Obesity, poverty and education

Obesity, poverty and education are all linked, but like a whole chicken and half a dozen eggs it’s difficult to know what part of the problem should be addressed first.

One thing’s for sure, just giving poor, under educated obese people more money is unlikely to be successful in addressing the problem.

A report by the Institute of Economic Research says that Obesity linked to cycle of poverty.

Obese people are more likely to be stuck in a “vicious cycle” of poverty because they perform poorly in school and miss out on jobs, researchers say.

A report, by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, said adults living in poor areas were 1.6 times as likely to be obese as those in other areas, and “face challenges at lifting their socio-economic status”, starting with lower education.

“Obese children don’t tend to do as well academically as their peers,” the report said.

“Those lead in turn to lower wages, employment and social deprivation which increase the likelihood of obesity.”

It’s a First World problem where poor people tend to be fatter.

Edgar National Centre for Diabetes and Obesity Research director Professor Jim Mann said low socio-economic status was a “vicious cycle” for those with obesity.

“Being economically disadvantaged is a predisposing factor to obesity. One reason is good food preparation requires either time or money. If you are rich you can get good food or if you have a lot of time you can soak the lentils, et cetera.

But most of the poorest people are beneficiaries. They generally should have more time to prepare food than working parents. So do they make poor choices with their selection of food?

Just giving poor people more money risks them making more poor food choices.

Countering the high economic and social costs started with the surrounding environment, said Mann.

“If people are not bombarded with high saturated fat, high sugar kind of food everywhere they go . . . if you didn’t have people who are socio-economically disadvantaged you would lose an enormous amount of obesity.

Fast food and convenience food advertising often targets the more poorly educated demographic. For example a lot of McDonalds advertising seems to feature dumb people.

Poorly educated people may be more susceptible to being duped by advertising and high pressure sales methods.

“The most important thing is to create an environment that reduces the risk of obesity,

Better education.

Better education to improve employment and earning opportunites.

Better education on nutrition food preparation.

And education on how not to be sucked into manky marketing? A lot of advertising tries to sell things people don’t need or are bad for them.

The big problem is that these are ingrained inter-generational problems.

Taking over parent’s responsibilities and feeding kids at school won’t fix obesity – the kids will still overeat at home.

There are Government initiatives that try to address this at the level of young school leavers. I know of second chance educators who provide food free to teenagers who have failed in the education system. But that food is largely ignored,

In a society that’s more advanced than any in world history it’s ironic that we haven’t figured out how to do one our most fundamental functions – to eat sensibly and safely.

A major problem is that the rate of change of society has been much faster than normal human learning and evolution works.

This is potentially a lot more serious a problem for humankind than climate change – the climate has fluctuated for eons, but the current state of a high tech high pressure marketing fattening society is unique.

Will we ever catch up? Or will we kill ourselves off?

Labour poverty message mangled

Social media doesn’t always work the way you want it to. Yesterday Labour posted on Facebook about poverty – “Since John Key was elected 20,000 more Kiwi children are living in POVERTY.”.

There’s that many numbers thrown around about poverty I’m not sure if that will be an effective message or if it’s just another eye-glazer.

Regardless of that when I say it this morning the Top Comments have mangled Labour’s message.

Matthew Small:

That might be true, but John Key is not to blame for all of it, some people decide to have more kids when they can’t afford it; which statistically puts the kids straight into poverty.

Surgey Teer’s”

Funny how so many people believe that if you live in poverty it is somehow the governments fault. I grew up in poverty, having to stick cardboard inside my shoes because they had holes in, always hungry, all clothes were charity and hand me downs. Theonly person who I could blame was my father and step mother, both did not work and did not want to work. They still had money for cigarettes and alcohol though!!
107 likes

The only people who can change the cycle is you, individually. Work hard, take any opportunities you can. For me, the apathy of my family with regards to work made me strive for success, I did not want my children to go through the same things I did. I did not want them to grow up in a doss hole of an area ridden with crime and scum.

I would never have thought as I was growing up that I would have moved my family half way around the world and would be living in near luxury, but, I earned it and I have never took a cent of charity. I never, ever thought that I was owed something from any government. Yes, they were on the dole, it was difficult and the money was pitiful, but, it should have been less, there would have been more incentive to go and get work.
60 likes

Joy Jackson:

We are a first world country with endless educational and employment opportunities. It is simplistic and defeatist to blame a government because they are not providing you with money you have not worked for. I don’t worry about the National government,
50 likes

That’s not the response Labour would have wanted.

LabourPovertyFacebook

Scrolling down showed standard opposition lines that were less populazr

Mervyn John Peter Oquinn:

John Key doesn’t care about people it’s all about money
33 likes

Donald John Robinson:

Why blame this government, John Key played the same game as Labour, but nearly a million lazy thick incompetent, selfish ignorant New Zealanders didn’t VOTE !!!!!!
24 likes

Carol Kara:

Profits before People should be the National party slogan.
20 likes

Counter message versus same old slogans.

Another problem with this is that it isn’t easy to ‘Get the facts.” There was no obvious links to any facts. Most people wouldn’t bother trying to get them.

There’s also no sign of anything on this on Labour’s home page on their website. It’s not on their News page either.

Googling “labour children poverty living” hits Labour’s Children page that has it’s last post dated 8 July 2014. Nothing on this Facebook post.

So I don’t know what facts they are claiming.

Labour have failed to win hearts and minds on their Facebook post and have failed to provide the facts that they wanted us to get. Or did they want us to get the facts?

I see faux pas and no facts. It’s a mangled message.

The elusive surplus threatens poverty measures

It looks like the Government won’t make their promised surplus next year due to reduced tax take and pressure from reducing milk prices.

NZ Herald reported No surplus this year – Treasury

Treasury this morning delivered a body blow to the Government’s hopes of returning to surplus, saying it now expects a deficit of over half a billion dollars for the June financial year.

At this morning’s Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update, Acting Treasury Secretary Vicky Robertson said despite solid growth in the economy, the Crown’s finances would take a hit from lower than previously forecast tax take.

That had seen Treasury change its forecast operating balance before gains and losses (Obegal) for the 2014-15 year from a slim surplus of $297 million to a deficit of $572 million.

Treasury said softer outlook for economic drivers of the tax such as lower dairy prices and interest rates had seen the expected tax take for the year fall by $600 million.

The changed forecast isn’t a big deal on it’s own, changing economic conditions and revisions are to be expected.

Unless there’s a significant turn around and the surplus is achieved this is embarrassing for National and Bill English who have put a lot of emphasis on reaching a surplus after some very difficult years since the Global Financial Crisis.

Generally English deserves a lot of credit for managing the country’s finances prudently, this played a significant part in National doing so well in the election.

But English has not been so prudent on two counts – staking so much of his reputation on reaching a surplus by 2015, and leaving no room for mistakes or unexpected changes in his last budget.

English cut the surplus too fine, leaving virtually no margin for a negative change. Mr Reliable gambled and looks like losing this bet.

It isn’t a major problem for National at this stage of the electoral cycle. But it will make their promise to address poverty in next year’s budget challenging.

Ardern not ready for promotion

In Question Time today Jacinda Ardern flexed her mouth at Anne Tolley and looked like an amateur. Ardern is touted as potentially Labour’s next deputy leader when Annette King steps down in a year (or is expected to).

12. Child Poverty—Measurement

JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development

 JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development : By what percentage have child poverty levels changed since the Government took office, based on the constant value, below 60 percent of median incomes, and after housing cost measures included in the Ministry of Social Development’s report on household incomes?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): The rate on that one measure specified went from 22 percent in the 2008-09 survey to 24 percent in the 2010-11 survey and back to 22 percent in the 2012-13 survey, which shows that we are recovering from the recession. There is a range of measures in the Child Poverty Monitor released today, and the Ministry of Social Development regularly looks at a range of measures, but the issues around poverty are complex, and research shows that a number of measures needs to be used. This Government is focused on practical help rather than arguing over individual measurement. Things are improving, but there is still a long way to go, and, as I say, the issues can be complex and often intergenerational.

Jacinda Ardern : Based on her interview with Radio New Zealand this morning, where she stated: “What you describe as poverty is not what I might describe as poverty.”, how does she describe poverty and how many children are living in it?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Well, that is absolutely correct. Poverty is a scale and it is very important, and the research shows that it is very important to understand what aspect of poverty you are talking about. So what that member might describe as poverty may be quite different from what another measure is describing as poverty. That is exactly what the research shows.

Jacinda Ardern : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member really only reiterated my question. My question was: how would the Minister describe poverty, therefore, and how many children are living in it? She can choose to answer one or the other, but one would be nice.

Mr SPEAKER : She certainly answered one. The question was not as the member has just said it was; it was a lot more full than that. It asked how the Minister would describe poverty, and the Minister went on to describe it as a scale and that there were various aspects for measuring it.

[Interruption] Order! If the member wants to question whether the answer is adequate, she should show the manners to listen to my justifying that the Minister has addressed the question. If she wants to make further progress, make it using concise supplementary questions.

Jacinda Ardern : What target will she set to reduce child poverty?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : This Government has already set results targets, and reports regularly on progress. We are finding that that clarity and accountability are well received and are what matter to New Zealanders.

I remind the member that the Salvation Army said in 2008: “Our measures of progress at this time next year should not just be those of how much our economy has grown … more relevant measures could be those of how few people are locked up in prison, how few violent crimes have been committed and how much better children in poorer schools are achieving.” Those are the sorts of targets this Government has set and is reporting on regularly.

Jacinda Ardern : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very straightforward and explicit. It was: what target will she set to reduce child poverty?

Mr SPEAKER : And, again, I accept that the member may have had difficulty listening to the answer because I did as well—there was a lot of noise coming from members around her—but there was discussion in the answer about targets and measures. One of them that I did pick up on was the measurement of incarceration rates. That is the Minister’s answer.

[Interruption] Order! If the member is going to continue to raise every time an answer that she considers to be an unsatisfactory addressing of the question, I will attempt to explain to the member why I think it is satisfactory.

But we will make no progress at all if the member is going to continue to yell at me when I am standing on my feet. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Jacinda Ardern : Can the Minister explain how targets to reduce incarceration rates have anything to do with improving the well-being of a child living in poverty?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I would love to. There are about 23,000 children at any one time living in New Zealand who have a parent in prison. If the member does not think that that affects long term the economic, social, and emotional well-being of children, then that member has a very different concept of poverty from mine.

An old pro versus a young apprentice. Ardern has a lot to learn before she’s ready to step up.

Greens talk poverty but target middle NZ vote

The Green Party talk a lot about addressing children in poverty. In a policy announcement today they emphasise this:

The Green Party today announced that its key social platform for this election will be to tackle child poverty and inequality by ensuring every child in New Zealand has enough to thrive.

But the policy they announced today seems to be clearly targeting the middle New Zealand vote in Greens announce 20 hours free ECE for two year olds:

In the first of these announcements, made today, the party has announced a package to support families by extending access to free early childhood education and improve the quality of all ECE.

The key policy points in the Green Party’s plan for supporting families’ access to ECE are:

  1. Extend the 20 Hours free early childhood education subsidy to cover two-year-olds, at an initial cost of $255 million. As the benefits of this successful scheme are opened up to at least another 40,000 children, more kids will get a good start in life and the burdens on their families will be eased.
  2. Provide $32 million a year to restore funding for 100 percent qualified teachers, as part of an ambitious plan to boost the quality of early childhood education and make sure every child gets the right care and support.

The total package will cost $297 million a year immediately rising to $367 million in four years.

“Every child should have enough to thrive. Any less is a failure of our society,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.

“One in four children lives in poverty, and 205,000 Kiwi kids are now living in severe poverty, and going without the basics.

But this doesn’t seem to be directly targeting poverty. Some poor families may benefit, but middle and upper income families will also benefit. Not extending EXCE down a year is hardly a “failure of our society”.

“Extending 20 hours free ECE to two-year-olds will make a real financial difference to thousands of families. We estimate that families with two-year-olds in ECE could be up to $95 a week better off under our policy.

“About two thirds of all two-year-olds are currently enrolled in ECE, but their parents miss out on the ’20 Hours’ subsidy given to three and four year olds. We will make the system fair by extending the same subsidy to the large number of two-year-olds in ECE.

“Despite the relatively low level of current subsidy, around 40,000 two-year-olds are still enrolled in ECE, significantly more than a decade ago. Our policy helps will make a big difference to those families straight away.

It will be popular to some, but a one year of childhood is very narrow.

“This is an investment in families and our kids’ education and in reducing poverty.”

“Good-quality ECE helps children reach their full potential, both in education and in leading healthy and productive lives. It can even make the difference, according to recent research, between being in or out of poverty in later life.

“Investment in ECE is a great education spend today, but it can also reduce poverty and inequality overtime.

They have pushed the poverty line eight times in this media release. Perhaps they have more policies to come that will specifically target more pressing poverty needs, but despite their insistence this one seems to miss the mark.

It’s a good enough policy, if the cost can be justified in an overall budget, but they are trying to oversell the poverty pandering.

$300-400 million a year is a lot to allocate to all two year olds, not just those who are really deprived.

This looks a bit like a vote buying exercise dressed as a pauper.

Answering weka’s questions

Amongst a lot of discussion at The Standard there have been requests that I answer weka’s questions. There’s been many questions and comments on various threads but I’ll respond to what seems to be the most requested questions here. My comments are in parentheses.

“Not sure how it can be avoided setting benefit levels statistically lower then people who are employed.”

Benefits were cut by $20/wk in 1990. In the mid 80s the unemployment benefit was around the same rate as what school leavers were earning going into office jobs. We used to have relatively higher benefit rates then, why can’t we now?

Cost. I presume there’s many more people on benefits now. At the end of March 2014: 295,320 working-age* people were receiving a main benefit. (MSD).

And wanting to encourage people into paid employment.

“I’m not sure than any of the larger parties are suggesting that should be substantially changed.”

The GP want a UBI.

Their Income Support Policy states “The Green Party supports a full and wide-ranging public debate on the nature of UBI and the details of a UBI system, and government funding for detailed studies of the impacts of UBI. The Green Party will: Investigate the implementation of a Universal Basic Income for every New Zealander”. They are interested in the concept (as I am) but don’t say they want one.

“The aim is to raise people’s income by getting them into employment.”

That disqualifies you from having any opinion on beneficiaries until you answer the question: how many beneficiaries are not required to seek/gain employment?

It doesn’t disqualify me from anything. I have already said that some people on benefits cannot seek employment. Both Labour and National governments want to encourage those who can seek employment to do so.

I’ve also already said that if the number of people on benefits is substantially reduced then those who have to remain on benefits should be able to be provided for better.

Then you will have to answer how many people are now required to see work, despite previously being exempt.

I don’t have to do anything. I don’t know what point you are trying to make with this.

Some current details are here at MSD.

I think it’s reasonable to expect that those who are capable of working should be seeking paid employment and taking responsibility for their own welfare.

I acknowledge that it can be very difficult finding work that people want with the pay they want. Some are more motivated than others. Some people have unrealistic expectations but for many there simply aren’t enough jobs.

Then come back and explain how those people are supposed to live. 

They live how they live. It’s very tough for many. Others find a way manage.

And why those people aren’t entitled to a livable income.

You tell me why you think they should be entitled to a ‘livable income’.

Ideally everyone should have an income that makes living not too much of a struggle. But expecting everyone should have comfortable style of living without having any money problems is fanciful and idealistic.

Life can be hard work and bills can be difficult to manage, especially if you have children. We should strive for better and easier but it can never always be guaranteed or provided,

Then explain why you think that beneficiaries are all unemployed.

They’re not, some are partly employed. There’s a range of reasons why beneficiaries could be unemployed, including circumstance, health, choice, lack of alternatives and a shortage of jobs.

And then explain how unemployed beneficiaries are supposed to raise their income via employment when there aren’t enough jobs.

Some can supplement their benefit. Some could be more flexible in what work they seek and where they seek it (that’s difficult for many). And there are not enough jobs for many. That’s one thing benefits are designed to assist with.

Then, when youve done all that, retract your statement that NACT don’t keep people poor.

You’ll have to be more specific, I’ve made a number of comments related to that.

I don’t believe that in general National (or Act) want to “keep people poor”. The effect of Government policies (Labour and National) may be that some people stay poor, but I question whether any MP wants to ‘keep people poor’.

All parties propose economic growth with the intention of improving incomes and increasing the number of jobs.

“I presume you know that if the minimum wage was raised by 50% and work was provided for anyone who wants it then we’d still have the same number of people under the statistical poverty line.”

What everyone else just said. Plus, you’re a dick. If the people at the bottom end of the scale have enough to live on, then poverty stops being an issue irrespective of the statistics.

But waving a money wand and waving a job wand aren’t realistic options.

Can you show any country in the world where giving everyone “enough to live on” has succeeded over a period of years or decades.

Poverty is a problem that needs to be addressed as well as possible, but Government giving substantially more money to people with productive work being an unpressured option is unlikely to succeed if history and current world conditions are anything to go on.

But perhaps weka can outline how he thinks an entitlement to a livable income could work, with examples of how similar policies have worked elsewhere.

Poll – top 5 election issues

Colmar Brunton have polled on what people think are the  ‘top 5 issues’, with education and health head of the rest

Poverty and inequality are there but not as prominent as some may think.

It’s interesting that education is the top rated issue, especially as National’s Hekia Parata struggled with her education portfolio at the start of the term. John Key had faith in her ability, and that may turn out to be a significant election factor.

A notable absence from the list is the economy, which is something many claim to be a major deciding factor.

Asset sales may be fading in importance.

Green Solar Homes – ok but could do better

The Green Solar Homes scheme sounds ok, although it could be a bit optimistic. A slightly lower finance rate is not a compelling incentive so an uptake of 10,000 installations a year (compared to the current 600) could be a stretch.

The Greens love easily marketable numbers starting with a 10 and adding however many zeros they think fits the bill.

But solar energy still has a number of question marks about viability.

And it may not be the best option for many people, especially in southern New Zealand and cloudier parts of the north. One of it’s biggest limitations is that it produces the least energy when homes need it the most, at night time in winter.

Russel Norman has ruled out extending the scheme to double glazing, something that is more certain of benefiting more people. In response to tweets Norman said:

Can’t do everything at once. We did solar hot water, then insulation, now solar electricity. One step at a time.

Well we did achieve 230,000 homes retrofitted with insulation, ie energy efficiency. Solar Homes next part of journey.

That’s disappointing. It would be simple to add double glazing as a loan option. The only down side I can think of is that it mightn’t suit slick Green marketing as much. Perhaps Labour can negotiate a wider more sensible scheme.

Another interesting aspect of of what might be one of Green’s three flagship policies of the election campaign is that it excludes one of their target markets, poor people. Those in ‘poverty’ don’t own their own homes so the scheme won’t be of interest to them.

But despite making a big thing about standing up for the poor that isn’t the main Green constituency.

The Solar Homes policy is aimed at Green’s main voter base – affluent middle class voters who have environmental ideals and can afford paying a premium to be seen to embrace them.

Solar Homes might lift the rate of solar power installations a bit but it won’t lift any kids out of poverty.

It’s an ok policy but it seems to be more designed for Green marketing than greatest good.

John Banks on poverty, unconditional love and education

In Parliament’s first day for the year John Key made his Prime Minister’s Statement followed by party leaders launching their parliamentary year.

The best was from John Banks, who, in response to a read speech by Hone Harawira targeting inequality and poverty, gave an impassioned and often very personal view on how he thinks we need to deal with poverty.

I don’t know what Banks may have prepared to speak on, but he responded strongly and passionately to Harawira. It was eloquent and obviously heartfelt.

I know a lot about child poverty.

I know what it is like to live in a house with no power and no running water; having a bath once a week in a 44-gallon drum cut in half; sleeping on straw covered with sacks; going to bed every night hungry; piddling the bed every night, psychologically disturbed; being thrashed every morning for piddling the bed every night; going to school every day in an ex-army uniform with no shoes; spending all day, every day, out of the classroom stealing other kids’ lunches; going home to bread and milk, at best, at night, cooked over an open fire with sugar on top; if I am very lucky, taking Weet-bix covered in dripping to school each day; and living in a very dark hole.

That is child poverty.

If I thought that the policies of the previous speaker from the Tai Tokerau would work against that—and they do exist; they do exist—I would go to the other side of the House and support him. I would be the first to line up to support him.

Why would I not be the first to line up to support Hone Harawira if he had the answers to this country’s deep, deep vein of underprivilege, desperation, desolation, and despair that so many of our kids live under? If I thought that his policies were the answer, I would line up with him and I would say so.

But let me give him one ticket out of child poverty that he might like to think about. That one ticket is twofold: living in a home with unconditional love—and I never knew about that—and a world-class education. I did get that.

If every one of his people lived in a home with unconditional love and access to a world-class education, then in a generation we would get rid of the deep vein of social deprivation and child poverty in this country.

That is the ticket. That is the only ticket—not welfare, not big Governments, not more borrowing, and not more handouts.

It is instilling in people that having children is a God-given right but an awesome responsibility, that love goes a long, long way, and that a world-class education is a ticket to the future for so many of these people whom the previous speaker talked about and represents to the best of his ability in this House.

Banks’ answer:

The answer is giving everybody the opportunity of the dignity of work, and you can have a job only if you are educated. And you can get educated only if you go to school. And you can go to school only if you come from a home that loves you.

And the corollary to that is a dark place, and I know about living in dark places.

So if we want to deal with the fundamental issues of about 20 percent of this country’s young people coming from dysfunctional homes and families, we have to deal with the causes, not with the political side effects for the purposes of getting a few votes.

For context here is (edited) Harawira’s closing:

At the beginning of this new year, Mana stands resolute in our determination to find ways to eradicate poverty—particularly child poverty—wherever and however it may exist.

We will do all we can to ensure that this issue is the issue by which political parties are measured by voters in 2014.

Mana wants a new deal for Aotearoa—one based on everyone playing their part and everyone paying their way, not just families and big business as well—and an economy where everyone can live in dignity and respect, and where jobs are secure, hard work is rewarded, and people can earn enough to give their families a decent standard of living.

Mana is calling for homes for every Kiwi family—the building of 10,000 homes a year, especially for those on low incomes, until every child in every family is housed in a clean and warm home.

Mana wants jobs for all, and Government-created community work on an index minimum wage for everyone else who is able to work in hospitals, schools, old people’s homes, marae, sports clubs, local parks, and the like, giving people the opportunity to rebuild their confidence and develop basic work skills, while helping to revitalise their communities.

Mana also calls for taxing the rich to free the poor, introducing a Hone Heke tax on all financial transactions, adding billions to the national budget and enabling Government to launch positive jobs programmes, feed the kids, provide a well-resourced and positive educational environment at all levels, reduce taxes for low income earners, and abolish GST on food and essential services.

Mana’s position is clear. This is not a time for tinkering. This is a time to be bold, to chart a new path, and to establish a new deal, where a life of dignity and respect is a birth right afforded to everyone. We call on all of the parties to rise to the challenge rather than surrender to the squabbling.

Mana is closely associated with socialist movements in New Zealand, with a strong emphasis on taxing more (“the rich”) and transferring wealth, with the state heavily involved in job creation and spending. And spending.

I have never seen any attempt by Mana to cost their policy proposals.

Interestingly while Harawira frequently mentioned Mana (his party) Banks didn’t once refer to the Act Party. It was very personal for him.

Hone Harawira video:

John Banks video:

Full speeches (draft Hansard):

15:48:59~HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana)

HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana): Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker.

Seeing as the Prime Minister may have missed the fact that while he was up in Hawaii playing golf and his MPs were sizing up more investment properties to buy for the biggest untaxed capital gains they could get, most Kiwi families were actually going backwards.

Since Parliament last sat, housing has become even less affordable, more families have fallen behind in their rent, more families have been evicted, more families have shifted to caravan parks, the price of food and just about everything else has continued to rise, more jobs have become more precarious and more have become poorly paid, more food parcels have been given out at food banks, more families have had their electricity cut off because they cannot pay the bill, more children are in hospital with poverty related illnesses and diseases, and more children are regularly going hungry.

Big bank economists tell us we are about to benefit from a rock star economy in 2014 but that is rubbish. Everywhere in the world, the benefit of the economic recovery is going to the richest 1 percent while the 99 percent either stagnate or go backwards, and New Zealand is no exception.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer under a system where people strive to get as rich as they can and the winner is the person who has the most money when they die. How crazy is that? How does that make sense when kids go hungry because families have to pay the rent, the electricity, the petrol for the car, doctors’ bills, and medical bills before they can even afford to buy food for the kids?

But does this Government care? Not for one second. Take loan sharks, for example. Six years ago this Government said it wanted to deal to loan sharks for preying on poor families.

Well, what did it do? Nothing. Instead it bailed out the banks, wealthy investors, and companies like South Canterbury Finance, which got a $1.7 billion taxpayer windfall, which in one single gift to the rich was more than the entire 22 years of Treaty of Waitangi settlements, where iwi ended up with less than 3 percent of what was stolen from them.

Meanwhile, the victims of loan sharks are told they have to pay up to 500 plus percent interest rates so that a small loan to pay a power bill rapidly becomes a crippling debt to the loan sharks, with no bailouts for the poor.

Housing is the same. Everyone knows housing is becoming less affordable. Mortgages are through the roof, and as interest rates go up—it was in the paper this morning—so do rents. But this Government has no plans to create more affordable housing for low-income families who need them the most.

In Glen Innes and elsewhere, the Government is actually pushing people off the waiting list, then telling everybody that State houses are no longer needed, and then bulldozing those homes so private developers can build mansions for the rich. In education, the Government is also missing the mark.

Instead of ensuring that every child can learn by adopting a comprehensive food in schools programme, as recommended by its own experts, it is focusing on a failed charter schools model from overseas and drop-in principals.

We have all heard the drivel about how poverty has nothing to do with educational underachievement, but that is a refrain delivered only by those commentators who choose not to hear the advice and Governments who choose to ignore the inequality that is at the heart of increased social problems in low-income communities.

As for those jobs, Mr Key, are you happy that unemployment helps to keep wages down and to keep workers worrying that they might lose their jobs? Is it your plan that 260,000 workers cannot get a job or cannot get enough hours at work to pay for a decent chance in life for themselves and their families?

Is it your plan that this Government has no policy at all to create meaningful employment, except to leave the fate of the worker in the hands of the free market? Instead all we get is policy after policy, bill after bill, to take even more from low-income workers—employment rights, social support, tax dollars, and all of that—to feed oil and mining giants, property developers, foreign bankers, casino bosses, private consultants, and the like.

Families are struggling—Māori families, Pasifika families, and increasingly more Pākehā families—after decades of the deepest cuts this country has ever experienced. These cuts come from policies that have deliberately driven hundreds of thousands of families into poverty, policies that have led us to a direction that has been disastrous for all Kiwi families outside of the comfortable middle class and ruling elite, and a direction that has brought us to a critical crossroad in our lives.

There is growing inequality, homelessness, and unemployment, and a growing population of working poor who cannot even make ends meet.

At the end of the last year, the world mourned the loss of Nelson Mandela and celebrated his momentous life, but Mandela was not just an anti-apartheid campaigner. He was also a fighter for the poor who once said: “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity; it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Mandela considered poverty to be one of the great evils of the world and believed there could be no freedom where poverty persists.

At the beginning of this new year, Mana stands resolute in our determination to find ways to eradicate poverty—particularly child poverty—wherever and however it may exist. We will do all we can to ensure that this issue is the issue by which political parties are measured by voters in 2014.

Mana wants a new deal for Aotearoa—one based on everyone playing their part and everyone paying their way, not just families and big business as well—and an economy where everyone can live in dignity and respect, and where jobs are secure, hard work is rewarded, and people can earn enough to give their families a decent standard of living.

Mana is calling for homes for every Kiwi family—the building of 10,000 homes a year, especially for those on low incomes, until every child in every family is housed in a clean and warm home. This will create thousands of jobs in design, architecture, carpentry, cabinet making, painting, roofing, electrical work, plumbing, drainlaying, landscaping, roading, community infrastructure, and all the related jobs that come with a strong and vibrant housing sector.

Mana will encourage immigrants to build new homes rather than buy existing ones to increase the jobs in the housing sector and to keep the current housing stock for kiwis and introduce a serious capital gains tax to force those with too many investment properties to sell back into the housing market, drive down the prices, and free up homes for those who can afford to buy but cannot find anything in the overheated market place.

Mana wants jobs for all, and Government-created community work on an index minimum wage for everyone else who is able to work in hospitals, schools, old people’s homes, marae, sports clubs, local parks, and the like, giving people the opportunity to rebuild their confidence and develop basic work skills, while helping to revitalise their communities.

Mana wants financing and mentoring for small business, because if you back small business owners, they commit to a future in this country, rather than leave, and their success encourages their families to do the same.

Mana also calls for taxing the rich to free the poor, introducing a Hone Heke tax on all financial transactions, adding billions to the national budget and enabling Government to launch positive jobs programmes, feed the kids, provide a well-resourced and positive educational environment at all levels, reduce taxes for low income earners, and abolish GST on food and essential services.

Of course, Mana also supports taking back the power. In today’s world, access to a consistent and affordable supply of electricity is a staple part of life for all New Zealanders. It was never envisioned that it be owned. Mana supports reclaiming all electricity assets for the benefit of all citizens of Aotearoa.

Mana’s position is clear. This is not a time for tinkering. This is a time to be bold, to chart a new path, and to establish a new deal, where a life of dignity and respect is a birth right afforded to everyone. We call on all of the parties to rise to the challenge rather than surrender to the squabbling. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora tātou katoa.

DEBATE ON PRIME MINISTER’S STATEMENT

15:58:44~Hon JOHN BANKS (Leader—ACT)

Hon JOHN BANKS (Leader—ACT): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. The seeds of my political philosophy lie in my background. I am not sure how much the previous member knows about child poverty.

I know a lot about child poverty. I know what it is like to live in a house with no power and no running water; having a bath once a week in a 44-gallon drum cut in half; sleeping on straw covered with sacks; going to bed every night hungry; piddling the bed every night, psychologically disturbed; being thrashed every morning for piddling the bed every night; going to school every day in an ex-army uniform with no shoes; spending all day, every day, out of the classroom stealing other kids’ lunches; going home to bread and milk, at best, at night, cooked over an open fire with sugar on top; if I am very lucky, taking Weet-bix covered in dripping to school each day; and living in a very dark hole.

That is child poverty.

If I thought that the policies of the previous speaker from the Tai Tokerau would work against that—and they do exist; they do exist—I would go to the other side of the House and support him. I would be the first to line up to support him.

Why would I not be the first to line up to support Hone Harawira if he had the answers to this country’s deep, deep vein of underprivilege, desperation, desolation, and despair that so many of our kids live under? If I thought that his policies were the answer, I would line up with him and I would say so.

But let me give him one ticket out of child poverty that he might like to think about. That one ticket is twofold: living in a home with unconditional love—and I never knew about that—and a world-class education. I did get that.

If every one of his people lived in a home with unconditional love and access to a world-class education, then in a generation we would get rid of the deep vein of social deprivation and child poverty in this country.

That is the ticket. That is the only ticket—not welfare, not big Governments, not more borrowing, and not more handouts. It is instilling in people that having children is a God-given right but an awesome responsibility, that love goes a long, long way, and that a world-class education is a ticket to the future for so many of these people whom the previous speaker talked about and represents to the best of his ability in this House. But he is misguided.

In a couple of weeks we are going to open the first charter school—they call it—in Northland. I do not mind whether they call it a charter school or whether they call them partnership schools, but this is what I can tell you.

The first partnership school in Whangarei will open in 2 weeks’ time. For the last 4 years it has taken 40 Māori boys and girls from the poorest, poorest families in the whole of the Tai Tokerau. It has boarded them in Whangarei and it has given them an opportunity to go to the best State schools in Whangarei, mostly Whangarei Boys High School, and after school they are tutored.

They get in that collective home unconditional love every day of the week and tutoring every night of the week.

They feel a sense of purpose and direction, and those young people sit National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 1 with a 100 percent pass rate, I say to the Minister of Finance, a 100 percent pass rate in that partnership school in Whangarei for the last 4 years, a 100 percent pass rate in NCEA level 1 in Whangarei with Māori boys who come from places that the previous speaker represents and knows nothing about and has a doctrine he peddles in this House that is bankrupt—more borrowing, more welfare, less responsibility. He does it because he thinks there are votes in it.

There are no votes in representing people who have no hope, and that member will not get up on his hind legs and say to this House: “I’m going to support the partnership school that has served my mokopuna in Tai Tokerau for so, so long.”

That member and the Labour Party have promised to close down that school, which gets a 100 percent—100 percent—pass rate in NCEA level 1. That is the ticket out of deprivation.

That is the only way, the one-way street, the only way out of poverty in this country. It will take a generation, but this is what this Government is working on. It stands for bringing those people up. It is like high tides raising all boats. Lift the standards at the bottom and the high tide will rise and raise more boats—all boats.

We have tried throwing money. We have tried borrowing money. We have tried big welfare. And what we do know is that any Government big enough to give you everything you want is a Government big enough to take from the hard workers everything they have.

So if we want to deal with the deep vein of social deprivation—and I do because I know what it is like, and it is a dark place, a very dark place—then we have to deal with the fundamentals of human behaviour: taking responsibility for your family, giving them unconditional love regardless of your status and your wealth, taking advantage of a world-class education that is there for you at the school down the street, and encouraging young people to do that.

It will be a generation but it will lift them out. If we want to empty the jails, we have got to educate the young people. If we want to get the health lists down, we have got to teach young people what it is like to be in charge of yourself and take responsibility for your own actions. Then we will make progress.

But borrowing from the savings of offshore people to hand out to others in a country and mounting up the debt to the next generation is not the way we deal with poverty in this country.

Of course I support sandwiches and food in schools—by God I would have loved some sandwiches and some food in school—but that is not the answer.

The answer is getting the fundamentals of the New Zealand economy so that we are internationally competitive.

I pay tribute to Bill English, whom I have worked with closely these last 2 years, who has done a remarkable job of turning this economy round. I give praise to the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the National Party caucus—my coalition partners—for taking tough decisions, but the answer to child poverty, I say to the parliamentary Opposition, is not about taking others’ money and throwing it at a problem, because we have tried that and it has failed.

The answer is education.

The answer is giving everybody the opportunity of the dignity of work, and you can have a job only if you are educated. And you can get educated only if you go to school. And you can go to school only if you come from a home that loves you. And the corollary to that is a dark place, and I know about living in dark places.

So if we want to deal with the fundamental issues of about 20 percent of this country’s young people coming from dysfunctional homes and families, we have to deal with the causes, not with the political side effects for the purposes of getting a few votes.

 

 

Failing the Waldegrave necessities of life

Discussions over poverty and ‘living wages’ often include comparisons with “the good old days”, as happened yesterday on a David Farrar Facebook post:

Robin Stephen

Yet we have “poor bashers” here practically blaming children for being hungry. There is a child poverty problem in NZ which just wasn’t there while John Key was growing up

Pete George

“There is a child poverty problem in NZ which just wasn’t there while John Key was growing up.” 
I dispute that. I was growing up in NZ at the same time as John Key. What do you know about that era?

There were plenty of hard up families with kids living in what is now classified by some as poverty. Families were more self sufficient and got by with much less than the majority of families now. Health care wasn’t as good, with immunisations just being phased in. There was far less state assistance. I experienced living in a family with severe financial problems right through my childhood, with nothing like what Rev. Waldegrave suggests are necessities.

Robin Stephen

BTW what are the necessities you dispute with Rev. Waldegrave?

Here are things detailed by Rev. Waldegrave that would have failed his necessities of life test in my childhood (from Living Wage Investigation Report):

Power/Heating

  • Continuous hot water supply and normal use of all appliances. 
  • All rooms warm when people are at home during winter. 

(Only living area warm otherwise very cold in Central Otago winters, household water froze up in winter, hot water dependent on coal range wetback)

Phone

  • Cellphone call costs for necessary calls close to home and keeping in touch with family further away.

Internet

  • Broadband connection.

Holiday

  • Annual holiday for one week away from home area for all family members.

(I had one family holiday when I was a baby, and went to stay with relations on my own twice through my childhood)
Saving 

  • Amount sufficient to build up and maintain a reserve fund to cover emergencies. 
  • Amount sufficient to save for retirement. 

Exceptional Emergency

  • Provision to meet an unforeseen cost that would destabilise the household budget, eg. accidents, legal costs.

Appliances
The household has a basic set of appliances:

  • fridge

(we got our first fridge – paid for by a grandparent – when I was six)

  • computer 
  • lawn mower

(only a push mower)

  • TV

(no TV until about a year before I left home)

  • Music system 

(a brother bought a record player from earned money)

  •  jug
  •  drier

Clothing/Shoes

  • Adequate summer and winter sets of clothing for each member of the household, plus additional items for recreational activities.
  • Clothing at new clothing prices.

(Most clothes were hand-me-downs, made or recycled wool etc)

  • Sufficient shoes for informal, formal, work and recreational purposes per year per household member.

(Often went to school bare foot, one pair of shows at a time and were often well worn with holes before they were replaced)

Childcare

  • After school 
  • Daytime for pre-schoolers
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,003 other followers