that it’s policy. Instead, you say that you, or rather, ‘people outside the bubble’ would rather just hear about what sort of a chap he is. It’s the tabloidisation of politics. ‘Who would we like to have a beer’ with, ignore anything about policy.

          Well, how about you speak for yourself. You are no more representative of ‘people’ than I am so don’t pretend to speak for them, and don’t pretend you know jack shit about me.

          • Pete

            “don’t pretend you know jack shit about me.” – Ditto.

            “you’re not fooling anyone”, “people are just pointing out” – who are you talking on behalf of?
            (lprent, I’m not suggesting you know what, just responding to Pb’s dig at me speaking for more than myself)

            I wouldn’t base any voting decision on what you say (unless you become a candidate, or are a candidate) – but I wasn’t asking you, I was asking Ben – before you decided to butt in with your assumptions and accusations. Ben is actually trying to put himself in contention for votes. He might like to get some, for himself and/or for his party.

            • Colonial Viper

              I figure you’re so disciplined at this, that you’ve got a paid gig. Just saying.

              • Pete

                I’m acting entirely on my own, I don’t belong to any group, I don’t act for anyone or speak for anyone but myself. I am open about who I am and what my name is.

                I have had a bit of practice, I’ve dealt with a lot more crap than the conclusion jumpers here have tried so far. Some are a bit precious about “their” space and are not very welcoming of fresh input. That seems to happen a bit with some people who aren’t responsible for the blog themselves.

                Is it normal for everyone to be prompted to make full disclosures here?

                [lprent: Missed this earlier.

                No one has asked for disclosure, amongst other reasons, because the moderators frown Heavily on such demands.

                Stating an opinion about others isn’t (usually) moderated. Depends on what is said. CV offered an opinion.

                Stating something as a definite fact and then not being able to substantiate it or delineate the limits to knowledge is also frowned on. I would presume that PB’s comment about Dunedin comes from a source offsite like kiwiblog where you’d stated it. You can challenge for a source if you want to.


                • Colonial Viper

                  Woo-hoo, who asked you for “full disclosures”?

                  I didn’t. I’m not interested in what you have to hide or to disclose.

                  I am open about who I am and what my name is.

                  Oh yeah of course, Hi “Pete”

                  • Pete

                    Just stressing a point on your wee accusation, just saying.

                    Anyone who cared to find out would know my name, and there have been a few who obviously know. I didn’t start with my full name here to test the water (a bit acidic), and it doesn’t seem to be the done thing.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Which point? I never asked you for full disclosure nor do I expect it.

                      You brought that up to distract from my actual assertion – that you are not here for your own good graces. Your random running of left and right leaning lines, inconsistency of values, utter politeness and patience (well done its much appreciated and noted) etc. show all the hall marks of a paid astroturfer trying to ingratiate themselves with a set audience.

                    • Pete

                      I’m wondering if there’s no point in telling you anything, you seem to ignore it and carry on regardless. I’m not a paid astroturfer.

                      The main reason I got involved in political blogs is to try and promote the idea of more positive, inclusive, accountable politics. Yeah, it’s ironic I get a fair bit of negative response from people who are unaccountable (and unidentified) to anyone trying to exclude me.

                      I am fed up with the perpetual starting point of “us versus them”, but that’s the approach most seem to prefer. But it’s usually fun, informative and challenging trying.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      The main reason I got involved in political blogs is to try and promote the idea of more positive, inclusive, accountable politics.

                      Hence your point of view that people seeking to get involved in political parties as grassroots campaigners are seeking privilege and cushy advantage?

                      Yeah you mouth all the right words.

                    • Pete

                      “Hence your point of view that people seeking to get involved in political parties as grassroots campaigners are seeking privilege and cushy advantage?”

                      Your mouth, not mine. You either misread me or you have a habit of trying to misquote me. I don’t believe I’ve said anything like that.

                    • Colonial Viper


                      I understand that joining a party could give me political privileges and influence – I don’t want that, I don’t think I should have to join a cosy club to get preferential treatment in a supposed democracy.

                      I know there’s little chance of changing the system much, it’s a cosy arrangement for those that toe the lines on offer so parties are not going to give that up easily.

                      The racist party

                    • Pete


                      I wasn’t talking for anyone else as you implied. That’s as I see it for me.

              • Rosy

                “I figure you’re so disciplined at this, that you’ve got a paid gig. Just saying.”

                hmmm – paid gig… kiwiblog commentator….DF…. focus groups….Pete talks in word clouds…. is there a link, I think 😉

            • Pascal's bookie

              I made no assumptions, nor accusations. I called it how I see it.

              And this is a blog with a comment section. I’m not ‘butting in’; it’s an open forum. If you want a private conversation perhaps you should try email. I’m done here, but you’ll note that everyone else on the thread is quite happy to talk about the policy; that would be ‘on topic’.

              But thanks for demonstrating my point, re: vacuous.

            • Pascal's bookie

              I see you edited, so I’ll respond to that edit:

              “you’re not fooling anyone”, “people are just pointing out” – who are you talking on behalf of?

              No one. The your not fooling anyone is simply a description of what I’ve seen of you over the last few days and the reaction, and the’ people’ are these people:

              “And not diss anyone a few (who aren’t putting themselves before the electorate) choose to exclude from their wee club.”

              …those people you brought up and ascribed motives to.

    • Ben Clark 7.2

      Hi Pete,

      I’ll take you in more good faith than everyone else seems to give you here…

      You are right in that personalities are important in getting people elected. And I wouldn’t say they were only important outside the bubble – if anything more important to TV journos and the like with our modern celebrity media. Other than a test of “trustability” I wish that weren’t so – policy should be much more important, it should matter what we want to actually see done, rather than who does it.

      Online forums like this are very much suited for discussion of policy, which is one of the reasons I like them. Yes there is discussion of personalities too, but you asking me about my personality is a bit pointless. Of course I’m going to say I’m an upright, intelligent, caring sort-of-a-guy. But it’s my actions that matter, and whether I follow through on the beliefs I share. I can express my personality through my writing here, so that might be of some help to you, but other than coming to North Shore to meet me, the best I can probably do for you is tell you to visit my website.

      But my gig at The Standard isn’t about campaigning, it’s about the ability to test my beliefs in the fire of the blogosphere, make sure they’re well formed, and to engage with people to see if there are better ideas and policies for which I should be aiming.

      • Pete 7.2.1

        Thanks for taking the time to reply Ben, and it was a pretty good reply. Fine if you want to use the blog for policy development – but over time approach and integrity do get revealed a bit anyway – probably a lot more than on MSM, especially for those in the political background.

        I agree that policy is important for parties and for people in parties – but it matters a lot to some (I’d say quite a big some) voters whether they think the prospective MPs have the integrity, determination, common sense and ability to put good policy into practice successfully – it is done tardily far to often. God policy is no good without good implementation.

        It’s very easy to jump to conclusions on blogs, and without face to face it can take a while to sort out the reality. Unlike what I seem to manage you’ve started with a good impression, civil usually promotes civil. So if I feel a need I’ll challenge some of your policy ideas civilly – I agree probably about 2/3 with what you posted here, for a policy post there was a lot of “Nats did this wrong”, but the only thing that really grated was the bashing bene comment that’s been done to death. Negative generalisations like that pander to some but don’t promote anything good.

        Note that challenging something you might post doesn’t mean I disagree with everything and that I think the opposite extreme, that seems to be a common misapprehension on blogs. And blogs are pretty tame compared to the House, so it should be easy to deal with.

        I think it’s a great thing that prospective MPs (and some MPs) are prepared to engage with the general riff raff online. The better communication and understanding we all have the better we will get on and do things. MSM is a very narrow uneven unforgiving (and often unfair) but essential medium.

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