Insight on poverty

Written By: - Date published: 6:56 am, November 7th, 2011 - 46 comments
Categories: child welfare, class war, poverty - Tags: , , ,

Sunday morning’s RNZ Insight program was an examination of poverty in NZ.  It was an excellent piece.  It is broadcast again on Monday at 9:06pm during Nights with Bryan Crump, or you can get the audio from the page for Sunday 6th November.  Catch it if you can.

The program was an examination of poverty in New Zealand, with a focus on child poverty. Radio New Zealand’s Political Editor, Brent Edwards, didn’t pull any punches. Here’s how it began:

Lead in: About 200 thousand children live in hardship in New Zealand and social service providers fear poverty is getting worse, not better. This Radio New Zealand Insight looks at how bad the situation really is, and the effect it’s having on children.

Edwards: Some people may find it hard to believe extreme poverty exists in this country, but those helping the lowest income earners say it does.  No one can provide precise figures, but children are going without food, and dying of third world diseases which doctors say aren’t seen in any other developed country…

Here’s just a few notes on some of what followed:

First up was an interview with a doctor, who said that children in NZ are dying today of diseases of poverty that were never seen in 1970s.  Report after report is being released this year pointing out the fragile position of children living in poverty, but nothing is being done.

Cut to archival audio of Paula Bennett being asked in Parliament if she would implement any of the seven main recommendations of the Child Poverty Action Group.  She replies “I would no more implement that report than I would the Labour’s so called policies…”.  Just FYI, the recommendations that Bennett so contemptuously dismisses are below.

Along with poverty comes rising income inequality, as currently being protested worldwide by the Occupation movement.  In 25 years NZ has gone form being one of the most equal (“Western”) countries to one of the most unequal.  In real terms the income of the lower earners has decreased.  The gap with the rich has widened faster in NZ than in any other country.

Before the last election Key briefly expressed concern for “the growing underclass”.  When challenged on this now (more archival audio) Key blathered as usual – “it depends on how you measure that”.  He did admit that foodbanks have seen an increase, but then seemed to suggest that this could be addressed with national Standards in schools and a focus on victims rights! WTF?

The Auckland City Missioner and Ruby Duncan from service provider Oasis agree that “poverty is definitely getting worse…”.  Spokesperson Hone Kaa says poverty disproportionately affects Maori and Pacific families.  While admitting that is has an element of truth in some cases, he rejects the “lifestyle choice” argument –  “Only the rich can say that”.

Working For Families has definitely helped, but more is needed.  There are no easy answers, and there appears to be little chance of a political consensus.  An increase in the minimum wage to $15 hour would of course be very welcome.  It may not sound like much to the well off, but for many families it would make a real difference.

Ruby Duncan spoke again about how the problem is getting bigger, and people are getting angrier.  Young people have no hope, they can’t see a future for themselves. Hone Kaa again on brown poverty “we’re building a political time-bomb in our midst”.  I’ll leave the last word with Ruby Duncan from Oasis:

Children are dying, children are being killed in their own homes, we know all about that, how much do we care?

What’s that they say about judging a society by the way it treats its weakest members?  Labour’s policies were slowly reducing poverty.  National’s are making it worse again.  How much do we care?


Here are the seven key Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) recommendations that the Nats are rejecting out of hand (from pdf):

• Monitor major indicators of child poverty and report these on a regular basis with specific target reductions to be met on the way to ending child poverty by 2020; and fund child-impact assessments of existing and future national and local policies;

• Create a senior Cabinet position with responsibility for children, such as a Minister for Children, to support the move toward a child-centred approach to policy and legislation;

• Remove work-based rules for child financial assistance and pay the equivalent of the In-Work-Tax-Credit to all low income families. Simplify administration of tax credits.

• Acknowledge the vital social and economic contribution made by good parenting; ensure that accessible, affordable, culturally appropriate, high quality early childhood care and education, including kohanga reo and Playcentre, is available to all children and families; and ensure that training allowances support sole parents’ education where appropriate;

• Provide free access to healthcare for all children under age six, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week;

• The Government develop and fund a national housing plan to address the emerging housing shortages identified by the Department of Building. Meanwhile, ensure that housing is affordable and appropriate (eg address overcrowding, dampness, cold);

• Provide adequate funding for low decile schools to ensure that all children have access to high quality education.

46 comments on “Insight on poverty”

  1. Labours policies were slowly reducing poverty. National’s are making it worse again.

    Perhaps the extended recession is having a wee bit to do with it.

    There’s no doubt it’s been tougher for some, but fortunately New Zealand hasn’t been as badly affected by the recesion as many countries – the primary sector has been a major saviour, especially dairy.

    So what do Labour and Greens want to do? Wallop farmers with more taxes and earlier ETS – hit the parts of the economy that are keeping is afloat.

    And they want to force extra costs (increased minimum wage) on many small business people – some of the ones that have struggled the most and are still struggling.

    Nuts. And those in poverty will bear the brunt even more.

    • Do you believe in trickle down Petey?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.2

      Perhaps the total lack of human decency is having a wee bit to do with it.

    • aerobubble 1.3

      New Gang moving in on nz. Gang war in the offing.
      Welcome to the first three years of National.
      high Inequality means new prospects for gangs…

    • Draco T Bastard 1.4

      Perhaps the extended recession is having a wee bit to do with it.

      There is no reason for anyone in NZ to be living in poverty – we produce more than enough. So, why is poverty increasing? The only answer is because this government is rewarding the rich for being rich by giving them more of the wealth produced by others.

    • McFlock 1.5

      “tougher for some”.

      Yep. And as long as it’s not your kids with the power cut off, little or no cold-weather clothing, and a substandard diet, well, you’ll still support the current gang of morons and sociopaths we call a Cabinet. And use bullshit euphamisms like “tougher for some” and “belt-tightening” to plaster over what your government is allowing to happen.

      • Pete George 1.5.1

        A larger representation by United Future in the next government will mean important family issues are given much more weight – UF is the best chance for this to be emphasised. Serious about addressing:

        State of the Family – a Report Card

        Dunne: make families as important as the economy

        UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne says New Zealand is paying lip service to families’ real needs as he called for an annual report card on whether families are being helped or hurt by government policy.

        “And that needs to start by measuring the way policies impact on families with the same vigour that Treasury measures economic impacts of policy and law.

        “It is just not happening for families in any meaningful way, and when it is done, it is given very little weight in government thinking.

        “This needs to change,” Mr Dunne said.

        “When was the last time you saw a policy dropped because it made life harder for families?” he asked.

        “Families are too often an after-thought in New Zealand politics, and as a result they are constantly batted around.

        Comments welcome on whether properly measuring policy impact on families is worth doing.

        • McFlock 1.5.1.1

          “Comments welcome on whether properly measuring policy impact on families is worth doing.”
            

          Bullshit. Study after study over the last 20 years has identified the major issues, the significant determinants, and the best solutions. All you are doing is another “Yes Minister” dodge by referring an issue to another committee, another review, instead of actually doing something.
              
             
          Do you have any actual policy on funding social services, benefit criteria and levels, prioritising education funding over tax cuts, reducing child hardship/poverty, keeping childreninvolved in the education system, ongoing training to the tertiary level, and encouraging rehabilitaion over punishment in our jails?

          If not you might as well take every n-th poor child and sentence them to life imprisonment from age 5.
            
           

        • fender 1.5.1.2

          What no comments welcome on whether or not we think Dunne is paying lip service.Careful UF dont do anything to compromise the gravy train your on. And be good boys and dont upset the farmers destroying the environment, Key wont like you doing that even though farmers are doing fine thankyou very much.

  2. DJL 2

    Don’t you get sick to death of the excuse…”the extended recession” These are STARVING CHILDREN you fucking wank.
    But its OK to make excuses when your own children are riding to private school in the X5.
    FFS Pete what part of 1 billion dollar tax cuts to the people who don’t need it don’t you get.

    • Cin77 2.1

      Thank you!! All I see is people talking about money in this election campaign in and I’m sick of itThese aren’t just numbers on a spreadsheet its actual people struggling to make ends meet, fighting to feed their children.

      I think national need to go just because they have shifted the focus from real people to frigging numbers, if they were capable of feeling remorse they should be full of it (they’re full of something, but I don’t think its remorse

  3. randal 3

    new zealand has become a very sick country. the people have been infantilised by the media and whats worse they beleive if they say something then ipso facto it is true.. Everybody says they are against poverty but nobody ever does anything. This is only a small country where most people should be looked after but the lure of consumer goods and shifiting ones ass around the world to gawp at other people has become the sole focus of a race of imbeciles.

    • aerobubble 3.1

      msm have moved the center of politics to the right…\…but the
      world and even the markets are heading left… …in germany the
      center right party now agrees with the need for a minimum wage!!!
      And this is an economy doing very well thank you, all because
      it unions have real power to bargain, and what does the
      extremist govt here got to say… …money talks every listen.
      Well Mr key listen to the markets they are in termoil because
      of deeply stupid men like you mr key, who think nothing
      of consequences

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      This is only a small country where most people should be looked after…

      Where everyone should be looked after. That is, after all, the whole purpose of society/community and it doesn’t matter how big the society is either unless it’s grown to big for it’s resources to support.

  4. Uturn 4

    All through the Insight program there are references to indicators of what is happening:

    Over a period of 10-15 years “an upsurge of treatable diseases”
    25% increase over 2 decades
    Increase in needy families “over the last 5 years… last 2 years more rapid”

    You don’t have to be a mathematician to work out what that means. A simple vote, a simple policy won’t halt poverty of any kind. It might alleviate poverty, though.

    John Key’s attitude is that his party will help around the edges to encourage people to integrate – he mentions Pacific/Maori – into the white aspirant culture. This has never been an option. With that kind of approach, increase in poverty rates will overtake employment opportunities – if employment on $13.50/hr or less was ever a solution. He says rote education and protection from violence will beat poverty. I remember a couple of days ago here, someone mentioning the effect of Cultural Violence. That is what John key proposes.

    But we can’t shout hurrah for Labour either. If we believe the Insight data, rates of poverty have been increasing for decades. Labour are a curious bunch when it comes to presenting a united/multicultural/inclusive front. On the one hand they promote equality, on the other, everyone is confined to a tidy box for political convenience. That’s about as far as I’ll go on that line, since it would be bad manners to push the point on this blog.

    I hope Labour have learnt something new, perhaps they have. In 1996 – 1997 when my wife and I were existing on $30 a week for food, an increase of $30 in her wage would mean we could have had 3 meals a day. When I was 18 it was worse, for a period. I had a job, but wasn’t being paid and I wouldn’t have survived a year on instant coffee and boiled potato.

    But everyone agrees it’s not just a lack of liveable wages and work opportunities. Except the comfortably aloof, that is. The people at the coal face of poverty in the Insight program say there needs to be a new format: multi-party agreement, consultation with the people and groups effected. It’s a great start, an excellent idea, though I think it doesn’t go far enough. It’s still one up, one down thinking.

    Why is it we refer to certain diseases as third world? When we do, we trick ourselves into thinking it’s not really happening, not us, not the western/white/better people. Third world happens somewhere else, to Africans, to Indonesians, to Afghans. Our brains are tilted wrongly. If it happens here, we are what it says we are and race or place has no bearing at all. Just like John Key, we believe that if we aspire, we can be above it all. We talk about “lifting” ourselves or others out of poverty as if we are somewhere else in time. But while we’re off in the dreams of the future, we forget to address the present. Instead we clamber over each other to get to that personal utopia. And if we have to clamber over the sick or dead children, so be it. There are any number of ways to justify it, from religion to psychology to propagating “real world truths”.

    A man has to learn to suffer…
    God abandoned them to their evil ways…
    The world never was fair – why try to fight it?

    Cast off your responsibility and climb, damn you!

    In my opinion, the largest part of the problem is that our culture fosters immoral beliefs. Not just my measure of wrong, but a universal kind of wrong. Since we are not completely animals, we clearly have the choice to harmonise our position. Right now there is a child reading a book in school. The hero is male, he fights the bad guy, he wins power and everyone loves him. Or the child goes with Mum to the shops to buy sweets, favourite things or Christmas presents – the child is now deliriously happy. This is what we believe, it’s what we teach our infants. Right now there is an employer out there who believes his business is just about money.

    Instead of being focussed on the next flat screen TV, instead of harbouring unrealistic expectations from life, we should have been taught that the person next to us is important. Other people have a more important role to play than being victims or cannon fodder or even as a point of reference. Parallel to a Knowledge Wave of Technology, there needs to be a Knowledge Wave of Humanity that forwards our understanding of how we relate to each other.

    Until our culture – in all areas – gives up the idea that the highest course of living is material or personal gain, passion or hedonistic pursuits, I’m pretty sure we will be plagued by the opposites – including poverty.

    • r0b 4.1

      But we can’t shout hurrah for Labour either. If we believe the Insight data, rates of poverty have been increasing for decades.

      There has certainly been a long term increase in poverty since the neo-liberal nonsense of the 1980s – 90s.  “Labour” started that, with what was really the first ACT government (Prebble, Douglas etc), but then returned to sanity in 1999.  

      Under the last labour government 1999 – 2008 poverty fell measurably in NZ.  Too slowly, but it did fall.  WFF gets most of the credit.  Now under National poverty is increasing again.  Citations for both claims are here:

      Children in poverty

      • McFlock 4.1.1

        My personal view is that for nine years NZ basically trod water, not getting worse but not much of an improvement, either. The trouble is that the 1980s taught the tories is that more long term effect can be achieved by a sprint to the bottom rather than a long term climb out of a hole. As shown by the last 2.5 years.

    • fmacskasy 4.2

      Interesting insights, Uturn. Thank you.

    • gorj 4.3

      great post

  5. Tombstone 5

    John Key is full of shit. He doesn’t give a fuck about those kids or the newly emerging working poor and his go nowhere policies are no more than a reflection of his own self serving arrogance. God help us all if they get in for another term. This country will explode. That’s my prediction. People are sick of these greedy bastards and as more and more people start to hurt that anger will simply continue to grow and eventually it will spill over. Key is playing a very dangerous game now and I just don’t understand why people can’t see that???

  6. Afewknowthetruth 6

    Having spent $1 million on a ‘windwarnd’, $1 million on an achitectural monstrosity at the Huatoki Plaza, $1 million on a footbridge, and having spent $1,000 on a meal to interview a potential recruit, NPDC had the grand opening of a new mural, installed by American contractiors, last week. The exact cost unknown but it is certainly funded by residents of the district, as are all the lattes and chardonney’s/ pinot gris at $10 a glass consumeed by the tossers.

    ‘The gap with the rich has widened faster in NZ than in any other country.’

    The CEO is paid of the order of $340,000 per annum to destroy the community’s finances and ruin the local environment. Child poverty? What’s that?

    Plans for the contruction of a $10 million art centre are well underway.

    However, there is obviously some kind of Stockholm syndrome taking effect ( captives fall in love with their abusers), since people continue to vote for idiots and criminals who squanderi resources. Or are all elections rigged these days?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1

      Ah, the right-wing narrative continues. Attacks on the arts are the stock in trade of populist loons, who ignore the immense benefit that art brings to society. In the UK, for example, these wingnut memes have so reduced government support for the arts that arts funding is now delivered partly through the health budget, at the insistence of medical professionals who are well aware of the negative outcomes associated with such negligence.

      • aerobubble 6.1.1

        We in a time of massive change and stress, these times require new ways of
        thinking, new forms of expression, those who embrace them will inherit
        a greater share of tomorrows wealth. But no, the stupid rightwing thugs
        are too engrossed with retaining control of assets that the market is
        now shouting are misvalued – as they are heaily in debt. The joke is how
        dumb are they, they actually think the world of everyone having a private
        petrol automobile is maintainable. The people who claim to understand
        economics, trust the markets, just don’t have a clues and are ignoring
        all the market signals. We need to invest, venture capital, to redirect
        our economy and make future profits, and the Greens are the only party
        that is leading the charge, they led on CGT, they led on insulation, now
        they are leading on kiwi fees. Who the frak made National the experts
        on the economy, don’t they know nothing, the economy has been
        sick for the last three decades!!! Running on the smell of a oilly drum,
        and when peak oil hits hard its going to hurt us a lot more because
        of men like John Key and voters who think National have their interests
        at heart.

        Its the Green Economy stupid.

        • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1.1

          …the economy has been
          sick for the last three decades!!!

          Been sick for a lot longer than that. Centuries longer at least and probably closer to millennia longer.

      • Afewknowthetruth 6.1.2

        OAB.

        For a while I thought it was worthwhile debating with you.

        However, once I discovered you don’t bother to follow up links provided, that you believe that titanium alloy aircraft engines (with a melting point of 1650oC) can evaporate on impact with grass (at low speed), that a building can fall at free-fall speed within its own footprint as a result of a short-lived, low temperature fire in an upper storey, that you are prepared to suspend many of the laws of physics and chemistry in order to hang on to delusions, I realised that reasoned debate with you is impossible.

        • Tombstone 6.1.2.1

          WTF?

        • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1.2.2

          I don’t think 9/11 truthiness has any relevance to this debate, but I note that it seems that for you, Physics and Chemistry are to be believed when in the hands of Climatologists, but not when in the hands of NIST employees.

          However, I suggest that you continue that particular thread in Open Mike.

        • McFlock 6.1.2.3

          lol AFKTT,
           
          And here I was about to generally agree with your original comment (albeit with some provisos), but obviously your brief moment of sanity has passed…

    • Ianupnorth 6.2

      Replace New Plymouth with Tauranga and you will see similar grandiose ideas.
       
      Multi-million dollar ‘exhibition centre’, buying the stadium from the former national MP, roads, roads and more roads. Lots of flash cars in the CBD, lots of unemployment and hunger in the suburbs were the state houses are.
       
      It all comes down to the ‘I am alright Jack’ attitude – the poverty can’t happen to them; vote national and it could come sooner than you think

  7. just saying 7

    I think it’s important to mention National’s real plan for the poor in NZ*: To be ready keen and able to do any kind of shit work, under almost any conditions, for intermittent, subsistence income just to survive. And to have to compete for “assignments” and be a kind of ‘reserve army’ in between. No certainty, or stability or dignity. Frazzled sole parents, the sick and disabled, those without highly marketable skills – the demoralised and downtrodden, at your service, sir. An employer’s wet dream, with the added bonus of a providing a terrifying example for the wider employment landscape

    We’ve been moving towards this reality for a while now – as Uturn says, under both Natonal and Labour. But it is the process of being ratchted-up.

    * as laid out in the welfare working group they employed.

    • Ianupnorth 7.1

      And the Green Paper on Vulnerable Childre…. ignore the research but listen to the views of Bob McCroskie, the Sensible Sentencing Trust, Destiny Church or any other bunch of clueless belligerents.

  8. Afewknowthetruth 8

    By the way, ‘ya ain’t seen nuthing yet’.

    With the inevitable collapse of the Eurozone on the horizon and peak oil in the rear view mirror, it is clear to anyone who is awake that present globalised arrangments will collapse at some stage over the next decade, and very likely before 2015. .

    The population bottleneck due to peak oil will start to get very tight by 2020, after which the environment bottleneck will ‘squeeze’ whoever survives.

    The idea of preparing for any of this, or attempting to mitigate, is totally alien to all of our so-called leaders, of course:. Indeed, the idea of even discussing the truth (they all know it) is alien.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1

      In fact as previously noted, many governmental and private agencies have been preparing for the future. The scientific narrative as reported by the media has been deliberately derailed by vested interests, relying on Truther gullibility to carry the message to the wider population, but this strategy is patchy, and frankly only really works in the USA.

      America is led by lawyers, China is led by engineers. The Dunning Kruger effect gets weaker the further East you go.

  9. insider 9

    If anyone is interested there is a green paper currently up for discussion by govt. Not read it yet, just putting it up for information purposes only http://www.childrensactionplan.govt.nz/

    • Ianupnorth 9.1

      See my comments above – they do not need to do this! The evidence was already handed to them on a plate but they refused to listen!
      It is a patsy for ‘Family values’

  10. If anyone watched Q+A yesterday, Bill English made the startling (for National) admission that the minimum wage is not enough to live on: http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/bill-english-minimum-wage-not-sufficient-to-live-on/

    If the Nats have been aware of this reality for longer than English’s appearance on Q+A, then their cynical disregard for our impoverished fellow Kiwis is even more coldf and callous than I thought possible.

    Considering Key’s and Bennett’s background, it beggars belief that they should be resisting policies to lift the poor out of poverty. How do they sleep at nights?

    • just saying 10.1

      He said the minimum wage is not something that a person could survive on for more than a short time.
      It’s part of the bullshit about shit work for shit pay being something people will pass through, if they are good, industrious, and worthy, on their way to the ‘kiwi dream’.

    • Uturn 10.2

      There is no certainty that having passed through traumatic times a person develops compassion or tolerance. Yet another aspect of our culture is we believe that knowing = wisdom. It is illustrated everywhere by racial, indigenous or gender movements immediately defining their group identity as enemies of whoever oppressed them. Can’t blame them, it’s a starting point, but it’s not a step forward either. Even Gandhi couldn’t totally give up the gun.

      I don’t know what John Key has gone through, or Paula Bennet. We just see it from the outside and expect them to be positively empathetic. We have no idea of their personal internal battles. If they are anything like me or the people I knew, the most common form of communication a traumatised human had was to show others how they felt by making others feel like they did. Some will actively physically abuse others, some have such a huge amount of pain stored up they’ll invent complex career-long dramas to act out either catharsis or simple tragedy. The idea in our current context, and eliminating Labour as an option, is that if we don’t allow John Key and Paula Bennet to abuse the poor, there are far nastier Right Wing options waiting in the wings. There is a dysfunctional relationship defined for you. It is possible that the far nastier person is them and that they are making an effort to show restraint. Or they may just be urging the victims into nastier levels of enforced empathy with them, the abusers.

      This idea makes long term solutions really difficult. We could just vote them out. But the problem would still exist, but a different person next time. On the one hand the aggressor is the weaker party, on the other they are clearly hurting others with their power. Ideas of courageously standing up for the weak in the face of an even weaker aggressive person becomes a twisted virtue and confusing proposition. We should pity and help them, but no acknowledgement, no simple apology or prize will cure it. How do you tell your torturer that it’s ok, that you understand, that it can end now, while they inflict pain? Though I do not want it to be universally true, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence that the responsibility to find a cure is theirs alone. If those who should know better inflict pain and can “sleep at night”, it is perhaps because they have not yet reached a point where they will discover something personally true to them – and change.

      In real terms, people like me continue to get angry and stand up for those who appear to be weak, against those I know to be weaker, and get fired or sidelined or whatever punishment the world offers as a result. I do not know if it extends or shortens the overall conflict.

    • Draco T Bastard 10.3

      If the Nats have been aware of this reality for longer than English’s appearance on Q+A, then their cynical disregard for our impoverished fellow Kiwis is even more coldf and callous than I thought possible.

      Make no mistake, National are led by psychopaths who have no conscience.

      Considering Key’s and Bennett’s background, it beggars belief that they should be resisting policies to lift the poor out of poverty.

      Psychopaths come from all walks of life.

      How do they sleep at nights?

      Probably quite soundly as they have no conscience.

    • tc 10.4

      No moral compass, after all ones a banker so lost all sense of morality in joining with wall street and the other a power hungry psycho who’s not alone on that score.

  11. How do they sleep at nights?

    …lightly, with backs to the wall and gun at the ready i would imagine, but with Bennett i’d say handy to the fridge too

  12. Hone Kaa not Car.

  13. Roy 13

    “If they are anything like me or the people I knew, the most common form of communication a traumatised human had was to show others how they felt by making others feel like they did. Some will actively physically abuse others, some have such a huge amount of pain stored up they’ll invent complex career-long dramas to act out either catharsis or simple tragedy.”

    On the other hand, the noblest and finest thing a person can do is to ‘sublimate’ their traumatic experience by saying “I will never make another person suffer what I went through.” Why can’t we have leaders with that nobility of nature?

  14. randal 14

    the thing about tories is that they love to sit round their dinner table and say things like,” I wonder what the poor people are doing now”?

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