Stuff this morning is reporting on the UNICEF Report “Children of the Recession – the great leap backward” (PDF). The report compares changes in child poverty levels and related measures throughout the developed world. New Zealand’s overall performance was tepid, 16th best out of 41 developed nations in measuring the change of the rate of children in poverty. It was well behind Australia which had achieved significant change by the radical notion that giving poor families more will alleviate their poverty. The report directly addresses the relative performances of New Zealand and Australia and says this:
Australia’s increase in spending on families had a more positive impact than the ambitious tax cuts implemented in New Zealand, where poverty and inequality stagnated.”
It is not rocket science. Increasing benefits, providing school breakfasts and increasing the minimum wage will help the poorest amongst us. Giving the already wealthy further tax cuts will not.
The report also indicated that in three of four well being indicators New Zealand was going backwards. The indicators for food insecurity, overall satisfaction with life, and opinions on whether children have an opportunity to learn and grow all worsened between 2007 and 2013.
Anne Tolley was interviewed this morning on Morning Report on the report. She was asked if there was a Government target for reducing child poverty and she said there was none. If you do not have a goal then it is likely you will not achieve anything.
She also said that the situation would be improved by getting people off benefits. This shows the frankly stupid mindset this Government has. It is not intent on getting people into jobs, it is intent on getting people off benefits. Taking away someone’s benefit when they do not have a job to go to is only going to make poverty worse.
Tolley said that Australia is performing better than New Zealand because it had not gone into an economic depression in 2008. While technically true a comparison of annual growth rates in GDP (see below) suggests that there is little difference in performance. In fact over recent years New Zealand’s growth rate has been significantly better than Australia’s as the effects of the Dairy Boom and the Canterbury rebuild have kicked in. The benefits have yet to trickle down and at this rate they never will.
And Tolley’s comment misses the point. In 2008 during the height of the Global Financial crisis child poverty was a distressing feature. Six years later with a rock star economy and a brighter future and things are only marginally better while the wealthiest amongst us are having a great time. It is clear to see where this Government’s priorities are.
National’s refusal to have any meaningful targets concerning child poverty reminds me of this statement by Paula Bennett made in Parliament last year. The Government did not have an official measurement of poverty. It seemed clear that it did not want to measure something it did not want to acknowledge the existence of.