I’ve found very little grounds for agreement with Judith Collins over the years, but there’s very little to disagree with in her off-the-cuff remarks to the Police Association's annual conference yesterday, as reported by Radio NZ. “Many of the problems blamed on child poverty can be blamed on parents, Police Minister Judith Collins says.” And that’s true, isn’t it.
Ms Collins was challenged at the Police Association's annual conference in Wellington today by a delegate, who said poverty was making law enforcement harder.
The delegate said his officers had been very busy with gangs, which he said were often filled with people who had experienced poverty as children.
The government's approach to child poverty was criticised in a recent United Nations report, as well as by opposition politicians.
Ms Collins responded by saying the government was doing a lot more for child poverty in New Zealand than the UN had ever done.
It would be easy to be flippant here and say government welfare has done a lot more to produce it – produce it by encouraging those already in poverty to see shelling out children as a welfare-way out.
Still, here’s the line that got everyone yapping (although I’m sure she’d reword it if it weren’t off the cuff):
In New Zealand, there was money available to everyone who needed it, she said.
And if you’re seeing the world as a cabinet minister, there is. There is welfare money enough for everyone, billions shared by hundreds of thousands. It’s not lack of money – that’s more than a hundred thousand each. But it’s the working poor who have to provide the billions who have most to complain about – and, of course, those children brought into the world by parents caring more about the money than the child.
"It's not that [lack of money], it's people who don't look after their children, that's the problem.
"And they can't look after their children in many cases because they don't know how to look after their children or even think they should look after their children."
Monetary poverty was not the only problem, she said.
"I see a poverty of ideas, a poverty of parental responsibility, a poverty of love, a poverty of caring."
As the MP for Papakura, she saw a lot of those problems in south Auckland, she said.
"And I can tell you it is not just a lack of money, it is primarily a lack of responsibility.
It’s been a long time since I’ve even agreed even partially with a cabinet minister.
Today is one of those days.
Maybe, just for fun, I’ll fisk Jacinda’s reply later. Until then, allow me to repost an excerpt from 2013 titled ‘You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money’:
Seventy years of just giving people more money has not made things better, it's made them worse. In the last ten years alone a sum of more than $200 billion has been taken from taxpayers and spent in a war on poverty, that's two-hundred billion dollars on a war that no one is winning; not the government, not the taxpayer, and as advocates’ studies themselves suggest, not the 200-300,000 or so who've been the targets of this war over the last ten years: we're all worse off except for the politicians, for whom this massive sum amounts to very cheap and efficient vote-buying.
That's $200,000,000,000 -- enough to have given every beneficiary in the country a massive $650,000 each to start their own war on poverty. And it still hasn't worked. It won't. It never will. To paraphrase PJ O'Rourke,the spending of this truly vast amount of money -- an amount nearly half again the nation's entire gross national product in 1995 -- has left everybody just sitting around slack-jawed and dumbstruck, staring into the maw of that most extraordinary paradox: You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money.