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Petty politics as usual on poverty

Written By: - Date published: 2:33 pm, December 15th, 2011 - 37 comments
Categories: class war, david shearer, john key, poverty - Tags: ,

The problems of inequality, poverty, and particularly child poverty, finally got some attention during the election campaign. NZ has appalling stats on child poverty, and it is doing real damage to our society. This year 3 News ran a strong focus on the issue, culminating in an excellent documentary on Tuesday night. If you didn’t catch it you can watch it online here. It created quite a stir, especially the headline claim:

More than 100 New Zealand children who died last year would probably have survived had they lived in Japan, Sweden or the Czech Republic, a new documentary shows.

Before the election I asked – will we actually do anything as a result? The number of kids living in poverty was falling (at last) in the later years of the last Labour government, and it is rising again under National. The question is, how much do we care?

National’s position during the campaign was the usual nonsense about perpetuating a “welfare trap”. Pathetic. Welfare levels were at historic lows under the last Labour government. People want to work. There is no welfare trap, there’s a no-jobs trap. And it’s far cheaper to fix poverty than it is to keep paying the costs of doing nothing.

Post election the Nats (in response to the Maori Party) have agreed to set up a ministerial committee on poverty. It remains to be seen if this committee will actually do anything, or whether it’s just a political gimmick (like Key’s supposed interest in the “underclass” in 2008, never seen or heard of since). But the early signs aren’t good:

Key rejects Shearer’s call for cross party poverty group

Labour leader David Shearer’s wish to be included in a “ministerial poverty committee” is unlikely to come true. … “John Key has indicated he is finally prepared to address the issue of poverty and will set up a ministerial committee. I call on him to be brave and open that committee up to all political parties,” Mr Shearer said. …

However, when asked about the idea today, Mr Key did not seem keen. “I’m more than happy for David Shearer to be a part of the ministerial committee if he’s happy to give the Government confidence and supply,” he said.

Shearer has obviously relevant background and skills (as do others in the opposition parties). Key’s response is just petty politics as usual. It suggests to me that the Nats are perfectly “comfortable” with things as they are, and their committee will be nothing more than useless window dressing.

37 comments on “Petty politics as usual on poverty”

  1. dv 1

    Isn’t it pleasing to see the NATS have all the answers.

    • McFlock 1.1

      Unfortunately, the question they keep asking is “what can we do to fuck up the country?”

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1

        No, the question they ask is: How can we shift even more of the nations wealth to ourselves and our rich mates? They don’t really give a shit if they fuck up the country or not as it has no relevance to them.

  2. Carol 2

    I don’t think Key’s response was “petty politics”. The ministerial committee was a sop to the Maori Party as part of their confidence and supply deal. It seems to me that putting Bill English in charge of the committee indicates that Key and National don’t want to do anything that will really raise income levels (eg like providing more real, decently paid jobs).

    This is confirmed by Key not wanting the committee to be one open to all parties.

    How long before the Maori Party wakes up to the fact they are being played?

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      How long before the Maori Party wakes up to the fact they are being played?

      Almost like Snow White, they’ll wake up when their Ministerial warrants expire.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      How long before the Maori Party wakes up to the fact they are being played?

      Probably about the time when people stop voting for them.

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    Glad to see the cries of “arrogance” and “hubris” in the MSM over Key’s dismissal of Shearer’s offer.

    Gotcha! 😛

  4. In Vino Veritas 4

    yup, David Shearer certainly does have the relevant background and skills. He had a nice house, a fairly hefty tax free USD salary from the UN and got to redistribute food and funds provided by others to the less fortunate in mainly war torn countries (or recently worn torn) like Liberia, Iraq, Rwanda, Lebanon and Afghanistan. They’re similar to NZ I suppose.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      IVV, I thought you supported the idea of people being renumerated adequately for the performance they give on the job.

      Sounds like you’re growing envious mate.

      • In Vino Veritas 4.1.1

        Just clearing up a few facts about David Shearer’s experience CV. On envy, look around some of the posts on this site and you’ll see it’s a recurring theme. I havent heard anyone here bleat that Shearer should have been paying for his taxes when plenty were railing against the NBR rich listers, many of whom are also not resident in NZ.

  5. insider 5

    SHearer can be part of a ministerial committee when he becomes a minister. He has to win an election first.

    Anthony is right it is petty politics – it’s petty to set up unrealistic outcomes and cry when you get the predictable answer. These cross party calls are done in nearly every parliament and get the same negative response from the govt.

    • Ari 5.1

      Poverty is such a broad issue that there’s room for consensus even between Labour and National to some degree. This isn’t like the National Party calling for a seat at the table when Labour’s discussing taxes, for a hypothetical.

      The only reason to deny opposition parties a seat when you could just invite them and then ignore them is that you don’t want to be embarassed in front of the media when you do NOTHING about poverty.

  6. In Vino Veritas 6

    Childrens commissioner, 12% of children living in “poverty” in 1998.

    Click to access poverty_report_chap3.pdf

    2005 Herald, 17% of children living in “poverty” based on 2001 figures.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10113242

    2010 Herald 15% of children living in “poverty” based on 2006/07 figures.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10650823

    It would appear that so called “poverty” wasn’t too much of an issue 1998 – 2007 wouldnt you say?

    • r0b 6.1

      It’s difficult to pick the trends out of the different measures, and the difference between when data was collected and when it was reported.  But here’s a summary for you:

      http://thestandard.org.nz/children-in-poverty/ 

      Oh – and it isn’t “so called” poverty – it’s “children are dying of third world diseases” poverty.

    • McFlock 6.2

      Love it – your argument that poverty wasn’t so much of an issue is based on sources including a media report from the period – so it was, actually, an issue even then.

      And your poverty report link gives trend charts that clearly show an association between poverty and the degree of neoliberalism in the government of the day (with a policy-effect lag).

      Thanks for reminding us that the last time national was at the reigns child poverty hit one in three.

      Meanwhile, children die.

  7. Uturn 7

    So to sum up the argument: Poverty isn’t important to National because it existed when Labour were in power.

    So Shearer wants to make changes that will avoid repeating the past, but change is not allowed because the past doesn’t match with the change being proposed.

    Sweet jesus, where do these thinkers come from?

    However, at least Key – being a man of principle – will apply the same logic to this government: Labour did things in the past, so National cannot do anything different to Labour, because that would be change that is different to the past.

    Phew, we can all rest easy.

    • mik e 7.1

      National will give it a very small bandaid take away funding from one sector hand it out in another rob peter to pay paul. Do little or nothing highlight some very small percentage of bene’s ripping off the system and tell every body to get a job. How many jobs have this party created ZILCH.
      An Alcohol, Gambling, tobacco, fat carbo sugar tax would more than raise enough to wipe out poverty tax combined.this govt doesn’t want to do any thing about it otherwise they wouldn’t have any one to stigmatize!
      Divide and conquer is the only other policy outside borrow and hope

  8. Nick C 8

    The only one playing petty politics is Shearer. The thing that qualifies you to be on a ministerial committee isnt being experienced, having relevent skills or deeply caring about the issue. Shearer could have a PHD in Public Policy having written a thesis about poverty eradication and he wouldnt be qualified to be on the committee. If you dont agree; then please tell me why the opposition shouldnt be represented on every ministerial/cabinet committee? Im sure there are other issues that opposition members care about, and important, and opposition MPs have some relevent skills in.

    Having a mandate from the public, i.e. winning an election is what gives a mandate to make decisions involving government money. Given Labour just got its worst result since the 1920s he can hardly claim such a mandate.

    The good news for Shearer is that being in opposition allows him plenty of oppourtunity to critique government policy on child poverty and propose solutions which the government may choose to adopt.

    • mik e 8.1

      Narcissistic Child its a committee not cabinet

    • McFlock 8.2

      Nice – so shearer would be welcomed onto the committee apart from the fact that it’s a ministers only club. Who decided to make it a ministers only committee? Hint – the people who don’t give a shit about poverty.

      you know, if they let him onto the committee and they found a consensus or compromise position, Labour would have to stick with it when they get into government, too. As it is, all key et al are doing is proving that their “committee” is simply a “Yes, Minister” stalling tactic. Send it to committee for 3 years and explain you haven’t done anything because the committee haven’t reported back yet.

      Meanwhile, children die.

      • Puddleglum 8.2.1

        if they let him onto the committee and they found a consensus or compromise position, Labour would have to stick with it when they get into government, too

        This is my worry with a ‘cross party’ committee and consensus on child poverty.

        It is also my worry about Shearer. I have still not heard anything from him that indicates what political and economic analysis he has that would suggest solutions to such issues as child poverty.

        I fear that because of his lack of such an analysis he could sign up to a ‘consensus’ that will involve policies that will be entirely ineffective because they will largely be based either on ‘market’ initiatives, ‘coordinating agencies’ and other ineffectual efforts that would be amenable to National, ACT and UF.

        Labour, as you say, would then be locked into a compromise, but one that would not just be sub-optimal for children but completely ineffectual. That would not serve those children in poverty well – either now or for some undetermined time into the future.

        The only ‘good’ would be if Labour, the Greens, etc. actually held the line in favour of solutions that would have immediate effectiveness and simply embarrassed National into the ‘poverty’ of its prescriptions. But, in that scenario, once again I fear that Shearer, Labour, Greens, etc. would just come out looking like the barriers to saving the children.

        For me, it keeps coming back to the question of what Shearer (and Labour under Shearer) actually believe about our society, economy and political world and how it operates.

        Fine words are fine, but that’s all. And, it has to be restated that a career in ‘aid’ work does not necessarily mean that Shearer has any sense of a political and economic solution to child poverty. It is only what analysis he may have developed from those experiences that matters.

        To repeat, I still don’t know what that is. Even in broad terms.

    • Colonial Viper 8.3

      If you dont agree; then please tell me why the opposition shouldnt be represented on every ministerial/cabinet committee?

      Hey custard for brains

      Because we are talking about this one issue and this one committee, not a sweeping generalisation across all other committees in Parliament.

      Really, when did the right wing get som obnoxiously 2 dimensional, stupid and simplistic? Its like they don’t want to deliver the best result for NZ children, rather they’d just crow about their own position and mandate to rule as they please.

      Yeah, frakin Tories.

      • Nick C 8.3.1

        All class – 2/3 of you go straight for the man not the ball. McFlock did slighly better but loses points for abusing pretty much everyone except me.

        mik e: I never said it was a cabinet committee. It is a ministerial committee. Shearer is niether a cabinet minister nor a minister.

        CV: Got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning did you? Yes Shearer is only asking to be on one committee, but surely you would accept these sorts of things have to be governed by rules, not just ad-hoc decision making based on what is politically expediant. Lets say Key lets Shearer on, and the next day Winston Peters and Russell Norman want to join. Should he let them on too? What if the next day Robertson declares that there is a health crisis in this country and wants to be put on the Health Cabinet Committee, let him on too? Heck why not just make Shearer co-PM and put the whole labour frontbench in cabinet.

        Even if we ignore this the decision can be justified on pragmatic grounds. Westminster government is a fundamentally adverserial political system: We have a government to make decisions and an opposition to hold the government to account and present an alternative vision for people to choose at the election. This fosters competition which leads to better political outcomes. Too much cooperation on policy blurs that clear distinction and possibly leads to a less competitve political environment.

        McFlock: If you can accept that National won the election then I dont see what your problem is. Let’s accept your bizzare characterisation that no one in cabinet cares about child poverty. The answer is still that they just won an election, therefore they get to make policy. Perhaps the New Zealand public also dont care about child poverty? Believe it or not Labour has to win an election before it gets to impliment policy.

        • McFlock 8.3.1.1

          lol.
            
          I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t have the power to be dicks, I’m saying that they shouldn’t choose to be dicks.
              
          If they genuinely believe that poverty is a bad thing, then the first thing they should be doing is looking for all perspectives on how to deal with it. Shearer has extensive experience in this area.
            
          If poverty is a structural, long term problem, then it needs a long term solution, not just the next <3 years. Unless the tories are assuming an eternity of 50.0x% election “wins”, then any long term solution will require the agreement of all parties likely to be in government in the foreseeable future. This would be achieved by engaging with the opposition parties. Which they have refused to do.
            
          Because the nacts are ruling out a long term consensus, they are ruling out a long term solution to a long term problem. This draws into doubt either A) their intelligence or B) their desire to end poverty in New Zealand. A third possibility is A+B

  9. marsman 9

    Having ‘gimme,gimme’ Bill English chairing the committee is a smarmy insult to people living in poverty.  

  10. hoom 10

    The Nats idea of ‘the poverty problem’ that needs to be addressed is that they think there isn’t enough of it around.
    Much like everything else I expect they’ll announce some ‘aspirational’ goals to have huge reductions in poverty but will implement a bunch of policy & funding cuts that does the opposite.

    • mik e 10.1

      from double dip man recession or ripoff of tax payer funding if benes can do without a few dollars shurely The Double dipper can stop wastage in govt spending since Blinglish has enough to convert to dairy we are subsidizing his home town business.

  11. illuminatedtiger 11

    May I just say that I’m *disgusted* that the Prime Minister would play politics over such a serious issue. Disgraceful.

    • mike 11.1

      His kids are just fine. And he got himself a mandate, don’ cha know?

      Besides, he’s set up a business-as-usual committee, I mean a team of powerpoint vituosos, I mean a paper-shuffling committee, a ministerial committee. So those poor people problems or whatever are dealt with just like that. So there’s no need for any investigative news media stories about it anymore. It’s a dead story. Move on. End of. K?

      And Shearer wants in on it? In an attempt to come to some cross party agreement on this ethical and moral issue that should be above politics? With his relevant and proven experience? Cheeky sod. He knows very well that John Key couldn’t say yes without it looking like the opposition party leader came up with a good idea to best fight child poverty, it might confuse his support base if the bloggers at The Standard have to admit that he made a wise and generous move, and also, his potential employers at Goldman Sachs might think he’s gone soft.

      That’s why, when he could have said something like “I’m confident my team are the best to handle it blah blah,” he didn’t. He said, “I’m more than happy for David Shearer to be a part of the ministerial committee if he’s happy to give the Government confidence and supply,” because that’s the kind of arrogant, fuck you comeback that reassures those listening that like to hear it, and are important to John Key, that hell yes playing the game is more important than some poor peoples issue that doesn’t affect rich people.

  12. Roy 12

    Key is a petty person. His reply was that of a smartass.

  13. johnm 13

    Neoliberal ideology says: Do not help the poor underclass for if you do they will breed even more requiring further help endlessly, they must understand the market signal: if you are poorish you should not breed preferably at all! However those that do will supply a very willing pool of desperate cheap labour! Therefore greater profits and productivity, refer Asia where they work their butts off for peanuts just to stay alive! However don’t expect our idealogues ever to say this publically :people would be outraged!

    You voted them in Kiwi suckers! Meanwhile they plunder the public wealth once held in trust for all New Zealanders. The Private sector has gone tits up so get your maulers on the sector that works OUR POWER COMPANIES!

  14. Roy 14

    Poor stupid ugly people shouldn’t breed! – Alan B’Stard.

  15. Dave 15

    Has anyone defined “poverty” here yet?
    I frequently visit countries where
    – There is NO welfare system
    – A great wage is NZ$10 per day
    – Obesity is never a problem
    – Children study at school because it’s a way to move into the real of the rich
    – Having two changes of clothes categorises you as being rich
    We need to get a sense of proportion in this county about what poverty really is and how we deal with it, as opposed to constantly talking about how poor some of our people are. In real terms, there is NO ONE in New Zealand who does not fit into the 5% of world population that control 90% of the world’s wealth!

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