Just a quick Poverty Watch update this week (too much happening and too little time!). Check out The Herald chat session with Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) co-convener Alan Johnson (The Herald headlines him as a “poverty expert” but Johnson demurs). Interesting to see the range of questions, and the calm, measured responses. Here’s a sample:
Hi Alan, “poverty” is an emotive term, one that evokes images of famine sufferers in, say, Ethiopia. How do you describe poverty in a way that applies to New Zealanders without evoking skepticism from the general public?
How did we become such a judgmental country categorizing the impoverished into the deserving & undeserving poor?
Hi Alan, what do you say to people like John Banks who say that poverty is about people making poor decisions- essentially that through making the “right” choices a person should be able to raise their children in a house that is warm, where they have enough to eat and can access public education.
What part do poor morals and lack of education play in child poverty in your opinion?
Alan, how can you be a ‘child poverty expert’ when child overty doesn’t exist in NZ? We don’t have starving people like they do in Africa with the flies and stuff.
To what extent do you think that child poverty in New Zealand is the result of a weak human rights framework – in that our laws and policies are made in a way that do not have the central purpose of recognising rights?
Hi Alan, do you think NZ culture of binge boozing and/or pokies contributes to child poverty?
Go check out The Herald page for his replies.
What question would you have asked him?
Here’s the standard footnote. Poverty (and inequality) were falling (albeit too slowly) under the last Labour government. Now they are on the rise again, in fact a Waikato University professor says that poverty is our biggest growth industry.
Before the last election Labour called for a cross party working group on poverty. Key turned the offer down. Report after report after report has condemned the rate of poverty in this country, and called on the government to act. Meanwhile 40,000 kids are fed by charities and up to 80,000 are going to school hungry. National has responded with complete denial of the issues, saying that the government is already doing enough to help families feed their kids. Organisations working with the poor say that Key is in poverty ‘la la land’.
The Nats refuse to even measure the problem (though they certainly believe in measurement and goals when it suits them to bash beneficiaries). In a 2012 summary of the government’s targets and goals John Armstrong wrote: “Glaringly absent is a target for reducing child poverty”…
The costs of child poverty are in the range of $6-8 Billion per year, but the Nats refuse to spend the $2 Billion that would be needed to really make a difference. Even in purely economic terms National’s attitude makes no sense.