Child poverty target versus targets

There has been an ongoing argument in Parliament this week about how to target child poverty after the Children’s Commissioner suggested an overall target of reducing it by 5-10% in a year.

1 News: Key shuns Children’s Commissioner’s child poverty target

A target promoted by Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft  to reduce child poverty has been rejected by Prime Minister John Key who says it’s not as simple as that.

The new Children’s Commissioner says politicians should put aside politics and agree to reduce child poverty by five to 10 per cent next year.

Debate on this continued yesterday in Question Time, with Metiria Turei pressing John Key on a single target, while Key insisted it was far more complex than that and that the Government had a number of poverty targets.

Draft transcript:

Prime Minister—Government Policies

2. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Ka tū a ia i runga i te mana o ngā kaupapa here katoa o tāna Kawantatanga?

[Does he stand by all his Government’s policies?]

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister still believe, as he said in this House yesterday, that it is better and more effective for the Government to set individual targets on components of child poverty rather than a specific child poverty reduction target?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister talked yesterday about the Better Public Services targets, like rheumatic fever and early childhood education, did he know that the expert advisory group on child poverty provided a comprehensive list of 51 child poverty – related indicators, including both of those?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, but that is exactly the point, is it not? Last week the member was saying that the target should have 17—today she seems to be saying it is 51. For the last while she has been saying that the number of children is 360,000 and then she said yesterday that she wanted to accept that the Government’s number of 85,000—or at least, 60,000 to 100,000—was correct. She is all over the map, and that is the point. The Government is far better to approach—

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He has not addressed the question, and has instead talked about a Green Party position, which he has no authority over.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. When the Prime Minister rose to answer the question he addressed the question immediately. He certainly has gone on to enlarge on that answer, which is probably unnecessary, but he certainly answered the question immediately.

Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister committed to his Government using individual indicators and targets to address child poverty, did he mean that he would adopt the expert advisory group’s recommendations for a comprehensive list of child poverty – related indicators?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What the Government did—and, I think, quite correctly—was to say that poverty is a very complicated issue, but that there are some individual component parts which, if the Government focuses resources on and gives attention to, can make significant gains. We are doing that in terms of rheumatic fever. We are doing that in terms of the number of children being immunised. We are doing that in terms of the number of children having access to early childhood education. We are doing that in terms of the number of teenage pregnancies, with young mums on the equivalent of the domestic purposes benefit. I think it is far more sensible for the Government to approach this issue in a systematic and thorough way, dealing with each of these issues, rather than the member spending, as she wants to, her lifetime dreaming up some dodgy number that she knows is wrong.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was an unnecessary and personal attack—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I could not hear correctly what the point of order is.

Metiria Turei: I take personal offence at that personal attack on my integrity, and I ask him to withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that the final part of the answer was helpful to the order of the House; I accept that. But I hardly think it was a personal attack on the member.

Metiria Turei: So will the Prime Minister expand the Better Public Services targets to include all of those other indicators that experts have said contribute to child poverty, such as household crowding, infant mortality, self-harm and suicide by children, and serious skin infections?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I doubt we would have an individual Better Public Services target for each one, or there would be so many individual targets that it might lose some of its meaning. All of those issues are on the Government’s radar, and all of them are getting attention.

Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister is refusing to establish official measurements of child poverty, and also will not set targets for a comprehensive list of child poverty – related outcomes, is he not really telling the country that he will avoid any attempt to identify, to measure, or to reduce child poverty in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Quite the opposite. This is the first Government in the history of this Parliament that has had a list of Better Public Services targets and has been quite happy to be measured against them, and has set those targets in quite challenging areas. The Government produces a raft of different measures and reports in relation to poverty and income, including the longitudinal study by Bryan Perry, which shows that income inequality is not getting worse. The reason the member does not quote it is that she does not like it, because it does not suit her arguments.

Metiria Turei: So what has changed since 2012, when the Prime Minister said: “If you don’t measure, monitor and report on things, I don’t think you can make progress.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Absolutely nothing, and that is why the Government has these individual targets and has a range of different measures. But it is not this Government; there has been longstanding advice from officials that one single measure of poverty in this country would be an inappropriate way of dealing with it.



Reactions to Homelessness report

Government reactions to the ‘Ending Homelessness in New Zealand’ report that was released yesterday amounted to careful endorsement in principle while they claimed they were already doing some of the things asked for by the report.

Prime Minister John Key

Prime Minister John Key said the recommendations were “reasonably consistent with what the Government’s already doing”, but he would read the report and consider whether any ideas should be adopted.

“We’ve been working on this issue for quite some time, but we’ve never said we’ve got a monopoly on good ideas, so if there’s one or two things that come out of it, we’ll have a look at it.”

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett…

…said some of the estimated costs of homelessness appeared too high, including the $250m annual cost to New Zealand.

“It’s certainly not a figure I’ve seen before…it certainly sounds high, so I’d have to see what that was made up of to see if it had any validity behind it.”

However, Bennett said the Government had already been working on some of the recommendations, while she was willing to consider changes to other areas such as the accommodation supplement to help people pay for housing.

“You have to say that it goes right back to 2005 levels and there’s no way rents are still in line with that, so I’m always willing to have a look at that.”

Finance Minister Bill English

Maori Party leader Marama Fox said Finance Minister Bill English had assured her that he would “seriously consider” any new ideas from the inquiry which the Government had not already implemented.

The Government appear to see the homelessness issue as too important, both as a problem and as a political risk, to reject the report.





The Nation – Key, Clark, UN

On The Nation this morning:

Patrick Gower sits down with Prime Minister John Key and former PM Helen Clark at the UN in New York.

Audrey Young interviewed Key in New York, including on Clark and her UN bid: John Key among friends in the big apple

And should 17 year olds be tried as adults? The Police Association’s Greg O’Connor and Victoria University law lecturer Nessa Lynch discuss…

  and are on the panel…

and are on the Twitter panel

…at 9.30am on TV3.

From @TheNationZTV3 on the Key interview:

Key says big countries were telling him choosing to debate Syria on the Security Council was a risky move.

Why don’t we do something militarily in Syria? Key says you have to have the military capabilities.

Does Russia have blood on their hands over Syria? “In my view, yeah” Key says.

NZ spies aren’t involved in a co-ordinated team planning airstrikes, but we “gather intelligence where it makes sense”.

Why don’t we do more for refugees? Key says we’re helping with a political solution in Syria to help them go home.

UNHCR says NZ had 0.3/1000 refugees last year, US 0.85/1000, Aus 1.54/1000

Key says his intention is to stay for a whole fourth term… if he wins it.

Key “not as negative” to think a political resolution in Syria is still years away. Big call!

On ‘17 year olds be tried as adults”:

Nessa Lynch from says there’s not the same emphasis on the causes of offending for 17 year olds in the adult system.

Greg O’Connor from says 55% of youth aid workers are opposed to raising the youth justice age

He says it’s a pragmatic concern – that Police won’t be well resourced enough for the move to work.

Dr Lynch says all the data says victims are much more satisfied with the youth justice process than the adult system.

And there’s a “safety valve” for moving serious offenders to the adult court.

O’Connor: New Zealand police “creaking at the seams”. And that gangs deliberately use 16 year olds for things like burglary as there is less risk of severe penalties.

Greg O’Connor says 17 year-olds change behaviour when they know the punishments are worse.. I call bollocks on that.

Some of this comment from O’Connor is pretty out there. Facts or beating it up to prove a point?

Most often based on police officer feedback rather than systematic research. That’s a real flaw.

Key: “Syria has become a byword for failure”

RNZ reports on John Key at the Security Council: Devastating Syria conflict ‘a byword for failure’

Prime Minister John Key has told the UN the conflict in Syria is a byword for failure and the international response has so far failed.

Mr Key chaired a heated Security Council session on Syria in which the US called for all planes to be grounded in key areas of the country to save the truce there, following an attack on an aid convoy.

Opening the meeting, Mr Key said the Syrian civil war the most devastating conflict of the 21st century and no other other issue more urgently demanded the attention of world leaders.

The conflict had created security threats that reach well beyond Syria’s borders and after more than five years of violence, Syria had become a byword for failure.

“Failure of the parties and their supporters to put peace, and the lives of innocent people ahead of self-interest and zero-sum politics. Failure to respond to the crisis early to prevent this tragedy. And a collective political failure, including by this Council, to do what must be done to end the conflict.

The problem was not a lack of direction, he said, as the pathway for ending this conflict was set out by the Security Council last December but the timetable for implementing them was never carried out.

“Today we all need to commit to restoring the cessation of hostilities, delivering aid to those who need it, and restarting political talks.

“Last week’s arrangement between US Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov represents the best hope we have seen in some time.

“We encourage Russia and the US to show sustained leadership and not let this opportunity slip away.”

The next few days would be critical in restoring the cessation of hostilities and getting humanitarian aid flowing, he said. “We urge the Syrian parties to abide by the arrangement. This Council should unite to back those efforts.”

But the US and Russia followed looking as though a solution in Syria may be as difficult to achieve as ever.

Lavrov called for an independent investigation into the convoy attack, and said all parties needed to take simultaneous steps to stop the war.

Kerry said the future of Syria was “hanging by a thread”. He said Monday’s attack, which killed 20 civilians, had raised profound doubt over whether Russia and the Syrian government would live up to terms of the ceasefire deal.

Moscow has denied being involved. An impassioned Mr Kerry faced off with Lavrov saying the bombing of the aid convoy raised “profound doubt whether Russia and the Assad regime can or will live up to” ceasefire obligations. Listening to Mr Lavrov made him feel like he was living in a “parallel universe”, Mr Kerry said.

Parallel universes:

  • The aims and ideals of the Security Council
  • What the Security Council achieves

Key tried hard but it was probably as effective as humming in a hurricane.

A five year hurricane of violence continues to devastate Syria and destabilise the world.

Key rarks up UN

John Key rarked up the Security Council over it’s failure to sort out Syria in a speech to the UN General Assembly today (Tuesday US time), but it is as likely to make a difference as everything else over the last sixty years.

It may be a noble gesture but is likely to be as futile as everything else.

Key will chair a meeting of the Security Council tomorrow (overnight NZ time).

Stuff: Key blasts UN Security Council over ‘vested interests’ preventing action on Syria

Prime Minister John Key has blasted the United Nations’ Security Council’s lack of leadership regarding the crisis in Syria.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday (New Zealand time), Key said he was “deeply troubled” at the Security Council’s failure to live up to its responsibilities “on the most serious crisis of our time, Syria”.

Key, who is chairing a high level debate on Syria at the UN overnight (New Zealand time) blamed “internal politics” within the council, and the sheer complexity of the Syria crisis, for obstructing a unified response.

He also condemned the vested interests that often got in the way of concerted action in preventing conflict spiralling out of control.

“There is no lack of mandate for conflict prevention. It’s in the (UN) Charter.

“There is no lack of information about escalating situations. We see the evidence of this – often in the most heartbreaking images in the media.

“The problem is that we don’t always have the will and we don’t use the tools available to us.

A major problem is that both the US and Russia are heavily involved in Syria, and both have the power to veto anything the Security Council decides, so the UN will remain helpless and hopeless.

When can you remember last hearing news like “The UN sorts crisis out in Xxxxx”?

Flogging a dead TPPA?

On his trip to new York John Key has been promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Is the TPPA a dead horse?

Today’s Herald editorial still thinks the TPPA is worthwhile – Key plays a strong geopolitical card on the TPP

John Key stated it as plainly as he dared in New York yesterday: failure to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would be a “massive lost opportunity” for the United States, he said, “because in the end is that vacuum isn’t filled by the United States, it will be filled by somebody else”.

He could have gone further and suggested the “somebody else” could be China. Talks involving China, India, Japan, South Korea, the Asean members and Australia and New Zealand are under way on a project called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Key had no need to spell out the implications to his New York audience, the Council for Foreign Relations, but his real targets are in Washington. Some of them – but not all – are seeking re-election for Senate and House seats. Some will be defeated at the elections on November 8, but all of them retain their seats until the next Congress is sworn in late in January. That “lame duck” period is a chance for legislators to do what is right, though it may not be popular.

Americans are well accustomed to their representatives doing this and they do not protest vehemently enough for the practice to become politically untenable. It almost seems to have tacit approval. The American public and the incoming Congress appear to accept that contentious things need to be done when the Constitution provides the opportunity.

Both presidential candidates say they want to renegotiate the TPP. Hillary Clinton will know, if Donald Trump does not, how long it took to get the TPP to the point of agreement and how hard it was. It would do the partners no harm to indicate to American voters that a renegotiation cannot be taken for granted.

The TPP has not come from nothing. It grew out of the World Trade Organisation’s stalled Doha round, which itself resulted from collapse of communism and almost universal realisation that competitive markets are the source of prosperity. If the US turns inward and protectionist under its next President, trading countries will look elsewhere for global progress.

Is Key wistfully whistling in the Washington wind?

What he or the Herald say will hardly sway the  USA.

Is the TPPA a lame duck or will the lame duck period givbe it another gasp of breath?

Bombing balls up during ‘ceasefire’

Two questions – why did the US bomb Syrian troops, and why were they bombing at all during a ceasefire?

Bombing and killing the the wrong people (62 reported to be dead) may have been a genuine mistake, shit happens during wars.

But why where they bombing at all when there was supposed to be a ceasefire?

These questions have been asked by Russia and have precipitated an emergency meeting at the UN’s Security Council.

RNZ: Emergency UN Security Council meeting

On Sunday (NZ time) Russia called an emergency meeting of the Security Council, with New Zealand’s UN Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen in the chair, after the United States admitted carrying out air strikes believed to have killed Syrian government soldiers.

British-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 80 government soldiers died in the attack.

The attack had paved the way for Islamic State fighters to overrun the position near Deir al-Zor airport, the group said.

Other reports say at least 62 Syrian troops fighting Islamic State were killed.

The US military said it believed it was bombing Islamic State jihadists, but stopped as soon as Russian officials said it was hitting the Syrian military.

This was in the middle of a seven day ceasefire agreed between the US and Russia, that took effect from last Tuesday.

According to reports Murray McCully received about the Security Council meeting…

…there were “bitter exchanges” between Russia and the US in particular, although there were many other countries with strong views on the conflict.

The mess in the Middle East, currently centred on Syria, is bad enough. When the world’s biggest military and political powers are actively involved the stakes become more serious. Especially when they stuff up and bomb the wrong targets.

Jeffrey Feltman, UN Under-Secretary for Political Affairs, said there was no obvious solution to the Syrian conflict, and welcomed the focus that will be brought to it this week.

And when there is “no obvious solution” it is of major international concern due to flow on effects outside the Middle East.

“There is no bigger crisis, in terms of peace and security on the international scene than the Syrian crisis, and the repercussions are global, when you look at the migration in Europe, you look at the potential return of foreign terrorist fighters from the Syria battlefield.

“This is a truly global peace and security issue.”

Mr Feltman said the UN was taking a three-pronged approach to the Syrian crisis; trying to reduce the violence, increase the humanitarian access and trying to get to a viable political process that can lead to a political transition in Syria.

John Key is heading to New York into the middle of the United Nations impotence. Murray McCully is already there (Key may have arrived by now).

Before leaving for New York, Mr Key said the Security Council meeting on Syria would be one of New Zealand’s “biggest moments”.

“This is a time when New Zealand can use the presidency, which only happens twice in the time you’re actually on the council and we’re only on the council every 20 or 30 years, so it’s the one time to use that presidency to direct the world’s leaders, if you like, on the most pressing issue we face.”

While it would be nice if New Zealand can inject something effective into the Security Council crisis it’s hard to see a miracle happening.

Mr McCully said the events of the weekend just underlined the need for the Security Council to face up to major conflicts and find a long term solution.

(I think a New Zealand term is appropriate here on the chances of that).

Yeah, right.

With bombs dropping during a ceasefire I don’t like anyone’s chances of stopping all the death and destruction.

The Government’s most important policy – family violence

The National led Government is often criticised for doing or changing little of significance, for being a dabbler that at best makes incremental changes. That may in general be fair comment.

But yesterday they announced what I think is the most significant policy of their three terms and of critical importance for New Zealand.

John Key has been at the forefront of the announcement.


Family violence is widespread and insidious. It has many and often severe repercussions. It not only adversely affects relationships, families and children, it also impacts on health, education, crime and imprisonment and mental well being.

If family violence can be significantly reduced and the effects of violence better handled this could have a huge effect on individuals, families, communities and New Zealand society as a whole.

National’s media release on this (from Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley):

Early and effective intervention at heart of family violence changes

Sweeping reforms to our laws will build a better system for combatting abuse and will reduce harm, says Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley.

The Government is proposing a broad overhaul of changes to family violence legislation, stemming from the comprehensive review of the 20-year old Domestic Violence Act.

“New Zealand’s rate of family violence is horrendous. It has a devastating impact on individuals and communities, and a profound impact that can span generations and lifetimes,” Ms Adams says.

“Our suite of changes are directed to earlier and more effective interventions. We are focused on better ways to keep victims safe and changing perpetrator behaviour to stop abuse and re-abuse.

“This is about redesigning the way the entire system prevents and responds to family violence. The reforms are an important part of building a new way of dealing with family violence.

“For many, family violence is an ingrained, intergenerational pattern of behaviour. There are no easy fixes. Our reforms make extensive changes across the Domestic Violence Act, Care of Children Act, Sentencing Act, Bail Act, Crimes Act, Criminal Procedure Act and the Evidence Act.”

Changes include:

  • getting help to those in need without them having to go to court
  • ensuring all family violence is clearly identified and risk information is properly shared
  • putting the safety of victims at the heart of bail decisions
  • creating three new offences of strangulation, coercion to marry and assault on a family member
  • making it easier to apply for a Protection Orders, allowing others to apply on a victim’s behalf, and better providing for the rights of children under Protection Orders
  • providing for supervised handovers and aligning Care of Children orders to the family violence regime
  • making evidence gathering in family violence cases easier for Police and less traumatic for victims
  • wider range of programmes able to be ordered when Protection Order imposed
  • making offending while on a Protection Order a specific aggravating factor in sentencing
  • enabling the setting of codes of practice across the sector.

“These changes are the beginning of a new integrated system but on their own have the potential to significantly reduce family violence. Changes to protection orders and the new offences alone are expected to prevent about 2300 violent incidents each year,” Ms Adams says.

The package makes changes to both civil and criminal laws, and provides system level changes to support new ways of working. It will cost $132 million over four years.

“Legislation is part of but not the whole change required. These legislative reforms are designed to support and drive the change underpinning the wider work programme overseen by the Ministerial Group on Family and Sexual Violence. The work is about comprehensive and coordinated system change with a focus on early intervention and prevention,” says Mrs Tolley.

“Social agencies and NGOs I’ve been speaking with are desperate for a system-wide change so we can make a real shift in the rate of family violence.”

“Laws alone cannot solve New Zealand’s horrific rate of family violence. But they are a cornerstone element in how we respond to confronting family violence. It sets up the system, holds perpetrators to account, and puts a stake in the ground,” Ms Adams says.

The full pack of reforms are set out in the Cabinet papers and are available at

This is getting cross party support, which is a very positive sign. This is too important to get bogged down by partisan politics.

Violence is not just a male versus female problem. It can also be female versus versus male, and adult versus child.

It’s good to see the Prime Minister John Key strongly promoting this, but it is perhaps not a coincidence that both Ministers driving this, Adams and Tolley, are women.

If the Government and all parties in Parliament can make a real difference on reducing family violence they will leave an admirable legacy for this term.



More on lazy workers/journalists

In his daily round up yesterday Bryce Edwards focussed on Workers versus migrantsDo we need immigrant workers because New Zealand’s unskilled workers are lazy and on drugs?

In this he referred to my post on this yesterday:

But have the Prime Minister and his colleagues been unfairly reported on this issue? According to blogger Pete George it’s not clear that John Key even said some of the words attributed to him, and “it appears to me that some journalists have cherry picked and embellished comments made and have created a week long story out of it” – see: Are lazy journalists drug addled?

However, it seems likely that the National Government has an orchestrated line about the deficiencies of local workers. The Minister of Immigration, Michael Woodhouse has made similar comments.

But my post shows that neither Woodhouse nor Key  used phrases like “drug addled” AND “to lazy” that were subsequently attributed to them and promoted in media stories and interviews.

And Edwards seems to be assuming that it “seems likely” that the Government has “an orchestrated line about the deficiencies of local workers”.

It is actually widely believed that there are a core of unemployed people who are virtually unemployable, or simply won’t or can’t hold down a job for any length of time.

Anyone working in the field of education, work skills and work finding sees examples of this.

But this doesn’t excuse journalists misquoting politicians to stoke up contentious stories.

And back in April, Bill English made some very strong statements about New Zealanders looking for jobs – especially “young males”, saying they are “pretty damned hopeless” and “can’t read and write properly” – see Jo Moir’s Bill English describes some Kiwis looking for work as ‘pretty damned hopeless’.

What Bill English said is sadly quite correct. Helping some of the difficult to employ write CVs can be quite challenging. An alarmingly high proportion of those in prison are illiterate.

But Edwards makes the same mistake, referring to “New Zealanders looking for jobs – especially young males” but the article he links to at Stuff says:

…some Kiwis hunting for work are “pretty damned hopeless” and “can’t read and write properly”.

There is a distinct difference between “some Kiwis” and “New Zealanders looking for jobs”.

I don’t think Edwards is drug addled and looking at how active he is in media he certainly doesn’t seem to be lazy.

But he is echoing the mistakes of media when he misrepresents what politicians have actually said.

Politicians are usually very careful with what they say and how they say it. It can be difficult extracting open and up front assessments from them. That’s an ongoing challenge for journalists.

But that doesn’t excuse making up dramatic stories by embellishing and over-emphasising and sensationalising and generalising what politicians say.

Are lazy journalists drug addled?

There seems to be a divide between what Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse and Prime Minister John Key have said about New Zealand workers, and what media and critics are saying. This was highlighted on Q & A yesterday.

What Michael Woodhouse said a week earlier on Q & A.

I think what you’ve done is presuppose that money is the only barrier to people moving to work. Now, what we know and what we’ve said and listened to employers about is that that is one of many barriers.

Geography is definitely one. Skills, attitude, recreational drug and alcohol all prevents some of our young New Zealanders from gaining work.

Woodhouse has cited five reasons preventing “some of our young New Zealanders from gaining work“.

Key has since been heavily criticised for I have had a listen to the RNZ item and Guyon Espiner introduced it with:

The Prime Minister admits high immigration is putting strains on the country’s infrastructure but John Key says the Government will continue to bring in a large number to fill in jobs. He says this partly because many employers can’t get New Zealanders to do the work due to problems with drugs or work ethic, or that they can’t move to where the jobs are.

After some discussion Key said:

“We bring in people to pick fruit under the RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme, and they come from the islands, and they do a fabulous job. And the government has been saying ‘well, OK, there are some unemployed people who live in the Hawke’s Bay, and so why can’t we get them to pick fruit’, and we have been trialling a domestic RSE scheme.

“But go and ask the employers, and they will say some of these people won’t pass a drug test, some of these people won’t turn up for work, some of these people will claim they have health issues later on. So it’s not to say there aren’t great people who transition from Work and Income to work, they do, but it’s equally true that they’re also living in the wrong place, or they just can’t muster what is required to actually work.”

Espiner responded:

Isn’t that a major failing for New Zealand, if what you are saying is right, that these people are too drug addled, or frankly, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but basically too lazy is what you’re saying, they can’t get their act together.


Well what I’m saying to you is that, just go and ask an employer because I ask employers all the time, and we transition lots of people off Work and Income into work, but when you ask the question about why is there this group versus this demand, even in some reasonably low skilled jobs, it’s often they’re not in the right location, so they’re living in Northland and we need the work somewhere else, and that’s genuine, you can understand that, or they don’t have the skills, or there are these other wider issues, they’ll turn up for a while and then they won’t last there.

Key said that “lot’s of people” transition to work, and he cited location, skills and “these other wider issues”.

“Drug addled” and “too lazy” where Espiner’s words, not Key’s.

Jessica Mutch introduced yesterday’s coverage of Are some young NZers too lazy to do the work migrants will do? saying that what Woodhouse had said “sparked some debate” and that Woodhouse had made some “interesting remarks”. Woodhouse was quoted.

Mutch then said:

Prime Minister John Key followed up the next day saying the Government had to bring in migrants to fill the jobs because many young New Zealanders had a poor work ethic or a drug problem.

I haven’t seen any evidence of Key saying it like that.

Q & A then showed some street interviews in Wellington and showed a variety of responses, including:

Interviewer: We hear people saying that people, especially young people, don’t have a good work ethic, too lazy to work, drug problems…

Young person 1: Oh I’d love a job.

Young person 2: Some people don’t want to hire us because we’ve got criminal convictions.

Young person 1: I’ve got no one to watch my dog, that’s why I don’t, I’ve got no job.

Then three people were interviewed.

  • Hew Dalrymple, farmer and vice chairman of Federated Farmers Maize and Forage
  • Tony Stevens, one of three co-conveners of Stand-up, the young wing of the CTU
  • Calvin Fisher from the Amalgamated Workers Union


My experience has been, especially through the squash industry and harvesting squash, the comparison between the different crews that work behind the harvesting machines is dramatically different.

And probably, I’ll be honest, the biggest problem with the, what I’d describe as perhaps the people that don’t want to come to work is the lack of attendance. So the foreign work crews will be probably fifty and up to a hundred percent more productive. They earn very good money.

And that money is equally available to anybody that’s doing this manual labour.

He says that the best earn over $1000 in the hand per week, and $800-1000 in the hand is common.

The local crews you might end up with ten behind the squash harvester one day, five the next day. We can’t  operate our businesses like that.


Basically what you’re saying is that Kiwi pickers just aren’t reliable, they don’t turn up and they’re not as respectful.


No, some are, so I generalised with that, of course there’s exceptions to the rule, but unfortunately the system that’s in place at the moment is putting people out in that type of work that don’t want to be there in my opinion.

That sounds like an issue that deserves examination but it was not on the Q & A agenda.

Mutch switched to Fisher…

Calvin I want to bring you in on this as well, you’ve put Kiwi workers to some of these farmers, what’s been your experience? What have many of the farmers you’ve spoken to prefer, do they prefer the foreign workers or are they happy to employ New Zealanders.

Fisher: Well it really is a mixed bag…

…and he went on the say that the nature of agricultural work had changed markedly with bigger gangs now required.

Then Mutch switched to Stevens with the issue she was determined to pursue:

Tony I’ll bring you in on this, the Government coming out this week  saying Kiwis are drugged up and too lazy to work…

No, that is what media has said, not the Government.

…what’s you’re experience, what’s your reaction to those comments?

Stevens: Hugely concerned by those comments. You’ve got to think about how we as young people and young workers are receiving that message from out highest office.

Actually it’s a message from media who appear to be misrepresenting what the Government has said.

This is our Prime Minister and Employment Minister basically describing entire generations as being hopeless and on drugs.

That overstates and generalises even more than media.

You know it’s already hard enough to try and enter the labour market as a young worker without having these you know these negative almost ingrained stereotypes so we go in to a job interview and employers already have this perception of us. It makes it very difficult.

I largely think it’s untrue, there are pockets of young workers that may be like that, but um I think that to really make blanket statements about entire generations really doesn’t give us a lot of hope in our Government.

There are plenty of valid criticisms and complaints that can be levelled at the Government.

But I have major concerns if someone representing young workers misrepresents what was actually said so much.

Fisher came in:

I want to pick up on Tony’s comments, I think the generalisation from the Minister was just disgraceful.

Back to Stevens:

Mutch: Tony at the end of the day they have to turn up for work consistently, they have to be drug free, for these examples here are they creating a bad impression for everyone else?

Stevens: Um, yeah, possibly, um but I think it’s still again an over generalisation of an entire workforce.

Stevens then went on to generalise about exploitation of immigrant workers.

Unless I’m missing something said by Woodhouse or Key or the Government it appears to me that some journalists have cherry picked and embellished comments made and have created a week long story out of it.

This has been carried on by Q & A, and interpretations claims made by Stevens in particular have been repeated and not questioned.

This is poor from the media and poor representation of young workers by Stevens if he misrepresents what has been said by Government ministers so much.

I don’t think journalists like Espiner and Mutch are lazy or drug addled, but they appear to me to be misrepresenting what politicians have said, seemingly determined to make stories that are inaccurate and unjustified.

There are important issues around work ethics, immigrant workers, exploitation of workers and unemployment. These have been poorly served by this coverage.

Q & A: