For a tough decision free New Zealand

On Green anti-poverty campaigner Marama Davidson on RNZ’s Morning Report:

She like her co-leader James Shaw won’t say whether she thinks it’s ok for beneficiaries to break the law.

“I too am not going to judge people. What I would like see, laws that will allow everybody to have enough so they don’t have to make tough decisions.”

From the audio from Green Party re-launches election campaign with ‘Love NZ’

The first elimination of tough decisions is to vote for this care free utopia.

There will be no need for anyone to make tough decisions at all, like how to get things done, and how to finance it.

The rise of Marama Davidson

Marama Davidson has had a rapid rise in politics. She is now the second ranked Green MP, and has just been given the responsibility of heading the Green campaign against poverty.

She is known as a social justice activist.

Davidson has been in Parliament for less than two years. She missed making it in 2014 by one list position (she was 15 on the list). When Russel Normal resigned in November 2015 she became an MP.

Earlier this year Davidson was showing as 13th ranked Green, after another new MP had joined after Kevin Hague resigned last year.

When the Greens’ preliminary list came out in April Davidson came in at 4. She was elevated to number 3 for the ‘final’ list, but that has changed now Metiria Turei has withdrawn from the list.

Yesterday in a relaunch of the Green election campaign sole leader James Shaw number the Green number 2 as one of a new caucus leadership team. Davidson has been put in charge of the Green poverty policy, effectively taking over this responsibility from Turei.

From Davidson’s bio (from the Green website):

Marama’s parents met as young, urban Māori activists; she was literally born into the movement.  However, it was Marama’s ten year career at the Human Rights Commission that brought life to her activist and social justice foundations.

Marama worked part-time as the Chief Panelist for the Glenn Inquiry into Domestic Violence and Child Abuse.  Her involvement in the inquiry has placed violence at the forefront of her political radar.  Marama supports the compassionate and necessary work that MP Jan Logie leads around violence, and longs for a day when we can call Aotearoa violence free.

As well as supporting movements on the ground, Marama is also an online activist.  She has a powerful presence on social media, which she sees as a great way to vocalise important issues and to engage with the community.  She is a blogger, and writes about social justice, Māori politics, women’s rights and more.

Marama is passionate about all areas of injustice, and is committed to using her voice wherever she can to elevate issues.  She is inspired by community leaders who do the hard work and stay connected to the issues and the people in their neighbourhoods.

“I am enthusiastic and excited about making change that honours our connection to each other, and our planet”

She is the Green spokesperson for Māori Development, Social Housing, Human Rights and Pacific Peoples.

In October 2016, Davidson took part in the Women’s Peace Flotilla, which intended to highlight the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Davidson is active in social media. her reaction to Turei’s stepping down:

And active in campaigning:

Also on Facebook:

Today I spoke to people waiting in the long lines outside of both the Manurewa and the Clendon offices of Work and Income.

The photo below was supposed to be a selfie with just me and the office door. I don’t like to expose people who might be treated cruelly in public.

But Kataraina went out of her way to run over to me after I’d spoken with people in the line about our Green Party plans to end poverty. And after I’d spoken to people about what happened to Metiria.

She insisted on being in the photo with me. She insisted on being named. I told her that I wanted to post my photo publicly and that I didn’t want her to be in it.

She looked me in the eyes and had to spell it out: she wanted to be in the photo.

So who am I to take her voice away. She wanted her voice to count.

I enrolled lots of people to vote this morning. I gave out flyers about how we will end poverty, starting with increasing benefits and removing benefit sanctions. I asked people to vote, and to vote for the Green Party so we can make peoples voices count.

End poverty. Take our country back from cruelty.

We’ve had a rough week. We’re determined now more than ever.

Her last speech in Parliament:

Davidson will ensure that the Green campaign against poverty continues with some emphasis.

Having representatives like Davidson in Parliament is good. Time will tell, possibly, how she would do as a Minister.

 

Solidarity and resistance?

This is an odd call for support for the Greens resetting and restarting their campaign after a disastrous couple of weeks.

Odd solidarity with no James Shaw in that photo – I wonder if that is deliberate. He is supposed to now be the sole leader, heading efforts to rebuild a tattered party.

The post is by ‘weka’: The Greens: solidarity and resistance

Solidarity and resistance sounds like it comes from a century ago, when poverty was far more widespread and worse, and social welfare barely existed.

The Greens are an enigma for some, and this is understandable because they don’t fit into the neat political boxes that the establishment deem real. They also are an inherent challenge to the establishment just because of who they are, so we can’t expect those part of the MSM invested in retaining the status quo to tell the story straight.

In my opinion it’s always better initially to listen to what the Greens have to say themselves. Here are the words of Green Party people speaking in the past few days,

Green MP Marama Davidson,

We will not forget the thousands of you who came to us with your stories of hardship.

This is just the start. All of your voices, the voices who came to us in trust and faith – are our priority. Ending poverty is a priority. We have the plan, and the political will, and most of all we have every single one of your stories driving us on.

We are 100% behind our sole co-leader James Shaw who will take us through the rest of this election. We are 100% behind Metiria who will continue what she started in her ongoing campaign for the party vote. We are 100% behind our strive to ensure that everyone can live dignified lives.

Green MP Jan Logie speaking on Back Benches,

I tell you something. We are going to NOT let (Metiria’s) sacrifice go for nothing. We are going to double down and do everything we can to make that worthwhile. To end poverty.

Double down on a disastrous own goal that has severely weakened the Greens?

James Shaw, co-leader of the Green Party (video at 4 mins)

I am committed to ending poverty in this country.

We are the party that aims to end poverty. Frankly everybody else is interested in tinkering around the edges. We’re the only party that’s drawn a line in the sand and said we know what it takes to lift 212,000 children above the poverty line.

That was to be really clear that the Greens are still strong on the kaupapa of ending poverty.

For the people on the look out for the environmental side, there’s a plethora of solid Green Policy already in place and based around NZ becoming world leaders on climate action, cleaning up our rivers, and ending poverty.

Metiria Turei started the Green Party campaign last month with a speech that started the temporary rise and then dramatic fall of the Greens (and precipitated a dramatic turnaround for the better for Labour).

Green MPs and Green supporters were blind to the risks and to the damage being done to their party. They attacked anyone who pointed out their problems or who criticised Turei or the party. They happily criticised and rejected two of their own MPs who were troubled by integrity issues.

If they want to ignore all of the problems the brought upon themselves, or just blame others – in particular the media which is seen as just a part of the establishment to be resisted – then I don’t like their chances of repairing the substantial damage they have caused themselves.

No matter how Shaw tries to repackage the Green campaign today, if the Green supporters who remain active continue the Metiria mission it may take an election disaster to get the message through.

If Greens generally follow the gist of what weka has posted through the campaign then I think there’s a real chance of them dropping through the threshold and crashing out of Parliament altogether.

That would be a real shame, but the Greens seem intent on doubling down – and down, and down.

Calling for solidarity and resistance may turn the Greens around, but it could also make a disaster permanent for the socialist sisterhood.

Turei game changer

Metiria Turei has changed the election campaign game, possibly substantially. But it’s not possible to tell what the end result will be as coverage and opinions evolve.

In his NBR column yesterday Matthew Hooton claimed:

“Private pollsters reported the initial response …was a loss to both the Greens and Labour and a gain to NZ First.”

“But her story has since changed from being about feeding her children to having fun, earning the condemnation of her political rivals. That criticism has led to a recovery for the Greens at the expense of Labour.”

If accurate that means a gain for NZ First, a loss then recovery for Greens, and a double whammy for Labour. The way many are writing off Labour now they are a hopeless case.

But I expect reaction to Turei’s game changer to keep changing, possibly right up to the election. Greens seem to be committed to pushing it as hard as they can, but opponents will no doubt push the negatives hard through the campaign.

ODT sums up the current situation (and doubts) in Game-changer or game over?

This was not a personal indiscretion, or a one-off mistake that could be put down to the innocence of youth, however. It involved active lying over a period of years in order to get taxpayer money to which she was not entitled. Ms Turei was studying law at the time. She should have known better. There was also an amnesty for beneficiaries at the time (although she said she was unaware of that). The fraud may have helped her and her child live more comfortably, but did others miss out because of her actions?

Ms Turei is now advocating for others who are breaking the law when it comes to their benefit entitlements. MPs are not above the law, even if they do make the laws, and they should not condone or promote illegal activity.

As well as advocating for law breaking – something both Andrew Little and Jacinda Ardern have been critical of – Green policy is to boost benefits and ask no questions about circumstances like flatmates and work and living with partners that can currently affect benefits.

Tracey Watkins in  Extreme politics, minor party style:

The Greens want to lift benefits by 20 per cent while scrapping all sanctions, including penalties for women who fail to reveal the name of their child’s father, or sole parents who want to begin a long-term relationship. For a period of up to three years sole parents could even continue to claim the DPB while living with a working – or even wealthy – partner.

In other words, they will prevent further rorting/law breaking by effectively allowing just about anything. This is troubling.

But on the other side of the argument from the ODT:

However, Ms Turei is making a valid point —  that current benefits are not enough to adequately live on. By sharing her own story she has brought the issue into the spotlight.

The issue of poverty in New Zealand deserves more serious scrutiny. New Zealanders should feel uncomfortable about it and the desperate measures people are being driven to. It seems we have become immune to the reports.

Yet we should be appalled at the fact hundreds of thousands of children are living in poverty, that families are  sleeping in cars, tents, garages and other sub-standard accommodation because they cannot find or afford housing in our supposedly “rock star economy”.

We should be appalled there are many who turn to dangerous substances and reckless behaviour because that is the only “high” point in their lives. We should be querying what part poverty and desperation play in crime — and in punishment.

Are we too hard on our most vulnerable and too easy on those already at the top? Have we got the balance right in our supposedly egalitarian society?

Ms Turei’s disclosure has changed the conversation around these issues — as it should.

This is something we as a society should have a good think and debate about, and then decide whether we can find a better balance.

I think we can and should do better. I think that there’s quite a bit of similar sentiment amongst the public – but it only goes so far.

I think there could be a lot of support for providing more help for those who are struggling in New Zealand.

But I suspect that many will have a problem with giving people substantially more money with no responsibility required to try and help themselves.

However debate on this isn’t going to happen effectively during a highly charged election campaign.

However, she has made an error of judgement. Now on a handsome salary of $175,000 as a party leader, she should have offered to pay back her illegitimate takings from the State at the same time she made her declaration. Not doing so has called into question her integrity, even as she tried to be transparent about her previous transgressions and raise awareness of poverty in New Zealand.

That hypocrisy may come back to haunt her if the Work and Income investigation draws out. However, her actions could yet energise a marginalised  sector of the community to vote for change. Move over Winston Peters, this could yet prove to be New Zealand’s Trump/Brexit gamechanger.

Or not. We simply can’t know at this stage what the voters as a whole will decide in a bit over a month. Polls may give us a hint but there could easily be shifts in how people see this issue right up until September 23.

Turei has changed the campaign game, but it’s too soon to tell where the goalposts are, who is heading for them, and who might score an own goal.

 

“Green Party will lift families out of poverty”

Policy announced by green co-leader Metiria Turei today:—

The Green Party has released a plan today to ensure no New Zealander will live in poverty, whether they are working or on a benefit.

The families package, announced today at the Party’s AGM, will increase all benefits by 20 percent, boost Working For Families and raise the minimum wage. It will lift the incomes of more than 500,000 low and middle income Kiwi families. It also removes all financial penalties and excessive sanctions that beneficiaries currently face.

Tax reform will ensure everyone who earns less than $150,000 a year is better off, by reducing the bottom tax rate to 9 percent and putting in place a new top tax rate of 40 percent on income over $150,000.

“These are the most significant changes to our welfare system in a generation,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.

“Our plan will lift people out of poverty and guarantee a basic, liveable income for anyone working or on a benefit.

“These changes will make a huge difference to the 190,000 thousand Kiwi kids whose families rely on a benefit to get by, and to all working families struggling to make ends meet.

“We will end the punitive culture at MSD, which punishes people through benefit sanctions, abatements and investigations. Rather than providing people with ‘incentives’, it traps them in a cycle of poverty and puts children’s wellbeing at risk.

“We believe that poverty should never be used as a weapon, especially when children are involved.

“Our plan to mend the safety net will ensure that all families in New Zealand can afford to put food on the table, keep a roof over their head and pay their power bill.

“Working For Families has been slowly undermined after nine years of National, and our plan will help low income families, by increasing the value of Working For Families and lowering the bottom tax rate.

“Our social safety net should provide effective support for people who need it, while they need it. The Green Party in government will make this a priority,” said Mrs Turei.

Outcomes of the welfare, Working for Families, and tax reform package include:

  • A sole parent on a benefit, with two school-age children, and no paid employment: $179.62 better off every week.
  • A sole parent receiving the Student Allowance, with two children, and part time work on just above minimum wage: $176.15 better off every week.
  • A single person receiving Jobseeker support: $42.20 better off every week.
  • A two parent family, with one working parent on the median income, with three children: $104.42 better off every week.
  • Two parents, both receiving Jobseeker support, with three children: $207.46 better off every week.
  • A two parent family, both earning the median income of 48,000, with three children: $130.19 better off every week.
  • Two parents, one in paid work earning $70,000 a year, with two children: $87.85 better off every week.

Green Party Family Incomes Full Policy

Green Party Family Incomes Policy Overview 

Also Mending the Safety Net – Metiria Turei’s speech to the Green Party 2017 AGM


Fiscal impact:

Modelling assuming National’s ‘families package’ does not take effect:

  • Total cost of “fixing benefits and Working for Families” – $1.468 million
  • Tax reform a small net positive fiscal impact – $163.4 million
  • Reducing WINZ’s spending on investigating beneficiaries – save $35 million

No costing on the possible impact of more people choosing not to work and live off a benefit.

No costing on increasing the minimum wage.

They will remove all obligations and sanctions “that create an excessive burden on people”. So it will be a no questions asked benefit policy?

The Nation – Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft

This morning  on The Nation – Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft “on child poverty, secure youth facilities, and should kids get more of a say in policy making”.

From the Office of  the Children’s Commissioner website:

Our Work: We advocate for the interests and well being of children and young people.

Children’s Rights: We provide advice to people who are concerned about a child or young person’s rights or wellbeing.


“We’ve had a problem for thirty years now, 70% of kids do well, 20% do badly and 10% do very badly”.

“I don’t think most NZers know how bad it is at the bad end”.

“We need a plan, we need targets, we need progress’.

We have a target to halve child poverty by 2030.

The Government says it is too hard to have a single measure but Becroft disagrees. He thinks we are in a muddle. We need as a country to make the target seriously, and that means setting other targets.

Says benefits should be indexed, much like Super.

Child poverty: “We could solve this issue… it’s within our ability if we had the will” Judge Becroft.

We don’t do enough to factor in children’s voices in decision making.

Should solo mums have their benefits docked if they don’t name the father? Becroft says it disadvantages kid.

Should 16 and 17 year olds be able to vote? Becroft says we should think about it.

Too many kids in the youth court had their brains scrambled by cannabis.

An inquiry into abuse in state care? Becroft hasn’t publicly supported this because his agency has been involved in the past. A key emphasis is on making things better in the future.

Interview:  Andrew Becroft

Transcript:  Lisa Owen interviews Andrew Becroft

Labour’s commitments “can be funded out of existing tax revenue”

Labour leader Andrew Little says that any Labour policies can be funded out of existing and forecast revenues and tax rates won’t be changed.

In an interview on The Nation Little made commitments of sorts on not raising taxes:

We are not planning on any tax changes for the 2017 election. We will finely calibrate what we do once we see what the Government does in its foreshadowed tax changes, which we assume will be in this year’s budget, but who knows?

They are not planning any tax changes now but who knows what they might plan after the budget?

So we are focused and we are talking to New Zealanders about and I will make commitments to New Zealanders about the problems that are here and now. And the commitments that we’re making – all of them – can be funded out of existing tax revenue. That’s what we’re focused on. That’s we’re campaigning on.

So we will have to wait and see how Labour proposes to finance it’s policies. They have already talked about:

  • Resuming contributions to the Super fund and leaving the increase in costs of Super as they are.
  • Funding more police.
  • More health funding.
  • More education funding.
  • Increase social housing and state housing
  • Kiwibuild will build 100,000 new houses over 10 years (eventually self funding)
  • Labour said it would bring in three years of free post-school education over a person’s lifetime costing $1.2 billion a year by 2025 (the first year funded from money earmarked by the government for tax cuts).

So if National announce tax cuts or threshold adjustments Labour would overturn them or use them to fund policies?

Also:

Lisa Owens: Another thing is the Children’s Commissioner. He wants the Government to commit to a target of lowering the number of children in severe hardship by 10% over a period of 12 months. Will you commit right now to meeting that target?

Andrew Little: Ye—Two things we’re going to do. We will have a child poverty measure that we’re going to commit to, and I’ve already said every budget we will report on how we’re going against that measure, and we are absolutely determined to reduce child poverty in the way that the Children’s Commissioner is talking about.

…Yeah, because I think his figure is roughly 150,000-odd, and lowering that by 10% – I mean, yeah, if we can’t do that and we’re not prepared to commit to that – and I say we are – then, you know, we’ve got something seriously wrong going on.

That hasn’t been costed yet.

And it has to be remembered that Labour will need at least NZ First or Greens (or both) to form the next Government. They will want some of their own policies in the mix. Policies that are likely to cost extra money.

Any policy costings by Labour are pointless on their own. The cost of a change of Government needs to include likely NZ First and Green policy costs on top of Labour’s own.

It’s even possible that Labour will put forward a “no tax increase” policy but then ditch that in post-election negotiations with NZ First and Greens.

Financial credibility is likely to be a major election issue. Little will have to have some good answers to the inevitable questions of affordability of policies of a Labour led coalition that Labour may only have half the voting power in.

 

A different sort of poverty

Poverty is now promoted as a social and political issue in New Zealand, and there are genuine concerns about people and families who are struggling for various reasons.

But here is a reminder of different sort of poverty on an awful scale.

 

Child poverty and parental responsibility

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.

RNZ: ‘I see… a poverty of parental responsibility’

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.

Poll on issues and immigration

IPSOS immigration poll:

Right-wing voters and long-term immigrants are less pro-immigration. Recent, pro-immigration people are more likely to be from India, whereas the long-term migrants who are mainly from the UK are now less favourable towards immigration.

Curia has a summary of an Ipsos poll on immigration:

Most important issues:

ipsospollnzissues

On immigration:

ipsospollnzimmigration

Also (via Curia):

  • A net 52% agree immigration should be targeted at professions with shortages
  • A net 48% say refugees can become highly valued contributors to society
  • A net 35% say immigration has made NZ a more interesting place to live
  • A net 28% say immigration is good for the economy
  • A net 30% agree immigration has placed too much pressure on public services
  • A net 15% are confident most refugees will integrate
  • A net 12% say immigration has made it harder for those here to get jobs
  • A net 10% say there are too many immigrants in NZ
  • A net 10% say terrorists who pretend to be refugees will enter NZ
  • A net 7% say immigrants are often better workers than those already here
  • A net -15% want an increase in the number of refugees
  • A net -35% say the number of immigrants who can move here should increase
  • A net -40% want no refugees accepted at all

There were 16545 people surveyed in 23 countries, including New Zealand.

• The New Zealand data was collected via one single survey of 505 adults. Some questions were omitted and some added, to ensure better suitability for the New Zealand context.

That’s a relatively small sample size.

The IPSOS survey summaries:

  • Housing affordability, cost of living and poverty concern the most New Zealanders, but age and political views influence people’s concerns.
  • Older people are more likely to say that immigration to New Zealand has increased a lot.
  • New Zealanders are much more likely to say immigration has had a positive impact.
  • New Zealand-born people have a more negative view of immigration than immigrants.
  • New Zealanders are generally positive about immigrants, but 53% feel they are pressuring public services and 54% do not want an increase in immigration numbers.
  • New Zealanders are less likely than most to feel that there are too many immigrants, but 53% agree that they are causing pressure.
  • Although 45% of New Zealanders feel that immigration has made it difficult to get jobs, New Zealanders are the most likely to feel that immigration has been good for the economy.
  • New Zealanders are the most likely to say immigrants with higher education should be given priority to fill skill shortages and that they make New Zealand a more interesting place to live.
  • Seasoned travellers and immigrants are more open and positive towards immigrants, while those New Zealandborn and poorly travelled are more ‘anti’.
  • Right-wing voters and long-term immigrants are less pro-immigration. Recent, pro-immigration people are more likely to be from India, whereas the long-term migrants who are mainly from the UK are now less favourable towards immigration.
  • While the majority of New Zealanders believe refugees can integrate well and contribute a lot, there is a concern about terrorism and little appetite for increasing the refugee intake.
  • New Zealanders are much less likely than those in the other countries surveyed to say ‘close our borders entirely’.
  • New Zealanders are much less likely to say terrorists pretending to be refugees will enter the country to cause havoc.
  • New Zealanders tend to be more confident about refugees’ ability to integrate.
  • Only 14% of New Zealanders knew the correct number of refugees allowed into NZ each year. 22% overestimated the number.
  • Those who over-estimate the size of the NZ refugee intake have a more negative view of refugees’ ability to contribute to society and likelihood to be terrorists.
    Those who over-estimate the size of the NZ refugee intake have a more negative view of refugees’ ability to integrate into NZ society and are more likely to feel we should stop admitting ALL refugees.
  • Most in EU countries think Britain was wrong to leave, for both Britain and the EU. New Zealanders are less concerned and Australians even less so.
  • New Zealanders are the most concerned about the effects on Britain than any other non-EU country surveyed, and are more concerned than Australians.
  • New Zealanders are the most concerned about the effects on the EU than any other non-EU country surveyed, and are more certain than Australians.
  • New Zealanders are more saddened and worried about future arising from the Brexit vote than Australians, who are also less likely to have an opinion.
  • 27% of New Zealanders believe that the Brexit vote will be bad for the New Zealand economy.
  • New Zealanders are more likely than those in EU countries themselves to think that the EU’s influence on the world stage will be reduced. Australians are less concerned.
  • Of all the non-EU countries surveyed, New Zealanders were the most likely to feel that both the UK and EU will become weaker post-Brexit.
  • The majority of New Zealanders felt that both the UK and the EU will become more divided and less integrated over time.

I think the poll questions on Brexit have little value here. My guess is that most New Zealanders will have only a vague knowledge at best of what Brexit was about, and our opinion is pointless anyway.

Curia has a link to the full poll details at  Ipsos poll on immigration