Thursday, July 31, 2014

What is Labour's Super policy?

One of the neglected aspects of raising minimum and public service wages is the effect that will have on average wages, and as a consequence, the level of Super payments.

Super is indexed to the average wage as well as the CPI. And as everyone knows, the proportion of the population aged 65+ is set to grow rapidly.

Labour could argue that they will offset the icreased resulting financial costs through lifting the Super qualifying age. Which gave me pause for thought.

They have gone very quiet on that front.

Here are the senior policies so far announced:

Senior Citizens

Here's a Radio NZ report from late 2013:

Labour Party delegates have rejected a proposal that the party drop its plan to raise the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation at its annual conference in Christchurch.
At the last election, Labour campaigned on a transition to raising the age to 67 over time.
David Cunliffe announces his leadership bid.
David Cunliffe.
Photo: RNZ
Electorate committees Northland and Coromandel both put up amendments at the party's annual conference in Christchurch on Friday to axe any move to raise the age of eligibility. But after a feisty debate, that was rejected by a substantial vote.
Instead, it was agreed that Labour would consider all options to make New Zealand Superannuation sustainable, including raising the age of eligibility.
Labour's finance spokesperson David Parker says he is happy with the amended policy.
"We've got to a really good outcome. We're given freedom to make the decisions that are necessary to ensure the sustainability of superannuation. That's what we wanted, so we've reached an agreement through our policy process that's consistent with that."
Labour leader David Cunliffe says the change is not a watering down of the policy.
"I think there is some confusion. Our policy platform is a high level in general document and it leaves room for us to fix an age. It indicates the age will rise, but it's not at a level of detail of saying how much, by when."
The policy will be debated by the whole conference on Saturday morning, but David Parker is confident it will be supported.

Clear on that?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Susan Devoy lambasts Jamie Whyte

From Scoop:

In the run up to the general election Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy is urging politicians to “do the right thing and stick to those major issues that will help make New Zealand a better place for all our children to grow up in.”
“Equating Maori New Zealanders to French aristocrats who were murdered because of their privilege is a grotesque and inflammatory statement. Accusations of Maori privilege are not borne out by Maori socio economic statistics.”
“Whether we like it or not the reality is that ethnicity and disadvantage are connected and found in damning statistics that on average sees Maori New Zealanders life expectancy, education and health outcomes lagging behind non Maori New Zealanders,” said Dame Susan.
“The connection between ethnicity and disadvantage did not appear overnight and breaking it won’t happen overnight either. Treating everyone exactly the same will not necessarily make everyone exactly the same and anyone who thinks so is incredibly na├»ve.”

What Whyte said:
Maori are legally privileged in New Zealand today, just as the Aristocracy were legally privileged in pre-revolutionary France.
But, of course, in our ordinary use of the word, it is absurd to say that Maori are privileged. The average life expectancy of Maori is significantly lower than Pakeha and Asian. Average incomes are lower.  Average educational achievement is lower.
Legal privilege offends people less when the beneficiaries are not materially privileged, when they are generally poorer than those at a legal disadvantage... the principle of legal equality is far more important than any redistributive or compensatory impulses that people may have.  It is not some philosophical nicety to be discarded because you feel guilty about what people with the same skin pigment as you did 150 or 200 years ago.
 I can't figure out whether Devoy  is OK with affirmative action but doesn't think it's a major issue, or doesn't  think equality before the law is a major issue? Either way, as race relations commissioner they should both be major issues for her.

Update: Whyte responds by calling for Devoy to resign.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ombudsman - public sector could do better

OIA requests to the Ministry of Social Development are now never met within the required maximum  20 working day time limit. A notification of an extension is received. And then sometimes a second extension. Complaining to the Ombudsman is a waste of time.

Or is it....

I decided to write to the State Services Commission and ask about average response times to OIA requests and how MSD compared to other departments . This resulted in the SSC referring my letter to other departments eg Education and Health. But SSC also advised me to write to the Ombudsman who, while not subject to the OIA, might provide information on complaints received about MSD.

That is what I did.

The Ombudsman duly obliged and told me that 110 complaints had been received against MSD in the 2013 financial year. 62 were about delays.

On its own that doesn't mean very much. But then I received a letter from MSD (the one that had been passed on to them from SSC) refusing my request for information about average response times. However they did tell me that in the 2013 financial year they had received 482 requests.

Context then shows that the complaint rate against MSD is quite high. 482 requests and 110 complaints.And this happens even when many people consider complaining to the Ombudsman a waste of time.

Anyway, there is good news.

The Ombudsman finished:

You may also be interested to know that the Chief Ombudsman is intending to conduct a wider administrative investigation into concerns that the broader public sector is not managing requests for information under the OIA as well as it should.

Perhaps a better public service target is required.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Labour just not serious

There have been weaknesses in the welfare reform results.

The educational achievements of those on the Youth Payment are mixed.

Yet last week in Parliament the following patsy and response went unchallenged.

Youth Programmes—Reports 5. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent reports has she received about the Government’s Youth Service initiative?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Youth Service, which is about reaching out early to young people on or at risk of going on a benefit and engaging them in education or training, is already producing great results. The latest evaluation report shows that four out of five young people enrolled in Youth Service are now in education or training, and 63 percent of 16 and 17-year-olds on the youth payment achieved National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) credits in their first year on the Youth Service, compared with just 24 percent of young people who were on the old independent youth benefit. Fourteen percent of those on the youth payment achieved NCEA level 2, compared with 5 percent before the Youth Service. Achieving NCEA level 2, of course, makes someone far more likely to be able to support themselves and be financially independent.
Melissa Lee: What evidence has she seen that the Youth Service is working to stop young people becoming dependent on the benefit in the long term?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It is early days but I am pleased that we are already seeing a drop in the number of young people on the youth payment who go on to a main benefit when they turn 18. Seventy percent of young people on the youth payment did not go on to a main benefit when they turned 18 in the year to March 2014. These are young people who have often come from very difficult backgrounds. Wrapping support around them early and ensuring that they are not on a lifetime of welfare is what our Youth Service is all about.

Not a supplementary in sight.

Another example - Last week I provided data showing that the policy to discourage adding children to a benefit wasn't working.

It is the job of a good opposition to monitor government policies, especially if they oppose them. Yet Labour's Sue Moroney does little but push her paid parental leave bill.

Now, on balance, I think Paula Bennett has a better grasp on the welfare problem than previous Ministers and there have been good reforms with good results.

But there are vulnerabilities a credible government-in-waiting would be exposing.

Friday, July 25, 2014

70,000 pay $16.77 weekly in child support

The number of liable parents paying the minimum amount of child support - currently $16.77 weekly - has risen from 59,536 at April, 2009 to 69,968 at December, 2013. An 18 percent increase.

Minimum payers make up about 52 percent of all liable parents. In 2009 the percentage was forty six.

One of the Left's poverty solutions is to transfer the child support payment directly to the custodial parent rather than the IRD retaining it to partially offset the benefit bill. They want the taxpayer to shoulder more of the cost of raising financially-orphaned children. Assuming that most of the custodial parents with liable parents paying the minimum amount are on a benefit, their incomes wouldn't  rise very much.

And for those whose ex's are in prison, perhaps the most needy, they wouldn't get any extra. During 2013, 786 prisoners were exempted from paying child support.

The left writhes over collective responsibility for unacceptable child poverty, while 7 percent of all children have a biological parent paying less than the price of a packet of cigarettes for their weekly upkeep.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Millennial values

From a US survey of 2,000 American adults under 30.

Millennials distrust political parties and are largely socially liberal but fiscally centrist, according to the latest Reason-Rupe survey. The survey gathered responses from 2,000 adults ages 18 to 29 between late February and mid-March 2014, finding that today's young Americans are largely unaligned with traditional political parties:
  • While young adults have supported Democrat political candidates since 2004, one-third of millennials identify themselves as independents -- three times the number of Americans over the age of 30 who do so.
  • Twenty-eight percent of millennials trust neither major party to handle the nation's issues. Fifty percent do not trust either party to handle privacy.
The survey also indicated that young American adults believe in personal responsibility and other free-market values. When asked to explain success, respondents listed hard work, ambition and self-discipline as the top three explanations for wealth. The most common explanations for poverty were poor life choices, lack of job opportunities and lack of work ethic.

Would love to see how a NZ survey compared.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Poverty 100 years ago

The Otago Daily Times has a piece written 100 years ago.

Note the difference in tenor:

It is well that cases of pitiable poverty and want, such as one which came under the notice of a Christchurch Star representative on Wednesday morning, are rare, extremely rare.
In a small cottage in Milne Street, Spreydon, live a woman and her three children, whose ages range from two to six years. The house has four rooms, but the family occupy only two of them. Three old chairs, a tiny table, and a few pictures on the wall comprise the furniture of the kitchen, while two small stretchers are the sole contents of the bedroom. The woman and the three children were neatly but poorly dressed, and it was evident that they were having a hard struggle to make ends meet.
In the course of a conversation, the woman said that her husband was at present in a mental hospital at Porirua, Wellington, and that there was very little chance that he would ever be discharged. During the late strike, when her husband was out of work, she went out washing, and had kept herself, her husband, and five children, the two oldest of whom were now in the charge of her sister in Wellington. It was now 11 weeks since her husband had been sent to Porirua, and ever since then she had been the sole support of herself and the three children.
She earned 12s a week, and 7s went in rent, so that the family had practically been living on 5s a week for two months. Two days in the week the woman goes out washing, two days she takes in washing, and for the rest of the week she is unemployed. She has now applied for charitable aid, and is also making application for a widow's pension. The neighbours have been very kind, and but for their help she would not have been able to live.
Two of the children have been moved where they can be supported by family, and her neighbours are making it possible for her to get by.

Imagine today's coverage of the same situation. The Greens would be hopping mad that the woman wasn't getting state support. They would be laying victim hood all over the unfortunate mother and bemoaning that neighbours had to put a hand in their own pocket to help her get by. The woman is being stigmatised through no fault of her own, they would say.

When in fact her plight had appealed to people's compassionate instincts.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Poll puzzle

The NZ Herald headline says, "Labour slumps to 15 year low".
Labour's support has slumped to its worst rating for 15 years in the latest DigiPoll survey, putting critical pressure on leader David Cunliffe.
But over on Whale Oil Richard McGrath has pointed out Labour won the 1999 election.

The historical polls are available at DigiPoll

This is the 1999 pre-election poll.

Does that mean 2 months out from the 1999 election, Labour was polling in the mid 20s and managed to turn that into 40% by polling day?

Adding to the puzzle I found this

Labour Surge, Alliance Slump in Latest Poll

Today’s Herald DigiPoll shows Labour surging further ahead to 43.8 per cent, up seven points from National on 35.7 per cent.

Just over two months out, Labour was on 43.8 percent.

So if it had been polling much lower earlier in the year, it didn't turn it around within two months of the election - where we are now.

Ah I see the problem now. I am interpreting the headline wrongly.

If instead of "Labour slumps to 15 year low" it was "Employment slumps to 15 year low," I would expect to go back to 1999 and see employment at the same rate as when the headline was written. Employment statistics of course go back much further. The Herald DigiPoll does not.