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NZ POLITICS DAILY: Who cares about poverty?

Bryce Edwards
Wed, 11 Dec 2013

In the last few days there has been a wealth of evidence and examples pointing to the existence of widespread poverty in New Zealand. Given that growing inequality and poverty has been a significant problem for decades now – under both Labour and National governments – is it any wonder that it tends to be put in the ‘too hard’ basket.  

In Poverty issues boring public, Eileen Goodwin’s Otago Daily Times article reports my observation that although there was a surge in public interest and concern about issues of economic inequality and poverty following the global financial crisis, for various reasons that concern seems to be dissipating. Similarly, the disturbing statistics on poverty we have heard in the last week are also likely be pushed aside as the public struggles to see how any of the recent reports and examples will actually lead to real change. It seems that the problem of poverty – especially child poverty – isn’t nearly politicised enough to force action from political parties.

Damning reports and articles
At the centre of attention at the moment is the Children’s Commissioner’s first annual Child Poverty Monitor report – which you can read here. The best media summary of this is Ben Heather’s One in four Kiwi children living in poverty and the main talking point to come out of the study is the statistic that there are now one in four New Zealand children in poverty, with ten percent living in 'severe poverty'.

TV3’s Campbell Live has been running some very strong items about the issue in recent days, and the most important is Lachlan Forsyth’s 6-minute report, The truth about child poverty in NZ. Also worth watching are Tristram Clayton’s 8-minute report, Behind the scenes at the foodbank, John Sellwood and Whena Owen's 10-minute report, Christchurch's state housing crisis, and Rebecca Wright’s 4-minute report, Feeding kids through school gardens. See also, TV3’s 2-minute video report, Govt failing with poverty – Children's Commissioner

For other interesting videos on the issues, see the animated infographic series on Solutions to child poverty in New Zealand, which are the ones recommended by the Children’s Commissioner in association with Auckland University.

Another damning report on child poverty was also released last week – this time from the United Nations – see Newswire’s NZ still failing children – UN report. You can download the Unicef report: Kids missing out. Not only does the report complain about the ‘estimated 270,000 children living in poverty’ but the failures of successive governments to implement commitments to children that New Zealand signed up to in an international agreement 20 years ago. 

The impact of Government welfare reforms have also been in the spotlight, after the Ministry of Social Development released information on the number of benefits they’ve cut under the new arrangements – see Ben Heather’s Children suffering, say benefit cut critics

There have also been more reports about the continued hardships facing families and the poor in Canterbury at the moment. The Christchurch Press, in particular, has been putting the spotlight on the ill-affects of poverty, with some hard-hitting stories such as Ashleigh Stewart’s Quiet Xmas on struggle street, Olivia Carville’s Hunt family fights on in Waltham Park, Marc Greenhill and Ashleigh Stewart’s Human rights report targets family's post-quake plight, and Jody O’Callaghan’s Counsellors 'rushed off feet'. All of these are worth reading and paint a very bleak picture of the lives of many New Zealanders.

And, of course, the problem is not confined to quake-ravaged Christchurch. The cost of living and housing is a serious problem in many areas of the country. See for example, Alanah Eriksen’s Cost of home dream in Auckland – 19 incomes

The Political responses
The Government has largely dismissed the damning reports, with the Prime Minister emphasising that poverty was at a similar level under the last Labour Government (at a time of much greater prosperity), Bill English pointing out that National has actually tried to ameliorate the problem, and Paula Bennett describing the child poverty report as merely a re-packaging of existing government material. To see Bill English’s response – as well as that of child poverty researcher Liz Craig – watch TV3’s 9-minute item, Health stats prove child poverty is real – doctor

John Key has also responded to some of the concerns by penning an opinion piece in the Herald – see: Kids of today offer bright future for NZ. This was quickly parodied by Scott Yorke – see: John Key: I believe the children are our future

There has been plenty of disgruntlement with the Government’s reaction. The Southland Times has taken National to task in its editorial today, Now about that 'proud record'. It calls for a more coherent response, ‘in a more comprehensive way that honestly squares up to the sheer scale of need, and calibrates its priorities off that’. Similarly, a Herald editorial says that the ‘Children's Commissioner is right to give us this reality check for Christmas’, and worries that the Government isn’t listening. The editorial criticises the Government for refusing to fund the type of measurement of poverty in this latest report: ‘A cynic might suggest it sometimes suits the Government to have no reliable measure of the problems facing the nation. If ministers can't quantify a problem, then neither can their opponents’ – see:  Christmas tidings of little joy. See also, the Press editorial, Poverty should worry us all

The Child Poverty Action Group has welcomed the Child Poverty Monitor report, but emphasised the need for change – see Donna Wynd and Nikki Turner’s Time for action to bring down the high cost of being poor. They plead for the report not to be ignored, and for electioneering political parties to outline what they will do about the problem.

Much of the response amongst partisans on the left involves simply blaming the current government, with little or no awareness of the role played by their own parties in the chronic problem of poverty. See, for example, Greg Presland’s What chance is there of a bipartisan approach to child poverty? There seems to be widespread reluctance amongst leftwing activists to face up to the inadequacy of their own side in dealing with poverty, or at least to stop causing the problem. 

In contrast, outside of parliamentary politics, some anti-poverty campaigners are taking to the streets – see Ben Irwin’s Angry protesters attend National's Xmas function

But it’s not entirely hopeless. There are some moves within parliamentary politics to take up the issues – for example, filmmaker Bruce Bryan has been surveying MPs on some specific measures to combat poverty and is finding the tide is moving in his direction – see Simon Collins’ Child welfare policies gain support.

And there is some occasional good news to come out of this current bout of bad news stories about hardship in New Zealand. The publicised plight of a homeless family has meant that they’ve been able to move out of their tent in a public park – see Georgina Sylianou and Olivia Carville’s Hunt family get home. This has happened without the family in question having to take up one blogger’s advice of moving into one of Gerry Brownlee’s four Christchurch properties – see No Right Turn’s National's New Zealand

There has been some questioning of the dominant narrative about poverty in New Zealand. Most notably, on the right, blogger Peter Cresswell has challenged the poverty report’s measurement and some of the solutions being proposed – see: You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money. Similarly, see Newstalk ZB broadcater Andrew Dickens’ The definition of poverty

And David Farrar has not only questioned some accepted facts in the debate, but also proposed that more attention be given to ‘social mobility’, which he says is more meaningful and shows the situation is not as severe as is assumed – see: Stats Chat on inequality and Nonsense stats

Finally, for a different measure of poverty in New Zealand, see my blogpost, The politics of poverty in New Zealand – images.


Today’s links

Child poverty and inequality

Eileen Goodwin (ODT): Poverty issues boring public: academic

Dan Satherley (TV3): Health stats prove child poverty is real - doctor

Andrew Dickens (Newstalk ZB): The definition of poverty

The Standard: Smile and Wave

Southland Times: Editorial: Now about that 'proud record'

ODT: Missing the mark

Raewyn Bleakley (Dominion Post): Living wage threat to council budgets

Georgina Sylianou and Olivia Carville (Stuff): Hunt family get home

Jody O’Callaghan (Stuff): Counsellors 'rushed off feet'

Marc Greenhill and Ashleigh Stewart (Stuff): Human rights report targets family's post-quake plight

Max Rashbrooke: The reality of unemployment

Raukawa Whenu Knight (ISO): “Stop the War on the Poor!” Crashing National’s Party

RadioLIVE: Is child poverty real?

TVNZ: Tent mother could be in a house by this afternoon

John Key (Herald): Kids of today offer bright future for NZ

Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): John Key: I believe the children are our future

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Nonsense stats

Daily Blog: Just how big is the too-hard basket going to get?

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): See no poverty, speak no poverty, hear no poverty isn’t much of a social policy

Radio NZ: Govt defends work to reduce child poverty



John Armstrong (Herald): Key wastes chance to heal decades-old tour sore

Michelle A’Court (Stuff): Springbok tour memories still vivid

Brian Rudman (Herald): Mandela mourners forced to eat humble pie

Bryan Gould (Herald): Mandela is dead and still we sleep

Dan Satherley (TV3): Minto plots return to Rugby Park

Andrea Vance (Stuff): 'Eggshell diplomacy' at farewell  

John Minto (Herald): A great man but not a great president

Tim Watkin (Pundit): Memories of the '81 tour - what we remember, forget & honour

Colin Espiner (Stuff): Put Minto on that plane

Patrick Gower (TV3): Key has totally stuffed up Mandela delegation

Yasmine Ryan (Huffington Post): New Zealand's Leader Questioned Over Apartheid Amnesia

TVNZ: Learn from Mandela, says Bolger over delegation debate

Mike Hosking (Newstalk ZB): They only made one Nelson Mandela

Barry Soper (Newstalk ZB): The specially selected & questionable delegation

TVNZ: Kiwi delegation stopped at gate to Mandela memorial

John Minto (Daily Blog): Bringing out the sun for Nelson – the delegation for Mandela Key should have taken

The Press: Editiorial: Missed chance for right gesture

Peter O’Neill (Timaru Herald): Editorial: Best team not picked

Radio NZ: Harawira attending Mandela tangi

TV3: NZ delegation attends Mandela memorial

Tim Selwyn (Daily Blog): TV Review: Mandela

Isaac Davison (Herald): Parliament pays tribute to Mandela

Newswire: Parliament pays tribute to Nelson Mandela

Isaac Davison (Herald): NZ only allowed two people at Mandela funeral

Stuff: NZ delegation to South Africa trimmed to just two

Colin Espiner (Stuff): Put Minto on that plane

Isaac Davison (Herald): Harawira making own way to Mandela funeral

Radio NZ: Harawira travels to South Africa for Mandela memorial

Laura Heathcote (Newstalk ZB): Hone Harawira makes plans for South Africa

TV3/RadioLIVE: Hone Harawira to travel to Mandela's funeral

TVNZ: Learn from Mandela, says Bolger over delegation debate

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Hone Harawira walks the talk, Huffington Post on Key’s memory loss & over 3000 sign Minto Petition

Keeping Stock: Pay your own way Hone

Pete George (Your NZ): The Mandela funeral delegation…

Keith Locke (Daily Blog): Thinking like Mandela

Louisa Wall (Daily Blog): Mandela legacy to challenge NZs Constitutional design


National Party

Mathew Grocott (Stuff): Hayes to enter Parliament

TVNZ: National list MP to quit Parliament in January

Audrey Young (Herald): National MP Katrina Shanks resigns

ODT: National MP resigns for funeral sector job

Radio NZ: Shanks leaving Parliament in January

Stuff: National MP quits early

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Shanks to retire in January


New right-wing party

The Ruminator: Questioning Colin

Greg Presland (The Standard): The new right wing party

Polity: More on "a future for ACT?"


John Banks trial

Herald: Banks' trial set for May next year

Stephanie Flores (NBR): Bloopers from this morning’s John Banks hearing

Stuff: John Banks will be judged in May


Maori Party

Simon Wong (TV3): Political parties vie for Tua's candidacy

Laura McQuillan (Newstalk ZB): Push now to involve youth in Party – Sharples

Michael Fox (Stuff): Maori Party courts David Tua

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): So what does David Tua believe in?

Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Has Peter Goodfellow sat down with David Tua?



Ben Heather (Stuff): Census points to non-religious NZ

Harkanwal Singh (Herald): Census 2013: Our personal income

Nicholas Jones (Herald): Fewer religious believers

Radio NZ: Number of Maori smoking falls – Census

Brendan Manning (Herald): Census 2013: More ethnicities than the world's countries

Tracey Chatterton (Stuff): Man pleads guilty in Census case

Marta Steeman (Stuff): Boom times ahead for construction

Stuff: Kiwis more diverse than ever

Katie Kenny (Stuff): Population hits 4.5 million

Radio NZ: NZ a more diverse and less religious place

Brian Fallow (Herald): Census housing statistics show shortfall not so dire

No Right Turn: Not a Christian country

Danyl McLauchlan (Dim-Post):I find your lack of faith . . . disturbing


Christchurch rebuild

Matthew Backhouse (Herald):  EQC cleared of deliberately excluding unhappy claimants

Stuff: Communication key with EQC

Radio NZ: EQC rep now based in minister's office

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Human Rights Commission calls for rent controls

Heather McCracken (Stuff): Post-disaster rent controls proposed



Audrey Young (Herald): NZ would be winner in TPP: Goff

TV3: No deal yet, but "significant progress" made on TPP

TVNZ: TPP talks fail to deliver end of year deal

Michael Fox and Vernon Small (Stuff): NZ committed to TPP – English

Audrey Young (Herald): CTU says Joyce's claim untrue

Clare Curran (Red Alert): TPP: Is this true?

Gordon Campbell (Scoop): On the latest TPP leaks, and our shabby treatment of asylum seekers



Brook Sabin (TV3): Report reveals NZDF staff shortages

Radio NZ: Defence says Budget repairs could take 7 years

Herald: Major-General Keating named Chief of Defence

Newswire: New Defence Force boss named

Stacey Kirk (Stuff): New defence chief named



Tamsyn Parker (Herald): Applications for first-home scheme surge

Brian Fallow (Herald): New house loan exemption welcomed

Herald: Editorial: Reserve Bank right to heed concern over new homes

TVNZ: New homes exempt from low deposit loan rules

Jason Krupp (Stuff): Denser cities no congestion solution

Tony Field (TV3): New LVR exemptions welcomed by Builders Federation

RadioLIVE: Brownlee kicked out of House for liar comment


Commerce commission

Herald: Commerce Commission laws to be reviewed - English

Laura McQuillan and Nita Blake-Persen (Newstalk ZB): Commerce Commission review a case of sour grapes – Labour

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): English puts regulations on watch



Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): Chorus ready to start discussions

Adam Bennett (Herald): Chorus snaps at watchdog


Asset Sales

TVNZ: Voters still waiting to receive ballot papers

Pete George (Your NZ): Referendum imbalance



Stuff: 'Brakes finally off' for Kiwi economy

Dominion Post: Editorial: 90-day trial a work in progress

Josh Martin (Stuff): PGC to quit New Zealand

Josh Martin (Stuff): Taxi drivers to step up hunger strike

Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Labour’s ‘chan ban’ biting with threats against investment



Oliver Chan (Fine tooth column): The Nanny state and the many state part I: Don’t do that, don’t dooo thaaat! 

Stacey Kirk (Stuff): NZ passes royal succession law

David Fisher (Herald): New moves to detail Dotcom allegations

Penny Pepperell (NBR): A Spy Year

Stuff: Today in politics: Wednesday, December 11

Radio NZ: Govt says extension of tax break for oil rigs pragmatic decision

Radio NZ: $30,000 amounts proposed for Disputes Tribunal

TVNZ: New Privacy Commissioner appointed

Tova O’Brien (TV3): Trust in police drops 6pct over November

Radio NZ: Police asked to verify surveillance logs

Matt Nippert (Stuff): New SFO head no publicity seeker

TVNZ: Report identifies 'twilight' population of asylum seekers

3 News Online Staff (TV3): Formers Greens candidate in spat with Collins

Radio NZ: Police using tasers more often

Stuff: Apology to Joe Karam

Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): This doesn’t mean Maori are over-represented

TVNZ: Elective surgery numbers 'nonsense', minister says

Adam Bennett (Herald): Henare: Surveillance log 'nothing to worry about'

Michael Fox (Stuff): Police log suggests innocents spied on

TV3: Formers Greens candidate in spat with Collins

Stacey Kirk (Stuff): Collins in Twitter war

John Armstrong (Herald): Vision is great, Gareth, but wins would help

Frances Cook (Newstalk ZB): Collins embroiled in online spat

Andrew Dickens (Newstalk ZB): 1 out of 100

Susan St John (Daily Blog): Subsidising the rich to save New Zealand is voodoo economics.

Ben Irwin (Herald): NZ second most giving country in world

Janine Hayward (Otago Magazine): New Zealand's Constitution: Having the conversation


Bryce Edwards
Wed, 11 Dec 2013
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NZ POLITICS DAILY: Who cares about poverty?