Friday, May 11, 2012

Hard to get excited about more Mob misuse of money

As a 'welfare commentator' I suppose I should have something to say about the alleged Mongrel Mob's misuse of whanau ora funding. But it is hard to get even mildly warm under the collar about it, not least because it is Winston Peters poking the stick.

When you line it up against all the other tax money gangs absorb, the DPB that finances their women and children, the $100,000 annual upkeep when inside, the law and order funds for policing and processing them, etc. $20,000 is small beer. Within or without the rules, it's all the same to me.

Two snippets

Two snippets noticed today:

Stories of children scavenging through pig slops and downing entire bottles of antibiotics out of hunger are an "embarrassment to the country" says a Kaitaia GP.
Doctor Lance O'Sullivan said he had been doing what he could to fight the effects of child-poverty in his region but it sometimes felt like an uphill battle.

It is a human right's violation to tell poor people they can't have children.”
- Susan Fraser (Crofton Downs)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Strange report

The latest report about a Russian aircraft 'test-flight' that ended in tragedy is odd:

Twenty-one minutes after takeoff, the crew asked for permission to decline from 3000 metres to 1800 metres, said Daryatmo.

Aviation expresses altitude in feet. And permission to 'descend' is requested; not 'decline'.

Probably just journalistic bumbling.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Sallies interfering again

The Salvation Army gets up my nose and they may as well stop sending me begging letters because they are off my list of worthy causes. I abhor their stance on welfare and now I can add their lobbying on alcohol reform to my reasons for disaffection:

The Salvation Army recommends the Government immediately increase excise on alcohol by 25 per cent. This would have little effect on moderate drinkers but would reduce alcohol consumption by teenagers and heavy drinkers – the most price-sensitive consumers – by as much as 10 per cent.
Stop promoting punishment of the responsible for the actions of the irresponsible, not to mention the economic damage threatened to the many industries associated with alcohol production and sale. I'm sick of it.

I would gladly fund their practical work but cannot separate it from their ignorant and annoying advocacy.

Depressing picture

What a (largely) depressing picture Alistair Bone paints of young people in Huntly. I am copying it in its entirety to keep on the record. Think about it next time you read or hear some do-gooder saying there is no evidence that females have kids to get on the DPB. Go into the right neighbourhood and homes (like I have and this writer has) and you will see it for yourself. I just hope that Paula Bennett is choosing the people who are going to be in charge of changing this mindset, culture, whatever you want to call it, very carefully. (Hat-tip Clint Heine and Friends)

'Cracking it' on welfare in Huntly

Mike Watane had plans and savings when he was a kid. He wanted to go around the world.
"There were places I had planned in my head. I saw the Gold Coast on TV and thought that was a lot better than Rainbows End had to offer". Then the unexpected happened.
"I saw her stomach getting bigger and bigger and thought 'aw yeah, I'm trapped now'. That was pretty much my money gone, getting her stretchy waist clothes."
He was 21 and she was 22.
He's still with his girlfriend. Baby is three. He's just come off a welding course and goes down to Hamilton every couple of days looking for something.
There's been no luck yet, so he's on his bike, literally, and talking to mate Poro Kingi on a street in Huntly West.
On paper it's a terrible place. Dead bottom and 10 out of 10 on the deprivation scale, worse than Meremere, worse than Ngaruawahia, worse even than living across the river in Huntly East.
It's hard to find actually abandoned houses in New Zealand, but there's heaps here, their windows boarded with graffitied plywood.
The rail line runs straight through Huntly West and the twin towers of the power station don't go anywhere. There are so many gangs locals need more than a hand to count them off and subset them into senior and junior.
Kingi's hefting baby Cali on his shoulder.
He and his partner are struggling, but Cali was planned and wanted. He says a lot around here are not even 18 when they have their first. He's lived here all his life and can't think of a time when that's not been true.
They like the Government's new plan. Watane thinks long-term contraception would help the younger generation, make it a place where you just see girlfriends and boyfriends together and not with a kid in tow.
The heat of the moment can do funny things to your plans, he says.
Down the road a bit and Te Aroha Kirkwood and Shanelle Herewini hear that.
"You tell them to wrap it, but sometimes they don't listen or they are too drunk." Te Aroha giggles, she's on a benefit, 19 years old, eight months gone.
Shanelle says she wouldn't take the contraceptive, even free – "put the money in the bucket".
Get the kid and take the money. She's laughing, maybe playing up. But Te Aroha whispers, just about to herself, "I would like to have that."
The Police Ten Seven crew were at the dairy earlier. Someone knocked it over looking for smokes, the girls say. Three young guys turn up on bikes. They're intense, they give names, probably not real.
Walter is 16, his girlfriend is 17 and pregnant. He doesn't have a job, just a mystery magic formula.
"Money is all around me. Why do I need a job when money just gets given to me?"
Despite that, he's going to hold off. He'll see how "hard case" the first one turns out before getting another.
Most of the girls won't go for the Government offer, he reckons. They want babies.
"I heard you crack it on the benefit if you have babies." he says.
One of his lieutenants has a different take. He learns the Government doesn't actually want to pay people on a benefit to have babies.
"They should move that thing – the minimum wage, yeah – up from $13.50 and they might get a job. Even if they moved it to $15, that would make a big difference," he says.
Farther down the same street lives Fay Love. She's been bowled by a purse snatcher, but still takes a stick to the hoods in her yard.
The voluntary contraception offered to the teen girls of beneficiaries is never going to work: "Half the parents round here are going to say 'it's my child, they can do what they like'."
As she talks, more and more women appear on her steps. They agree. Take their benefit away or it's a joke.
Abby Martens flats with Desiree Maddern. They're both on the benefit. Desiree was pregnant five times before she was 20, twice by accident. She works with the cops in the Blue Light programme, trying to put kids back on track. She's dead against it being compulsory.
She poses a question. "Are girls just having babies for the money, or because they want a baby, or to keep a guy?"
At 19, Abby would be the bullseye for the programme. But she wouldn't do it. She doesn't believe in unnatural contraception; her parents were very into homeopathy.
She's brave, honest. When she's with a partner, she uses a condom she says, but sometimes ...

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

82% say "YES"

A Campbell Live poll just announced the following result:

"Is it a good idea for beneficiaries to be given free long-acting contraceptives?"

YES - 82 percent

Paula Bennett was more genuine and convincing than Meteria Turei who was undone by opposing for the sake of it.

"...state should not play a role in women's reproductive lives"?

Sue Bradford says, about the just-announced extra funding for long-term contraception for beneficiaries and their teenage daughters, "There are many in the church and community groups who believe that the state should not play a role in women's reproductive lives."

So the state should discontinue current funding of contraception, family planning services, abortion, tubal ligations, maternity services, Paid Parental Leave, Plunket, fertility treatments, etc ? Is that really what Bradford is saying? It is a highly troublesome argument for her to advance.

In fact it is one you would be more likely to hear from me. Yet she is against this subsidy and I am for it. My reasoning?

I will go along with the latest funding because it is an attempt to reduce the social and economic cost that generally follows the birth of a child onto a benefit.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Why I get put in the right-wing box

Published in last Friday's Truth:

Describing political beliefs as 'left' or 'right' is convenient but problematic. An old friend recently asked, "When did you become a right-winger?"  I didn't, I replied. A right-winger is conservative on social issues like alcohol laws, gay marriage and voluntary euthanasia. I'm not, because I believe in individual choice and freedom. From very young the maxim 'live and let live' resonated for me.  So when government  tells me what I can and can't do, I chafe.

Local government is, in some respects, a worse offender than central, with vast powers to dictate what can and can't be done with private property. To demolish my garage and build a new one, I am told I have to push it back; or turn it adjacent to the street; have a roller-door rather than an angle-opening one despite there being no footpath outside. The process drags on and to rub salt into the wound,  my rates fund those putting unfathomable obstacles in my way.

Central government is a less obvious but more pervasive force with the power to
take my property (compulsory taxes) to use in ways not just wasteful, but actively destructive. Paying people to have babies is a good example. Children produced as meal-tickets are highly vulnerable.

When government robs Peter to pay Paul, it limits Peter's choices to promote Paul's. Peter has no say in the matter except perhaps once every three years, but even then, there isn't a lot to differentiate National and Labour, both big spenders.

What I want from a government is less benefit spending, less productivity-stifling regulation, less corporate and middle-class welfare and lower, flatter taxes. And that's why I get put in the right-wing box.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Roger Kerr's successor

The NZ Business Roundtable has merged with the NZ Institute to form what is now called The NZ Initiative.

The new head of this group is Oliver Hartwich. Here are some excerpts from an interview on The Nation.

Rachel When our next guest left the UK to take up a new job in Australia, then Conservative MP David Cameron remarked, the sooner he gets on the ship the better. Economist Dr Oliver Hartwich has critics and fans who've closely watched his work at Britain's leading think tank, the Policy Exchange, and more recently at the Centre of Independent Studies in Sydney. He's now in New Zealand to head up the New Zealand Initiative, a merger of the Business Round Table and the New Zealand Institute. And after his first week on the job he joins us now in the studio. Welcome to the programme Dr Hartwich. It's quite an interesting merger, two very different beasts. Why do you think they’ve brought you in, is it because for example you may have a blank slate when it comes to New Zealand?

 Oliver Hartwich – New Zealand Initiative Executive Director
I think they were looking for someone with a sense of humour so they couldn’t go past a German of course. But seriously the organisation, I mean it's built on the legacy of two existing organisations, the Business Round Table and the New Zealand Institute, but the idea was really to form a new initiative, and that’s why it's called the New Zealand Initiative, and it's built to really promote policies that promote good policies for all New Zealand, for all New Zealanders. We're basically showing the same visions whether we're standing on the left or on the right, it doesn’t really matter too much, we all believe in sound economic management. Nobody wants to see high inflation, no one wants to see high unemployment. We basically believe in the same things, and we're trying to actually promote policies that work for the whole of the country...

I think the whole political spectrum is basically converging towards the centre, it's not just a thing that you will see on the right, you actually see it on the left as well. I think we have seen quite a bit of a conversion in the last 20 years globally. So you’ve got the traditional left wing parties moving closer to the centre, traditional right wing parties moving closer to the centre, because in the end they're driven often by opinion polls, by focus groups, by short termism, and they're really trying to just grab the issues of the day and politics I think has become much less ideological after the end of the Cold War, and I think that’s probably seen in many countries around the world including of course most European countries..

I'm an old Liberal, I'm not a Neoliberal, I really believe in individual freedom, I believe in policies that work, I believe in empirical research driving policy making.

....Maybe we should see a first light return of ideology in political debates anywhere, because what I actually miss from political debates is some clear divisions. We have this convergence to what is centre. What's really missing are debates, real passionate debates really based on principles not just on opinion polls, not just based on some focus group polling. I think the times when we actually had debates between people who believed in a more planned economy and other people who believed in a more free economy, I think that they're quite healthy for democracy. When democracies converge on the centre ground, political debates become quite stale, they become personality driven. I would actually like to have real debates upon policy."


Some good stuff.

Big discrepancy in reported funeral grant figures

According to Stuff "Department of Work and Income statistics show in the 12 months to the end of March, 5473 funeral grants were made, totalling $9.8 million.....In 2011, Work and Income issued 5412 grants totalling $9.3m, and in 2010, 5562 grants cost $9.3m. "

Check out this MSD table which shows that in the financial year 2009/10 only 26 funeral grants were made.

I have searched 'funeral' in the latest MSD Statistical report and no other results are found.

I am intrigued because the Stuff figure sounds far more plausible.

What this highlights is the difference between statistical information gained under the OIA (where I think it was sourced) and what is in the public domain.