NZ POLITICS DAILY: Nats put poverty on the agenda

Is the National-led government being swayed by the increasing debate and concern about poverty and inequality?

An illustration that this might indeed be the case can be seen in what appears to be a major U-turn – the government might take up the proposal to introduce a comprehensive food-in-schools programme. See Simon Collins’ Govt signals it will feed hungry kids.

Added to this, Deborah Hill-Cone wrote in the Herald yesterday about the increasing inequality between CEOs and their workers – see: What tosh is spoken about CEOs' pay – and, surprisingly, she says that she has done a U-turn on the right-wing justifications for that gap, and now challenges the concept that the rich get paid what they are worth.

Such examples illustrate the extent that the issues of poverty and inequality have suddenly emerged onto the political agenda in recent times, and how they are challenging the until-now enduring consensus of the status quo.

But that is not to say that there is any kind of new consensus on the existence of poverty and inequality – nor about how to solve it. Quite the opposite, this is an area that is highly contentious with a variety of different views and approaches. 

It is child poverty that is at the forefront of the current concern about inequality and poverty. Focus is on the Children’s Commission’s report into child poverty, written by its Expert Advisory Group – public submissions close on it this week. For an overview of the report’s "big ideas", their pros and cons, and the political response to them, see Andrew Laxon’s Six of the best ideas for change. And the co-chair of the Expert Advisory Group, Jonathan Boston, also has a very good feature in the Herald in which he refutes the Three myths about child poverty
 
For more on the question of "what poverty means" in New Zealand, see Simon Collins and Catherine Masters’ in-depth feature, Searching for a way out. They discuss some of the drivers of poverty in New Zealand (such as divorce and unemployment) as well its impact – and they cite one piece of research that suggests "the resulting lost productivity and higher state spending costs New Zealand about $8 billion a year, or 4.5% of our economic output".
 
Of course, poverty and inequality have many policy relations – and housing is a key one. Some critics say that "New Zealand's response to homelessness lags behind other developed countries: there are no official numbers, there is no legislation, there is no national strategy and there is no funding" – see Trevor Quinn’s Homeless problem demands attention.
 
Education is obviously closely related, and Radio New Zealand’s John Gerritsen produced an interesting Insight documentary in the weekend that explored "why poverty is so closely linked in NZ to poor grades and why tackling income inequality is the biggest single factor in beating under-achievement at school" – listen here or read the RNZ item More money for poor families urged.
 
At the weekend, Kim Hill interviewed journalist Max Rashbrooke on his upcoming book about the increasing divide between rich and poor in New Zealand – listen to: Max Rashbrooke - social inequality and boarding houses.
 
So is poverty and inequality the responsibility of the government? Matt McCarten says so in his column No need to starve yourself, just give poor some more. He argues that the cause of poverty is the "fact that our political leaders run an economy where there are more than 100,000 fewer jobs than there should be, and that many of the existing jobs are low-paid, casual and part-time, is not addressed".
 
He also has some scathing comments about do-gooding celebrities and politicians that participated in the recent Unicef Live Below the Line campaign.
 
On the political right, a case can be made that many more appropriate, productive and efficient solutions to improving the lives of those in poverty can be found outside of "welfarist", "big state" and "expensive" intervention.
 
They would point to, first, the philanthropic element of what has been achieved under existing food in school schemes – after all the KidsCan charity already feeds thousands of children in hundreds of schools based on charity from wider society and individual businesses. 
 
Also, they would say that there are other policy levers that the government can pull that have an influence in the poor. For example, the high cost of housing in New Zealand is arguably because of the policy settings around city planning, resource consent and zoning.
 
In this regard, it is being reported the National Government is soon to announce some major changes that will supposedly lead to a much needed increase in building activity – see: Govt plan means cheaper housing
 
Of course, when thinking about New Zealand poverty and inequality it is worth considering how New Zealand companies might be contributing to it elsewhere in the world.
 
An Australian newspaper has just published the results of its 12-month investigation which found that New Zealand’s Canterbury sports brand is selling rugby balls made in India that take up to an hour to stitch, earning their child labourers "11 rupees, about 25c" – see Amelia Wade’s NZ probe into child labour claims.
 
Other important or interesting political items yesterday include:
 
John Armstrong has a very good analysis of how much damage the Dotcom saga might be causing the National government – see: Tough lesson for Key in Dotcom blunders. John Hartevelt also evaluates John Key’s role in it all and, like Armstrong, admonishes him for poor oversight of his own agency. Hartevelt does, however,  give Prime Minister John Key some credit for how openly he has handled the scandal – see: Key must press on to fix spy agency.
 
More damaging is David Fisher’s Dotcom explanation won't wash: experts, in which Fisher refutes the prime minister and GCSB’s arguments that there was confusion over the laws affecting Dotcom’s residential status. Graeme Edgeler follows this up with even more detail in Kim Dotcom: all the fault of the Immigration Act? And for more scathing coverage of the scandal, it is worth reading Paul Holmes’ opinion piece on the latest police investigation – see: Cops chase cops: It's the stuff of satire
 
In terms of news coverage, John Key’s visit to Hollywood was hardly an unmitigated success. The most comprehensive item on the visit was probably Kate Chapman’s Sticking to the script on a Hobbit windfall. But it is also worth reading this week’s Listener editorial – not only because it intelligently quotes Eva Longoria – but for its questioning of the whereabouts of the government review into the tax breaks for filmmaking in New Zealand – see: Reeling in the movie-makers. And for lighter material on the visit, see Toby Manhire’s New York Times notices New Zealand PM’s Hollywood visit
 
The Labour Party is still struggling to profit from National’s difficult times – which is evidenced by Matthew Hooton’s derisory Labour's front bench report card and Tim Watkin’s Why a Labour reshuffle just ain't enough. And John Tamihere’s appearance on TVNZ’s Q+A probably isn’t helping – see: John Tamihere slams Labour, mulls political comeback. It seems that there are plenty on the left who would not welcome Tamihere’s return as a Labour MP – see, for example, Morgan Godfery’s John Tamihere: National MP for Waitakere
 
The Greens are definitely profiting from the ongoing economic slump and have made many headlines with their adventurous proposal for the Reserve Bank to print more money – see Audrey Young’s Labour sees merit in Green call to print cash. Responses from the right have not been slow – see David Farrar’s Greens literally believe money does grow on trees and economist Matt Nolan’s No QE “free lunch” for NZ. On a totally different level – and aimed more at critiquing Fran O’Sullivan – see Andrew Geddis’ slightly strange but illuminating blogpost In that ye provoke me unto wrath with the works of your hands.... Geddis has also followed this up with another post: I ain't no big city economist or nothing, but...
 
Should the rich do their best to legitimately avoid tax? TV3’s Guyon Espiner reports on how New Zealand has become an "accidental tax haven" in his 18-minute programme Treasure Islands. Danyl Mclauchlan responds in his blogpost Legitimate tax avoidance. And in the Herald, Damien Grant argues that "you should first pay your $33,000 but, beyond that, your moral, if not legal, obligation is extinguished" – see: Heavy tax load borne by a few
 
Finally, left-wing blogger Scott Yorke strikes back at rightwing Matthew Hooton’s appraisal of the Labour Party front bench (cited above), with his own National's Front Bench Report Card
 
Bryce Edwards
 
Content:
 
Poverty and inequality
Andrew Laxon (Herald): Six of the best ideas for change
Amelia Wade (Herald): NZ probe into child labour claims
Simon Collins and Catherine Masters (Herald): Searching for a way out
Simon Collins (Herald): Govt signals it will feed hungry kids
Trevor Quinn (Stuff): Homeless problem demands attention
Trevor Quinn (Stuff): Protestors slam welfare reforms  
Wilma McCorkindale (Stuff): Jobless battler takes on Winz for a $3 cause
Simon Collins (Herald): Prepay power leaves kids ill
Jonathan Boston (Herald): Three myths about child poverty
Deborah Hill Cone (Herald): What tosh is spoken about CEOs' pay - and art
 
Dotcom scandal
John Armstrong (Herald): Tough lesson for Key in Dotcom blunders
John Hartevelt (Stuff): Key must press on to fix spy agency
Graeme Edgeler (Public Address): Kim Dotcom: all the fault of the Immigration Act?
The Standard: From cock-up to cover-up
Kate Chapman (Stuff): Key talks Dotcom with Hollywood
Margaret Hayward (Dom Post): Kirk biographer tells tales of the SIS (Letter to Ed: Not Online)
 
John Key in Hollywood
Cherie Howie and Jack Tame (Herald): Key thinks small screen
 
Labour Party
Matthew Hooton (NBR): Labour's front bench report card
Danyl Mclauchlan (Dim-Post): Uh huh
Morgan Godfery (Maui St): John Tamihere: National MP for Waitakere
Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): Labour Blamed For Robot Army Attack
 
Quantitative easing
Kate Chapman (Stuff): Greens' call to print money rejected
David Kennedy (Local bodies): Russel Norman, Finance Minister
Matt Nolan (TVHE): No QE “free lunch” for NZ
 
Tax avoidance
Damien Grant (Herald): Heavy tax load borne by a few
Danyl Mclaughlan (Dim-Post): Legitimate tax avoidance
Cathy Odgers (Cactus Kate): Espiner and 60 Minutes Living Like It's 1988
 
Brain exchange with Australia
Matthew Backhouse (APNZ): Kiwis in Aussie protest welfare reforms
 
Education
Philip Matthews (Stuff): What drives Hekia Parata?
Olivia Carville (Stuff): Payroll chaos latest burden for teachers
Shelley Robinson (Herald): Parata calls principals 'unprofessional'
Michael Laws (Stuff): Usual snake versus mongoose
 
John Ansell’s colourblind state
Laura McQuillan (Newswire): 'Racial equality' campaign to launch
Scott Hamilton (Reading the Maps): Down and out in Remuera
 
Ports of Auckland dispute
Richard Meadows (Stuff): New Port union deal 'inferior' says MU
 
Lobbying legislation
No Right Turn: Submission
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): My submission on the Lobbying Disclosure Bill  
 
Rightwing libertarians / Regroupment of the rightwing
Adam Bennett (Herald): Disgruntled liberals discuss merger
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Libertarian policies
 
Other
Chloe Johnson (Herald): Millionaire hints at Beehive bid
Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): National's Front Bench Report Card
Hamish Rutherford and Tim Donoghue (Stuff): Love's partner in council fee controversy
David Fisher (Herald): Air force tragedy - new probe ordered
Adam Bennett (Herald): Smith holds firm on ACC claimants
John Braddock (World Socialist Website): New Zealand state coalminer axes hundreds of jobs
Fran O’Sullivan (Herald): America ignores harsh realities
Michael Forbes (Stuff): Study: NZ's lethal roads lack light
Mark Blackham (Blackland PR): Political Slate wk/ 5 Oct 2012

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4 Comments & Questions

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Parents who do not feed their children should have their children taken from them. It is a child's right to be safe, warm, loved and well fed!
I am a solo mum on the DPB studying full-time, living away from family and friends and it is my highest priority to make sure that my children have their basic needs (as indicated above) met.
If parents cannot provide these basic things for their children, they should make a better choice for their children. What this choice is depends on circumstances, of course, but ALL children brought into this world must be provided for. If someone is unable to provide (at minimum) the basic needs of a child, they should NOT HAVE SEX!!! Or get some contraception or get tubes tied or a vasectomy so they don't destroy a human life, and all those who that person destroys. New Zealand government needs to take steps to ensure that children are not born to unfit people to begin with. Providing food at schools is a nice idea, but it's just dealing with the symptoms, not the problem. These parents will just have another child, and another, getting more government funding for what? What is REALLY happening here? Look at the long term.
Get some contraception and stop drinking/smoking. Get a job and go for a run/walk. Go to the library and read and learn. Think. Have ideas and share these ideas. Buy food not toys. Protect your precious children who cannot protect themselves. Dig up the lawn and plant seeds in the dirt taken from fruit and vegetables you bought. Make a plant stall to encourage others in your neighbourhood to do the same. Teach your children by showing them how. Work hard now and reap the rewards later. Make better choices and do it for your children as they need to teach their children who will be running our country in the next century. Make it good.

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Very refreshing to hear of a DPB MUM who is capable of getting her priorities right, taking, and offering to others, practical steps to provide some degree of self help, rather than the usual politically motivated drivel that we hear so much of

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Thank you Mr. Robert - they're worth the work involved! :)

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p.s whoever it was who disliked my comment, I would be interested to know your thoughts on the matter and what your situation is. Of course there are so many different perspectives and each as important to the beholder as the other, I'm sure. So please come forth and share :)

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