Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kiwi Party not contesting general election

This is news to me, so possibly to you. From Larry Baldock's newsletter:

The Kiwi Party will not be contesting the general election this year. The response we have had from the vast majority of our members has encouraged us to work with the Conservative Party. Therefore many of us will be standing as Conservative Party (CP) candidates and taking significant places on the CP list. At this stage it looks likely that the CP will have at least 30 candidates in electorates across the country and with over 1200 signed up members the CP is now ready to compete for votes on November 26.

In 2010 Colin Craig launched a campaign for the Auckland Super City Mayoralty as a completely unknown candidate and achieved the stunning result of 3rd place with over 8% of the vote. Eligible voters in that election represented 32.5% of all voters in New Zealand.

Could Colin achieve a similar result nationwide in this campaign?

One of the keys for any small party, as you will know from past elections, is whether the party can win an electorate seat and therefore become eligible for list candidates to be elected to Parliament. Polling conducted by Research First has Colin ahead of the new National candidate Mark Mitchell, in the Rodney electorate. Voters nationwide therefore can be encouraged to give their Party vote to the Conservative Party knowing that every vote will count towards increasing the number of MPs that will be elected.

They don't interest me but are going to make it harder for ACT.

Friday, October 14, 2011

ACT's priorities - welfare missed again

The Nelson Mail reports on a meeting held by Don Brash:
"If National needs a scapegoat, if you like, we could be that scapegoat," he said. The main priorities were to cut government spending, reform the Resource Management Act, restore a youth minimum wage and raise the age of eligibility for superannuation.

No problem with those but it's so disappointing to again see them failing to prioritise welfare. Yesterday these policies appeared on-line:

ACT will continue to push for major welfare reform. A Party Vote for ACT is a vote to:

• Ensure that there is strong, adequate support for the genuinely needy;
• Re-introduce a youth training rate or minimum wage;
• Introduce obligations for sole parent beneficiaries to ensure their children are properly cared for including taking budgeting instruction and meeting regular health checks;
• Introduce sanctions – such as suspension of the unemployment benefit and mandatory work-for-the-dole – in cases where reasonable offers of employment are declined;
• Require mandatory drug rehabilitation or loss of benefit for unemployed beneficiaries who fail work tests because of drug or substance addiction;
• Introduce income management and the requirement to live with a responsible adult for parents under the age of 18;
• Have independent, government-approved gatekeeping and assessment of applicants for the sickness and invalids benefit, and six monthly reassessment of sickness beneficiaries;
• Outsource all employment placement activities to private sector providers and foster a competitive market for sickness, invalid and employment insurance;
• Encourage practical Maori-focused solutions, including Whanau Ora, to lift Maori out of poverty and benefit dependency;
• Introduce a hotline (like Crimestoppers) to report benefit fraud;
• Cut welfare payments to middle and upper income earners through reform of Working for Families.

Some good stuff. Some I am not so keen on. For instance I don't think whanau ora is about reducing Maori benefit dependency. I think it's about teaching them to be better parents. Different things. Not sure about work-for-the-dole although I understand why the WWG recommended a programme. Perhaps PD services could be extended. Cutting WFF (which is only a return to pre-2005 conditions) is absolutely the right move. ACT will be the only party proposing that. Things like budgeting courses and rehab are already used - just not mandatory. Excepting (I think) that if a beneficiary applies for extra assistance so many times they must attend a course as a condition of getting the extra help. But I would have to verify that.

Trouble is, when you set about conditions for receipt of a benefit you are actually sanctioning the receipt. And the very receipt, for perfectly capable people, is wrong.

So what is missing?

The single-most important policy required is time-limits. The single-most important message is, welfare is no longer a way of life. It certainly isn't an option for raising children. We need a sea-change in thinking. These policies aren't going to achieve that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Benefit-dependent babies - nearly half are Maori

Earlier in the week I blogged about 23 percent of children born in 2010 being on a benefit by the end of the year. I cannot be specific about the ethnicity of the child because Work and Income only records details pertaining to the caregiver.

It is safe to assume however that in most cases the ethnicity of the child will match the ethnicity of the caregiver who is usually the mother.

Of the 14,537 caregivers receiving a main benefit at the end of 2010 with one or more children born in 2010:

Maori 47 percent
NZ European 29 percent
Pacific 13 percent
Other or unspecified 11 percent

There is the disproportion of welfarism amongst Maori again.

Remember too that, officially Pacific children are the poorest in NZ but they tend to live in working poor families. And then what Peter Hughes, the departing CE of the Ministry of Social Development said: 'We know that for the same level of income, kids do better where that income's derived from paid work.'

It's no good blaming unemployment for the fact that Maori are disproportionately not supporting their children independently. Their unemployment rate is high (13.7) but so is the Pacific unemployment rate (13.1).

Raising babies on a benefit is simply a habit; a part of Maori culture. And it isn't something either of the Maori Parties are prepared to do anything about. In fact, with Sue Bradford as Mana's 'social well-being' spokesperson you can bet, along with the Greens, the clarion cry will be for higher benefits - not less dependence.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Drug testing beneficiaries - a diversion

ALCP have found a vote winner - they think.

Beneficiaries who risk losing their benefits due to drug testing are being encouraged to give their party vote to the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in the upcoming election. Party Leader Michael Appleby said the only way for beneficiaries to contiunue using cannabis was to ensure the ALCP was elected on November 26 to fight for their rights.

Legal or illegal, the government can make non-use of drugs and/or alcohol a condition for receiving a benefit if they chose to. I wouldn't support such a move. It simply avoids the bigger issue of what people are doing on benefits when they should be self-supporting. Someone terminally ill reliant on an invalid's benefit shouldn't be barred from using whatever eases their end.

The Government's Welfare Working Group led by economist Paula Rebstock, aims to tackle drug addiction by introducing drug testing for those on the benefit. Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said she supported the move. "We expect it for people who are in work so why shouldn't we expect it for people who are looking for work? Frankly, I don't think that is too much to ask," she said.

But we don't expect it for all people in work. So why expect it for all beneficiaries?

Mr Appleby said the move could have disastrous consequences for medical users of cannabis. "We will fight for the right of all New Zealanders to grow and use cannabis for personal or medical use," he said. "It is important than beneficiaries give their party vote to ALCP otherwise they risk losing their benefits."

As I said decriminalising or legalising cannabis won't change the risk of losing their benefit if the government makes non-use a condition of eligibility. In the past people who caused their own incapacity through alcoholism weren't eligible for social security. But alcohol was legal.

If a doctor deems drug or alcohol abuse the primary cause of a person's incapacity I would support accepting mandatory treatment as a condition for continuance of a benefit. Drug testing might form part of such a regime. And it wouldn't surprise me if this isn't what the government is considering.

Most people aren't on a benefit because they smoke or drink. They are on one because they can be. That's the problem.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Organ donation - another awful NZ record

Here's a new idea (and they are rare):

A LEADING medical ethics body wants the NHS to pay for the funerals of organ donors in an effort to help tackle the shortage of donations in the UK.

Hugh Whittall, UK director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, dismissed suggestions that covering the cost of funeral expenses for those who sign the donor register was a way of getting around the legal ban on selling organs.

He told The Scotsman that the move would be a thank-you for an "altruistic act".

Mr Whittall claimed that covering the cost of funerals would provide an "extra prompt" to "drive up" the number of organ donors, which last year was just 67 in Scotland - a rate of 13 donors per million of population.

They think they have a problem?

Last year (2006) there were just 25 organ donors in New Zealand, down from an average of 40 donors a year prior to 2005. At 40 donors a year we were at the bottom of developed countries for the number of donors we have. Now with just 6 donors per million of population we are between Iceland and Mexico for our donation rates.

I have impressed on my family more than once that, in the event of death, if I have anything useable, they must do everything they can to ensure it is made available.

If you have 'donor' on your Driver's Licence make sure you convey the same sentiments to yours.

23% babies born 2010 on benefit by year end

Media Release

Tuesday, October11, 2011

Data released to welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell show that 23 percent of the babies born in 2010 were reliant on a benefit by the end of that year.

"Statistics released under the Official Information Act show that at December 31, 2010, 14,537 Work and Income clients receiving a main benefit had babies in their care that were born during 2010. That represents 23 percent of all babies born in 2010. Almost one in four."

"The implications for this high percentage lie in the likelihood of these children remaining on a benefit for many years. Ministry of Social Development research found, 'The older the child when they first have contact with the benefit system, the greater their likelihood of leaving benefit. Compared to those in contact at birth, those who first have contact between birth and six months have a 15% increase in the probability of leaving benefit. Between six months and one year there is a 33% increase, between one and two years there is a 41% increase, and first contact between two and three years is associated with a 56% increase in the probability of leaving benefit.' "

"These are the circumstances which are overwhelmingly contributing to New Zealand's child poverty problem."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Better news from ACT

From Scoop:

In a joint press statement, ACT Party Leader Don Brash and President Chris Simmons today confirmed that all ACT candidates would move one place up the list to fill the position vacated by the Party’s retiring Parliamentary Leader John Boscawen, and that the number two spot would be filled by former Party President Catherine Isaac.

I have a lot of time for Catherine. This is just what ACT needs. Someone with quiet dignity, strength and courage.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Banks and Red Bull

I have "experience in talking about welfare". Does that mean more people will listen to me than to Don Brash? No.

The odious John Banks told The Nation yesterday that he had blocked a planned speech about welfare that Don Brash was scheduled to deliver because "he had no experience in talking about welfare".

So who does Banksie?

As the leader of ACT Brash can talk about whatever he likes.

Banks tried to take over ACT in 2005 with a silly speech about Red Bull and branding. He shouldn't have been doing that. He had no experience in talking about Red Bull.

Oh I despair over ACT. I shouldn't. I know. The ACT I knew and stood for is long gone.

Forget about nanny state...

Front page NZ Herald:

All Blacks star Cory Jane went on a drinking binge and lit up a cigarette inside a packed Auckland bar - less than 72 hours before playing in today's Rugby World Cup quarter-final.


We used to rail against nanny state.

Now we have nanny media.

The "married father of three" reportedly "lit a cigarette in the bar - breaking the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 banning smoking in pubs, in force since 2004......A top sports medical expert said drinking alcohol so close to a test match could reduce the player's performance and increase the risk of injury......a single cigarette would reduce a player's lung capacity but it would also introduce carbon monoxide and nicotine to the player's blood."

This is a joke. Surely.