The children of National Party MPs will get up tomorrow morning and not think about breakfast – it’s not an issue – there will be plenty of food. And not a second thought about lunch either – either plenty of cash to buy a meal or a healthy home-made lunch. Yesterday Prime Minister John Key declared that food security for our most vulnerable children is a corporate, charity responsibility with a pathetic amount ($9.5 million over five years) from the government.
It’s a weetbix-and-milk breakfast for our most needy kids but no lunch. And John Key couldn’t give a stuff or even half a sandwich. He says it’s a parent responsibility to provide food and the better off should not have to share their unearned largesse to feed kids when low-income families can’t put food on the table. But unlike Parnell parents, real parents pay high rents, high electricity prices, high transport costs and high food costs. Real parents’ bills have to be paid before food is bought and here lies the harsh reality in this land of plenty.
For many years now real, low-income parents have lined up for food parcels – the numbers increasing inexorably month by month and it stands to reason that if real parents don’t have enough money feed their kids at home then they don’t have the resources to give them breakfast and lunch regularly.
I haven’t met a parent yet who doesn’t want to provide good food for their kids every day but the simple fact of 270,000 children living below the poverty line – a 95,000 increase under John Key as Prime Minister – means kids are going hungry.
Instead of a comprehensive breakfast and lunch for our neediest kids the government has produced a half-baked, underdone, indigestible policy. So if it’s a parent responsibility to provide food for their kids then whose responsibility is it to provide jobs for the 160,000 workers who want and need work to feed their kids? And whose responsibility is it to ensure there is enough work for the additional 110,000 workers who need more hours to make ends meet and feed their kids?
And whose responsibility is it to stop discrimination against the children of beneficiaries so they can also feed their kids? The children of beneficiaries are the kids most likely to go hungry because John Key’s government, like the Labour government before him, refuses to provide the child tax credit (worth around $60 per week per child) for these kids.
It’s one of the nastiest, cruellest policies ever devised by Labour and its appalling effects have resonated for hungry kids every day for many years now.
Just think if this sort of discrimination had been in place when John Key’s mother was on a benefit or Paula Bennett was trying to feed her child on the DPB?
In the Appeal Court in Wellington this week the Child Poverty Action Group is arguing that this spiteful discrimination against the children of beneficiaries is unlawful. If the Appeal Court has any decency and humanity then CPAG will win. If they do win and force the government to stop discriminating then that will do much more for children’s food security than John Key’s bullshit breakfast.
Perhaps the saddest sight at the government announcement yesterday was the huddled figure of Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia flanking the Prime Minister as he denied responsibility for hungry kids. It was a reminder of former Alliance MP Alamein Kopu who gave her vote to help maintain Jenny Shipley’s National government in power in the late 1990s as it enacted legislation which damaged Maori families and dashed Maori aspirations for their kids.
Turia is doing the same by supporting these ad-hoc breakfasts with no lunch and will shortly do the same with her support for charter schools – and all for the temporary baubles of parliamentary office.
Too feeble for words.