Saturday, April 09, 2011

Restoring family responsibility

Tariana Turia had an opinion piece in the Dominion Post during the week. My response was published in today's paper;

Friday, April 08, 2011

Wealthy parents should pay more

That's the latest idea afoot in Australia. Wealthy parents, already paying school fees, are an "untapped" source of further funding apparently.

WEALTHY parents should pay a levy to upgrade the nation's rundown schools, according to the headmaster of Australia's oldest private school.

Tim Hawkes, head of The King's School at Parramatta, said the levy should apply to well-off parents who send their children to government schools, which he described as an untapped funding source.

Well-off parents already paying school fees to send their children to private schools would also have to pay the levy.

Gee. I bet that has made him popular with his customers.

Of course I fundamentally disagree with the proposal for any number of reasons. How is wealthy defined? Many wealthy parents already pay a lot more to educate their children so how is 'fairness' achieved? Why punish effort and entrepreneurship and reward the absence of it? I could go on.

But the reason I thought the article from The Age worth comment, is the response from readers. The poll (at 6 am) shows only 33 percent agree with the idea. If the same sort of thinking got an airing in the NZ Herald I believe the 'yes' vote would be significantly higher.

And the difference is why Australia is leaving us behind for dust.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Welfare - a hopeless bind

What a hopeless situation this country has gotten itself into with regard to welfare. Hopeless. It is laid out starkly by Simon Collins in today's NZ Herald. Hardship itemised alongside the inability of welfare payments to meet the cost of living of a single parent despite those payments being greater than the average weekly earnings of a female living in Auckland of $798. The mother concerned receives $827 after tax. Her main problem is she is spending over half of it on rent.

It is no wonder that NZers love to invest money in property. There are so many families, often single parent, that can only afford to rent. And the presence of WINZ in the market keeps the rental charges artificially high.

There are only two answers for this mother. Move or share rental expenses. Neither prospect is easy to face but people cut their cloth. It's part and parcel of life.

Working isn't going to lift her income and if her condition worsens she may be unable to. If I was in her shoes I would move out of Auckland. Does she have parents she could stay with temporarily?

On one hand I am sympathetic. But on the other when you compare her problems with those faced by many Christchurch residents, relatively speaking, they pale in comparison.

I have met Pam Apera. A sensible woman. But she should not be putting her hand in her pocket. Silly, silly. I know. I have done it and so have other volunteers I have worked with. It's against the rules for very good reasons. Oswald will tell us why.

The parent has to take control of the situation and make some tough decisions.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

CYF advise "don't be stoic"

There has been an increase in crime, domestic violence and alcohol-related incidents in Canterbury towns hosting families who have left Christchurch after the earthquake. Overcrowding and stretched resources are being blamed. But this advice from a CYF worker stopped me in my tracks, so to speak;

It was "no time to be stoic", and people should seek CYF help before they reached "breaking point", she said.

Being stoic is actually how some people cope. Time was when exercising self-control was considered a virtue, a strength. I suppose modern sensitive types would now describe a stoic as anal-retentive.

In any case people who are committing alcohol-fuelled crime or abuse weren't being stoic anyway. I suspect that their behaviour isn't out of character. The circumstances have just ratcheted it up a notch or two; given them an excuse to be more self-indulgent than usual.

And along come CYF telling them they shouldn't have bottled it up. There, there. Let it all hang out. Wear your heart on your sleeve, cry on as many shoulders as you can find. But above all, come to us.

What the hell for? People would be better off going to the local church (although, in this day and age, the church would probably refer them on to CYF, such is the sell-out to socialism).

Some good old-fashioned stoicism, or even a resemblance of it, is exactly what is needed. No, I don't know what some of these people have been through, but there is always someone worse off than yourself and if they are parents, they have greater responsibilities than to their own emotional expediencies.

Yesterday a woman came into my shop taking a break from Christchurch. She wanted to talk about what had happened and I was very happy to listen. She wasn't hand-wringing or feeling sorry for herself. She was calm and philosophical. But she was upset about a nearby couple living on a lifestyle block, with all the latest and best possessions, who couldn't handle their material loss and had split up. She was very sad for the children. She felt the parents should have been strong for their children.

Stoic, perhaps.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Welfare and refugees

A criticism of Libertarianz immigration policy at Crusader Rabbit yesterday prompted me to have a closer look at the NZ situation. The discussion assumed that all refugees are Muslim (not true) and therefore, to be blunt, not wanted. It is a view that has some validity if refugees are eventually a source of trouble (crime, welfare dependence, and intolerance to other cultures.) However, to treat all refugees as a single class of people is collectivist, an approach I will always take issue with. I abhor collectivism because I will always advocate and fight for the rights of individuals. Detractors at Rabbit will argue that Muslims will collectively override the culture of individualism given a chance. And that is also possibility.

I argued that the Libz policy of allowing unlimited refugees as long as they have a private ongoing sponsor is reasonable. I might be persuaded to change my mind about limitations but not the idea of sponsorship. Private sponsorship would probably have a self-limiting effect anyway.

In NZ, the particular problem with refugees is they are dependent on the public purse from the outset and frequently remain that way. This does not assist integration. It means refugees remain out of the workforce with no demands on them to learn English and new skills, if they choose not to.

There is a paper entitled Does a rising tide lift all boats? which examines how the US compares to NZ in its refugee resettlement programme. It is not written by a New Zealand public policy wonk which is immediately obvious in its clarity of structure and straightforward writing.

The result?

The paper goes on to point out that the refugees characteristics on arrival appear to be fairly similar, "and certainly not disparate enough to be the basis for marked difference in the outcomes."

The passage encapsulates what is wrong with the social compact New Zealanders apparently have with their government (though I do not believe for a moment it is a compact by consensus). Is a refugee stuck on a benefit more equal? Is she more free?

And exactly the same can be said about New Zealanders.

Monday, April 04, 2011

The company Tizard keeps

I must be leading a sheltered life. I don't know any sulky 15 year-olds who smoke too much dope. So I have no idea how they behave. What have I been missing?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Maori - unrealistic standards?

As a result of someone pulling my leg over the Maori translation of Ministry of Women's Affairs I had a look at said website this morning. Surprising - or is it? - how much of it is devoted to Maori.

By sheer coincidence this month is the 100th anniversary of the first convention of the Māori branch of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) held at Pakipaki in 1911. Maori were enticed in their droves to sign up to a pledge promising not to smoke or drink. But I never knew about the third requisite.

Temperance Pledge

He whakaae tene naku kia kaua ahau e kai tupeka, e inu ranei I tetahi mea e haurangi ai te tangata, kia kaua hoki ahau e whakaae ki te ta moko. Ma te Atua ahau e awhina.


I agree by this pledge, not to smoke tobacco, not to drink any beverages that are intoxicating, and also not to take the ta moko. May God help me.

Ta moko has long interested me and I've painted many tattooed subjects. Countless women died of septicaemia as a result of the practice and one hundred years ago the process was painful, dangerous and barbaric. But that has been replaced with safe modern day techniques and I imagine the idea of bowing to a European/other culture request to forsake ta moko today would rightly be reviled.

But isn't there a hint of an analogy in there?

(Leaving aside tobacco) isn't the answer for leading a good life finding some middle ground or moderation or better way without total abandonment? For many Maori there seems to be only the high road or the low road. All or nothing. And I suppose the same must be said for some Pakeha. But there does seem a stronger delineation with Maori. "Churchies or crims" as I have heard one Maori friend remark about a family which ended up making the worst sort of headlines.

These concepts - good and bad - even make an appearance in public service contracts today:

Tapu/Noa Sacred/profane The recognition of the cultural means of social control envisaged in tapu and noa including its implications for practices in working with Maori Service Users.

Are Maori setting themselves unrealistic standards? And then, too often, failing spectacularly?