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.