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.