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Jacinda Ardern’s child poverty speech

Written By: - Date published: 7:42 am, February 1st, 2018 - 74 comments
Categories: benefits, child welfare, class, class war, jacinda ardern, labour, poverty, quality of life - Tags:

In a major speech yesterday on poverty, Prime Minister Ardern has laid out fully and forthrightly what is the problem and what need to be done.

The Bill now introduced is described by the Prime Minister as “the framework for measuring and targeting child poverty. It sets in law four primary and six supplementary measures of poverty and material hardship. It requires the government of the day to then set targets to reduce child poverty.”

We have all seen the damage child poverty is doing to our country through the mainstream media last year, let alone in our neighbourhoods, and the Prime Minister has spelled it out for us all.

It would be tempting to have specified targets in the Bill, but she specifically left them out: “We want to leave room for each government to determine their own child poverty reduction ambition. The Bill is about building consensus on behalf of children.”

I am perplexed I must admit about this governments’ approach to social measures, since it seems quite happy to strip them out of education without rationale, and provided no reasons for chucking out the measurement framework of social welfare that National had operated.

But when the Child Poverty Action Group and the Maxim Institute both agree with Labour, the Prime Minister has won.

Whereas National are nowhere. By failing to join with the Prime Minister and jointly form legislation about child poverty reporting, Bill English lost his only leverage. They were only able to meekly repeat “National shares the government’s goal of reducing child poverty.”

That’s as good a definition of a political snooker I’ve seen.

National even likes the idea of measures about social progress. They would simply prefer to use the ones that they invented.

This child poverty legislation pulls National further and further to the left in a broad, binding, and foreseeably permanent social compact determined by Labour:

  • Working For Families
  • Kiwisaver
  • NZ Super
  • ACC
  • Social welfare framework

… and may more

The poverty measures and the inevitable institutional frameworks that will follow them, will be just as permanent a fixture of New Zealand’s full social compact. National are invisible, riding on 4644.5% in the polls. That’s how far they’ve shut themselves out.

The hard thing is this: the government is going to be held to account upon measures over which it has nowhere near full control over the outcomes.

This, not the politics, is the real daring of Prime Minister Ardern. She is making the welfare of children a permanent political issue. Every budget, and every election, how many children remain in poverty will be a reason to vote Labour in or out. The Prime Minister is willingly forming measures for job performance reviews that make retaining her job even harder. She is putting her job on the line about the measurable welfare of all of New Zealand’s children. That takes guts.

Even if the measures trend well, it’s highly unlikely to have any political upside. They will have to compete with more dominant (though coarse) measures like GDP, inflation, unemployment, productivity, immigration, housing, and crime.

That is the massive bet: this Labour-led government believes in its policy direction so much that it is confident that it will bring down the whole of child poverty in New Zealand, within three years, and have no reward for it. The entire public sector will have its funding held accountable to that task. That takes real belief in your values. So I am proud of this government for that alone.

The children of New Zealand await the results, with the national attention they deserve.

74 comments on “Jacinda Ardern’s child poverty speech”

  1. Ad 1

    Here’s a little excerpt from the speech yesterday:

    “Taken as a whole, each of these 100 day priorities don’t just show where we have been, they show where we are going.

    —————————————————
    That we want to see a genuine transformation in the way we create and share our prosperity. That we believe we can build thriving regions.

    That we do need to move beyond the branding, and genuinely become a clean, green and carbon neutral New Zealand.

    That we all do well when we look after our people. This means a country where everyone is earning, learning, caring or volunteering because that’s the basis of strong communities.

    That when your basic needs are met, you have decent health services, a roof over your head and feel safe in your community, that is when you thrive.

    And that we can and should aspire to be the best place in the world to be a child.”

  2. Ad 2

    First measure:

    “I want to share with you our targets for the next 10 years to reduce child poverty.

    When it comes to our first measure, which is taken before housing costs, we plan to do something New Zealand hasn’t managed before, and reduce the proportion of children living in poverty from the current rate of 15% of kids to just 5%. That is 100,000 children.”

    • Anon 2.1

      That doesn’t describe the measure, but the current govt target and purpose of the measure – which presupposes the results of statistical analysis. It makes the bill sound like it was tailored to give specific results for the govt today rather than ongoing compareable metrics, which makes it sound slimy as.

      • Ad 2.1.1

        That text comes from the speech yesterday.

        As noted below, you need to separate out the bill from the speech. They have two different purposes.

  3. Ad 3

    Second measure:

    “But that is not the only measure. We are a nation in a housing crisis, and that means families living in housing stress and with less discretionary income. Roughly 20% of children are part of families could be considered to be in poverty after their housing costs. Our goal is to halve that, and get it down to 10%”

    • Anon 3.1

      Again that can’t be a goal of the bill if the bill is to provide stats and measurement. Tell us the measure /exactly/ and the purpose of it, not PR spin about wishful thinking.

      • Ad 3.1.1

        The bill has the framework that shows how to measure poverty, not how they are going to go about it.

        It’s the speech yesterday that has the accountability measures that gives the “how”.

        What she is trying to do in the bill is form a framework that will endure beyond any one government. If she stuck hard measures into law, guaranteed the Nats would kill the bill superfast as soon as they got in.

        Whereas the actual targets are for every budget to be held to – and each relevant Department will have to show how they are contributing. Most of that detail we won’t get until the actual budget in early May.

        • Anon 3.1.1.1

          “The bill has the framework that shows how to measure poverty” – ok, and there’s apparently ten of them, so what are they?

          Don’t get me wrong I applaud the stated aims, but the wishy washyness over the bill itself doesn’t look good. I want to see explanation about how solid and robust the proposed legal framework is, not just assertion.

          • Ad 3.1.1.1.1

            The best detail you are going to get in the medium term will be the Select Committee report once all the submissions are in.

  4. Ad 4

    Third measure:

    “So we will also report on how many children are living in families in material hardship: which means they have told us they can’t get to the doctor when they need, or heat their home properly when they are cold or get a decent meal on the table every day – we want to make a difference here too by halving the number of families in material hardship from about 13 – 15% now to just 7%.”

  5. Anon 5

    So what actually are the ten measures? That bill is rather hard to read compared to other legislation I’ve looked up in the past – are there any laymen interpretations anywhere?

    I did manage to find and figure out the DHI measures, I assume DHI before and after housing are two of the measures mentioned. I’ve seen right wingers misconstrue this as median income, not median disposable income, so I think some concrete info is needed in the public space to counter some spin/misinformation.

    • Ad 5.1

      I’ve just put the main ones up for you, which were contained in the first link in the post.

      • Anon 5.1.1

        They don’t actually explain the measures, and there’s only three of them.

        • Ad 5.1.1.1

          As noted in the backgrounder to the Bill, there are four primary and six supplementary measures, totalling ten:

          https://www.beehive.govt.nz/sites/default/files/2018-01/Child%20Poverty%20Reduction%20Bill%20backgrounder_0.pdf

          There are four primary measures:
          1. Low income before housing costs (below 50 % of median income, moving line)
          2. Low income after housing costs (50% median, fixed line)
          3. Material hardship (using the EU’s standard threshold)
          4. A persistence measure (for low income, material hardship or both)

          In addition there are six supplementary measures, which help build a deeper understanding
          of the impact on child wellbeing. These are:
           low income before-housing-costs (60% of median, moving line)
           low income after-housing-costs (60% of median, moving line)
           low income after-housing-costs (50% of median, moving line)
           low income after-housing-costs (40% of median, moving line)
           severe material hardship
           both low income and material hardship (using 60 percent AHC moving line and the
          material hardship measure from the primary list).

  6. Ad 6

    Annual budgetary accountability:

    “By Budget 2019 Grant and I want New Zealand to be the first country to assess bids for budget spending against new measures that determine, not just how our spending will impact on GDP, but also on our natural, social, human, and possibly cultural capital too.”

  7. Ad 7

    Correction: National was 44.5% not 46% on latest poll – my bad.

  8. One Anonymous Bloke 8

    I am perplexed I must admit about this governments’ approach to social measures, since it seems quite happy to strip them out of education without rationale, and provided no reasons for chucking out the measurement framework of social welfare that National had operated.

    Notional Standards aren’t a “measure”, and that is the rationale for abandoning them.

    Ardern clearly stated the reasons to replace National’s notional targets too. As Micky Savage sad in the “Bye Bill” post, “Jacinda destroyed him in Parliament”. Worth watching the whole exchange.

    tl;dr: those targets are notional and don’t address underlying causes.

  9. Dean Reynolods 9

    A true storey from our recent past. During WW2, Lord Beveridge was drafting up his Beveridge Report, the blueprint which transformed the UK’s society & economy when implemented by the British Labour Govt from 1945 – 1951
    In 1943, during the drafting, Peter Fraser, NZ’s Labour PM visited Beveridge. Beveridge said to Fraser, ‘What have you done in NZ about entrenched poverty?’ Fraser replied, ‘We have abolished entrenched poverty.” Beveridge was amazed that in just 7 years (from 1936 – 1943), coming out of the Depression & then fighting in a world war, NZ could abolish entrenched poverty without a revolution, but simply through legislative change

    If we could abolish poverty then, we can certainly do it now – thank God for Jacinda

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 9.1

      Absolutely. Poverty could be all but wiped out in short order with some strong legislative changes. You don’t need long term targets and visions (that is what you do when you aren’t really going to do anything) – you can instead just take strong and obvious action now. As you say, done before, can be done again.

    • patricia bremner 9.2

      Dean R Thanks indeed. Thanks for that wee gem.

  10. Anon 10

    “this Labour-led government believes in its policy direction so much that it is confident that it will bring down the whole of child poverty in New Zealand, within three years” – Um??? Speech states over 10 years – not three, and the target is half – not the whole of.

    • Ad 10.1

      Three years is the time that they face re-election.

      • alwyn 10.1.1

        “Three years is the time that they face re-election”.

        Actually it is already down to two years and eight months.

        t the rate they are going on most of the things they promised before the election they aren’t going to get anything useful done. Mind you I don’t think they worried about that because they didn’t expect to get into power.

        It is the responsibility of an incoming Government to have plans in place. Trying to come up with their proposals after the election will lead only to failure.
        That is why Roger Douglas got his changes in place in a single term. He had worked them out long before they came into office.

        And nobody has changed them to any real degree.

        Why did Labour waste nine years fluffing around between 2008 and 2017? It has simply left them with no real preparation for office and they are simply drifting in a sea of platitudes.

        • Ad 10.1.1.1

          Alwyn this is not an FPP government as per Lange or Muldoon. MMP permanently stopped major reform as it was designed to do.

          Blue or Red you only ever get mildly reforming governments with at best a few institutional moves.

  11. Sparky 11

    Yeah very nice words but actions speak louder. Walk away from the CP-TPP Jacinda which can only serve to exacerbate child poverty and poverty in general and I personally might start taking you seriously.

    Oh and tell the oil exploration companies to bugger off too….climate change does not help children either….

  12. Alex 12

    Why ‘child’ poverty though? Why not just poverty? I honestly don’t understand why we place a qualifier on addressing poverty – can someone help me understand?

    • Anon 12.2

      I guess they want to encourage the poor to have children. I could even think of a few cynical reasons for that.

    • McFlock 12.3

      Removes 90% of tory objections about “poor choices”.

      • AB 12.3.1

        Yes. Victim-blaming over poverty (i,e. attributing it to ‘poor choices’ by the poor themselves) has become engrained in just about everybody’s thinking. The only way to defuse that reaction is to place the word ‘child’ in front of it, because nobody blames children for poor choices. The ‘poor choices’ lie is a necessary foundation stone of the “just world fallacy” that drives much conservative thinking.
        Fortunately the only way to address ‘child’ poverty is to raise the income of their parents, which addresses poverty itself anyway. The downside is that the childless or elderly poor may get overlooked, depending on how policy is set.

        • Alex 12.3.1.1

          Thanks McFlock and AB. I see now.
          Still disagree completely with using the ‘child’ qualifier but I see why they have.

        • David Mac 12.3.1.2

          C’mon AB, to start making serious inroads with this problem requires acknowledging that the people spending the money in a household have some kind of control over that family’s fiscal wellbeing.

          Give a gambling addict $100,000 and will their poverty be cured?

          I hear what you’re saying, there is comfort for the comfortable in adopting the view ‘Oh it’s all their own fault.’

          I think it’s dishonest to flop entirely the other way…’There is nothing they can do about it.’

          Surely the truth lives somewhere in the middle.

          • Anon 12.3.1.2.1

            Society can help e.g. mental health, addiction services, physical health, heck social services such as budgeting advice. But under capitalism, especially without these services, there will always be some who for circumstances beyond their control cannot do anything about their situation.

            • David Mac 12.3.1.2.1.1

              By and large, I disagree.

              I feel this way because if I was to subscribe to your view I would feel obliged to begin a conversation with the people you speak of like this…

              “I understand that you are absolutely incapable of doing anything whatsoever towards helping yourself?”

              I just don’t think there are all that many people that fall into that category.

              I’m a social democrat, there’s a role and a vote for everyone.

              • Anon

                Well of course you start the conversation trying to figure out how to help people to help themselves, and with a bit of help in the right direction many could – or do you think people do nothing to help themselves because they like being in poverty?

              • “I understand that you are absolutely incapable of doing anything whatsoever towards helping yourself?”

                Have you ever considered that many people simply know how to help themselves?

                It’s not that they’re incapable but that they haven’t been taught and because we teach people that failure is bad and that they should stand on their own two feet and not ask for help. Given this societal BS is it any wonder that some people can’t help themselves?

                They simply don’t know how and we’ve cut off the paths that they could take to learn

          • AB 12.3.1.2.2

            Sure – but I’ve become tired of giving nasty right-wing arseh*les the benefit of nuance. It just encourages them.

      • The Chairman 12.3.2

        “Removes 90% of tory objections about “poor choices”.

        No. It largely results in them being redirected towards the parents.

        • McFlock 12.3.2.1

          Initially, yes they did.

          But then the counter was “so what? How does blaming the parents help the kids?”

          • The Chairman 12.3.2.1.1

            Countering it doesn’t remove it.

            • McFlock 12.3.2.1.1.1

              And yet we hardly ever see the parental blame argument in regular debats about child poverty. Might not be a 90% reduction on, say, 10 or 15 years ago, but it’s probably in that ballpark.

              Yet as soon as we talk about adult poverty issues like homelessness or begging, a substantial part of the argument is still to this day about blaming “these people” and moving them out of sight rather than addressing their problems.

              • The Chairman

                “And yet we hardly ever see the parental blame argument in regular debats about child poverty.”

                Speak for yourself, I’ve yet to see a reduction.

                Regardless the form of poverty being discussed, the substantial part of the argument is still to this day about blaming them or in this case, the parents.

                From where I stand, it’s becoming worse.

                • McFlock

                  Fair enough – I haven’t done a content analysis on random news reports or anything.

                  Internet tories be tories, but even then the worst comments are down to a few handles. Back in mid-Lab5, I reckon the comments were also a substantial part of actual news reports.

                  Over the last few years, many of the reports have recognised poverty as a systemic issue – but only if kids are involved.

                  • The Chairman

                    “But only if kids are involved”

                    Kids tug at the heartstrings. So the use of kids in media coverage is to be expected.

                    And while tugging at heartstrings may muster empathy, tories tend to lack it. Thus, the “poor choices” objections and blame game remain.

                    Tories tend to better respond to the economic rationale for improving poverty, opposed to the emotive.

                    Unfortunately, however, as long as there continues to be a number making poor choices, the blame game will persist, attempting to tar the many that aren’t.

                    • McFlock

                      Well, no, tories respond to self interest as long as it doesn’t overwhelm their bigotry.

                      So arguments about boosting funding for primary healthcare to save 14 times that on 2ary+ healthcare down the line is heard by tories as “tax me more now” so they hate it.

                      But we’re talking about getting legislative and social change, not persuading every single tory to not be a selfish prick. The more astute tories know that media coverage about them being pricks might be coverage, but it won’t help their legislative intransigence (look at Mihingarangi Forbes vs Alisdair thompson for an example of a non-astute tory).

                      I don’t for one minute think that the nats wanted to measure child poverty, let alone reduce it. But they were always on the back foot on the issue, because as you put it “kids tug at the heartstrings” of voters. Not all voters, but more than adults do. Even when kids aren’t cute, they’re blameless. So by the end of the nat regime they were promising to lift 100k kids out of poverty.

                  • The Chairman

                    The economic rationale for improving poverty relates to their self interest.

                    The more consumers in poverty, the less they have to spend. Hence, improving poverty is vital to improving consumer demand, thus business returns.

                    And the economic benefits don’t only appeal to the right as a stimulated economy provides more jobs and more business opportunities, thus is a vote winner.

                    As poverty is widespread and on top of that many are struggling, the Nats faced widespread public pressure to act. Moreover, Bill had his investment agenda which was expected to largely benefit the private sector, hence their so-called concern.

                    • McFlock

                      The more consumers in poverty, the less they have to spend. Hence, improving poverty is vital to improving consumer demand, thus business returns.

                      In that case everyone would be on a living wage by now, because workers sure wouldn’t oppose it.

                      As poverty is widespread and on top of that many are struggling, the Nats faced widespread public pressure to act.

                      Don’t forget the massive resources put into efforts by social services, researchers, clinicians, and a variety of other individuals and organisations to make poverty a political issue. Reports issued annually as part of coordinated media campaigns. Because people tend to think “it must just be me struggling”.

                      Moreover, Bill had his investment agenda which was expected to largely benefit the private sector, hence their so-called concern.

                      How much did they do on that again? Beyond privatising some social services?

                    • The Chairman

                      “In that case everyone would be on a living wage by now, because workers sure wouldn’t oppose it”

                      Seems Labour did. No living wage as the minimum wage this term.

                      Yes, the massive resources put into efforts by social services, researchers, clinicians, and a variety of other individuals and organisations helped gather and focus the momentum, but the sentiment was largely there and building.

                      Bill had only begun, a lot more would have followed if he had won the election. But, apparently, apart from some changes, Labour are largely going to run with it nonetheless.  

                    • McFlock

                      Seems Labour did. No living wage as the minimum wage this term.

                      Why didn’t Labour steal votes of national supporters by promising a living wage then?

                      Blinglish had been high in cabinet since the beginning. Why didn’t the tories act to save money by doing all that in 2009? Because their self interest had nothing to do with the interests of poorer NZers. Poor people don’t just buy, they work cheaply. If you can sell overseas, why do you need a strong local purchase market? There’s no profit in it for them.

  13. patricia bremner 13

    This is the frame work for the big picture, the budget will be the how targets will be achieved across all portfolios. It is a huge change from a piece meal approach.

    She has begun with children, as they are hard for opposition to knock back. However the measures could easily target other groups as fiscals allow.

    What has built up over 30 years is going to take time. Jacinda has named the lowest targets she hopes to reach, hopefully these will be exceeded.

    We need to realise they are aware of the depth of struggle, and have to work to change frameworks, and carry coalition partners and support.

    Often it will be slower than we hoped, but to quote our Rachel “It will happen”

    • Anon 13.1

      Oh the measures could, could they? Does that mean someone somewhere knows what the measures /are/?

      • patricia bremner 13.1.2

        What a revealing thing to say Anon. LOL they came out of thin air! sarc.

        • Anon 13.1.2.1

          The measures are of /child poverty/, there’s no reason to assume they’ll be collected for households/persons without children. Indeed, I imagine there are rules against stats collecting erroneous data surplus to their remit.

          • McFlock 13.1.2.1.1

            All of the poverty and hardship measures in AD’s link are standard measures and already routinely collated by MSD for the full range of primary demographic criteria (age, ethnicity, household characteristics, etc).

            They are based on subject-relevant responses to questions in the Census, Household Labour Force Survey, and I think one or two other already present data sources.

            The data collection is already done, the collation and analysis is slightly different for this purpose compared to, say, labour force projections.

            • Anon 13.1.2.1.1.1

              I’m currently part of the Household Labour Force Survey, they ask for info on one calendar weeks work hours and wages every three months. Since I work a roster with varying hours over a non-calendar week it’s a pain to collate this information for them in their format (if I even have it on hand) – and it’s not necessarily an accurate picture of my overall income/hours worked. It would be trivial for me to supply them my payslip each week, heck I could give them my last ~8 years of payslips. They could even get this information from employers instead, or even IRD already collects this information – they’d get a much better picture than asking the general public to do the maths for them, and more complete than asking for a quarter of the info.

              • McFlock

                Well, if you want to debate the methodology of the HLFS specifically, feel free to take it up with StatsNZ.

                But it’s not just hours worked, is it:

                The HLFS measures:

                the number of employed and unemployed people,
                the number who are not in the labour force,
                the hours worked,
                which occupations and industries people work in,
                the duration of unemployment,
                steps people take to find work,
                steps they take to find more work hours,
                the number of people in formal study,
                the number of youth not in employment, education, or training (NEET)

                Themy might be able to get your employment data from IRD, but the current education enrolment data (for NEET) would require probablistic ID matching like they use for the IDI (which wouldn’t really provide the demographic weighting granularity the need for the HLFS – look at the shit Labour got for the real estate data) or the steps you take to find additional work?

                And then there’s hoping that every department or employer gets their paperwork in on time and everyone’s home address is up to date…

  14. Chris 14

    Where is that actual bill?

    I can’t see it on the parliament site

    Could just be me being an idiot

  15. Chris 15

    Cheers!

  16. indiana 16

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/101069693/truth-or-fable-factchecking-the-pms-child-poverty-speech

    Best line in the article may be…”Sadly for the fact-checkers, Ardern’s speech was light on specific claims to test.”

  17. Mark 17

    Fluff and nonsense.

  18. Michael 18

    I thought the speech was well done. Of course, no amount of words actually lifts a single child out of poverty. That requires action and, in a society like Aotearoa-NZ, that means resources – and that means money. I see no evidence, whatsoever, that this government has the guts to raise the necessary revenue to even reduce poverty, let alone eliminate it.

  19. Sumsuch 19

    Halve child poverty in 10 years! That’s Labour? Halve it next month.

  20. Delia 20

    How can any govt justify the GST on essential foods..get that off and it will mean people have a bit more in their pocket go buy good nutritious food. I wonder how when people are on such lowed fixed incomes in this country, how their children’s lives can be improved. The rents alone are crippling households.

    • indiana 20.1

      What are essential foods? When I go to the movies, a bag of chips and coke are essential.

      How will you police people to ensure that they spend their extra money on nutritious food?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 20.1.1

        One small step for humanity, but far too difficult for right wingers to even contemplate.

        On what planet would the removal of GST from eg: fruit and vegetables need to be “policed”?

        • indiana 20.1.1.1

          Have you shopped in Australia? Loose fruit and veg has no GST applied, but yet their poverty levels are equivalent to NZ if you use Jacinda’s new wishy washy measures. Oh by the way, their GST is lower than NZ’s. Their obesity rates, same if not worse than ours. Bro, they even have Capital Gains Tax and their housing crisis is worse than ours.

          “On what planet would the removal of GST from eg: fruit and vegetables need to be “policed”?”

          Delia has inferred that people will more likely spend their extra money on products that have no GST. If the government entertained that idea, what assurances do they have that their constituents will behave accordingly.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 20.1.1.1.1

            What assurances do we have that anything predicted by economics will actually happen? Perhaps the police should investigate that.

            In the meantime, the government will get on with tackling the problems involved while the National Party sits on the sideline reminding everybody that they had nine years to do something, and parroted lies about personal responsibility, poor choices, and lazy useless teens instead.

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