(As usual, concept mine, execution Joe Wylie)
August 30, 2012
August 29, 2012
The government has reversed its position on child poverty and announced tough new measures to combat the growth in poverty amongst young children after an intensive campaign by key players in the influential but secretive impoverished children’s lobby group.
The dramatic reversal comes after late night, closed-door meetings between senior Ministers in the National government and powerful representatives acting on behalf of very small, very poor children, including six year old Otara based Ruby Savea and political king-maker Liam Wehi, a four year old boy from Northland with type-I-diabetes, referred to by Beehive insiders as ‘the Prince of Darkness’.
The children also had international support when they were joined by a high-level delegation of emaciated ragamuffins from the slums of Santiago and Karachi, who were welcomed at the airport by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, then sprayed with jets of high-pressure water and deloused before being whisked to the Prime Ministers residence in a convoy of crown limousines.
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Key has described the talks as ‘frank and productive’. ‘The two parties ate fairy-bread, listened to the Wiggles and then hammered out a detailed plan.’ She denied rumours that the talks came to an early end because the Prime Minister became cranky and needed a nap.
Details of the agreement include tax-rebates for insulation rental homes, improved access to high quality early childhood education, and the development of low-decile schools as ‘community hubs’ aimed at providing social services to poor children. Business leaders are crying foul at the government’s u-turn, describing the policy reversal as ‘cowardly’, and questioning the level of influence small, starving, filthy children have on government Ministers.
‘These policies will result in warmer homes and lower levels of respiratory disease in young children,’ warned National Business Review editor Nevil Gibson. ‘And guess who lives in a freezing, damp home and suffers from chronic bronchitis? Ruby Savea, the very same person babbling adorably in the Prime Minister’s ear and influencing policy decisions. It’s classic pork-barrel politics.’
Criticism has also been leveled at the level of access very poor children have to Parliament where they can influence legislation directly, without public oversight. Dr Oliver Hartwich, Director of the New Zealand Institute, alleges that the extreme thinness of poor children allows them to wriggle through ajar windows and the gaps above the automated parking doors, then make their way through the ventilation system to Ministers’ offices, sit at their knees and stare at them reproachingly with huge, liquid eyes. ‘For politicians to actually see the people most affected by their policies undermines the entire integrity of our political economy,’ Hartwich cautions.
Finance Minister Bill English has come under particularly strong criticism for his links to diseased, desperately miserable children, in the wake of revelations that he played ‘Pirate tag’ on a rusty, abandoned truck parked outside a derelict factory with both Ruby Savea and Liam Wehi. ‘Was there a quid-pro-pro?’ demands former ACT leader Dr Don Brash. ‘Did Wehi and Savea show him their secret shortcut to that burned out truck in exchange for funding a hot meal every day at their schools? These are questions the New Zealand public deserves answers to.’
Business leaders allege that the power of starving children over the public sector goes beyond simple lobbying of Ministers, extending throughout the public service, citing reports that many senior Treasury staff spent their winter holidays with key players in the impoverished children sector huffing butane on the banks of the Waiwhetu stream. The Auditor General is investigating the claims.
August 28, 2012
Also via the Herald, MPs are coming under pressure not to support Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill, which has it’s first reading this week. Because no one really makes money out of gay people marrying, or not marrying, this is one of those rare opportunities when your local MP will actually care what you think, and if they only receive messages from people opposed to marriage equality it could swing some votes.
So here’s a list of where New Zealand MPs currently sit on the issue, and here’s a list of their contact details. I’d recommend contacting your electorate MP (although mine is Grant Robertson, who is probably not soft on this issue but is probably sick of hearing from me), and/or a list MP who stands in your electorate, and/or a list MP for whichever party you vote for who is currently undecided.
Have at it.
The Government is battle-ready for any court-based challenge to its partial share float of the Mighty River Power company in the wake of the Waitangi Tribunal’s call for a delay.
‘Battle-ready’ for court, huh? I take that to mean they have a comprehensive communications strategy prepared, with slogans, talking-points, meetings with senior political editors, talk-back hosts and publishers scheduled, strategic leaks planned, pre-written op-eds to be published by sympathetic columnists or pro-National blogs, and a receptionist tasked with finding out the Attorney General’s extension number.
I don’t know how this debate over Maori proprietary interest of water-rights will play out, but I do know that any time Key’s government goes up against an opponent that isn’t Labour (environmental movement, teachers union) they routinely suffer a humiliating defeat. So I’m predicting a painful back-down by Key, followed by the obligatory flurry of Herald columns praising him for his visionary CEO-like leadership style.
August 26, 2012
Snapped this from the car while waiting for the lights to change at the Ngaio gorge intersection.
I like the way it takes a simple wholesome message of target-marketing very young girls and haunts it with the ghost of pedophilia.
August 24, 2012
Lobbyists for the alcohol industry have rolled out tough new counter-measures to get tough on Justice Minister Judith Collins and prevent the government rolling out tough new counter-measures or getting tough against them in the battle over alcohol regulation.
Multinational liquor companies and local breweries have combined forces to crush attempts to regulate the alcohol content of ‘ready-to’drink’ beverages. The harsh new measures will make Justice Ministers more accountable to industry pressure and curb attempts to make multi-national liquor companies and local breweries more accountable.
Although National has cautiously welcomed the brutal crackdown on itself, veteran campaigner Sue Bradford has denounced the changes. ‘This Judith Collins bashing is just another example of powerful corporations victimising the weak and powerless,’ Bradford said while being bundled into the back of a police-car by Parliamentary Security guards dispersing a pro-Collins protest at Collins’ request.
The Justice Minister announced the changes to the Alcohol Reform Bill via a photo-essay of photo-shopped cat photos posted to Instragram, and defended them via the TradeMe bulletin board. The Minister’s Yahoo chat profile was set to ‘busy’, so she was not available for further comment.
August 23, 2012
A while ago I OIA’d ACC for historical data on how many of their weekly compensation claimants transferred onto welfare. They got back to me last week. Here’s what happened when National came to power in late 2008.
They moved thousands of people onto the sickness benefit while railing about the runaway cost of the sickness benefit.
Looks like they stopped recording this data after 2010.
Which is here.
16 Poverty rates for children in beneficiary families are consistently around 65-75%, much higher than for children in families with at least one adult in full-time employment (9% in 2011).
- Since the benefit cuts in 1991, 65-75% of children in beneficiary families have been identified as ‘poor’ in each HES. The figure was close to 70% for 2004 to 2009, and 65% in 2011.
- For beneficiary families with children, AHC incomes from main benefits, the Family Tax Credit and the Accommodation Supplement are almost always below the AHC 60% fixed line threshold.
- Why is the reported poverty rate for beneficiary children not therefore 100%? There are typically 20 to 30% of beneficiary children living in households in which over the 12 months before the HES interview there is market income as well, either from their parent(s) or from other employed adults. This extra income is enough to take total household income ‘over the line’.
- In June 2011 there were 234,000 children in beneficiary families (22% of all dependent children). Around 25% of children live in households in which there is no adult in full-time employment.
17 Nevertheless, on average from 2007 to 2011, two in five poor children (40%) were from households where at least one adult was in full-time employment or was self-employed, down from around one in two (50%) before WFF (2004).
- The WFF package had little impact on poverty rates for children in beneficiary families (around 70% from 2004 to 2009), but halved child poverty rates for those in working families (21% in 2004 to 11% in 2007 and close to the same since then).
- Because there are many more children in working families than in workless or beneficiary families, the proportion of poor children who come from working families is much higher than the poverty rates themselves at first sight suggest.
- On average from 2007 to 2011, two in five poor children came from working families where at least one adult was in full-time employment or was self-employed, down from just over one in two before WFF.
- The New Zealand proportion is not unusual. In OECD countries (on average), around half of poor children come from working families.
19 Poverty rates for Maori and Pacific children are consistently higher than for European/Pakeha children: on average from 2009 to 2011, just under half of poor children were Maori or Pacific.
- On average over 2007 to 2011, around one in six European/Pakeha children lived in poor households, one in four Pacific children, and one in three Maori children (double the rate for European/Pakeha children).
- The higher poverty rate for Maori children is consistent with the relatively high proportion of Maori children living in sole-parent beneficiary families and households (eg around 43% of DPB recipients were Maori in the 2007 to 2011 period).
- On average from 2009 to 2011, just under half (47%) of poor children were Maori or Pacific: for children overall, around 34% were Maori or Pacific.
- The sample size is too small to allow more precise poverty rates to be given for the smaller ethnic groupings.
A couple of days ago I stumbled across this article in the Fortean Times about Dennis Wheatley, an occult thriller writer of the mid 20th Century. Wheatley was insanely popular in his day, mostly forgotten about now: his first success and most famous book was The Devil Rides Out, which I read when I was a teenager – probably because Wheatley’s books usually had naked women on the covers.
I’ve been meaning to re-read this book for years, and the Fortean Times article inspired me to track it down. The Victoria University library is a research library – not that great for fiction, but for some reason it has a huge collection of mid-20th century pot-boilers called ‘The Lyell Boyes Crime Fiction Research Collection’, which features a number of Wheatley novels. The first thing I did was check the author’s preface, which had stuck in my mind over the decades – with good reason. It is a masterpiece of marketing:
I desire to state that I, personally, have never assisted at, or participated in, any ceremony connected with Magic – Black or White….Should any of my readers incline to a serious study of the subject, and thus come into contact with a man or woman of Power, I feel that it is only right to urge them, most strongly, to refrain from being drawn into the practice of the Secret Art in any way. My own observations have led me to an absolute conviction that to do so would bring them into dangers of a very real and concrete nature.
The VUW edition of The Devil Rides Out doesn’t have a naked chick on the front cover, but it does have an ad for Oxo stock cubes on the back. And on the inside back cover we find:
This is why the publishing industry is in trouble: lack of revenue diversity. They’re not even trying any more.
Anyway, I’m about half-way through The Devil Rides Out. It is (a) a completely brilliant thriller, and (b) an unintentionally hilarious comic novel, due to Wheatley’s reactionary politics and incidental bigotry. The villains of the book are – in best Famous Five tradition – mostly foreigners, including ‘a bad black’ from Madagascar, ‘a grave-faced Chinaman wearing the robes of a mandarin, whose slit eyes betrayed a cold merciless nature’, ‘a fat oily Babu (he means Indian) in a salmon pink turban’, and a ‘red faced Teuton, who suffered the deformity of a hare-lip.’ The hero of the book is the wise and erudite Duke de Richleau, an exile from France after a failed attempt to overthrow the evil socialist government and restore the rightful Monarchy. Richleau is an endless font of pseudo-scientific wisdom. My favorite of his lines (so far) is when he’s contemplating a terrible Satanic ritual and warns his companion ‘Be careful. Half of those Satanists are probably epileptics.’
August 22, 2012
Convicted Bridgecorp director Peter Steigrad is holidaying in Europe despite being only part way through a nine-month home detention sentence.
Steigrad filed an appeal against his sentence after serving just seven weeks of home detention and returned to his home in Sydney on bail in early July where his ill wife is based.
He has now taken the opportunity of bail to, with court approval, attend his daughter’s two weddings on either side of the English Channel.
Steigrad’s ill wife has also travelled to the wedding despite the appeal being based on the humanitarian grounds that he wanted to move closer to her in Sydney because she cannot travel to New Zealand to be with him.
Punishment in the criminal justice system is supposed to have an element of deterrence: the theory is that people make a rational decision when they decide to commit a crime, and if the risk of punishment outweighs the perceived reward they don’t break the law.
Most law-breakers tend to be desperate, or stupid, or drunk or on drugs, or suffering from mental-illness, so the deterrence theory doesn’t really work – except in the case of white-collar criminals, who are in a position to make a rational decision to break the law. Call me a blood-thirsty old tricoteuse, but I don’t think the threat of imprisoning these people in their mansions for several months and only letting them out to go on holiday to Europe is an adequate deterrence.
(I note that the Sensible Sentencing Trust has yet to comment on this issue.)