Metiria Turei’s unkeepable promise

Green co-leader Metiria Turei has attacked Nationals budget.

Today John Key could have chosen kids.

He could have backed all the young New Zealanders out there doing it tough.

But instead the Prime Minister chose to give the bare minimum of help to our poorest kids and abandon the hopes of our younger generations.

Sneering at the most significant benefit increase for decades.

This stingy Budget is not for our kids and it’s not for those under 40 – the abandoned generations.

If the economy is not working for everyone, it isn’t working at all.

And how would the Greens get the economy “working for everyone’?

New Zealanders needed something different, something more, from the Budget today and didn’t get it.

There is an alternative. The Green Party has a plan to retool the economy for a better, cleaner future which provides opportunity and prosperity for everyone.

What plan, apart from tax more and hand out more? “Prosperity for everyone” is not a plan, it’s an impossible dream.

The Green Party is the only party prepared to stand up for younger New Zealanders – and that’s a promise we’ll be keeping.

If standing up for younger New Zealanders means speaking up like this then it’s a promise Turei can keep. But it promises false hope.

But if it means achieving anything significant then I think it’s an unkeepable Green promise.

How many children ‘in poverty’?

John Key says that the Government will particularly target the 60,000-100,000 children living in most deprivation. Green co-leader Metiria Turei questioned Key in Parliament yesterday about the numbers, but came up with a few numbers of her own. Greens are campaigning to ‘end child poverty’.

End child poverty: Take the Step New Zealand should be the best place in the world to grow up. But for 285,000 Kiwi children currently in poverty, that’s just not the case. Persistent poverty damages a child for the rest of their life. And it damages our country. We’re spending over $6 billion a year on preventable crime, illness and lost educational opportunities – the direct cost of keeping kids in poverty. Many of our poorest children are excluded from getting the same support the state gives other kids who need it, because their parents don’t work enough. These kids need champions to make sure Parliament understands that ordinary New Zealanders want the best for all our kids, regardless of who their parents are

That’s “285,000 Kiwi children currently in poverty”. In Parliament yesterday Turei asked:

Is the Children’s Commissioner wrong, and are his experts who worked on the solutions to child poverty wrong, when they state that there are between 180,000 and 200,000 children who are materially deprived

But she also asked:

Did the Ministry of Social Development fail to give him the 2014 Bryan Perry report that showed that there are 260,000 children in poverty and that 205,000 of them are living in severe poverty, where their parents earn less than half the median income?

And:

Will the Prime Minister just admit that he has made up an Oliver Twist definition of poverty so that he can ignore some 200,000 New Zealand children who suffer from poverty every day?

So Turei and the Greens are quoting a number of numbers:

  • 285,000
  • between 180,000 and 200,000
  • 260,000
  • 205,000
  • 200,000

Greens seem to want to increase benefits to increase ‘incomes’, whether the parents are in work or not, and no matter what the deprivation. So what does Key base his number on?

It seems to me that the member picks and chooses her index depending on what suits her argument, but all I can tell the member is that if one looks at the number of children who are deemed to be at the most significant level of deprivation in New Zealand based on the Ministry of Social Development index, it is 60,000 to 100,000. But what I can say is that Bryan Perry’s new annual report—and the new edition will be out very soon—will make it quite clear that in terms of what they define as severe material hardship, there are between 60,000 and 100,000 children, and they have between nine and 11 conditions on the deprivation index.

Using actual measures of deprivation (or poverty) to target the worst problems won’t stop the Greens and others from accusing Key and the Government of not caring about kids and of deliberately keeping kids in poverty. —

Full draft transcript of questions and answers yesterday in Parliament.

Prime Minister—Statements 6. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Metiria Turei : How poor does a child need to be under his “definitional difference”, which he told Paul Henry about yesterday, when he claimed that there were only 60,000 to 100,000 children living in poverty?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The advice I have from the Ministry of Social Development material deprivation index is that there are indeed between 60,000 and 100,000 children who are living in more severe material hardship. They are children who, based on that index, lack nine to 11 items from that deprivation index.

Metiria Turei : Under his “definitional difference”, is a child living in poverty if their parents cannot afford to buy them fresh food, if they do not have two pairs of shoes, if they cannot afford a school uniform, and if they do not have their own bed? Rt Hon

JOHN KEY : I refer the member to the Ministry of Social Development’s material deprivation index.

Metiria Turei : Is the Children’s Commissioner wrong, and are his experts who worked on the solutions to child poverty wrong, when they state that there are between 180,000 and 200,000 children who are materially deprived—that is, they go without three or more essential items such as fresh food, warm clothes, their own bed, and good shoes?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : It seems to me that the member picks and chooses her index depending on what suits her argument, but all I can tell the member is that if one looks at the number of children who are deemed to be at the most significant level of deprivation in New Zealand based on the Ministry of Social Development index, it is 60,000 to 100,000.

But I would say that this Government is very focused on all children, particularly those who are less well off, and there are degrees of how less well off they are.

That is why the Government introduced free GP visits.

That is why the Government has put more money into providers like KidsCan.

That is why this Government has worked alongside Fonterra and Sanitarium to provide free breakfasts.

That is why the Government has supported having social workers in all low-decile schools.

It is why the Government has introduced children’s teams to work with at-risk children and families.

That is why the Government has insulated every State house, and it is why the Government has worked to insulate 240,000 other homes and has given them clean heating.

This is a Government that, in the very worst of times in New Zealand, has maintained benefits and entitlements that provide support for the very children whom that member is talking about.

Metiria Turei : Did the Ministry of Social Development fail to give him the 2014 Bryan Perry report that showed that there are 260,000 children in poverty and that 205,000 of them are living in severe poverty, where their parents earn less than half the median income?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member will note—if she wants to refer to that particular report that she is talking about—how consistently the numbers that she is talking about have been at that level of deprivation. In fact, there were about 240,000 to 260,000 children living in poverty under Labour, at the height of what was theoretically an economic boom.

But what I can say is that Bryan Perry’s new annual report—and the new edition will be out very soon—will make it quite clear that in terms of what they define as severe material hardship, there are between 60,000 and 100,000 children, and they have between nine and 11 conditions on the deprivation index.

Metiria Turei : Would the Prime Minister agree that by promising to tackle child poverty and then changing the definition of poverty to exclude most of the children who are actually poor, he is breaking yet another Budget promise?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think the member is being extremely selective with the comments I have made. If she actually goes back and looks at the interviews that I have done on this topic ever since the last election, she will see that I have consistently said that there is a disagreement between ourselves and those who claim that there are 260,000 children in that category.

We have made it quite clear that we see a group of 60,000 to 100,000 as our priority. It does not mean that we do not provide either services or support for the wider group; we actually do. I listed a great many, and I will not repeat them now. But our primary area of focus and attention is on those who are most in need.

I think most New Zealanders, actually, would say that the Government having a focus on those who are in the worst of conditions is putting our resources in the right place.

Jacinda Ardern : Does he stand by his previous statements in this House that there are many measures of child poverty, in light of his position now that there is just one, material deprivation, which just so happens to be the smallest of all the measures that are used by the Children’s Commissioner?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I stand by the view that there is no one single measure, but I am simply saying that the material deprivation index, according to the advice that we have had from the Ministry of Social Development, is the best. That is one measure, but there is no one single measure of poverty in New Zealand, and I do not think there should be.

Metiria Turei : Will the Prime Minister just admit that he has made up an Oliver Twist definition of poverty so that he can ignore some 200,000 New Zealand children who suffer from poverty every day?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think the member risks being a little bit silly. I listed a few moments ago a very wide range of support that we provide for all New Zealand children, and in some cases, obviously, the support is much more focused on those who are in need.

I have made it quite clear that I think there is a group who are in worse hardship than others, and that is supported by the material deprivation index, which evolved, actually, from the European equivalent.

It is a very thoughtful process that Bryan Perry goes through, and it looks at very detailed analysis. I am more than happy to have the debate with the New Zealand public, but I think you might find that the New Zealand public supports the view that those who are most in need deserve the most support.

That does not mean that other children do not get support; they actually do. But this Government is very focused on that group, and I think most New Zealanders would say that is the right thing to do. The member shakes her head, but if we followed her economic policies a whole million of New Zealand children would be in hardship because none of their parents would be in work.

Green’s ‘Kids Kiwisaver’ won’t save Kiwi kids

Metiria Turei has announced a Green “game changer” policy for children that she is “very proud of”.

Today we announced a game-changing savings policy that will give every New Zealand child the start in life they need and deserve; it’s called Kids’ KiwiSaver.

Too many New Zealand families are struggling to save for their children’s futures. The Green Party wants to give you a hand so your children get a decent shot when they turn 18.

Kids’ KiwiSaver is an important step towards giving every kid the great start they deserve. Here’s how it works:

  • The Government will put $1,000 into a Kids’ KiwiSaver account for every child at birth (parents can choose to opt out).
  • Each child living below the poverty line will then get a Government top-up of $200 every year until they turn 18 and any contributions the family makes to their child’s future, up to $100 annually, will also be matched.
  • For all other families, annual contributions up to $200 will be matched by the Government.

With careful saving, our policy means children could have a minimum nest egg of $12,900 by the age of 18 that they can use to help fund tertiary education, invest in their adult KiwiSaver account, or use to help with a deposit on their first home.

The Greens claim we have a dire situation right now with hundreds of thousands of kids living in poverty and they insist urgent action is needed.

This policy piles money into something that may or help in a decade or two. It does nothing for kids in deprivation now.

And in this release the policy isn’t costed.

Last year there were 57,142 births in 2014. That would cost $57 million under this policy.

And Greens claim there are 285,000 children living in poverty.

New Zealand should be the best place in the world to grow up. But for 285,000 Kiwi children currently in poverty, that’s just not the case. – https://home.greens.org.nz/endchildpoverty

That would be another $57 million per year.

So their policy is for spending of about $114 million per year that at best would have some long term benefit. It will do nothing for children while they are living in hardship.

The chances of National backing this policy are probably close to zero. It’s hard to see Labour giving it priority if they would support it at all.

This looks like a feel-good futile policy that’s likely to keep the Greens on the political sidelines.

Kevin Hague favourite for Green leadership

It’s not surprising to see it reported that Kevin Hague is the frontrunner in the Green co-leadership race, ahead of James Shaw. I would have been surprised if either of the other two, Gareth Hughes and Vernon Tava, were seriously contesting.

Radio NZ reports Two-horse race for Green Party leadership.

With two weeks till the votes are counted, initial reports put experienced MP Kevin Hague out in front alongside the party’s newest MP James Shaw.

Mr Hague, Mr Shaw and fellow MP Gareth Hughes, as well as Green Party member Vernon Tava, are standing to be the Greens’ male co-leader following the resignation of Russel Norman.

This is probably a bit soon for Shaw, having only just become an MP last year. Tava was always going to be an outsider from outside Parliament.

I think either Hague or Shaw would be a good bet for the Greens.

Mr Hughes said it showed the strength in the Green Party that all four could potentially lead the party.

Anyone could potentially lead the party. Some would be better than others.

I’ll be cheeky and quote alongside that:

Metiria Turei is the sole nomination to be re-elected as female co-leader.

Does that show a weakness on the female side of the Green Party? Maybe, maybe not, incumbents often go unchallenged.

It could be difficult for the new male co-leader not to be overshadowed by Turei. Hague is probably the one who could match and balance her best.

So Hague is my favourite to get the nod, but the Greens sometimes have funny ways of thinking.

Green leadership contenders

There’s been no more nominations for the male co-leader position vacated by Russel Norman so there will four contenders:

  • Kevin Hague
  • Gareth Hughes
  • James Shaw
  • Vernon Tava

I think the leading contenders will be Hague – experienced and reliable – versus a contrasting new hope for the future, James Shaw.

My pick is the safer option, Hague. Shaw’s time will come – he had initially said he wouldn’t stand this time due to only being an MP for a few months but changed his mind.

Tava has some interesting ideas but with no chance of being an MP for the next two and a half years, and has said he doesn’t know if he will stand for the Green list in 2017, so I don’t think he has much chance.

Hughes may appeal to some Greens with his ‘do what members choose’ approach but his reliance on ‘hey Clint; guidance must count against him, ultimately people like leaders who are prepared to lead.

There’s been just one nomination for the female co-leader position. Metiria Turei has tweeted:

Whew! Reckon my chances are pretty good…

But she points out there’s still a vote:

Yep.  We have a no confidance option for delegates who dont want to vote for me (or any candidate)

I don’t know if the vote is made public but I’d expect Greens to avoid controversy over Turei being elected without a solid endorsement.

The voting will be done at the Green AGM on 30 May so that’s another 6 weeks in leadership limbo with Norman phasing out.

And Turei has had a low profile over the last month, maybe contemplating her own future, maybe not wanting to dominate the leadership as Norman fades away.

Has Metiria lost the Green mojo?

Metiria Turei seems to have been quiet lately, which is odd considering Russel Norman is stepping down as Green co-leader.

The Greens may still have Mojo Mathers but have they lost their mojo?

TureiLostMojoTurei has been dabbling away on Facebook over the past couple of weeks, but it’s hardly high profile stuff, unless dogs are the new Green issue:

22 March – Rupert, a jack russel foxy cross is missing from Bethunes Gully, NEV, Dunedin. Please keep a look out if you are up that way.

24 March – Rupert is home, thank you everyone who shared the notice. Mx

25 March – Love it, another dog found and in the paper. The ODT totally rules!

26 March – Dog question. I want to teach my dog to do some dance moves. He will spin around with a treat incentive so we have got a twirl underway. But any other advice on teaching dog boogie?

2 April – Missing dog from Musselburgh.

Other than that she has posted about limes, roses, economic inequality, granny squares, the TPPA and a missing woman. And Winston Peters:

Waatea News: Greens keen to work with Peters

Greens co–leader Metiria Turei is looking forward to working with new Northland MP Winston Peters on issues they agree on.

“We know Winston will do what is in Winston’s best interest and sometimes it means working with us and sometimes not. Frankly I can live that. I understand better now how he operates and I don’t think there are any serious problems between New Zealand First and the Greens,”

Overshadowed by the Winston show, trying to pick up some crumbs from it.

Metiria Turei says Winston Peters’ Northland win should have shown national what happens when it stops listening to people.

Greens didn’t stand a candidate in Northland.

Apart from her dog duties what has Turei been up to? She has had a low profile in Parliament. Her last speech was :

Her last question in question time was:

That was Tuesday two weeks ago. Since then the Green questions have been:

So Turei had one question on the first sitting day of the last two weeks and none since, while Norman has asked three questions, the Greens twelve in total. Parliament is now in recess for three weeks.

A resurgent Winston Peters is a real threat to Green aspirations. With Norman deciding to step down and put more emphasis on his family life (understandably) the Greens need to fill a leadership vacuum, especially if Turei has lost enthusiasm and commitment as well.

She didn’t seem very enthusiastic here:

Bill English closed that question session with:

Why the Greens support that poverty inducing policy is beyond me.

How demoralising was that barb? Does Turei represent the lost mojo of theGreens?

Turei versus Key on feeding kids in schools

There was a continuation of a running battle between Metiria Turei and John Key in Question Time today.

Later after a “feed the kids bill in her name (that she took over from as Hone Harawira) was defeated in Parliament by 59 votes to 61 at its first reading, @metiria tweeted:

John Key today turned his back on hungry kids.

A second bill on feeding kids at school is also being voted on. NZ Herald:

Meanwhile another food in schools bill in the name of Labour MP David Shearer is set to be defeated tonight at its first reading as well.

The bill allowed for free food in all primary and intermediate decile one to three schools that wanted.

However during his research on the bill, Mr Shearer came across several schools that changed his thinking including Yendarra School in Otara, and Owairaka District School, which took a community approach to food in schools.

“I have become convinced that free food solves nothing,” he has said.

“I now believe that each school community should be resourced to find and deliver its own long-term food solutions.”

He still wanted the bill sent to a select committee so it could be reworked.

It failed 60-60 despite Peter Dunne supporting it: Vote on that Members Bill (David Shearer’s Feed The Kids) was tied 60-60. Under Standing Order 153, a tied vote is lost.

This is not an issue of feeding hungry kids or not, it’s a matter of how much and how kids should be given food in schools. The Question Time exchange illustrates this.

[Sitting date: 18 March 2015. Volume:704;Page:5. Text is subject to correction.]

4. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement that the principals of decile 1 to 4 schools he has visited have told him “the number of children in those schools who actually require lunch is the odd one or two”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes , because that is what principals have told me.

Metiria Turei : How can it be correct that only the odd one or two kids in low-decile schools require lunch when KidsCan says that, on average, 23 percent of the children in the schools it works with are in need of lunch every day?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, I believe it to be true, and one of the issues I raised with the Minister of Education today was to ask her whether she, in her travels as the Minister of Education in the last 3½ years, had had the issue of lunch in schools raised with her. She told me that it has either never been raised or has been raised extremely infrequently.

Metiria Turei : Is the Prime Minister telling the House that the low-decile schools that he has visited do not have the same needs as other low-decile schools that KidsCan works with?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : What I am telling the member is that, firstly, the Government has been working with a number of private sector organisations to provide breakfast in schools, and about 800—791, I think—schools out of 2,500, approximately, have taken that up. Secondly, I think there will be some children who go to school without lunch, but I think that number is actually relatively small. In some cases it will be one or two; in some cases it will be a few more, but I do not think it is as widespread as the member is purporting it to be.

Metiria Turei : I seek leave to table a document from KidsCan showing that it is now feeding 15,000 students a week across 448 schools, an average of 33 children in each—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The document is now being described. The date of the document would be useful.

Metiria Turei : The date of the document is 3 March 2015.

Mr SPEAKER : March 2015—is there any objection to that information being tabled? There is none. It can be tabled.

  • Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Metiria Turei : I seek leave to table a document prepared by my office on the schools that John Key visited from 2013 to 2014, showing that of the decile 1 schools and decile—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, I—[Interruption] Order! The member will resume her seat. This is an effective way of making a political statement. It does not have the purpose of informing the House. It will not be tabled.

Metiria Turei : Which of the decile 1 and 2 schools that John Key visited—Māngere Central, Waimate Main, Flaxmere, Huntly, Huntly College, Manaia View, Pt England—told him that only one or two of their kids needed feeding every day, when each of those schools have a lunch programme provided by either KidsCan or some other charity in their community?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, by definition, I suppose, if they already have lunch provided, then actually they would not raise the fact that they need lunch, so that is rather self-defeating. Secondly, it may be lost on the member, but I have been the Prime Minister since the end of 2008. The question the member asked was for the 1 year from 2013. But in the interests of trying to get to the bottom of this debate, at 1.41 this afternoon I took the liberty of ringing the Minister of Education. I said: “Please ring for me three schools that are decile 1 or 2 and ask them how many kids have not come to school today with lunch.” That was done completely randomly and with no information. Here are the facts. Phillip Heeney of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou , Ruatōria, a decile 1 school—people are free to ring the school—

Metiria Turei : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption ] Order! Every member has a right to raise a point of order. It will be heard in silence—[Interruption ] Order! The member will resume her seat. I repeat, because I was interrupted, that every member has a right to raise a point of order. This one will be heard in silence, but I sincerely hope that it is a valid point of order.

Metiria Turei : That was not an answer to the question that I asked. I asked—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume her seat. It is very much an answer to the question the member asked. She can shake her head, but it is me who has got to adjudicate on this. It was a very full answer; it was quite a lengthy question. The House will later on today devote a considerable amount of time to this issue, and I feel it is in the interests of the House that the Prime Minister be allowed to complete his answer.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : As I said, at 1.41 p.m., with absolutely no knowledge, these are the facts. At Te Waiu o Ngati Porou school, Ruatoria, decile 1, how many children came to school today without lunch—answer, zero. Barbara Ala’Alatoa, Sylvia Park School, decile 2—one to two kids, maybe. Iain Taylor, Manurewa Intermediate—decile 1 school, roll of 711—maybe 12. Yes, there is an issue where some children come to school without lunch. That number of children is relatively low.

Metiria Turei : So why, then, did the Prime Minister refuse my invitation to visit Windley School this morning, where we fed with peanut butter and jam sandwiches, some 50 kids at lunchtime; where Windley School says it feeds some 50 every day, Kelvin Road School some 50 every day; Cosgrove Primary up to 40 kids every day; Hay Park around 12 kids lunch every day; and Kelston Girls’, which was recently on Campbell Live showing just how serious the problem is—why will he not come with me to visit those schools that do have a problem so that he can see it for himself?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : As I said to the member last week when she was trying to tell this House that 90 percent of children went to school without lunch, and had to then come back and apologise for being wrong, I am happy to go to a school of my choosing. Secondly, I note that the member, when she tweeted the picture, did so with an apron for the KickStart Breakfast programme that the Government is running. This is a Government that has provided 3.4 million breakfasts. This is a Government that is working with the private sector to help deliver that, from Fonterra through to Sanitarium. They are the same breakfast programmes where principals tell me—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The answer now is long enough.

Metiria Turei : I seek leave to table a document from the Parliamentary Library showing that the GST on $1.29 is 19c not 2c.

Mr SPEAKER : Again, the purpose of tabling documents is to inform the proceedings of the House. Members know current GST rates. I am not about to put that leave.

Metiria Turei : Why does the Prime Minister continue to mock and downplay the seriousness of the problem, maintaining yet again that only the odd one or two kids need lunch at school when schools know he is wrong, KidsCan knows he is wrong, and more important, the kids who come to school hungry know he is wrong?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The Government has been very focused on this issue for a long period of time. It is actually proud of its record. It has extended Fruit in Schools for a huge number of children. It provides breakfasts in schools alongside the private sector. This is an issue that, as I said to the member and I repeat again, I raise with pretty much every school I go to, and the same response is what I always get—about 15 percent of kids want to take up the breakfast programme, a very small number need lunch, and when they come to school without lunch the school provides them with lunch. It does so out of its breakfast programme for the odd lunch it provides. At the end of the day I think the member actually does a disservice to the fantastic parents and caregivers out there, the overwhelming bulk of whom actually do provide their kids with breakfast and lunch. They do a damn good job, and the member should stop telling them that they do not.

Metiria Turei : Given that the Prime Minister missed the opportunity this morning to talk with parents, charity workers, and the kids over a lunch programme, will he commit to visiting Windley School—and if not Windley School then to any school that KidsCan suggests he goes to visit—and making the peanut butter and jam sandwiches for the kids—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption ] Order! The question is too long. The Prime Minister can answer the essence of the question.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have been to numerous schools where KidsCan has been in operation. I have been to those schools with Julie on numerous occasions. This is actually the Government that gave KidsCan $500,000 more for raincoats, and $900,000 more to deal with headlice. We are providing extensive support. But I will say this. I went to one of the schools where every child was given a raincoat, and, yes, we fully supported that. The argument around that is that children do not have raincoats. So I actually asked about 20 of the kids: “Do you own a raincoat?” Every single child told me: “Yes.” So it is great they have got another one, and we support KidsCan and we are giving them money, and we think they are a great charity, and they are doing good work, but just because you give kids a raincoat does not mean they did not own one beforehand.

Hunger versus obesity – a Green dilemma?

The Greens have been promoting the feeding of kids in schools for some time. It’s an easy subject to win sympathy on, most people would think that kids shouldn’t go hungry.

But is it a bigger problem than child obesity?

And whether it is or not, could giving some kids more food contribute to the obesity problem?

In Parliament yesterday Green co-leader Metiria Turei made a wee mistake in making another point about hunger in schools. See Turei admits error in school lunch battle.

She later clarified that she meant:

Kidscan says about 23% on average and up to 90% of the kids in the schools it works with need lunch everyday.

I don’t think even that is clear. I presume she thinks that all kids need lunch every day but in schools that Kidscan deals with up to 90% go without lunch so should have it supplied by the Government.

That’s a lot of lunchless kids. It seems hard to believe that nine out of ten kids at some schools go without lunch.

But I think this needs more scrutiny. Why are kids lunchless?

One of the implications is that many families are too poor to feed their kids enough. There are counter claims that some families don’t care fir their kids properly and spend their money on booze and cigarettes and marijuana etc.

Both arguments are probably partially correct.

But there will be other issues. How many kids spend their lunch money on other things? How many eat their lunch early and have nothing left by lunchtime?

When I was at school I sometimes threw my lunch away because I was bored with packed lunches. (At other times I took a schoolbag full of apples and munched all day).

But the big elephant in the Green classroom is child obesity. If the Government gave kids food would feed an obesity problem as well as or instead of giving kids enough basic nutrition?

I can imagine that if food was given away when I went to school I could eat my own lunch for play lunch and line up for the food handout at lunchtime.

(But it would depend on what they handed out, they gave away milk for a few years and I never liked drinking milk).

A Stuff report from last November says Child obesity rates climbing.

About one-third of New Zealand children are now overweight or obese compared with about one in four in Australia.

A commitment to achieving a child obesity rate of 25 per cent by 2025 by the Government would be a good start, Professor Boyd Swinburn and Stefanie Vandevijvere, of Auckland University, said in a New Zealand Medical Journal (NZMJ) article published today.

Achieving that target across all ethnic groups would not be feasible under present conditions, they said.

The Government had failed to prioritise obesity as a major health concern in recent years.

It can’t be assumed that a school with 90% of kids needing lunch also has 33% of obese kids – but that should be considered when proposing giving kids more food.

Rates of childhood obesity among Maori and Pacific communities were significantly higher than for other ethnic groups.

Turei referred to Northland schools in Parliament:

Does the Prime Minister still think that the number of kids in low-decile schools who require lunch is still just the odd one or two, when nine schools in Northland are now on the waiting list for help from KidsCan?

It can be assumed that the Northland schools have above average numbers of Maori and Pacific

Handing out food would help some kids – but it could also feed our obesity problem. Stuff article:

Higher rates of obesity among Maori and Pacific groups was a result of socio-economic deprivation and socio-cultural barriers.

“Part of it is socio-cultural barriers in those populations. They do place higher socio-cultural value on food and large volumes of food because they are more collective societies.”

I’m confused. Maori and Pacific people place a higher socio-economic value on large volumes of food but their kids are more likely to go hungry at school?

It is also claimed that poor people eat large amounts of poor quality food and that’s why they get fat.

Is that a financial problem or an education problem.

Maybe schools should teach kids about good nutrition and wise food budgeting.

But it is said that kids don’t learn properly if they are hungry, so they need to be fed more (by the state) so they get a better education so they will feed themselves less.

It gets complicated.

But do we have a bigger problem for the future from having skinny kids or having fat kids.

There seems to be two conflicting emphases:

  • Kids need more food in schools
  • We have a growing child obesity problem.

So is that a dilemma for the Greens and Kidscan? It doesn’t appear to be.

It’s easier to get sympathy support and votes for promoting the feeding of hungry kids more rather than feeding obese kids less.

Green marketing creates other issues – last election they promoted a solar energy policy and specifically ruled out energy conservation (double glazing) because it wasn’t their current focus.

Maybe if they succeed in getting state funded lunches this term then next term they might change there focus to what is described as a growing problem.

NZ Herald: Obesity epidemic reaching crisis levels.

Maybe the Greens will fix that after they’ve fixed hungry kids.

Their website is currently promoting Reducing Child Poverty “For a fairer society”.

Not so prominent (but if you search you can also find) Tackling childhood obesity is not rocket science Minister, but it is science

“The scientists have outlined an approach to tackling obesity which they say is “eminently doable”, but the Government won’t do it, preferring instead to watch a generation of children lose years off their lives,” Mr Hague said.

“Just like its approach to climate change, and water quality, scientists are saying this Government is not doing enough to reduce childhood obesity.

“Our childhood obesity epidemic requires the Government to regulate the environment that’s causing that obesity, through measures such as bans on promotion of unhealthy food to kids, ensuring food sold at schools and ECE centres is healthy.

But reducing food intake is a harder political sell than feeding hungry kids so it doesn’t get the same level of attention.

Political marketing is easier than comprehensively dealing with political and social realities.

It wouldn’t look very fair if fat kids were separated from skinny kids at schools and denied a free lunch.

Hunger versus obesity should be Green dilemma, but you wouldn’t know it from their campaigning.

Turei admits error in school lunch battle

John Key challenged Green co-leader Metiria in Parliament today on her claim that 90% of kids go without lunch at school.

TVNZ reports in ‘I personally will buy them lunch for the whole year’ – Key challenges Turei

Prime Minister John Key has taken issue with a child poverty statistic quoted in Parliament today, promising Greens co-leader Metiria Turei he will buy school children lunch out of his own pocket if her fact is proved correct.

Ms Turei today told Parliament up to 90% of school children are going without lunch, citing child poverty charity KidsCan as the source of the figure.

However, Mr Key slammed the statistic, saying he hasn’t seen any evidence of children going without lunch in the 500 schools he has visited over the seven years he has been Prime Minister.

“I’ll tell you what I’ve seen. A lot of them munching their way through lots and lots of lunches.”

“If the member wants to come with me to a school, and I’ll name the school, and 90% of them don’t have lunch, I’ll personally buy them lunch for the whole year.”

Ms Turei accepted the invitation.

But afterwards on Facebook (and linked from Twitter) Turei had made a mistake in the heat of the moment.

Bugger, I was unclear in my question today. I meant to say that Kidscan says about 23% on average and up to 90% of the kids in the schools it works with need lunch everyday. Not 90% of kids in all schools. It happens in the heat of the moment sometimes. Whether 10% or 90% its bad enough that our kids need government to help.

Mistakes will happen. The best way to deal with it is to admit the error upfront, like this.

What she actually said:

Will he at least commit to his Government working with cross-party agreement to provide food in schools, given that KidsCan says that 23 percent, on average, and up to 90 percent of kids in schools are going without lunch every day?

” that 23 percent, on average, and up to 90 percent of kids in schools”

Versus:

“about 23% on average and up to 90% of the kids in the schools it works with”

A minor difference but it was picked up on by Key.

This resulted in a minor embarrassment but more attention for the point Turei was trying to make.

Full transcript:

[Sitting date: 11 March 2015. Volume:703;Page:2. Text is subject to correction.]

2. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes .

Metiria Turei : Does the Prime Minister still consider that the number of children in low-decile schools who “actually require lunch is the odd one or two.” ?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member would have to go back to the full interview that she is quoting from. I do not think that is a direct quote, but what I did say was that the vast bulk of youngsters actually do come to school with lunch, and I stand by that statement.

Metiria Turei : How can it possibly be true that only the odd one or two kids in low-decile schools need lunch when since the beginning of this year alone 1,000 more children have joined the KidsCan waiting list, meaning that 7,500 children are now waiting for KidsCan’s help?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The starting point of the member’s question is wrong, and she knows it is wrong because I just corrected it in the first answer. Putting that to one side, actually this is the Government that supported KidsCan. This is the Government that has enabled it to have more resources to do the very good work that Julie Helson does.

Metiria Turei : Does the Prime Minister still think that the number of kids in low-decile schools who require lunch is still just the odd one or two, when nine schools in Northland are now on the waiting list for help from KidsCan?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member obviously has a hearing problem because she did not hear the answer to the first question or the second one. I know—that is right. She just likes to make things up as she goes along, which actually destroys her own argument. If you cannot come up with decent statistics that actually stack up, or decent quotes, by definition you defeat your own argument.

Metiria Turei : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was explicitly about the nine schools in Northland that are now on the KidsCan waiting list, and the Prime Minister did not address that question.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That was not the specific question. The question also included an opening comment, asking whether the Prime Minister still thinks the numbers involved are just simply one or two. That was the part the Prime Minister certainly addressed in his answer.

Metiria Turei : Will the Prime Minister commit to spending just a fraction of the cost of the 10 new Northland bridges on the nine Northland schools, so that the children in those schools can have a lunch to eat every day?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think it is important to understand what the Government does spend, which is billions and billions and billions of dollars a year supporting low-income families and low-income New Zealanders. But one thing I do know is that a stronger roading infrastructure in Northland, under a National-led Government, will lead to stronger job growth. We already saw the GDP numbers for Northland this year as very, very strong. We know that 7,500 jobs have been created in Northland in the last 12 months. We know that this Government has spent three-quarters of a billion dollars on roading over the last 7 years in Northland, which is 40 percent more than Labour did. Actually, even on this side of the House we are in the slightly novel form of knowing which candidate we are going vote for.

Metiria Turei : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked the Prime Minister whether he would commit to new funding for the nine Northland schools whose kids go without lunch every day. He did not address that question.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Again, can I invite the member to carefully look at her question, after question time. She included a statement around a fraction of what was being spent on the bridges announcement that was used in the House yesterday by the Government. The Prime Minister addressed that. He also addressed spending on education. The question was addressed.

Metiria Turei : Will the Prime Minister vote for the “Feed the Kids Bill ” in Parliament next week, so that all political parties can work with experts to develop the best legislative solution so that all of our kids are being fed at school?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, and no for a very good reason. The vast majority of kids are actually fed by their parents. Their parents, irrespective of their economic circumstances, actually do a very good job of providing breakfast and lunch and the Government would far rather direct those resources, on a targeted basis, to those in need. The Government already supports the breakfast in schools programme. I am advised that 791 schools out of the 2,500 schools approximately in New Zealand take up that programme in some part, and I think the Government has got its target in the right direction.

Metiria Turei : Will he at least commit to his Government working with cross-party agreement to provide food in schools, given that KidsCan says that 23 percent, on average, and up to 90 percent of kids in schools are going without lunch every day?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I look forward to the quote from Julie that says that 90 percent of kids going to school, in the approximately 2,550 schools in New Zealand, are going without lunch. I hate to tell the member, but I reckon I have been to way more schools than she ever has. I have been a prolific visitor to schools in the 7 years I have been the Prime Minister. I will tell you what. Of the 500 schools I have been to, if 90 percent of the kids did not have lunch I would be pretty surprised, because I tell you what, I have seen a lot of them munching their way through lots and lots of lunches. If the member wants to come with me to a school, and I will name the school, and 90 percent of the kids do not have lunch, I personally will buy them lunch for the whole year.

Greens versus political and Intelligence realities

Tracey Watkins writes about the realities of Intelligence and security and how the Greens keep themselves on the outside of the pragmatic political club.

In Greens must learn sometimes national interest comes first she talks of Metiria Turei’s ‘ignorance’

Like her Green colleagues, Turei is deliberately ignorant of the rules of “the club” and would have it no other way.

Her path into politics was through the radical fringes, rather than the old boys’ network.

She is, in other words, the last person Labour and National want sitting across from them on a secretive body like the intelligence and security committee as they embark on a sensitive review of the intelligence agencies.

She would raise hackles. She would oppose. She would demand root and branch reform.

That’s the Green way. They haven’t worked out how to move from fringe players to practical inflkuences in major issues.

In contrast, any differences between Labour and National on intelligence and national security matters are superficial at best.

Prime Minister John Key’s statement that Labour and National will be the natural parties of government “for as far as the eye can see” was all that needed to be said on the reasons why Turei was excluded as an Opposition nominee for the committee.

The implied subtext was that the Greens can afford to be blindly naive about the methods employed by the state in the protection of its citizens. Labour and National can’t.

It’s the difference between parties that have had and will have the responsibility to lead governments, versus a fringe party that has grown to a potentially influential size but still has a fringe protest mentality.

That system was MMP, the system under which former radical Marxist student politicians and parties of the Right-wing fringe can be elected to Parliament and challenge the status quo, question the established order and be a thorn in the side of the mainstream parties.

“Former radical Marxist student politicians’ could refer to Turei or Norman.

Parties like the Greens, NZ First, ACT and the Maori Party – and before them the Alliance – have all filled that role over the years.

They can be pig-headed in pursuit of their own ideological agenda, even when it seems they are wilfully out of touch with mainstream New Zealand.

They often incur the wrath of voters as a result – no-one likes the spectacle of the tail wagging the dog.

Somethimg Greens struggle with and Internet-Mana failed to understand.

But despite all that, MMP endures. Confronted with the choice, voters still prefer MMP and the baggage that comes with it over the alternative first-past-the-post system, which would effectively deliver untrammelled power to the winning party.

Turei’s presence on the security and intelligence committee would be an annoyance to Key and Little in equal measures.

But it is also the price of MMP.

Her voice – and those of ACT’s David Seymour, NZ First’s Winston Peters and the Maori Party’s Te Ururoa Flavell – are the elected curb on absolute power.

The quid pro quo for the Greens is that there is a price of admission to “the club”. And that may be biting the bullet on the reality that on occasion the national interest really does override party politicking.

If Greens want to have a significant input into important issues they have to learn that a positive pragmatic approach achieves more than being anti everything.

Greens are committed to their own club which will probably exclude them from any bullet biting.

There’s some hope for the Greens though, Kevin Hague understands and practices co-operative pragmatic politics.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,079 other followers