Government under-delivery continues with ‘dismal’ social welfare tweaks

The Government year of under-delivery continued last week with an announcement of social welfare reforms tweaks being buried on Friday afternoon when it would have been anticipated that most news coverage would have been of Pike River mine re-entry – which also didn’t deliver.

Green co-leader Marama Davidson sounds deflated and resigned to under-delivery this term at least.

Yes I affirmed that these first steps and changes have come too late for too many.

I know change is long overdue, and people deserve support now. Can guarantee I’m committed to that change and the hard work it requires. It’s right people demand we just sort this out asap.

Sue Bradford:

“The government’s response to the findings of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) is dismal.”

A Welfare Expert Advisory Group was set up with an expectation it would report back with transformative reforms – which it did, with 42 recommendations. But the Government announcement on Friday indicated that only one of these would be implemented straight away, and another two would have to wait another year. And these are really only relatively minor tweaks.

In the 2017 election campaign the Green Party nearly died in a ditch when  co-leader Metiria Turei launched a major promotion for social welfare reform by revealing her experiences with claiming more benefits than she was eligible for. Support for the Green Party slumped.

Turei resigned and the Greens survived the election, but their number of MPs dropped from 14 to 8, and their share of the vote dropped from10.7% to 6.3%. They managed to negotiate their way into Government with Labour, but outside of Cabinet, and with what have turned out to be vague commitments. On social welfare the Confidence & Supply Agreement states:

Fair Society

10. Overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working For Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities, and lifts children and their families out of poverty.

In April 2018 Marama Davidson was appointed as the new female co-leader of the Greens – Marama Davidson wins Green Party co-leadership race

She spoke about winning back voters who the Green Party had lost to Labour in the 2017 election – but also reaching out to new voters from her own background in poorer communities.

“In order to be a genuine and relevant voice for modern Aotearoa, we need to reflect its diverse reality. We need more members from all backgrounds and communities,” Davidson said.

“I know what it is to struggle to find a home to rent. I know what it is to not have enough food for your tamariki. And I know that no parent should have to go through that.”

“The community I come from is at the coalface of the most pressing issues we face as a society: rising poverty and inequality, the housing and homelessness crisis, polluted rivers and poor health and education outcomes.”

She said a massive economic shift was needed to a system that put the wellbeing of people and the environment above simple GDP growth.

Co-leader James Shaw said Davidson’s campaign had “lit a wildfire through the party.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called Davidson to congratulate her.

“The Green Party is a valued confidence and supply partner of this Government and I look forward to working with Marama to build a stronger, fairer and more inclusive country,” Ardern said.

“I am sure our work will be strengthened with the addition of Marama Davidson helping to leading this important work alongside me, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, and Green Co-leader James Shaw.”

It looks like Davidson has not strengthened much if anything on social welfare reform.

The Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) was established in May 2018, with twelve ‘experts’ appointed. The Terms of Reference stated:

1. …It is timely at this critical juncture to evaluate whether our social welfare system remains fit for purpose in contemporary New Zealand.

2. The Government’s vision is for a welfare system that ensures people have an adequate income and standard of living, are treated with and can live in dignity and are able to participate meaningfully in their communities.

Objective

5. The Welfare Expert Advisory Group (the WEAG) is being established to provide advice to the Government on options that could best give effect to its vision for the future direction of the social welfare system.

They delivered their Report to the Minister for Social Development on 26 February 2019.

On Friday afternoon (3 May 2019) the Government announced that “its vision for the future direction of the social welfare system” would amount to a few minor tweaks.

Marama Davidson’s initial response promoted just one of the tweaks:

The Confidence and Supply Agreement between the and commits to removing excessive sanctions. This starts with today’s announcement.

In response to comments on Twitter she acknowledged the failure to deliver urgent reform.

Davidson:

I know change is long overdue, and people deserve support now. Can guarantee I’m committed to that change and the hard work it requires. It’s right people demand we just sort this out asap.

She sounds disappointed and deflated.

Sue Bradford (The Spinoff): No hope for progressive welfare reform from this government

The government’s response to the findings of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) is dismal.

It appears the only substantive welfare reform we can expect during this parliamentary term is the removal of the financial sanction against sole parents who can’t or won’t name their child’s father. That’s great, but that’s it.

Both Labour and the Greens went into the 2017 election promising the elimination of this sanction. It could have been axed as soon as they took power. Instead, it is now clear that the government has deliberately delayed action until the WEAG reported back, just so they could point to at least one reform of substance after the expenditure of $2 million on the working group.

The sole parent sanction won’t be removed until April next year, and the Government has confirmed there will be no backdating.

…I am so angry that this government has not had the courage of any convictions in responding to the WEAG’s heartfelt mahi.

We are seeing the weakest possible response to the WEAG’s sterling efforts. There is no commitment to any significant change during this parliamentary term. To talk about transforming welfare in three, five or 10 years as Sepuloni does is simply meaningless.

Any beneficiary expecting a sudden onset of empathy from this government can forget about that, apart from those who will directly benefit from the ending of the naming-father sanction.

None of the existing lot are going to do anything serious. It would require a kind of courage and commitment not in evidence when it comes to standing up for the rights and wellbeing of beneficiaries. The Greens have a legacy of fine welfare policies and Marama Davidson and others do seriously support the kind of recommendations made by the WEAG. However,  this is not backed up by the practice of the Greens in this term of Parliament, near-silenced in their role as support party, and with a tendency to skitter away from hard battles under any kind of pressure.

That’s scathing of the Government, but especially scathing of Bradford’s own Green Party (she may have ditched them now but was an MP and stood for leadership in the past).

If we’re ever going to hope for transformative and progressive welfare reform, it is now clear it will need to be championed by a party that is not yet in Parliament.

There is no sign of such a party, so it not just a dismal under-delivery, the outlook for social welfare reform looks dismal.

 

 

 

Greens bottling it as water fallout continues

Ructions in Green ranks continues after the decision Green MP Eugenie Sage was required to make a water bottling decision as part of her ministerial responsibilities: Overseas investment for Otakiri Springs bottling giant approved in principle

Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage, and Associate Finance Minister David Clark, have granted an application under the Overseas Investment Act 2005 for Cresswell NZ Ltd to purchase land to expand the existing Otakiri Springs water bottling plant near Whakatane.

Their approval is conditional on Cresswell NZ obtaining consent via the Resource Management Act and that 60 new jobs are created and if these jobs do not eventuate enforcement action will apply.

“This includes the possibility of requiring the company to sell the land. Budget 2018 provided an extra $7 million in new funding for the OIO to undertake compliance and enforcement work,” Eugene Sage said.

I posted about this on Thursday: Greens struggling in Government

There struggles appear to be continuing. Here are some interesting reactions on Twitter:

@LewOS:

I think Eugenie Sage and Julie-Anne Genter have been exemplary on this water bottling decision. “We don’t like it, but we have to obey the law” is strictly correct but it will win them no fans among the Green activists who never really wanted the responsibility of government

I have received the following response from someone with knowledge of the situation, who also now wishes they had added more swears in this assessment of their party

@danylmc

I don’t know if it’s just activists. The party explicitly campaigned on changing the laws around this so I think non-activist normie voters are completely entitled to feel outraged without being lectured about the constitutional and legislative complications.

They can express outrage as much as they like, but it won’t change the decision, it increases impressions of a flaky party in a flaky Government, and increases the risks of Greens crashing and burning before or during the next election.

@GuyonEspiner

Interesting isn’t it – Greens Ministers are saying: It goes against my values and politics but we must follow process. NZ First Ministers are saying: I don’t care about process these are my views!

@LewSOS

This, and not the underlying ideological differences between parties, is Jacinda’s bugbear running this govt. Ideological differences are reconcilable and negotiable, but when you have a bunch of people who just basically don’t believe in the democratic process, you got problems.

He may be referring the behaviour of NZ First Ministers but Green Party members also don’t seem to believe in democratic processes when they don’t like the results.

@philosphy

If anything activists are only ones nerdy & partisan enough to be persuaded by reasons they gave. Normie voters won’t read details, will come away with impression Greens have changed position.

Hadn’t looked before, but scroll through the almost 2k comments under Eugenie’s FB post. The people still refusing to accept explanations are mostly supportive non-members.

I don’t know if the most fuss is coming from non-members or not.

Is Sue Bradford a Green party member these days? She weighs in: Greens in mortal danger – Bradford

The Green’s water bottling decision exposes potentially fatal flaws and complacency at the heart of Green parliamentary operations.

The Green parliamentary wing seem to be clueless about the mortal danger they face following news this week that its own minister, Eugenie Sage, has signed off on the sale and expansion of a water bottling plant at Otakiri Springs.

When Ms Sage’s role in approving the sale as Land Information Minister became public there was immediate anger from party members. It was reported that the co-leader of the Young Greens Max Tweedie said on an internal Facebook page that he was ‘extremely disappointed’ about what had happened. Some members threatened to leave the party.

Apart from a bland government media release and a ministerial blog closely replicating the official line there appeared to be no effort to forestall the inevitable sense of betrayal which would arise from the blatant turnaround on core party policy.

It seems that it was only when mainstream media picked up on the high level of internal unrest that the Green caucus realised they might have a problem on their hands.

Their responses, for example in this TV1 report, seemed defensive and obscure, focused on explaining why they believed the Minister’s hands were legally tied in making the decision.

But perhaps it’s time the Green leadership in Parliament realises that it’s not just the unhappiness of members that needs to be assuaged. Voters are the ones who ultimately make the difference between survival and electoral disaster.

Whether members or supporters doesn’t really matter when it comes to elections.

It’s one of the most common political truisms that small parties in government get eaten by their larger partners.

But this isn’t being eaten by a larger partner, it is being eaten from within their own party over a fairly basic function of being a part of the Government. Ministers have to often make decisions they are bound to make regardless of their own party policies.

Surely the Green caucus focus from day one of government formation should have been on honing their political and strategic strategy and capacity so that the sort of situation which happened this week would never arise.

Perhaps they could have handled things better this week, but the parliamentary part of the party was very busy setting themselves up in Government and learning how to do their jobs.

And given the reactions of Green members and left leaning activists for years there may have been no way of preparing for government decisions that clashed with their ideals.

As things stand, it feels as though the caucus and those around them do not think ahead about the consequences of some of their decisions, water bottling only being the latest of a string of stuff-ups (think waka jumping and giving National some of their parliamentary questions).

The Green caucus has certainly had to grapple with a few issues.

It looks like the Greens gained the oil and gas exploration decision at the cost of having to support the waka jumping bill. Oil and gas should be a big deal for the Greens – while the waka jumping bill is contrary to long standing Green policy the actual effects of the bill are likely to be minimal if not zero in practice.

Behind this fateful lack of capacity lies a political question too – to what extent, if any, are the Greens really prepared to carve out their own path in this term of Parliament?

Once again, it appears the real agenda here is a sodden acceptance that being a safe pair of hands for Labour is all that counts, and that those pesky members and voters are something to worry about in maybe a couple of years’ time.

Greens have long championed MMP, but some of their supporters don’t seem to understand how it works.

Despite only having eight seats in Parliament out of 120, and only 12.7% of the vote in Government, some Green supporters seem to think that all their ideals should be achieved.

Greens need to find a way of avoiding being eaten by partner parties, but they also need to find a way of avoiding being eaten by their own members and supporters. It could be a challenging couple of years for them coming up if this much fuss is made over a relatively minor decision made by a Green minister.

Greens may have to support waka jumping bill

The Greens have long been staunchly opposed to the waka jumping (party hopping) legislation, but due to their confidence and supply agreement commitments they may be obliged to back the bill prompted by NZ First. They have been caught out because NZ First did not campaign on this policy (voters would have good cause to question NZ First sneaking this policy in after the election).

From the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

Democracy

• Introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill.

 

NZH: Green Party may have to support waka-jumping bill

The bill, which would ensure Parliament’s proportionality in the event that an MP leaves or is ejected from a party, is part of the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement – but needs the support of the Green Party to pass into law.

Young Greens co-convenor Max Tweedie, in a Facebook post last week following a call with the party executive that was screen-shot and posted to reddit, said that the party had no choice but to support the bill.

“James [Shaw] has explained why the Greens are supporting the waka-jumping bill,” Tweedie wrote.

“NZF and Labour, and the Greens and Labour, conducted blind negotiations for the agreement. Labour requested a list of NZF policies that we don’t support, and while we went through, we didn’t even think of the waka-jumping bill.

“As a result, because of the agreements between us, we have to support the bill because our opposition wasn’t flagged.”

A spokesperson for the Greens confirmed that the party did not raise it as an issue during coalition talks with Labour because NZ First had not campaigned on it.

“We looked at the policies that parties ran on during the 2017 campaign. Waka-jumping wasn’t one of them. We are now managing this issue within the Green Party.”

The spokesperson would not say whether the party had to support the bill beyond the select committee, where the Greens hope the bill will be improved.

The Greens have vehemently opposed similar legislation in the past, and co-leader James Shaw has sought to appease the membership by saying that the party’s ongoing support for the bill is not guaranteed.

From the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

Relationship to other agreements

Both parties to this agreement recognise that Labour will be working with other parties both in terms of
coalitions and confidence and supply arrangements.

Labour agrees that it will not enter into any other relationship agreement which is inconsistent with this
agreement and the Green Party and Labour agree that they will each act in good faith to allow all such
agreements to be complied with.

That seems to oblige the Greens to enable the Labour-NZ First agreement to be complied with. That means voting enabling the waka jumping legislation.

Some Greens are not happy.

It would be dishonourable of the Greens not to support the bill too. Caught between the two with no tidy solution – but expect an amendment to the bill that the Greens claim make it ok for them to support it.

This is another challenge of being in Government, especially as the junior of three parties.

 

Smacking issue again

The smacking issue has come up again.

Newstalk ZB:  One third of mothers still smack their kids – study

The University of Auckland longitudinal study Growing Up in New Zealand shows a third of mothers used smacking as a form of discipline and regularly screamed at their kids.

Research Director Dr Susan Morton told Mike Hosking the trend has been going on for a while.

“I think what we’re seeing with studies like this is actually what’s going on in the home. We know that the law has changed but potentially behaviour at home hasn’t, and that’s what’s concerning.”

That the number of parents who smack their kids seems to not have changed suggests that the ‘smacking’ law hasn’t been effective in changing attitudes to smacking.

It also suggests that one of the fears of opponents of the law – scaring people off smacking due to fear of being prosecuted and ‘made a criminal’ hasn’t eventuated either.

Dr Morton said we are seeing in the home potentially what’s happening in the wider society.

“And the problem is that if violence is tolerated in the wider society and then at home, children are learning that physical punishment is okay and that’s something that’s likely to be perpetuated to them throughout their lives.”

That’s a problem with physical punishment if it is a normal way to deal with problems in the home (rather than an occasional last resort minor sort of punishment).

Those who promoted and voted for the law meant well, they wanted to reduce violence in the home, and they wanted children to be protected by the same laws that adults are protected from. But the law ended up being a muddled compromise, with a key part being left up to police discretion on whether to prosecute or not.

Those who opposed the law have probably sent a message to parents who have learned to use physical punishment as a normal means of discipline that it is normal and no problem.

Most parents who have smacked their children mean no real harm, they think that it will benefit their children by teaching them right from wrong. But the problem is that some parents have different ideas on the amount of violence that is appropriate and hurt their children.

And a parent who learns to use physical punishment as normal is at greater risk of doing harm if they lose control under stress and take their violence too far.

Of course it’;s election time and It’s up for debate again, but should it be?

Conservative lobby group Family First has long campaigned for the right of parents to discipline their children using smacking. On Wednesday, spokesperson Bob McCoskrie told The AM Show the law is a “complete ass” and “parents are sick of politicians telling them how to raise their children”.

This election year, he’s not the only one calling for change. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wants another referendum on smacking.

But while the likes of Family First and NZ First insist a smack is part of good parenting, child advocate groups like UNICEF say disciplining children without hitting them “is part of creating a society with less violence in the home”. 

Domestic abuse charity Shine says a repeal of the law would be a “terrible step back for our country.”

Client services manager Jill Proudfoot says fewer new generations of parents are smacking their children, but one piece of legislation can’t change a culture of violence and people still need lots of good advice about dealing with challenging behaviour.

It would be good if all the time and effort put into quibbling over a largely ineffective law change was instead put into helping improve parenting skills including promoting effective non-violent discipline them more kids would be better off.

What is a smack?

Smacking is commonly understood to be an open-palmed sharp slap which would leave no mark or injury on a child.

That definition is problematic. An open palmed slap on the bum or on the hand is unlikely to cause any harm – or be very effective as a punishment.

But when does a ‘smack’ become a potentially dangerous hit? Some parents have seen a smack round the ear as fine because it’s just a smack and leaves no visible mark or injury, but brain damage is invisible.

Here are four things you need to know about child discipline law in New Zealand.

1. The law is designed to give child abusers no excuse

The law granted children the same right to protection from assault as adults.

In cases where caregivers were being prosecuted for assault on children, the change in law means the defence of “reasonable force” cannot be used.

The introduction to former Green Party MP Sue Bradford’s Bill explains its purpose was to “stop force, and associated violence being inflicted on children in the context of correction or discipline”.

It says the law in its previous form acted “as a justification, excuse or defence for parents and guardians using force against their children”.

2. Children will not be removed from parents who smack lightly

Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, says it would not act on reports of a light smack to a child, unless a report of smacking is part of wider concerns for the child.

On its website, the agency says it is concerned “with the abuse and neglect of children, not incidents of light smacking,” and an open-palmed light smack is “most unlikely to constitute abuse”.

The Ministry says its working definition of physical abuse hasn’t changed since 2001. It remains:

“An act, or acts that result in inflicted injury to a child or young person.”

A child would not be removed from their family unless they are subject to harm, abuse or ill-treatment.

3. The law does allow smacking under some circumstances, but it can’t be used for ‘correction’

A parent cannot smack a child for the sake of discipline or correction, but a smack may be used in some circumstances, such as protecting a child from harm.

Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 now reads:

“Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of the child is justified in using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of:

  • preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person
  • preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence
  • preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour
  • performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting.”

4. Police are unlikely to prosecute cases of light smacking

Police can choose not to prosecute complaints against parents where the force used is inconsequential or where there is no public interest in prosecuting.

Most parents do not deliberately harm their children, and most parents are not harmed by the ‘smacking’ law.

 

Turei slams NZ First in child protection

Green co-leader Metiria Turei has strongly criticised NZ First for proposing a referendum on the ‘anti-smacking’ law.

Winston Peters brought this up in a speech in March – see Who wants to re-visit the ‘anti-smacking’ law? – but it resurfaced on Q+A yesterday, where NZ First MP Tracey Martin was interviewed along with Sue Bradford.

10 years on from the so called “anti-smacking” law – NZ First calls for a binding referendum

NZ First MP Tracey Martin told TVNZ’s Q+A programme that the law change has had a “chilling effect” on NZ parents including herself.

“Well, we’ve always argued, for 25 years, around binding a referenda on issues like this, where our citizens need to speak. We have a representative democracy. 113 temporarily empowered politicians decided this for all the parents of New Zealand. The parents of New Zealand need to be able to speak on it,” said Mrs Martin.

“I remember me being a parent when this bill went through, and I felt that the language that was being used, the politicians that were telling me that if I lightly smacked my child, I was then committing abuse. I found that personally offensive. It had a chilling effect on my parenting. And I believe other parents out there feel the same,” she said.

However, Former Green Party MP and the architect behind the law changes Sue Bradford disagrees.

“For New Zealand First to want us to go backwards on something that’s so important for our babies, children and young people, I just find incredible.”

“From the point of view of protecting our children and babies and saying actually our young kids should have the right to grow up without violence,” says Mrs Bradford.

Turei responded: NZ First putting politics before child protection

NZ First has chosen to put political game playing ahead of the safety of children by proposing a referendum on the ten year old amendments to the Crimes Act.

NZ First MP Tracy Martin said on Q&A this morning that her Party wants to hold a binding referendum to repeal the 2007 amendment to section 59 of the Crimes Act.

“I think it’s appalling that NZ First is willing to remove a basic protection for our kids in the hope it’ll buy them a few votes in election year,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.

“This law change simply removed a legal loophole that had allowed people who assaulted children to escape charges by claiming it was ‘parental correction’.

“Parents aren’t being prosecuted for lightly smacking their children. NZ First is trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.

“It’s sad that a political party would choose to use its resources to campaign on removing child protections rather than finding solutions to child abuse,” said Ms Turei.

But it’s election year and populist vote pandering seems to take precedent over protection of children from violence.

 

Who wants to re-visit the ‘anti-smacking’ law?

NZ First wants to repeal the ‘anti-smacking’ law.

Or probably more accurately, they want to attract some votes from people who strongly opposed the law change. It’s hard to imagine either National or Labour (or Greens) wanting to go through another smacking debate.

This morning NZ Q+A will look at this with Tracey Martin and Sue Bradford.

It’s 10 years this month since the so-called “anti-smacking” law passed. NZ First wants to repeal the law. We’ll debate the issues with New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin and Sue Bradford, the former Green MP behind the bill.

It’s curious that Tracey Martin is representing NZ First here.

I can’t see NZ First spokesperson roles on the NZ First website, but the last Justice news is from Darroch Ball (although Denis O’Rourke feature’s on their Justice policy page),  and the last Law and Order news is from Winston Peters. Martin features in Education news and policy.

In March Peters stated in  a speech at Waipu (and repeated in ‘We Will Return NZ To: Crime Doesn’t Pay’):

We are going to repeal the anti-smacking law which doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children.

I think that claim is highly debatable, albeit typically vague. I call it button pushing bull.

Peters followed up a few days later in New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wants referendum on anti-smacking law

“From the word go, we said this matter should go to a referendum with New Zealand people who are far more reliable and trustworthy on these matters, rather than a bunch of temporarily empowered parliamentarians,” he told Newstalk ZB.

“I said very clearly that we’ve got young people running amok up here and around the country. They can’t be touched. There’s a hundred reasons given by sociologists and apologists for what’s happening, but these people know what’s wrong, know what they’re doing is wrong, know they can’t be touched, know there’s no consequences.”

“What’s happened since then has been an explosion in violence towards children, the very antithesis of what these people argued would happen,” Peters said.

Without any evidence supplied I call bullshit on this.

The party’s policy was to put the matter to the people and repeal the law, he said.

I can’t find any mention of the anti-smacking law in NZ First’s policies.

Family First praised Peters’ commitment:  NZ First Repeal Of Anti-Smacking Law Welcomed

Family First NZ is welcoming NZ First’s pledge to repeal the anti-smacking law, and will be clarifying with the party as to whether it is a non-negotiable bottom line for any coalition agreement after the election.

In a speech on Friday in Northland, leader Winston Peters said; “We are going to repeal the anti-smacking law which doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children.”

In 2014, NZ First said “NZ First policy is to repeal the anti-smacking law passed by the last parliament despite overwhelming public opposition. Accordingly, we will not enter any coalition or confidence and supply agreement with a party that wishes to ignore the public’s clearly stated view in a referendum on that issue.”

But Bob McCoskrie has linked a commitment made by Peters in March this year to a bottom line made for the last election. perhaps Martin will say whether this bottom line will also be in place this election.

McCoskrie also  implied links between the law change and increased violence.

“the smacking law has failed to convince anybody of its benefits or its effectiveness”

It’s certain that that claim can’t be substantiated, as I expect we will hear from Bradford.

If it had any merit, it would have proved itself by now.

Proving something like that – or the opposite – is very difficult with such a complex issue.

“A report at the beginning of last year analysing the 2007 anti-smacking law, “Defying Human Nature: An Analysis of New Zealand’s 2007 Anti-Smacking Law”, found that there was not a single social indicator relating to the abuse of children that had shown significant or sustained improvement since the passing of the law, and that the law has negatively impacted law-abiding parents,” says Mr McCoskrie.

That report was done by Family First, who are about as biased as you could get on smacking law. The author was Bob McCoskrie, so he is quoting himself.

While he links the law and “significant or sustained improvement” and “the law has negatively impacted law-abiding parents” he makes no claim about a verifiable link between the law change and levels of violence.

Police statistics show there has been a 136% increase in physical abuse, 43% increase in sexual abuse, 45% increase in neglect or ill-treatment of children, and 71 child abuse deaths since the law was passed in 2007. CYF have had more than 1 million notifications of abuse and there has been a 42% increase in physical abuse found by CYF since 2007.

That proves nothing about the impact of the anti-smacking law. McCoskrie is linking the two by association but not with facts.

Sue Bradford also responded:  Winston Peters a ‘dangerous old man’ – Sue Bradford

Sue Bradford, the former Green MP behind the law, told The AM Show on Monday she was “horrified” by his recent comments.

“What he’s advocating is the return of the legalising of assault on our children, which is the last thing our kids need and the last thing the kids of Northland need.”

“He’s talking about this on the back of the incident up in Kaikohe recently with the young people rampaging.

“Those kids probably see far too much violence I’d suggest in their lives already, far too much poverty, unemployment, a lack of opportunities for their families in their part of the country.”

The 2007 law change removed the defence of “reasonable force” in cases where parents and caregivers were being prosecuted for assault on children.

“It’s helped massively to change the idea that actually parents and other adults responsible for children are legally entitled to use physical punishment on their kids, that sometimes led to quite serious assaults,” said Ms Bradford.

Repealing the law would send the wrong message, she believes.

“We’ve got ‘it’s not okay’ campaigns about beating our partners, our wives, but on the other hand, children don’t matter?”

So it could be an interesting discussion this morning between Bradford and Martin.

It will be especially interesting to see if either of them produce any evidence of impact of the law change.

 

Winston Peters ‘a dangerous old man’

On Friday in a speech at a business breakfast in Waipu – transcript here – Winston Peters said under WHAT NZ FIRST WILL DO:

  • To battle this problem New Zealand First will lower the age of criminal responsibility.
  • We will change social welfare to demand parental accountability.
  • We are not going to spend taxpayers’ money on parents who won’t keep their side of the deal.
  • We will make sure there are far more police – 1800 more as soon as they can be trained.
    After all, the last time we had a chance we trained 1000 front line police in three years flat.
  • We will return this country to what other generations knew: That crime doesn’t pay.
  • We are going to repeal the anti-smacking law which doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children.

Anti crime, which presumably means anti-violent crime, but pro smacking.

Peters/NZ First also put out a media release titled ‘We Will Return NZ To: Crime Doesn’t Pay’

To battle widespread criminal behaviour by young people socially DNA-ed for destruction as seen in Kaikohe last weekend, New Zealand First will, among other measures, repeal the anti-smacking law.

“We live in a ‘PC age’ where there are more rules on the teachers and the police than young offenders and their parents,” said Mr Peters in a speech at Waipu this morning.

“We no longer hold these little ‘tow-rag’ offenders responsible for their actions.

“Instead we hear 100 different reasons why it’s not their fault.

“That’s rubbish.

“They’re old enough to know exactly what they’re doing.

“They know they will get away with it and that there will be no repercussions.

”Meanwhile, the old parties in parliament want the age of criminal responsibility raised.

“Many of these politicians have no idea how the other half live and don’t venture into the real world.

“Besides repealing the anti-smacking law, which doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children, New Zealand First will lower the age of criminal responsibility; change social welfare to demand parental accountability and will make sure there are far more police on the frontline – 1800 more as soon as they can be trained.

“We will return this country to what other generations knew: That crime doesn’t pay,” said Mr Peters.

Calling young people toe-rags and encouraging the bash may appeal to populist votes but it is unlikely to solve youth crime.

Does Peters have any evidence to support his claim the the anti-smacking law “doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children”? He has habit of making unsubstantiated claims.

Sue Bradford has called Peters a ‘dangerous old man’:

Winston Peters has been labelled a “dangerous old man” who’s “really past his prime”, after vowing to repeal the so-called anti-smacking law.

Sue Bradford, the former Green MP behind the law, told The AM Show on Monday she was “horrified” by his recent comments.

“What he’s advocating is the return of the legalising of assault on our children, which is the last thing our kids need and the last thing the kids of Northland need.”

Ms Bradford said: “He’s talking about this on the back of the incident up in Kaikohe recently with the young people rampaging.

“Those kids probably see far too much violence I’d suggest in their lives already, far too much poverty, unemployment, a lack of opportunities for their families in their part of the country.”

The 2007 law change removed the defence of “reasonable force” in cases where parents and caregivers were being prosecuted for assault on children.

“It’s helped massively to change the idea that actually parents and other adults responsible for children are legally entitled to use physical punishment on their kids, that sometimes led to quite serious assaults,” said Ms Bradford.

Repealing the law would send the wrong message, she believes.

“We’ve got ‘it’s not okay’ campaigns about beating our partners, our wives, but on the other hand, children don’t matter?”

Conservative lobby group Family First says there have been massive increases in child abuse in the decade since the law began, but Ms Bradford says repealing the anti-smacking law won’t fix that.

“As the truly dreadful levels of family violence in this country continue, they cannot be laid to this law. No law can stop that.”

Massive increases in child abuse in the decade since the law began? That seems like a massive exaggeration, and I’d be surprised if they have evidence of a direct connection between the law change and levels of violence against children.

Family First have always strongly opposed the law change. They have put out a media release in support of Peters: NZ First Repeal Of Anti-Smacking Law Welcomed

This makes some claims about violence levels.

Police statistics show there has been a 136% increase in physical abuse, 43% increase in sexual abuse, 45% increase in neglect or ill-treatment of children, and 71 child abuse deaths since the law was passed in 2007. CYF have had more than 1 million notifications of abuse and there has been a 42% increase in physical abuse found by CYF since 2007.

But that does nothing to prove cause and effect. There are alternative claims that a greater awareness of violence against children has led to greater levels of reporting of abuse, which may be a positive effect rather than a negative effect.

In the past excessive smacking (more than a tap on the bum) and bashing tended to get swept under legal and social carpets.

I think that it’s very difficult to prove the effects of the law change on offending rates.

I believe that any moves to encourage less violence, and less smacking while encouraging effective alternatives, has to end up being better for children in general in the long run.

Peters may get some votes from his support of smacking law repeal, but I think it will come to nothing more than that.

I think it is very unlikely that there will be enough votes in Parliament to just repeal the smacking law. The old version was seriously flawed.

The only chance of change is if someone comes up with an improvement to the also flawed current law – but at least it signals that violence against children should be reduced.

No indication from Peters whether he would add smacking law repeal to his list of coalition bottom lines.

End of year picks

It’s the time of year when politicians seem to start winding down (a couple of weeks before I can) and pundits applaud and award.

Patrick Gower’s Politician of the Year

POLITICIAN OF YEAR: JOHN KEY

In fact, Key went from the crème-de-la-crème to the crème-de-la-crap at times.

RUNNER-UP (OPPOSITION POLITICIAN): ANDREW LITTLE

He won the leadership thanks to the Union vote, but hey – who cares? This is about politics, it is about winning. Little used the tool that was available to him and he won the leadership.

RUNNER-UP (BACKBENCHER): KELVIN DAVIS

Kelvin Davis stood up to Kim Dotcom and stopped him. This included annihilating Hone Harawira’s political career in an upset victory in Te Tai Tokerau that few pundits expected.

RUNNER-UP (“POLITICAL NON-POLITICIAN”): A three-way tie

KIM DOTCOM

WHALE OIL

NICKY HAGER

Not sure that Hager deserves that, he failed with his primary aim and it’s yet to be seen whether the gains he achieves outweigh the losses.

Dotcom must be there simply for impact rather than success. But otherwise that looks a reasonable line up.

Duncan Garner’s picks are along similar lines to Gower’s.

WINNERS

1. JOHN KEY

For all the obvious reasons. He is still the PM and he is still widely popular according to the polls. He had the kitchen sink thrown at him and he almost won the election outright. He’ll have to watch it doesn’t go to his head.

2. ANDREW LITTLE

Couldn’t win a fight in a kindergarten but ends the year on top. His caucus didn’t want him, his party didn’t want him, his electorate didn’t want him. Yet he ends the year looking strong and competent as Labour’s new leader.

3. KELVIN DAVIS

He beat Hone Harawira and therefore beat Kim Dotcom – do I have to say anymore?

4. SUE BRADFORD

She knew Dotcom and Harawira were in an unholy alliance and she put her principles before it all. She called it right – she has values and principles that are beyond reproach whether you agree with her politics or not.

5. CAM SLATER – WHALEOIL.

Yes he’s a dirt-bag, muck-raking, scum-bag attack blogger, but he likes it that way. He doesn’t play by any rule book yet he’s been judged a journalist by the courts. Despite having his dirty laundry aired for the world to see he remains talked about, his blog gets more hits than ever, he breaks stories and the PM returns his texts. Oh and he wins mainstream media awards.

LOSERS

1. KIM DOTCOM

Threw millions at trying to rig an election, but the public weren’t fooled. He’s now fighting to stay out of jail. Rest my case.

2. HONE HARAWIRA

He picked the wrong rich friends. Should have stayed poor. At least he’d still be in Parliament. Woeful judgement.

3. LAILA HARRE

See above.

4. JUDITH COLLINS

Was on track to be the next National Party Leader – now she’s struggling to be heard from the backbenchers. Huge fall from grace. Career in tatters.

5. DAVID CUNLIFFE

Came across as a fake and then apologised for being a man. Do we have to say anything more? Awful defeat.

(Close mention: Grant Robertson, rejected twice as Labour’s future leader. That will hurt and in politics if winning if everything, Robertson has twice failed. Ouch. Still, he has huge chance to recover well.)

That’s a pretty good summary.

The Green ceiling

The Greens had high hopes for their party vote this election, expecting an upward trend to continue. Targets and claims were 15% and higher. If you believed their hype like Greens did a significant improvement was not only feasible, it was a certainty.

Green reaction to a mediocre result shock, disbelief that their rising greatness wasn’t reflected in the polls. Depending on the special vote count they may barely get the same as in 2011, which to Greens is a pounding of their pride and expectations.

But from outside the Green bubble it is not surprising, despite Labour’s weakness leaving many left wing votes up for grabs.

While many people have some admiration for Green advocating on environmental issues there are strong concerns for too much Green influence, especially anywhere near Government. This is due to extreme stances, such as moratoriums and bans on anything to do with fossil fuel and mineral exploration and extraction.

And it’s due to their strong socialist leanings and policies. Greens try to disguise their socialism with do-good fronts like lifting children out of poverty, but many voters see through their solutions, which invariably mean giving everyone the same amount of money and housing, all provided or imposed by the State.

Making things better for kids and poor people is admirable and should be given more political attention. Greens have succeeded there. But there is not a lot of support for their blanket ‘handout’ approach, which many people see as idealistic and unworkable.

A major push for Green growth was based on giving much more attention to their economic credentials and ambitions. Instead this helped fix the Green ceiling in place.

A common phrase that’s associated with Greens having anything to do with running the country’s finances is “scare the bejeebers”.

At a time when the country is just emerging (relatively successfully) from the worst world financial situation in generations there is a wariness of starting a Government spending spree, handing out money and houses to every poor person who “deserves” as good as anyone else regardless of their efforts.

It’s ironic that a party that campaigned hard on having a forward looking “smarter cleaner” economy wants to achieve their aims through last century socialism.

There’s also a number of conflicting images.

Rod Donald, Jeanette Fitzsimons and Nandor Tanczos looked and acted like real Greens. Sue Bradford looked and acted like a sleeves rolled up social campaigner.

While Greens transitioned to new leadership very successfully and improved their vote Russel Norman and Metiria Turei look  very different to their target constituency. Bradford left the party when she missed out on the leadership (and this year she left the Mana Party when they betrayed their principles by joining forces with Kim Dotcom).

Green election results:

  • 1999 – 106,560 votes, 5.16%
  • 2002 – 142,250 votes, 7.00%
  • 2005 – 120,521 votes, 5.30%
  • 2008 – 157,613 votes, 6.72%
  • 2011 – 247,372 votes, 11.06%
  • 2014 – pre-specials 210,764 votes, 10.02%

Greens will have picked up a significant share of Labour’s decline in 2011 but although Labour kept shedding votes this year Greens weren’t able to capitalise.

The Greens seem to have hit a support ceiling and unless they change markedly 10-12% is likely to be their limit.

And they will be a little nervous about Gareth Morgan proposing a ‘blue-green’ party that is prepared to promote environmental issues with any government with a more pragmatic and effective approach, and without the socialism.

Greens do contribute significantly to Parliament and will be partly responsible for National paying more attention to environmental and “poverty” issues. But they haven’t yet been a part of Government after nearly two decades of trying.

And a support ceiling won’t prevent them from declining due to competition and ongoing impotence.

Minto on Mana/IP alliance pros, cons and questions

John Minto has posted at The Daily blog about the conference debate on the proposed alliance between the Internet and Mana Parties. It gives a good outline of party thinking and lays out how he sees the pros and cons.

Mana and the Internet Party – strategic alliance or wtf? 

The proposal for some sort of electoral relationship arose from a meeting between Mana leader Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom earlier in the year. The first benefit to both Mana Movement and the Internet Party – and the country for that matter – is to ensure all votes cast to get rid of the National government are counted. Under current law a party which falls short of the 5% threshold has its votes wasted – potentially up to 130,000 anti-National votes not counted.

This fundamentally undemocratic aspect of our MMP system is a result of pressure from National and Labour to keep parliament as a cosy duopoly and disenfranchise thousands of voters in the process.

So the AGM debated at length whether to proceed to formally explore a possible alliance. It was a riveting four hours as speakers spoke for or against the idea.

As part of the discussion I was asked to present what I saw as the “pros” and “cons” of a possible “strategic alliance” with the Internet Party.

Here’s what I came up with:

Pros

1.    Increased profile for Mana and as we are seen as more relevant with a larger combined party vote with the Internet Party.

2.    Creation of interest and even excitement among many younger voters and non-voters.

3.    A greater likelihood of getting Mana Movement list MPs through a combined party vote.

4.    Greater resources to fight a party vote campaign.

5.    Greater resources to help inspire and enrol current non-voters and get them to the polling booth.

6.    There is already some areas of strong policy agreement with the Internet Party to: stop GCSB spying, withdraw from the “five eyes” spy alliance, provide internet privacy rights and cheap/free access to the internet, provide free tertiary education and oppose the TPPA.

7.    Ensuring that the Internet Party and their supporters are committed to changing the government.

8.    MANA brand remains in Maori electorate campaigns which are a key focus this election.

Cons

1.    Damage to the public perception of Mana:

  •  Mana may lose respect as a kaupapa Maori movement and damage our chances in the Maori seats.
  •  Mana Movement may lose respect as a movement for the poor and dispossessed if we have an alliance with a high-profile wealthy partner.
  •  Mana Movement may be seen by some as compromising our principles for money (irrespective of the truth of this)

2.    A potential watering down of our policies to create a joint Mana-Internet Party vote campaign.

3.    A potential loss of control of Mana policy and direction to a new joint venture.

4.    A risk of ending up with fewer seats than we would have on our own.

The three key questions which arose from this are:

1.    Would an alliance enhance or damage Mana as a kaupapa Maori movement?

2.    Would an alliance enable us to gain greater parliamentary representation without compromising our policies or principles?

3.    How would we retain our integrity, and be seen to retain our integrity, in such an alliance?

 All speakers recognised the risks to the movement and to the individuals involved – we all value our integrity – but after four hours a clear consensus emerged that we should take the step to see if an arrangement agreeable to Mana can be reached. (Each of Mana’s seven rohe supported the decision to keep talking with the Internet Party).

Mana Party members agreed to “move forward in negotiations” (NZ Herald):

The Mana Party has given its leaders a month to negotiate, before they put any proposed alliance out to the party’s local branches for consultation.

Minto:

We are withholding judgement till we see what emerges from further discussion. At that point any possible agreement will be discussed by Mana rohe and branches before a final vote is taken. 

However Hone Harawira seems to have decided already and intimates it won’t be decided by a party vote…

Asked whether he thought the deal would go ahead, Mr Harawira said: “I’d certainly like to think so.”

And while the party is consulting the executive (led by Harawira) will decide.

Mr Harawira indicated the final decision would be made by senior party figures rather than a wider vote.

“It will probably be made by the executive in the final analysis.”

See  Harawira’s way or the highway.

In the meantime opposition continues – Dotcom a neoliberal millionaire who sounds like John Key – Mana’s Sue Bradford

  The Internet Party leader did not manage to seal an alliance with Mana when he visited the party’s AGM on Saturday (although talks will continue). And his charm seems to have singularly failed to winover one of Mana leader Hone Harawira’s key lieutenants, Sue Bradford.

Instead, Bradford hardened her opposition, and walked out of the meeting before the key vote – creating a schism Mana can ill-afford given Labour candidate Kelvin Davis is polling ahead in Harawira’s Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) seat.

“Getting into bed with a neoliberal millionaire who’s facing legal challenges is quite a curious proposal for a party like Mana that has stood so strongly and staunchly on its reputation for fighting for those who have less … and for standing up against the neoliberal agenda that John Key that others are running,” Ms Bradford told Firstline this morning.

“It’s not compatible and undermines everything Mana has achieved over the past three years … When I heard him speaking on Saturday, it was like listening to John Key,” Ms Bradford said.

It could be a challenging time for the Mana Party over the next month of consultations and decision making.

In the meantime the Internet Party remains in limbo, leader-less, candidate-less and alliance-less.