Green Party announce Poverty policy

The Green Party have made their first big policy announcement for the election campaign, and with Marama Davidson ranked #1 it has a social focus.

A Guaranteed Minimum Income “no matter what” is quite controversial.

The new ACC (Agency for Comprehensive Care) needs more detail. It suggests that someone on a benefit or student support who gets injured or sick could get paid a minimum of 80% of the full time minimum wage – if this is on a no questions asked basis (the Greens call it ‘no matter what’) it could be open to a lot of abuse.

RNZ:  Green Party unveils plans to tackle poverty

Davidson said the Green Party’s Poverty Action plan would “replace our outdated, unfair and unliveable welfare system with real, unconditional support for us all”.

With the Greens in government, ACC would be reformed into an “Agency for Comprehensive Care”, she said. It would support people who were injured or sick with at least 80 percent of the minimum full time wage, or up to 80 percent of the salary of the job they had to leave,

“Gone will be the days where people are asked to provide humiliating proof again and again and again”, she said.

In regards to funding the Poverty Action Plan, Davidson said those with a lot of wealth would “pay it forward”.

“If you’re a millionaire, for the wealth you have over that one million dollars, you will pay a one percent contribution. That will increase to a two percent contribution for wealth over two million dollars.”

It would take the Greens to get into Government, and to have a coalition partner (Labour) to agree to all of this, plus to not have NZ First in Government.

Poverty Action Plan

Our Poverty Action Plan will completely change the way we support people in New Zealand so when people ask for help, they get it. It overhauls the broken welfare system and guarantees that everyone who needs it, no matter what, has a minimum income they can rely on.

Sign on to our plan to show your support for this bold policy for change. 

Here’s how our Poverty Action Plan works for all of us:

  • Guaranteed Minimum Income of $325 per week for students and people out of work, no matter what.
  • Universal Child Benefit for kids under three of $100 per week.
  • A simplified Family Support Credit of $190 per week for the first child and $120 per week for subsequent children to replace the Working for Families tax credits with a higher abatement threshold and lower abatement rate.
  • Additional support for single parents through a $110 per week top-up.
  • Reforming ACC to become the Agency for Comprehensive Care, creating equitable social support for everyone with a work-impairing health condition or disability, with a minimum payment of 80% of the full time minimum wage.
  • Changes to abatement and relationship rules so people can earn more from paid work before their income support entitlements are reduced.
  • A 1% wealth tax for those with a net-worth over $1 million.
  • And two new top income tax brackets (for those earning over $100,000 and $150,000) for a more progressive tax system which redistributes wealth.

They have started a ‘petition’ promoting this plan, but that is simply a contact harvesting ploy that parties commonly use. It would serve no purpose beyond party promotions.

There is no indication how much this policy would cost.

Unless Greens get a huge increase in support and votes there is little likelihood this policy would run as it is.

The Greens are taking a risk with this policy given the collapse in their support and the political self destruction of Metiria Turei last election over social welfare.

Budget falls short of child poverty targets

This year’s budget was promoted as a Wellbeing Budget, but it has been criticised for not moving far enough towards addressing things that will improve the well being of the less well off, especially children.

Newsroom:  Budget moves not nearly enough to meet child poverty targets

This is the first Budget under the new Child Poverty Reduction Act rules. The Act is perhaps one of the most concrete and far-reaching changes the Government has introduced. From 2019 on, the Minister of Finance must report each year on progress towards preannounced three-year and ten-year child poverty reduction targets.

So how did Grant Robertson go first time out? How much progress towards cutting poverty was there actually in the Budget? The short answer is a bit, but almost certainly not enough to meet all three short-term targets by the deadline of June 2021.

The big Budget announcement was to index main benefit rates to changes in average wages rather than just the Consumer Price Index. It’s a great move, one which the Welfare Experts Advisory Group, and many other commentators in the field have called for. It means that part of the welfare system will keep pace with growth in wages instead of slipping further and further behind.

Approximately 55 percent of children in poverty live in households reliant on benefit as their main source of income. Indexation of the benefit to wages is an important long-term change, but indexation to inadequate basic rates is not enough. It will simply not be feasible to address child poverty without either (or both) raising benefit rates or the Working for Families tax credits paid to parents on benefit. We did not see either of these in this first Wellbeing Budget.

A budget is a budget, not an open chequebook as some seem to want it to be, Minister of Finance Grant Robertson has done a pretty good job of balancing economic prudence with the pressures to spend more on a wide range of things.

The last government was already nudging things towards more ‘social conscience’ spending. The current government has nudged things a bit more. Perhaps they will push things further towards wellbeing in the next budget, which is in election year.

‘Extreme poverty’ declined by 78% in last forty years

Poverty is a big issue these days, but it depends on what sort of or degree of poverty.

‘Neoliberalism’ is blamed for poverty (and many other things), but it hasn’t been all bad.

Neoliberalism is often used as a dirty word in political discussions in New Zealand, but it has coincided with significant progress on poverty around the world.

In fact, the economic liberalization and globalization that started in the late 1970s and accelerated in the 1980s, has led to a massive and historically unprecedented decline in global poverty.

Let us look at the global picture first. In 1981, the year Ronald Reagan became America’s 40th President, 44.3 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty (i.e., less than $1.90 per person per day). Last year, it was 9.6 percent. That’s a decline of 78 percent. In East Asia, a region of the world that includes China, 80.6 percent of people lived in extreme poverty. Today, 4.1 percent do—a 95 percent reduction. Even in sub-Saharan Africa, a relatively under-performing region, the share of the population living on less than $1.9 per day dropped by 38 percent.

Economic and social changes in the last forty years have certainly seen some adverse effects, but there have also been benefits for many people – billions of people.

We have negligible extreme poverty in New Zealand. There are significant numbers of people who find things economically and socially tough, but political arguments here about poverty tend more towards and get confused with seeking equality.

After a year how transformative has the Labour-led Government been?

Not much, yet.

The Labour-NZ First-Green government is now a year old. Thomas Coughlan at Newsroom asks whether the current Government is truly a government of change – One year on: Change worthy of its name?

Transformation is a word we hear a lot to describe this Government.

The Government’s speech from the throne promised a “government of transformation”, and followed that up in May with a Budget that Finance Minister Grant Robertson said was “the first steps in a plan for transformation”.

The second word we hear a lot is “transition”.

What they mean to say is “government of change”, which was Ardern’s wording in what became known as her reset speech, which she made in September.

All governments change things, and the world changes. The pertinent question here is whether Ardern and her government are living up to her hype.

The Government has finished just 18 KiwiBuild homes (although it has started construction on more), the waitlist for social housing has grown, and the $2.8 billion investment in fees-free tertiary education hasn’t changed enrolment numbers, although the University of Auckland has tumbled down global league tables.

As for climate change, apparently our “nuclear-free moment”, under the current Government, big dairy can still dial up a a $600 million M. Bovis bailout for a self-inflicted crisis, while the much-lauded Green Investment Fund gets just $100 million.

Nuclear-free moment? Pardon me, but I think I can smell the methane on your breath …

The problem for this Government is that it knows what change looks like and it’s afraid.

It knows that true change is ugly and real people get hurt.

People living under the big-change governments of the 1980s knew they were living in a time of massive change.

So, can Ardern be kind and transformative at the same time?

One year on, we’ve seen this Government’s definition of change.

With the exception of KiwiBuild, its flagship change policies signal change in direction without enacting specific policy.

Supporters say this means the change will be more lasting – and they’re probably right. Both the Child Poverty Reduction Bill and the Zero Carbon Bill have bipartisan support, meaning they will likely survive into the future. Likewise, the Wellbeing Framework has the potential to change how we look at the economy, although proof of that is many years away.

But, especially on the issue of climate change, its slowly-softly policy platform absolves the current Government from making any of the tough decisions necessary when implementing change.

It’s an unpalatable truth that change means picking losers as much as picking winners.

The question hanging over the Government now is whether there is time to implement what it calls a “just transition”, to a halcyon economy of low unemployment, high productivity, and fair incomes.

“Just transition” is essentially the oil and gas exploration ban writ large — big change, but slowly. But a just transition doesn’t need to be slow and there’s nothing just about waiting 30 years for house prices to stabilise.

Just transitions could mean using the power of the welfare state to cushion the pain of change, like the governments of the 1980s should have done.

There’s little room to be complacent. The window of opportunity is closing.

Change is the sword of Damocles hanging over all our governments. And while this Government thinks the lesson from the 1980s is that slow change is best, it would be wise to pay attention to the other lesson from that decade: governments are not the only agents of change and those who fail to act in time will often find their hand forced by events.

Governments are always forced by events to act. They need to manage forced change along with reforming or transformative change, if they can.

In their first year the Government has changed some things, but they have only talked about most changes they propose, and it’s still not clear what they are going to change this term as they await the outcome of their many working groups/inquiries etc.

Also from Newsroom – One year in: the fault lines ahead

The first anniversary has provided a chance for Ardern and her team to look back on their successes and failures so far – but what challenges lay in wait for them before the next election?

Here are some of the fault lines the Government may need to navigate if it is to hold onto power in 2020:

Waterfall of working groups

National’s gleeful mockery of the coalition’s working group fixation seemed a little insincere at the start, given the party was not averse to the odd policy review and panel during its first term.

However, there is a kernel of truth in that the Government is now waiting on the results of numerous inquiries into some critical policy areas, some of which will not report back until just before the next election, until it takes action.

As the reports and recommendations trickle in, the potential bill for implementing all that is asked for will slowly mount up.

Justice reform:

The Government’s plans to shake up the criminal justice system loom as perhaps its highest-risk, highest-reward reforms.

If Justice Minister Andrew Little and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis succeed, the prison population will be reduced by 30 percent within a decade, addressing what Bill English once called the “moral and fiscal failure” of prisons.

However, National’s cries of the coalition being “soft on crime” provide a taste of its likely campaign against any firm proposals for reform, as well as the outcry which may result from any crimes following law changes (no matter their merit on balance).

Tax reform:

Part of that proliferation of working groups, but worthy of mention in its own right, is the Government’s Tax Working Group – a political slow-burner that could divide the coalition right up to the next election.

Chaired by former finance minister Michael Cullen, it will present its final report on the future of New Zealand’s tax system next February.

However, the Government has committed to putting any recommendations from the group to the electorate in 2020, meaning any changes would not be implemented until at least April 2021.

The sticking point is the issue of a capital gains tax.

So at best this will be a plan for transformation put to voters at the next election.

Climate change

It’s one thing to call climate change the nuclear moment of our generation, it’s another to do something about it.

Climate Change Minister, and Green co-leader, James Shaw said the IPCC report was broadly in line with the Government’s direction on climate change. But talk, as they say, is cheap.

There have been some climate-related policy changes, including a ban on new oil and gas permits and the establishment of a $100 million green investment fund. Also in the wings are a Zero Carbon Bill, emissions trading scheme changes and the creation of a Climate Change Commission.

The biggest pressure on the Government is its own rhetoric. Those disappointed by the environmental record of Helen Clark’s Labour-led coalition will be looking to the Green Party to push the Government into taking stronger, tangible steps.

Ardern has talked big on climate change, but we are yet to see how her Government will transform things.

Also, not mentioned in the Newsroom article, is another issue that Ardern has staked her reputation on, child poverty. Her Government quickly increased some benefits, but there has not been much sign of a revolution on poverty yet.

The Government has another two years to prove to voters that they are capable of walking the walk and delivering meaningful transformation at the same time as they competently manage normal management and also dealing with things that are thrown at them.

Greens also have a lot at stake – they have talked about a green revolution for long enough. They have to deliver something significant to justify voters’ trust in them.

NZ First probably just need to deliver Winston Peters to the voting papers for the party to survive.

As a whole the Government has been far more talk (and working group) than walk.  They may end up sprinting to the next election hoping voters will pass them the baton for another term.

Working towards a poverty free utopia

Having a fair and equal-ish society is a good ideal to aspire to, but it’s difficult and complicated.

Poverty, and things like health, housing and education inequalities are not just things that money can fix, whether it be Government money used to try to fix problems, or income level;s for individuals and families.

Things like drug and alcohol abuse, family and public violence and sexual abuse are often intergenerational problems that can’t be quickly or easily fixed.

But of course we should try to better – our government should, or society should, our families should.

What is achievable?

Rod Oram at Newsroom: How to solve our paradox of poverty and plenty

Just taking money off people with plenty and giving it to people with relative poverty is not going to work, even if politicians tried  – they keep moving in that direction, but only so far.

Now we have an economy that fails to pay many a reasonable wage or meet their material needs; that is driven by unsustainable debt, production and consumption; that rapidly degrades our ecosystem on which we depend, as documented by Environment Aotearoa 2015, the Government’s first comprehensive evaluation of our ecosystem.

On our current trajectory, all those will get worse. But again, we are not alone. Those are the characteristics of the global economy, albeit we give our own expression to them such as the rapid expansion of dairy farming and international tourism.

In the future, should we choose, we can have an economy that provides a high standard of living in financial and physical terms, in deeply sustainable ways; and we can do so in ways that make sense for who we are as a diverse nation founded on Treaty of Waitangi principles, for the nature of our land and oceans, and for our destiny as a distinctive, tiny country in a teeming world hungry for inspiration and innovation.

Oram is not a politician, nor is he, I presume, someone suffering from significant deprivation or poverty. he’s more of an academic keyboard solution writer – but still worth reading.

Seven big shifts are needed

Raworth lays out seven big shifts we need to make:

  • From defining progress as GDP growth, which is an exceptionally narrow economic metric that excludes social and environmental outcomes, to defining it as “meeting the needs of all within the means of the planet.”
  • From narrowly defining the economy as a self-contained market, to seeing it embedded in, contributing to and dependent on society and the ecosystem.
  • From fixating on the “rational economic man’ to appreciating and responding to the diversity of human behaviours which include inter-dependence, reciprocity, and adaptability to the people and circumstances around us.
  • From simple supply-demand equilibrium in markets to the dynamic complexity of economies, societies and ecosystems.
  • From the flawed hope that growth will reduce inequalities to ensuring all people share in the means of creating wealth and receive their fair share of the rewards.
  • From believing growth will enable us to clean up the mess we’ve made to redesigning our use of natural resources, our products, service and economies so they contribute to the regeneration of the ecosystem.
  • From addiction to endless growth to creating economies that thrive and deliver for people and the planet without necessarily growing.

Many of us Kiwis want to progress, as do billions of other people around the world. We want to be wealthier in all senses of the word, economically, socially, culturally and environmentally. But we know we won’t achieve those reasonable goals by working the way we do now.

In everything we do we need to ask ourselves how do we work with nature not against it?

Working better with nature is just a part of what we need to do.

Poor people tend to concentrate on surviving, getting by day to day as best they they can, and tend to not worry too much about greater ideals.

You can take a poor person to the supermarket, but you can’t make them buy only healthy eco-friendly products with no plastic.

Oram has a number of suggestions about farming, urban design, energy and forestry. He concludes:

We cannot take for granted our urgently needed transformation. It requires us to achieve an unprecedented speed of change, scale of change and complexity of change we have never come within cooee of before. To do so, we have to be a confident, ambitious, learning and inclusive nation so everyone can contribute to and benefit from becoming deeply sustainable.

Sounds ok in theory. Has he got a magic wand?

Changing some things at an unprecedented speed may be good, even necessary, but it won’t be without hardships and adverse effects and unintended consequences.

Above all three attributes are essential to us a nation: common sense of what we need to do, common purpose as to how we will do it, and common wealth from sharing the rewards widely.

I wonder what Oram is doing about it other than writing.

As grand as Jacinda Ardern’s ambitions sound (to some) there is no sign of the current Government coming close to following Oram’s pathway to Utopia.

There is Paradise in New Zealand, but it’s in the remote Dart Valley, beyond Glenorchy at the head of Lake Wakitipu.

It won’t be easy getting us all there and living happily together.

World poverty

Many people claim or believe that poverty its a either an unresolved problem or a growing problem, but statistics show that it has improved substantially.

From HumanProgress: Five Graphs that Will Change Your Mind About Poverty

In 1820, more than 90 per cent of the world population lived on less than $2 a day and more than 80 per cent lived on less than $1 a day (adjusted for inflation and differences in purchasing power). By 2015, less than 10 per cent of people lived on less than $1.90 a day, the World Bank’s current official definition of extreme poverty.

Not only has the percentage of people living in poverty declined, but the number of people in poverty has fallen as well – despite massive population growth. There are also more people alive who are not in penury than there have ever been. From 1820 to 2015, the number of people in extreme poverty fell from over a billion to 700 million, while the number of people better off than that rose from a mere 60 million to 6.6 billion.

Globally, poverty is about a quarter of what it was in 1990. And the graph below from Johan Norberg’s excellent book, Progress: 10 Reasons to Look Forward to the Future, illustrates how the decline of extreme poverty has raised living standards and brought about other tangible improvements. As poverty has lessened, so have child mortality, illiteracy, and even pollution in wealthy countries – all are now less than half of what they were in 1990. Hunger has also become much rarer.

If progress continues on its current trajectory, the Brookings Institution estimated in 2013 that extreme poverty (this time defined as living on $1.25 a day, again adjusted for inflation and differences in purchasing power) will all but vanish by 2030, affecting only 5 per cent of the global population. This is what they considered to be the “baseline” or most likely scenario. In the best-case scenario, they predicted that by 2030 poverty will decrease to a truly negligible level, affecting only 1.4 per cent of the planet’s population.

This is a measure of significant or extreme poverty.

Debate over poverty in New Zealand has risen over the last few years, but i think this is a different degree of poverty – many people are not as well off as they perhaps they should be in a modern society, but even here dire living conditions are uncommon.

And – have the claims of poverty been less prominent since the Labour led Government came to power? I don’t think the situation of the country’s poor people has changed markedly, but the focus seems to have faded away.

However here is still plenty that can and should be done to improve the living conditions and prospects for the poorest people in New Zealand.

Obesity and poverty

Can poor people only afford fattening foods, or do they make poor nutrition choices?

Are they more easily attracted to junk food by advertising?

More money or more education?

It’s not a simple issue. I don’t know how well researched this is.

Shift from targeting Maori to targeting the poverty

Bryce Edwards looks at a shift in Government shifting from race-based (Maori) targeting to a more universal approach to dealing with poverty, but they say that as Maori feature in the deprivation statistics they should benefit the most.

Is this related to Winston Peters’ past attacks on Whanau Ora, with Labour now quietly accommodating his preference away from targeting Maori? Where do the Greens stand? Quietly on the sideline?

NZ Herald: The real political controversy of Waitangi 2018

Lost amongst the focus on BBQs, relentless positivity, and eloquent speeches at Waitangi, a fascinating and important shift in Government-Maori relations appeared to be underway. Labour and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have been signalling that this Government is departing from the traditional culturalist and “race-based” approach to dealing with Maori deprivation and economic inequality.

Instead, a more universal, economic-focused method will be used. The conventional approach of advancing Maori aspirations was epitomised by the Maori Party’s focus on culture, race, and sovereignty issues, and it appears to be on the way out.

Heralding what may be a highly controversial approach to “closing the gaps” in terms of Maori inequality, Jacinda Ardern made her most important speech at Waitangi by stating that the new Government would take a universalistic approach to inequality – by targeting everyone at the bottom, rather than specifically targeting Maori.

Jacinda Ardern strongly emphasised the need to deal with the long list of social ills that have a disproportionate impact on Maori, but signalled that race-based methods were not the best way of moving forward.

Since then, the Finance Minister has confirmed this shift in approach to dealing with inequality. In an interview with Morning Report’s Guyon Espiner on Wednesday, Grant Robertson responded to questions about whether the Government would specifically target Maori in its programmes, saying: “Our focus is on reducing inequality overall” – you can listen to the six-minute interview here: Global market dive: Grant Robertson optimistic.

Espiner sought clarification: “So there won’t be a specific Closing the Gaps type programme that we saw under Helen Clark? We’re not looking at heading off down that path?” Robertson replied: “That’s not the approach that we are taking. But we believe that we will be able to lift a significant number of Maori out of poverty, and increase employment outcomes, because of the approach we are taking.”

Robertson went on to explain that the Government would keep some targeted funding for Maori, but stressed that a more universal approach would dominate:

“Maori will benefit disproportionally from the families package – from those payments, because at the moment, unfortunately, Maori appear in those negative statistics. We’ve got a range of programmes coming down the line that will support Maori and the wider population as well. Where it’s appropriate, where there are programmes – particularly in an area like Corrections – where we know that we can have a real impact on that Maori prison population, then we’ll have a look at them.

“Similarly, with employment programmes. But in the end, Guyon, this is about reducing inequality overall. It’s about providing opportunities for all young people – and we know that Maori will benefit more from that, because unfortunately they are in those negative statistics.”

Essentially, this new approach means directing resources and solutions to poor Maori “because they are poor” rather than “because they are Maori”.

This isn’t popular with some Labour Maori:

In RNZ interviews following on from Robertson’s, both Willie Jackson and John Tamihere reacted negatively against the notion that the Government was shifting in this direction – you can listen to the interviews with Jackson and Tamihere.

Jackson is a Labour MP.

Nor with the Maori ‘elite’:

The Government’s shift away from focusing on iwi property rights has also been signaled by Regional Development Minister Shane Jones. Sam Sachdeva reports: “Whereas English and his predecessor John Key seemed to focus on Article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi and property rights, Jones says the new government will have a greater emphasis on Article Three and the entitlements, rights and obligations of citizenship” – see: A fresh start at Waitangi?.

This might all end up in legal fights. 1News has obtained the letter from iwi leaders to the prime minister complaining about their change in direction, and threatening Supreme Court action if iwi rights to freshwater were not addressed – see TVNZ: Iwi leaders unhappy issues like water ownership aren’t on new Government’s radar.

An interesting observation:

There was nothing about this in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement.

I wonder what the Greens think. And I wonder how much they have been consulted.

From Green policy: “We would continue to support and strengthen Whānau Ora”

Ardern v English on poverty measures

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tried to reach out to Bill English and National over proposals to better measure poverty, but it has become a messy stoush.

RNZ: PM ‘saddened’ at claims Nats not consulted on poverty Bill

Reducing child poverty was a strong focus for both National and Labour during the election campaign, and the government promised a bi-partisan approach.

Ms Arden contacted National Party leader Bill English late last year about consulting on the draft bill.

In the letter dated 13 December, Ms Ardern included a “key summary of the proposed Bill”.

It said there would be child poverty targets but they would not be included in legislation so as to not “bind future governments to any particular target”.

The letter sought feedback from Mr English, along with an offer for a briefing from officials.

With the bill due to be introduced to Parliament tomorrow, Mr English told Morning Report this morning his party has had no opportunity to influence the shape of the bill.

Ms Ardern said she was “saddened” to hear this, as she had reached out last year.

“I hope we did provide that opportunity, again we have a select committee process to go through as well on top so I still hope we’ll get support from all parties.

She said she would happy to still work with National outside of the select committee process as the Bill progresses through Parliament.

English is miffed that the Government are dropping the Better Public Service targets

Mr English said the Better Public Service targets were a key component of this policy, which he raised in his response to Ms Ardern.

But there had been no chance to discuss the targets before they were scrapped, he said.

“The government’s on its timetable, it wants to get the Bill introduced before the end of the 100 days, I don’t think they ever seriously intended … that there would be a serious bi-partisan effort on it.”

This came up in question time in Parliament yesterday.

2. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does her Government intend to retain the Better Public Service Targets to reduce the number of people on a benefit by 25 percent, reduce the number of serious crimes being committed by 10,000, and reduce the number of children hospitalised for preventable conditions by 25 percent?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): No. We will have our own system for monitoring and reporting on performance against our priorities. Our targets will reflect our different priorities from the previous Government and will look beyond simple measures and, in fact, to underlying causes.

Rt Hon Bill English: Did the Prime Minister consider past success of selected targets that addressed areas of persistent social dysfunction, such as reducing welfare dependency, reducing reoffending rates for criminals, holding the numbers of children affected by child abuse, and lifting educational attainment among Māori and Pacific students?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I think it’s fair to say that probably all Governments share an ambition for reducing crime and improving employment. Our point is that we have a set of priorities that get to the root cause of some of the issues that we’re seeing in New Zealand. A great example, for instance, would be our ambition to measure and target directly issues like child poverty. That’s getting to the root cause of an issue rather than just some of the symptoms, as past Better Public Services (BPS) targets did.

Rt Hon Bill English: Why does the Government persist with the view that poverty in New Zealand is purely a function of income, when the evidence is overwhelming that low educational achievement, family violence, long-term welfare dependency, and serial criminal offending have a huge impact on persistent deprivation and material hardship?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Because the evidence points to material hardship as being one of the most consistent drivers of poor outcomes for children. We’ve never argued that that in and of itself was the only issue that needs to be looked at, which is why, of course, we’re also requiring—and will, as a Government, focus more broadly on—a child well-being strategy for the very reasons that the past Minister points out.

Rt Hon Bill English: So can the Prime Minister confirm that the Government is therefore going to abandon a focused approach to social dysfunction, caused by the factors that I’ve referred to, and limit its approach to addressing deprivation simply to the measurement of income?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No, because, in fact, as the member well knows, we’ve also included material hardship as one of the things that we would like to include and hold ourselves to account on. Our point is that we, in fact, want to be broader in the accountabilities we hold ourselves to as a Government. The BPS targets that the last Government had were quite narrowly focused. They looked at symptoms rather than root causes, and in some cases were manipulated and didn’t lead to improved outcomes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will it help in the efficacy of future measurements that she discovered family and child poverty before she entered Government, not nine years after it?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Deputy Prime Minister makes a very good point. We have long held a view, based on research and evidence, that if we wanted to improve the well-being of children we could not ignore poverty as long as the last Government chose to.

Rt Hon Bill English: Has she seen comments by the State Services Commissioner, who said that the Better Public Services targets achieved real results: “More kids are getting immunised. Fewer kids are being physically abused. Participation in early childhood is on the increase. [And] 40,000 fewer working age people are receiving benefits compared with three years ago. That’s a whole bunch of things that change lives.”, and why does she think that achieving those things doesn’t change lives and ought to be stopped?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: This Government has no problem with the issue of targets, with priority setting, with goals as a way to drive the focus from the Public Service and the Government. Our point is we will have our own. In fact, the last Government changed their own targets several times during their time in Government, and it will not surprise the member that we have a different set of priorities—a broader set of priorities—than them.

Rt Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Government’s priority is the measurement of income only, and the other factors that determine material hardship and deprivation reflected in the targets set by the previous Government are now going to be ignored by the new Government—factors such as persistent—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the member—[Interruption] Order! I’ll just ask the Leader of the Opposition to shorten his questions up to one or two, rather than three or four.


Rt Hon Bill English: Has the Prime Minister seen the data that show that maternal and baby care are much more likely to be satisfactory when mothers enrol with their lead maternity carer in the first trimester of their pregnancy, and has she instructed the Public Service to stop focusing on that measure, which was initiated in May last year?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I am being very consistent in the point here that we need to be much broader in the goals that we set ourselves. I take, for example, the rheumatic fever Better Public Services target that the last Government set. That did nothing to resolve the long-term driver of rheumatic fever, which is cold, damp, overcrowded housing. In the same way, if we want to improve maternal outcomes, we have to look at the barriers as to why women aren’t enrolling with lead maternity carers, and they are complex and often involve deprivation.

Rt Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister therefore confirm that the target that was set to lift to 90 percent the proportion of women enrolled in the first trimester with their lead maternity carer has now been abandoned, and if so, why?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We have our own set of priorities. They will be replaced, and they’ll be released in good time.

Rt Hon Bill English: So can I take it, then, the Prime Minister is confirming that target has been abandoned, and people working in social and health services are no longer to be trying to enrol women earlier? And if she has abandoned it, what other measures has she taken to ensure that those women who weren’t enrolled will get better maternal care in the next 12 months?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The implication that those who work in our health services will no longer be interested in the health and well-being of pregnant women in New Zealand is, frankly, an insult. Of course they are, but we’re also saying that this Government’s priority is that those mothers also have decent housing, that they are free of harm and abuse, and that they have decent incomes. We want to get to the root cause of problems, not just the short-term issues.

Short term negative trends

There were a number of comments criticising the short time period and a lack of comparison as a % of population.

An alternative was provided by

Data presentation matters. The graph is not wrong but potentially misleading for people who make snap conclusions without closer interpretation esp on social media (myself inclu).

OK, I see now the rationale for the original graph – to show the comparative drop in hunger/poverty/etc over the past 25 yrs. But wouldn’t this graph be more meaningful, at a glance? (pollution not inclu cus I didn’t understand what it meant in original graph)