Saturday, August 02, 2008

Families Commission misleads

According to the latest Families Commission research, The Kiwi Nest,

"The Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) was introduced in 1973, and has given single parents an income if they are not working while bringing up their children. The DPB has largely been claimed by mothers with dependent children who have left a marriage or de facto relationship, or who are widows. Single-parent families resulting from ex-nuptial births and/or teenage pregnancies have been, and remain, a small proportion of single-parent beneficiaries."

This statement is ambiguous and inaccurate.

Between 72 and 74 percent of single parent families with dependent children rely on a welfare benefit of some sort.

At September 2006 107,628 single parents relied on welfare, with the majority - 88 percent - receiving the DPB.

At least 37, 609 - or 36 percent - first received a benefit under the age of twenty years. (The actual number is likely to be significantly higher, but Ministry records only date back to 1 January, 1993). This suggests that a sizeable - certainly not 'small' - percentage of single parent families' benefit dependence originated with a teenage pregnancy.

The ex-nuptial birth rate in New Zealand is high at 47 percent of all births. Some of these births are to de facto couples. The research claims, "The DPB has largely been claimed by mothers with dependent children who have left a marriage or de facto relationship," then contradicts that with. "Single-parent families resulting from ex-nuptial births and/or teenage pregnancies have been, and remain, a small proportion of single-parent beneficiaries."

At April 2004, of those people with dependent children receiving the DPB , just under a quarter described their current status as 'separated from de facto' ; 35 percent were 'separated or divorced'; the largest group, at 40 percent, were 'single' (open to interpretation) and only 0.4 percent were widows. (Of course the term 'separated' is also troublesome. It may describe a parting of ways after conception or a parting of ways after many years.)

However, according to the Ministry of Social Development, "The proportion of babies under one year living with a sole mother increased from 13 percent in 1986 to 19 percent in 1991 but has changed little over the last decade, standing at 20 percent in 2001. Among Maori babies under one year, the proportion living with a sole mother increased sharply from 29 percent in 1986 to 40 percent in 1991, but fell slightly to 37 percent in 2001."

Again this suggests that births to females who are 'single' rather than 'separated' make up a substantial percentage of single-parent beneficiaries and explains, in part, why Maori are over-represented in terms of DPB dependence.

The use of the words 'largely' and 'small' by the Families Commission researchers is therefore misleading. This is typical of the Families Commission climate of moral relativism. No particular family form is favoured (no doubt a huge disappointment to their creator, the conservative Peter Dunne). Dependence on welfare is approached sympathetically and any suggestion that teenage pregnancy and single child-bearing is problematic is avoided, if not actively deflected.

If Families Commissioner, Rajen Prasad was taken to the poorest neighbourhoods in New Zealand, where schools are filled with deprived and fatherless children, could he look the principal and teachers in the eye and say that the make-up of the family doesn't matter? I very much doubt it.

So let's have some plain speaking about choice and responsibility. If you cannot afford to raise children, don't set about having them. And to the Families Commission, stop making excuses for people who do.

What to do?

My usual modus operandi is ration and reason in all matters (excepting animals and alcohol). Hence when it comes to the All Blacks I do not get caught up in nationalistic fervour.

Last week I backed Australia to win because I fully expected them to with Robbie Deans behind them. Unfortunately the useless All Blacks not only lost, but lost by too much for me to collect.

So what to do today? The Wallabies again I think. But I'll stick with my original bet. By 12 points or less. Oh good. Last week they were paying $3.30. Now the dividend is up to $3.65

Here's hoping I don't end up barracking for the All Blacks to pull it back in the last minutes because they are trailing by too much.

And if I lose my bet the consolation is the All Blacks will have won. Which will make lots of other people happy and I like to see New Zealanders happy. A utilitarian outcome.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Australian benefit statistics

Yesterday an anonymous (but not new) critical commentor refused to accept that there are more beneficiaries in Australia per capita than in New Zealand.

I really don't like being called a liar; having statistics I provide or refer to described as "fake". Occasionally I will make a mistake and if I realise I have done so, will correct it.

Here are the Australian statistics at June 2007;

Disability support pension 714,156
Mature age allowance 5,032
Newstart allowance 417,793
Parenting payment (single) 395,495
Sickness allowance 7,624
Widows 40,247

Total 1,580,347

(The total goes higher when Youth Allowance recipients aged 18,19,and 20 years are added but I don't have the specific figure. Parenting payments for partnered people and partner allowances are also available - 190,415 - but not included as we don't have equivalents.)

These are all means-tested working-age income support payments.

Our equivalent total at June 2007 was 261,009.

To calculate a per capita comparison multiply our total by a factor of 5.0063 which reproduces 1,306,689.

Well under the actual Australian total.

Hence my original claim that per capita Australia has more beneficiaries than NZ.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

'Cueing' for the converted

In a faith-based unit, and on a Sunday to boot.


The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

The subject of that sentence now lives with us. The dog that is.

Like the last canine object of my deep affection, she is a failed farm dog. A long-coated Huntaway of 15 months, her days on the farm were severely numbered when she refused to work by herself. She is quite emaciated at the moment, very timid, very quiet and intelligent. She has quickly figured out which side her bread is buttered on and doesn't arise from her blanketed bed until it is daylight. On a leash she is quite diffident and walks sedately a couple of paces behind. She cannot see cats it would appear although they can see her and have started to dance about in her view trying to get some sort of reaction. To no avail.

She has the head of a retriever with very soft fur, long well-muscled legs which are too big for her bony hips and torso. Her front legs are quite bandy which is probably down to a vitamin deficiency as a pup. Her name is "Girl". Yes, that's all.

Never having lived indoors there were a couple of unfortunate accidents the first day, worsened by the fact I overfed her because she is perpetually hungry. But day two passed without mishap as she learns that treats await those who try. Perhaps that's what she was waiting for on the farm.

Here she is after a bath to remove the cow muck accumulated over her short life, in between the toes, up the inner legs and matted in her beard. Some of the mess had to be cut away but she is very obliging. What a honey.

Patricia Bartlett lives on

The proposed brothel for Dannevirke is back in the news.

I originally blogged my intrigue they were offering males and suggested they should have named themselves "Danneboys" but this has all gone beyond a laughing matter, I'll have you know.

Tempers flared as businesspeople, property owners and worried parents all spoke of their moral outrage at having a commercial sex premises open shop in the old Public Trust building.

"We have the right to say what happens in our community, we have the right to say what happens in our town," Mr Taylor said. "We have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for our young ones. The standards we walk past are the standards we accept, and if we turn a blind eye to this, then what is going to happen next?"

The brothel would just bring trouble and crime, Mr Taylor said.

"They are offering a gay service as well. Most paedophiles are homosexuals, and you know we don't want to bring that here.

"There were some good men in that building many years ago, men of integrity and expertise. Those men would just about be turning in their graves."

Dannevirke resident Mike Long said it only took the people of Carterton 18 months to drive a brothel out of business in their town.

"It comes down to one thing - money. I think we should name and shame the people that are using the business, then let their partners know."

Gill Allardice, a Dannevirke resident for 30 years, said she would be happy to wait outside the front door and take a personal note of all patrons.

"I will sit outside and do my knitting if I have to." She had already organised a petition and written letters to the New Zealand Rugby Union, demanding its response to the brothel's planned All Blacks- themed bedroom.

After the meeting, she said the idea of a bordello was sleazy and vulgar.

"I've always been a feminist, and it's demeaning to women. We have benefits in New Zealand, you don't have to sell yourself to make money.

Classic Kiwi conservative, socialist, bludger.

She doesn't care if people "make money" off the taxpayer-funded benefit system, but she would deny a voluntary exchange of service for a fee because it offends her. Stick to your knitting Mrs Allardice, preferably at home.

"The bland leading the bland"

I read almost everything Colin James writes. What I most admire about his work is his ability to step back and grasp the bigger picture. But today what I really really like is this witticism. What a great way to start the day. He described National as ...

... the bland leading the bland.


But here is the key passage I always look for;

The economy is seriously unbalanced. Rebalancing will be painful. We have only just started. Large tax cuts might ease households' pain but will not make it go away. National's acceptance of most Labour programmes adds to the difficulty of dealing with the pain, let alone generating economic step-change.

National is trying to do the impossible. Be all things to all people and grow the economy.

Key may be attempting to reduce economic uncertainty for voters. When facing the facts, as James describes them, he succeeds only in creating misgiving in me.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It isn't colonisation causing Maori violence


This just-published paper examines the incidence of intimate partner violence (IPV).

The over-representation of Maori is examined. The authors looked at three theories;

1/ That Maori are more likely to be economically deprived and this goes hand-in-hand with increased risk of IPV

2/ That Maori have greater exposure to childhood violence so a intergenerational influence is at work

3/ Colonisation has torn Maori away from cultural roots and identity

They tested each and found that while the first two held some validity the last held none.

A final explanation that requires discussion concerns the extent to which the observable ethnic asymmetry in IPV relates to Māori cultural identity, as is proposed by the systemic theory of colonisation. This explanation to account for the over-representation of Māori in IPV was not supported by the data. In particular, a preliminary analysis of the bivariate relationships between cultural identity and IPV showed similar rates of both victimisation and perpetration among those identifying as sole Māori and those with a Māori/other identity. Had strength of cultural identity, including level of affiliation to cultural domains, played an explanatory role in understanding ethnic differences in IPV, one would have expected to see a gradient in which rates of violence varied with degree of Māori identity, but this was not the case.

This is quite earth-shattering for those Maori who strongly assert that bringing people back in touch with their cultural identity will put them on the straight and narrow so-to-speak. Rehab programmes through to separatist Maori education should all be viewed with a new degree of scepticism as to whether they will deliver what is promised.

Certainly reducing socio-economic hardship and inter-generational welfare dependence look more promising as methods of reducing IPV.

Communism by capitulation

One expects that sometimes in life, as in politics, some compromise is called for. Right from childhood we are consciously or sub-consciously negotiating outcomes. If we are unable to do this we are in for a fairly solitary ride. But the advice I most adhere to, especially when it comes to raising children, is the somewhat hackneyed 'don't sweat the small stuff'. But hold your ground on what really matters to you.

Right now in New Zealand Working For Families is not the small stuff. John Key clearly didn't think it was in 2004;

Mr Key predicted the new system would have "huge behavioural outcomes" and he was concerned that employers would find workers refusing to do overtime or weekend work.

The effect of the Budget had been to push the disincentive far into middle New Zealand, he said.

"They've got the vast majority of people now trapped in a one-size-fits-all. We all pay one rate - it's communism by stealth.

"It didn't work very well for Eastern Europe and it won't work very well for New Zealand."

Four years later;

Key says he acknowledges that Working for Families payments are an important part of the income for many families.

"These are families with mums and dads who are working long hours, trying to get by on a modest wage in the absence of tax cuts under this Labour Government. We don't want to make life more difficult for them."

Communism by capitulation perhaps.

Monday, July 28, 2008

National - in breach of its stated values, yet again

National now endorses Working For Families.

Here are some reasons that I posted earlier in the year why they should not. After each reason I have listed one of National's stated values that is breached.

1/ Redistribution always involves privilege for one and punishment for another with the government deciding who is the winner and who is the loser. It accords too much power to the state.

• Equal citizenship and equal opportunity

2/ The dead-weight cost of redistributing money is utter waste.

• Limited government

3/ When people receive money without commensurate effort they work less. That is bad for productivity.

• Competitive enterprise and rewards for achievement

4/ As an attempt to boost fertility rates redistribution to families with children has not been successful. Note some of the most 'family-friendly' European countries have low fertility rates. The US has the highest in the OECD.

• Individual freedom and choice

5/ WFF has created very high effective marginal tax rates. In fact some people are no better off if they boost their income through advancement or longer hours, as they move into the top tax rate bracket and lose WFF benefits. WFF dulls ambition.

• Competitive enterprise and rewards for achievement

6/ WFF is the hallmark of Labour governments. It is all the old schemes dressed up in new clothes. These schemes have never achieved their stated goals.

• Personal responsibility

7/ Redistribution creates resentment amongst those who are not beneficiaries. In this case young, childless people. It contributes to their motivation to leave New Zealand.

• Equal citizenship and equal opportunity

8/ With WFF being used as a voting bribe, the cost of promoting it has been enormous including ridiculous expenses like megabucks to commission a musical theme.

• Limited government

9/ WFF acts as a subsidy to employers. The wrong people (not those targeted) end up benefiting.

• Competitive enterprise and rewards for achievement

Of course with a little imagination each of National's stated values could be applied to each point.

Look. It is simple. Let everybody keep more of their own money. Let individuals take responsibility for their own decisions. The flow-on will be far more beneficial than any government attempts to grand plan society.

Rodney Hide's appraisal is worth repeating;

Act leader Rodney Hide said National's move emphasised there was nothing between the two big parties.

"It's consistent with their strategy," he said. "They agree now with everything Labour has done, and the only thing they disagree on is who should be Prime Minister."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Clear difference; clear choice

The National Party has moved to defuse fears it will dismantle the Working for Families scheme if it wins the election.

Party leader John Key told this morning's TV One Agenda programme he is planning no changes to the system. He says a careful look at the way the scheme functions has shown it is not worthwhile changing it.

Mr Key says it is important to offer people certainty during tough economic times.


Sir Roger Douglas delivered [ACT's plan], listing renting hospital wards out to doctors and nurses to do "Mrs Tamati's hip operation," greater privatisation of education, hauling back tax rates, topping up poor people's incomes through tax system and getting rid of Working for Families and slashing government spending by 10 per cent.

He launched into Michael Cullen's treasured Working for Families scheme, which he said was "the very worst type of policy."