Official advice on poverty

Written By: - Date published: 9:01 am, October 15th, 2014 - 53 comments
Categories: national, poverty - Tags: , , ,

An excellent piece by Brent Edwards on Morning Report today, looking at official advice to the government on poverty. Edwards requested these documents in May last year – naturally they were delayed until after the election. Some selections from the RNZ piece:

Govt advised not to spend more on poverty

Officials are recommending the Government not spend any more money fighting poverty, despite believing that would alleviate the problem.

Translation: officials give government the advice it wants despite knowing that it’s wrong. Here’s some background:

The documents obtained by Radio New Zealand also spell out how serious child poverty is in this country. Child poverty rates in 2011 were double what they were in the 1980s and are two to three times higher than the poverty rates for people aged over 65. The papers also confirm that, under most measures, child poverty rates got better in early 2000s but have not improved since 2007.

Working for Families – raising incomes – alleviated poverty.

Officials acknowledge spending more money can help alleviate poverty, in a paper dated February 2013. “If the policy objective is to reduce measured income poverty for families with children then clearly the incomes of low-income families need to increase (eg through higher employment income, reduced taxes or higher transfer payments),” the paper says.

This is the simple and obvious truth that Key’s government is desperate to deny. So why the advice not to invest more in alleviating poverty?

One of those who helped with the report, Otago University researcher Simon Chapple, is surprised by the advice from the Ministry of Social Development.

“The job of a government department is to offer free and frank advice to the Government of the day and my reading of it was that it was free and frank advice strongly tailored to the political preferences of the Government of the day. “So the notion that no more money should be spent, you know, seems a very political one.”

Quite. So what advice can these hapless officials give that fits the Nats requirements?

Ministry of Social Development officials have suggested that the Government give less money to poor families with older children and instead give more to those with young children.

Reshuffle the pie – rob Peter to pay Paul. How is that going to help?

From the constrained conclusion to the timing of the release it is clear that the Nats are still playing politics with poverty. The answer, the obvious answer and the only logical answer is clear to everyone, raise incomes. The Nats chose tax cuts for the rich instead.

53 comments on “Official advice on poverty”

  1. AsleepWhileWalking 1

    MSD’s advice is to reduce the IWFTC for older children (grandparenting those already receiving the higher rate) and pay more for younger children.

    But….when children get older they cost far more. Not just in food cost but in school, and access to technology, and don’t get me started on the cost of shoes for a teenage boy.

    Perhaps MSD consider it beneficial for teenagers of low/middle income earners in NZ to avoid tech stuff and rough it with crappy shoes that destroy their posture and cause pain later in life.

    • David H 1.1

      My little boy is nearly 3 1/2 and it seems that every time we put clothes on him they don’t fit, and shoes, they don’t even get time to wear out before they don’t fit. And don’t get me started on food. Like teens, Littlies need constant feeding if they are to grow up healthy. So really any cuts just penalise the child ion the long run.

  2. mickysavage 2

    Another example of Orwellian double speak. When you boil the logic right down the absurdity becomes very clear. Poverty which is caused by a lack of resources will not be cured by increasing resources …

  3. Olwyn 3

    What we have to accept is this: Key’s government does not intend to do anything substantial about addressing poverty, not now, not ever. If focus groups reveal that poverty has become a ‘concern’ then he will give with one hand and take with the other, or do something that looks like giving to the middle class observer, while nothing is given in reality. Key panders to such concerns, but does not concede ground. Already I can see the stage being set for fostering the kids of the poor to become the new home-stay, and that is how it works. The left says, let’s talk about child poverty – no one can quarrel with that surely. And the right then picks up the idea and uses it to increase their dominance.

    It is also why we need a Labour Party that is willing to put up a fight, rather than show how they can meet the neo-lib criteria and still achieve something. The criteria are there so you don’t achieve anything beyond what the neo-libs want – if you can meet them and still achieve something then they go up a notch. I don’t think anyone wants us to be kicked out of the White Western Club at this stage, but there has to be room to achieve something for the population before it comes to that, and right now Labour should be pushing the boundaries, not trying to fit inside them.

    • shorts 3.1

      “Labour should be pushing the boundaries, not trying to fit inside them”


      I couldn’t care less if we’re in the white western club… rather be living in a healthy inclusive society than devoted to endless growth and consumerism… not to mention wars

      • Olwyn 3.1.1

        I agree shorts, re the WWC, but I don’t think that the majority of the population would.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.2

        I couldn’t care less if we’re in the white western club… rather be living in a healthy inclusive society than devoted to endless growth and consumerism… not to mention wars


      • blue leopard 3.1.3

        +222 @Shorts

    • Chris 3.2

      Interesting we still got stuff all explanation from Labour about social welfare and benefits etc. They need to grow some balls and say they’re going to fix basic benefit levels that haven’t changed in real terms since 1991.

    • Tracey 3.3

      of course not. poor = low wages = competitive in trade…

      its like this govt sees it as a badge of honour to make us the india of the western world cos it makes economic sense.

  4. One Anonymous Bloke 4

    I know they say Wellington is the Beltway and nothing that happens there really matters, certainly not to Nuzillders. Have these government looters Ministers not noticed the increase in the number of people begging for change on the streets on their way from the airport to the Beehive?

    In the larger provincial centres too.

    The emperor has no clothes.

    • Lloyd 4.1

      If you keep the tinted windows of your BMW wound up you can choose to ignore the poverty. Anyway everyone knows that the poor inflict that poverty upon themselves and their children by their unthrifty habits and poor lifestyle choices. Any neo-liberal can tell you that giving money to the rich is far better for the rich , whoops…. sorry, for the economy.

      • phillip ure 4.1.1

        because some of it will trickle-down…eh..?

        ..that’s why tax cuts for the rich are so good for all of us…

        ..they make the rich somehow more giving..

        ..even more likely to allow some trickle-down..

        ..(they know when they have got ‘enough’..and that just further spurs them to trickledown to the poor…)

        ..maybe mr key should give some more tax-cuts to the richest..?

        ..the trickle-down might get even more..


        ..aren’t we so lucky to have a prime minister who has pledged to help/care for all new zealaners..? just warms the cockles of yr

  5. cogito 5

    So which opposition party will take Key and MSD to task over this?

    Time and again Key has slipped through damaging measures or justified inaction without opposition parties standing up and voicing strong arguments against him.

    Why do NZers allow themselves to be deceived and lied to again and again by
    Key? It is truly unbelievable.

    • fambo 5.1

      The Greens always do. The Greens come out quickly within hours with excellent press releases on all issues. Their press releases get a reasonable airing on National Radio but you can’t force more of the media to pick them up. You can sign up for news updates here –

    • blue leopard 5.2

      “Why do NZers allow themselves to be deceived and lied to again and again by
      Key? It is truly unbelievable.”

      I think the problem is that confidence tricksters play on a quality that is essential in society – trust.

      People have to trust for relations and society to work.

      The trouble is confidence tricksters are abusing that very quality that people have to have.

      It takes a conscious effort and long time, and many times of ‘falling off the wagon’, to train oneself to question one’s natural trust.

      To start questioning one’s trust is also something that people have a natural aversion to, and that is because underneath we all realise how essential that quality is. i.e. people want to trust.

      These are my thoughts on the matter and it actually highlights how despicable the manipulation of trust is, that is going on these days, not simply within political circles but many places. It is like this abuse of trust has become the status quo business/financial practice (‘all in the name of profit’).

      Modern Motto: Anything.Goes.In.The.Name.Of.Profit

    • Brian Biggins 5.3

      Until such time as we have an MSM that is not captured by the government and neoliberal policies, NZer’s will believe everything they read, listen to, and view. Let’s face it, the majority of kiwis get their information from the MSM. The flood of propaganda has done a good job of shaping the minds of most kiwis and I believe that if another party /coalition ever gets in to power, they must first look at rebalancing the MSM, otherwise their reign will be short-lived. The ideal situation will be one where the MSM all go belly-up and the main media sources are publicly funded (overseen by an independent media watchdog), with a myriad of alternative media also in the mix.
      We need to claim back our democracy!

      • cogito 5.3.1

        “We need to claim back our democracy!”

        Absolutely! In some countries people are prepared to take personal risks in order to do this – look at Hong Kong…

  6. philj 6

    Says a lot about the quality of advice the government seeks/receives. To have a healthy democracy you need a well informed public. Which we do not have. The MSM see to that. We have, overnight, become a little … Hawaii! Funny that.

  7. Lanthanide 7

    So what’s the justification for sitting on OIA requests for over 16 months?

    • Tracey 7.1

      they know the ombudsmen is overloaded so it buys them more time. dbh and auckland council are masters of this

    • fender 7.2

      There is no justification at all other than delaying the release until after the election.

      Can’t help but wonder how quickly the Slater Slob would have received the same info if “it” had made the request..

  8. The answer, the obvious answer and the only logical answer is clear to everyone, raise incomes.

    Yes, it’s the obvious answer, in the same sense that the obvious answer to overcoming illness is to get better. “Raise incomes,” fine – “Raise incomes, how exactly?” remains to be answered.

    The tricky bits:
    1. Seeing to it that working full-time brings in enough to raise a couple of kids.
    2. Seeing to it that there’s enough work available.
    3. Seeing to it that people who have kids are required to fund their upbringing themselves to the extent possible.

    Can’t see the Nats being interested in any of those except number 3, and can see them being vigorously opposed to number 1. No wonder the public servants have given up.

    • blue leopard 8.1

      @Psycho Milt

      +1 Sums it up pretty well. Just because it is tricky, doesn’t mean is should be ignored.

      I think it would be useful to frame this issue by calculating the broader costs* involved.

      i.e It needs to be realised that if the points you raise were seriously addressed a whole lot of other problems would be solved too.

      [*’costs’ can be read very widely; I refer to them as financial and effects on society and effects on individual lives.]

  9. Draco T Bastard 9

    The answer, the obvious answer and the only logical answer is clear to everyone, raise incomes.

    Actually, that’s not the logical answer. In fact, I think you’ll find that has been a major cause of getting us where we are and the poverty that we have.

    The answer is to start thinking in terms of resources and living standards rather than in terms of money. Money can be scammed and manipulated whereas resources are pretty much fixed. With a good system to account for our resources and minimum living standard we can eliminate poverty. If we keep with money we will never be able to do so.

    • thechangeling 9.1

      I can’t help thinking of the problem in terms of localised production and consumption paradigms and incorporating local resource allocation and standards of living rates into that.
      I can see there’s a huge discrepancy between what we consume (95% are imports?) and what we export (mostly primary commodities) which in turn explains the huge disequilibrium or imbalance between employment and unemployment.

  10. Blue 10

    Child poverty rates in 2011 were double what they were in the 1980s and are two to three times higher than the poverty rates for people aged over 65.

    This is absolutely insane. As a country we seriously have our priorities wrong if we allow this. Just letting our nation’s children fall by the wayside and expecting it not to cost us buckets later should not be an option, but apparently it is.


    • Tracey 10.1

      john key is comfortable with this level. we can either have no poverty or low wages but not both

  11. mpledger 11

    The govt wants to take money from families with older kids and give it to families with younger kids.

    So what’s the incentive for a desperately poor family with a kid coming up to the age where they lose that benefit … have a baby!

    That way they restore their income with very little upfront cost (they already have all the baby gear) and they can hope to have a better income by the time the baby grows up to lose the benefit.

    But we really want people to have kids because they want kids not because it keeps there heads above water for a while.

  12. Scott1 12

    If you go to the public and talk about providing people with services that give them a hand up you will find wide spread support. I was in a focus group discussing this once and giving people specific support had almost universal support and giving them money directly had minimal support.

    There is a very strong meme out there regarding the irresponsible person misusing the welfare that they are given for the purpose of taking care of their kids.

    A package of labour policies that would go down well with these sorts of people would be one that provides direct support in terms of things like subsidised child care, health care, more resources for job seekers, training etc. Just bold enough and market distorting enough that National does not dare to follow.

    The left also has the option of trying to convince them of a whole different view of the world where the individual on welfare spends money more efficiently than the state – but the likelyhood of that working in the next term or three… is close to 0.

    • SPC 12.1

      Blaming the parent for child poverty is a means to deny complicity in child poverty.

      Labour should call the public on it, offer any parent on a benefit supporting children the WFF tax credit if they accept a spending card.

      The spending card guarantees the money is used appropriately.

  13. labour 2014 offered nothing to the poorest..


    ..just to do the same as national..raise benefits only to match raises in inflation.. far away is that from any hope of labour doing something meaningful..?

    ..they have been fucking over/ignoring the poorest for 30 yrs..

    ..what..if anything.. will make them stop/change..?

    • They managed full employment in the mid-2000s. An able-bodied person shouldn’t need the government to do much more than that for them.

      • phillip ure 13.1.1

        that is one part of it..

        ..but basically ..if we are serious about this..

        ..the welfare state has to be re-built..

        ..and that must include access to education/training etc..

        ..a universal basic income..

        ..but even that full-employment goal..while worthy..

        ..ignores the realities of our futures..

        ..(this being just one example..:

        “..New technology can destroy jobs.

        In the past this has mainly affected unskilled jobs –

        – but now it’s hitting the middle classes –

        – cutting a swathe across the creative industries and ‘professions’.

        Within a generation we may find that there are no such things as a ‘career’ or ‘job security’.

        What’s driving this disruption to our working lives –

        – and what can you do about it?..”


        (i mean..who needs a conveyancing-lawyer..?

        ..when an app will do the job..)

        ..the entire job/work/state-support paradigm needs to be re-thought..

        ..and that ain’t happening..)

  14. Scottie 14

    What exactly do the government departments measure in order to evaluate levels of poverty?

  15. Tautoko Mangō Mata 15

    I think that as well as Poverty records we need a Slavery Index for companies that are paying really low wages. The living wage should be regarded as the zero. Anything below that should be a positive Slavery index. If it is cheaper to pay a person on a low wage than it is to house and feed them then this is slavery and needs to be shamed.
    Also publicised should be the CEO: lowest wage ratio. It is time to hold up the mirror to those who are enriching themselves at the expense of their fellow-citizens.

    This gives me an excuse to enjoy Paolo Nutini “A man’s a man”

  16. Scott1 16

    There is a significant number of people living in NZ working for far less than the minimum wage (I guess thousands). Often less than half the minimum wage.

    I’d find it hard to believe it was true – if I hadn’t met so many of them.

  17. dave 17

    its about time this country started rioting because they know fine well kiwis are wimps

  18. finbar 18

    Two months ago,this corporations rule would not recognise poverty in their rule as being.Now,the corporation says it does exist,but it is a complex issue,and money will not aid it.

    What fuck wits does their farm fence leaning see,brain dead sheep.

    Yes,they voted for the corporation.Be nice to have a oppossition,to say who are these corporation fucks.

    Thats why Labour lost the last election,to much time cuddling up to the lost middle voters,and not for seeing.

    • Colonial Rawshark 18.1

      Must pander to the anxieties and prejudices of the $60K pa plus crowd; these people have it real tough in NZ Inc. you know.

  19. small thing 19

    This is the mirage mentality that Key and his ilk have been crafting in the NZ psyc since he became leader
    The thing is people are believing lies are now no longer lies or that the Nats are not accountable in law and all laws can be changed to suit the National Party s lies
    We now have a form of TOTALITARIANISM running this country
    Labour has been duped by the national led media into a little piss puddle in the corner of the room while National sits sneering at the
    Get a grip these Nats are really bad fuckin bastards

    • Colonial Rawshark 19.1

      Not totalitarianism yet (although some of the legal mechanisms, infrastructure and attitudes are in place for it).

      We are in the phase of a heavily managed democracy with corporate proclivities, however.

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      The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) through its skills and employment programme, Te Ara Mahi, will invest nearly $600,000 to ensure work opportunities for locals in Turangi and Whanganui, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced today. “I’m pleased to announce the PGF is investing in these innovative ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Government levels electricity playing field for consumers
    Consumers will benefit from changes to the electricity market that will see a level playing field for smaller independent retailers, greater transparency over the big power companies, increased competition in the market and more support for consumers to shop around for better deals, Minister Megan Woods has announced. The changes ...
    2 weeks ago