Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Children’s Commish mis-speaking on child poverty

"Child poverty - it's not choice." That's the message that outgoing Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills wants to spread through social media in a challenge to Government policy.
Problem is, responds welfare campaigner Lindsay Mitchell, it IS a choice-- 
It's not the choice of the children living in low income households.
    But the majority of them end up there through the choices made by their parents.
    When one in five children every year is being born directly onto a benefit or into precarious financial circumstances that will see them dependent on a benefit within their first year, somewhere along the line choices are made. They are the sole responsibility of the parent. Not you, not me and not the rest of NZ.
They are not "our" children. They are the children of folk who made the choice to have them. Yes, bad things may have happened after that choice was made (just ask Jonah’s children), but when one in five children are born either directly onto a benefit or already into poverty, those parents made a choice on their behalf.
The Children's Commissioner does his charges no favours [concludes Lindsay] by refusing to acknowledge the facts behind child poverty. An illness cannot be cured if it is misdiagnosed and wrongly treated.
Another way he does them no favours is by mis-defining the problem. “Child poverty rates are on the up,” he says, “and nearly 30 percent of children now live without the basics.”

Except, well, his definition of poverty is not an absolute definition, but a relative one. Speaking this morning to Guyon Espiner [AUDIO], whom he seeks to persuade that a third of NZ children live in poverty, he explains that his measure of poverty is a family of two parents and one child living on $530 per week or less after housing costs have been accounted for. Not what many would call poverty. And asked how there can be 45,000 more children in poverty this year than last when there have been no cataclysms over that time to explain that sudden eruption, he says
Because it’s a relative measure. It compares the income of the children at the ‘bottom’ with the middle and the top. And incomes at the middle and the top have gone up.
So as Espiner then asks him, this is more about inequality than it is about poverty, which he concedes. And the alleged problem is only increasing because incomes are going up. At which point he begins to lose his audience. (Especially since, across a range of measures, there has been no rise or fall in income inequality in the last twenty years.”)

Make no mistake, this campaign is not about poverty, it is about politics. If it were about poverty, campaigners would have realised the relationship between economic progress and poverty, and understood that it is the first that demolishes the second. But this is not what they are calling for. As James Bartholemew explained recently in the Telegraph , this “redefinition of poverty was a bit of a con-trick by the Left. It has led us to care far too much about inequality and not enough about rising prosperity.”

Which is precisely what is being done here.

And in doing so, to make Lindsay Mitchell’s point again, he does his charges no favours.


  • With so much talk about “poverty,” it’s easy to forget what poverty really means – and how it was overcome.
    Poverty? – NOT PC
  • “Of course some people are in genuine need, but it is nothing compared to previous generations - who would kill to be poor in today's society.”
    The reclassification of 'poverty’ was a con-trick by the Left – James Bartholemew, TELEGRAPH
  • What’s the relationship between economic progress and poverty? Simple: the first demolishes the second.
    Progress and poverty – NOT PC
  • “Inequality [in NZ] is clearly seen as a serious and rising problem. The only problem with that is that the data says otherwise.”
    It’s hard to fight derp with data – Eric Crampton, NZ INITIATIVE


  1. Pretty much every one of these "Commissioners" could be abolished with no negative impact on New Zealand. Children's, Retirement, Family, Maori Language, there's quite a few of them

  2. To feed a child for 5 days of the school week breakfast and lunch I estimate to be $13. This includes 2 weatbix, sugar and milk. For lunch 2 sandwiches with butter and vegemite. A small piece of fruit too. Anyone in NZ today who cannot afford to do this needs some serious analysis. No child of mine would ever go to school hungry.


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