Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Morgan Foundation attacks personal freedom ... again

The Morgan Foundation were at it again last week. Attacking personal freedoms to achieve the society they want. Whether its cats, climate or corpulence, regard for personal choice is utterly disregarded.

If you think I exaggerate read the latest here.

Instead of a facile debate over whether a sugar tax would work or not, we should be discussing which we value more – living in a free society where you can eat what you like and burden the state, or whether we value having a healthy, productive society. 

My response which was published yesterday (with editing):

 Geoff Simmons (Ideology behind the argument against sugar tax, DomPost, April 29) argues against the "freedom of choice" to eat what we like and wants taxes to curb consumption. These taxes will however apply to all consumers, most of whom do not have an over-eating problem. To control the behaviour of a minority, Simmons is completely comfortable with removing the majority's freedom of choice. In fact, he really dislikes freedom of choice, saying it will "clog our hospitals". That's just silly. Poor choice is what leads to obesity and ill-health. A seeming inability to deal with that issue should not lead to further punishment of the majority. Those who would so easily relinquish personal autonomy in favour of state dictates about what and how much should be eaten are frankly, scary.
And for good measure here is another from somebody called Amanda Purdy, published today:

Monday, May 02, 2016

A housing rental crisis?

The NZ Herald has a report  about the Salvation Army handing out increased numbers of food parcels  due to rising housing costs. In Auckland anyway.

Average rents for three-bedroom Otara houses rose from $382 a week in March 2014 to $466 this March
The article doesn't record the source so I am assuming it's from Barfoot and Thompson. Here's their March 2015 chart followed by March 2016.

The rise in the total South Auckland area, for 3 three-bedroom house, is a lot less than in Otara - 7  versus 22 percent.

But even then, Barfoot and Thompson say:
Over the last 12 months, Auckland saw an increase of $28 or 5.8% (for all property types). 
Whereas Stats NZ say, over the same period:

Rentals for housing increased 2.3 percent, with Auckland up 3.2 percent and Canterbury up 1.2 percent. 
3.2% is a much smaller increase than 5.8%

Auckland has always been one of the least affordable rental markets. But because it gets reported so much, people assume the same applies throughout NZ. It doesn't (though it suits the Sallies to fuel that perception when appearing on telly to promote their annual Red Shield Appeal.)

The following is from Statistics NZ  and shows rents as a percentage of equivalised household incomes for each NZ region:

(Left click for full table)

Those stats go to 2012. The average total rent payments in each of the following years has been:

2013  $273.50
2014  $288.90
2015  $301.00

But household incomes are also rising, even for beneficiaries (CPI adjustments yearly and recent $25 raise).

Just going back to Auckland, another aspect of the reported non-affordability is missed, at least when using official stats. Household incomes are equivalised according to number of members. So larger families will have their incomes reduced by the process. This means that the percentage that rent swallows is higher. That would certainly apply in South Auckland.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Benefit babies at greatest risk

Following up from my previous post, "Intrigued" left a link at Whale Oil saying that the benefit baby statistics correlate strongly with geographic areas for the greatest child risk. He referred to Treasury work. (Follow the link for a further breakdown of the Auckland region.)

Compare my graph to the Treasury's below:

Here is the comment left at Whale Oil in full. Interesting:

"For anyone who has an interest in this area there is now access to useful data via the Integrated Data Infrastructure - a joint project between various departments - Corrections, Health, CYF, W&I and Stats NZ to map where the children at most risk are in NZ. It is no surprise that the areas with the highest welfare dependency (as per Lindsay Mitchell's analysis above) also show areas with the most at risk children. If anyone is interested in seeing the information that is now available and an interactive map of NZ, go to https://shinyapps.stats.govt.n...
And http://www.treasury.govt.nz/pu... A lot of the work being done by MSD on the overhaul of CYF integrates this information and it is a credit to this Government (in my opinion) that they are looking at the real cost to the State over the lifetime of a child born into a family with the identified risk factors (there are 4 key risk indicators) with the aim of investing in social welfare programmes that will (hopefully) mitigate against the perpetual cycle of welfare dependency, child abuse, crime etc and all the worst outcomes for children. It will be interesting to see how it all manifests in the next iteration of CYF but I sincerely hope it works as there are significant problems for tens of thousands of children in NZ. I think it's our best hope yet from what I have seen. After working in this field for nearly 2 decades I can assure you I've seen nothing from the left of the political spectrum or the CPAGs of this world to really come up with a solution for the real "child poverty" in NZ in all its ugly forms - other than use the term as a political club to try and score political points. I've been to the CPAG annual Budget Breakfast analyses in past years and yearned for a shred of common sense or practical and workable solutions from them and come away disillusioned and angry at their ideological grandstanding."

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Where the benefit babies are born

Every year I track how many benefit babies there are relative to the total births. Being a 'benefit baby' means relying on a parent or caregiver's benefit  by the the end of their birth year. Most will become reliant nearer to their birth date rather than first birthday. Many will go on to experience long-term deprivation.

This year I asked for a  breakdown by Work and Income Service Centre. That was provided. Then I asked the Ministry of Health for District Health Board birth data for 2015. They very quickly obliged without an OIA. Credit to them.

It was then straight forward to place each service centre in a DHB  and calculate the percentage of babies in each district that would be benefit-dependent before their first birthday.


Tairawhiti is Gisborne northwards. Almost one in three children born in 2015 would be on welfare either immediately or shortly thereafter.

This is more than three times the rate of the lowest DHB, Auckland.


The disparity, however, within  the greater Auckland region is highlighted by the difference between Counties Manukau at 21.4% and Auckland at less than half that rate at 9.7%. This disparity is far greater than the disparity in the Wellington region (compare Capital and Coast to Hutt.)


Not surprisingly Tairawhiti is followed by Northland. You will have noticed the tallest columns are those with high Maori populations.(Of all the benefit babies, 54 percent had a Maori parent or caregiver.)

Lakes covers the Rotorua and Taupo region south to Turangi and Whanganui takes in Marton and Taihape.

Hawkes Bay goes to Wairoa in the north and Waipukarau in the south. Counties Manukau is self-explanatory.

These then are the five DHB areas where from 21 to 32 percent of newborns have families unable to support them independently, usually from birth.


At the other end are the cosmopolitan centres. In ascending order, Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington.

Every South Island DHB - bar South Canterbury which is essentially Timaru and inland - is below the national average.


Child poverty is largely (though not exclusively) a result of benefit babies.

But it isn't as if Gisborne and Northland have suddenly been plunged into a depression and unemployment crisis. In fact employment in these regions is far better than it's been in the past. It isn't as if these babies are on their parent's unemployment benefit.

Almost three quarters of benefit babies are on a single parent benefit.

There's the nub of the problem. A lack of two committed parents prepared to take financial responsibility for having a child.

(To end on a positive note, the national average is dropping. At long last.)

"Millennials Hate Capitalism Almost as Much as They Hate Socialism"

Experiencing this first-hand on a daily basis makes the content of the following piece from the Reason.com blog all the more relevant:

"When pollsters probe young people further about socialism and capitalism, they tend to find that respondents don't have clear concepts of these economic philosophies. To many millennials, "socialism" doesn't mean a government-managed economy but something like what we have now, only with more subsidized health care, student-loan forgiveness, and mandatory paid parental leave. Millennials were small children, if they were even born yet, when the Soviet Union dissolved. "Socialism" isn't Romania and Yugoslavia but Scandinavia, not Karl Marx and union halls but Bernie Sanders and Twitter."

Friday, April 22, 2016

Must-read from Karl du Fresne

This is a powerful reminder of the grim injustice (in the name of 'justice') ideologues can wreak.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Latest total benefit numbers - back where we started from

Well, not quite where we started from. That'd be zero. But back where we started from when National took govt.

The slow total decline continues. Down to 9.9% of the working age population.

There's a blip with JobSeeker support but nothing dramatic or necessarily trendsetting. It may be saying something about the employment situation. It might just be ageing single parents being moved onto Jobseeker support. Little to be inferred by the reduction in YP/YPP for 18+. The teenage birth rate is dropping so perhaps unsurprising. The old invalid benefit - Supported Living Payment - remains stubbornly high though any reduction is unusual compared to the past few years. Reliance on welfare due to psychological conditions continues to grow. The Sole Parent Support reduction is the biggest and best news leading to fewer children on benefits.

I don't see any smoking gun in the data tables.

Total numbers are dropping. Just not fast enough for some readers. Or me.

As the drop is post GFC  it's worth looking where we were pre GFC.

At 9.9% of the working age population.

(The Super numbers are the big growth area and while most people don't think of it as a benefit, it's included in the tables.

Almost 700,000.

Up 23% since March 2011.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Quote of the Day

From a piece in this morning's DomPost about junk science by Matt Ridley (British journalist and Conservative MP), prompted by Robert De Niro joining into the anti-vaccine brigade.

"Instead of evidence-based policy making, pseudo-science specialises in policy-based evidence making."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

English tells truth and gets it in the neck

A Labour MP from Palmerston North is outraged that Bill English has told the truth.

English said that there are Kiwi men who are supposed to be available for work but don't turn up; that can't read and write and are virtually unemployable. That's why NZ imports immigrant farm workers.

The Labour MP says this is the government's fault after 8 years at the helm.

Really? If the individual and the individual's family do not value education, if they prefer to make money illicitly or from benefits, if they get their kicks from a variety of law-breaking  activities and spend much of their time cycling in and out of prison, is it really Bill English' fault?

The underclass, which we don't seem to talk about as much anymore, was just as bad after Labour's last 9 year innings.

This type of  petty, cheap-shot politics grinds my gears. What would the Labour MP do in English' shoes? Sweep illiteracy and unemployability under the carpet and only ever present a rose-tinted picture of a certain slice of society?

Because when that happens, problems never get solved. English has probably been the most innovative and daring Finance Minister when it comes to social policy. That willingness to try new approaches is born out of his recognition and acknowledgement of just how hopeless certain people have become.

And when Bill English said that prisons are a "moral and fiscal failure" did any Labour MPs jump up and down then?