Judith Collins has revved up the child poverty debate, blaming it on, amongst other things, a lack of parental responsibility.
Not surprisingly this has stirred up a lot of debate.
Ms Collins was challenged at the Police Association’s annual conference in Wellington today by a delegate, who said poverty was making law enforcement harder.
The delegate said his officers had been very busy with gangs, which he said were often filled with people who had experienced poverty as children.
Ms Collins responded by saying the government was doing a lot more for child poverty in New Zealand than the UN had ever done.
In New Zealand, there was money available to everyone who needed it, she said.
“It’s not that, it’s people who don’t look after their children, that’s the problem.
“And they can’t look after their children in many cases because they don’t know how to look after their children or even think they should look after their children.”
Monetary poverty was not the only problem, she said.
“I see a poverty of ideas, a poverty of parental responsibility, a poverty of love, a poverty of caring.”
As the MP for Papakura, she saw a lot of those problems in south Auckland, she said.
“And I can tell you it is not just a lack of money, it is primarily a lack of responsibility.
“I know that is not PC, but, you know, that’s me.”
Collins is correct, to an extent, but it is much more complex than her provocative statements acknowledge.
There is not enough money available for many people and many families to have a comfortable lifestyle. Making ends meet is a constant and extremely challenging battle for many.
Poverty of parental responsibility, poverty of love, poverty of caring are all issues adversely affecting many children. But so are mental health issues, drug abuse, health problems. And so are lack of regular reasonably paying job opportunities.
And especially in some areas housing costs and the availability of adequate housing.
I don’t know if Collins also spoke about these things.
But what has been reported has stirred up a storm of condemnation.
But overstating some aspects of a wide ranging problem are hardly any worse than overstating the degree of poverty and the number affected badly. It’s no worse than saying the Government doesn’t care about kids or poor people.
Collins provoked, possible off the cuff, possibly deliberately, and will probably cause a few Government headaches trying to deal with the fallout.
But what she said is no narrower and unfair than many of her and the Government’s critics.
There are serious issues that need to be dealt with better. But long lasting solutions won’t be easy, they won’t be quick and they are unlikely to be cheap.