Labour needs a boot up the backside



The National government’s announcement today of its “tough” stance on child abuse is 100% pure distraction. Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says she feels a “deep sense of responsibility” for New Zealand’s high rates of child abuse (and so she should) but then announces a series of “look busy” measures which will have precious little impact on New Zealand’s horrendous levels of child abuse.

Like National’s “get tough on crime”, her various proposals are a series of policy adjustments which ignore the root causes of the issue. There are NEVER any excuses for child abuse but there are REASONS why it happens at such horrific levels and those reasons are being willfully ignored by National – and by the Labour Party.

Poverty in a land of plenty is the key factor in child abuse and arises from unemployment, alienation, unliveable benefits, demonisation of beneficiaries, poverty wages, insecure hours of work, huge income inequality and cynical scapegoating of the victims of economic policy. In this environment a grim, desperate culture develops in parts of our low-income communities and add in the plethora of social problems which arise from poverty – drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence – and the recipe for high levels of child abuse is complete.

But the most pathetic aspect of the announcement was the reaction of the Labour Party.

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Fresh from the 1980s Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Annette King never mentioned poverty or the causes of child abuse. Here’s how she was report by Fairfax:

“Labour’s acting Social Development spokesperson Annette King said all New Zealanders wanted to see child abuse stopped and National’s proposals provided the opportunity to look at the best ways to do that.

“For the sake of our kids, it is important to open up this discussion,” she said.

“Let’s look at the evidence, hear the experts who work in the field, and let the public have their say.

“We need to hear the evidence and be assured the proposals will work.”

A number of the proposals were “worthwhile”, including legislating to make Government departments accountable for protecting children as well as screening and vetting processes for Government employees working with children.”

Contrast that with the thoughtful, intelligent comments from the Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei. Fairfax reported:

“Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the Government had “totally ignored” advice about the impact of poverty on households and vulnerable children.

“If the National Government really wanted to keep kids safe it would support a higher minimum wage and, at the very least, restore benefit rates to the level they were before it slashed them in the 1990s,” she said.

“That would make a real difference to the lives of a generation of Kiwi kids.

“Instead it’s putting families under more pressure through its benefit reforms, and driving women into unsafe relationships for financial reasons.”

A Government which ignored such an important contributor to child abuse was “failing those children”, she said.

Turei said a Child Poverty Action Group review of 25 years worth of child abuse cases found poor parents were more stressed and depressed, could feel useless, or under siege from authorities, and were often absent from the home as they worked long hours in order to make ends meet.”

I heard a visitor (Robert Wade?) recently reported as saying that the Labour Party in Britain had an unwritten policy that they would happily talk about poverty but would never mention inequality. It’s a modern version of the saying that a person who helps the poor is a humanitarian but a person who asks “why are people poor?” is a dangerous revolutionary.

Our Labour Party is reluctant even to talk about poverty – let alone inequality.

The party remains firmly in the grip of its 1980s MPs who were loyal followers of policies which created economic and social devastation.

I know in a blog about child abuse it’s not the most appropriate thing to say but Labour needs a boot up the backside.


  1. Government needs a wake up call to address inequity which I see as the cause of all deviance and crime.

    We live in a kind of pressure cooker; the rich float on top picking the best and dictating to everyone else. The middle class sandwiched between them and the poor struggle to stay sane and pay their debt and minimise their outgoings while the poor, any poor are expected to carry the greatest load.

    It is the poor who are forced into poverty and yet they pay the highest cost as here and in many countries they foot the bills for excesses created at the top.

    The wealth of Europe came from exploitation in the east, the British sold opium for luxury goods, the USA simply uses fear to take what it wants and New Zealand is no different in its social attitudes.

    As Israel uses the holocaust of WW2 to justify raping Palestine, those in leadership here will do anything to remain in power and take care of their mates.

    “Current education is almost always geared towards economic development, which “neither helps solve individual mental problems nor society-level problems.” ~

    The game of politics seems to be to keep enough of the people happy they don’t complain too much and fool them into thinking the poor are all crooks and unworthy.

    The game is being well played and the fear of crime along with the remote threat of terrorism and our addiction to sugar, sports and our flat screen TV’s keeps the nation relatively compliant. Failure to do so would mean greater civil disobedience and heaven forbid a Green controlled government.

    Then at the other extreme would be a revolution and like the French and the Khmer Rouge, lop off their heads and start a new game.

  2. As production and industry jobs have been contracting for the past 30 years, whats our solution here.
    We need low to mid skill range, reasonably paid jobs and lots of them,
    but those jobs are now only paying a bowl of rice a day in china.
    Mean while this government and the one before it, scream at manufactures to send there work off shore.It’s an ever decreasing circle.

    Have i got the wrong end of the stick?.

  3. As long as Labour fears newspaper editorials more than it fears the poor, this will continue. Having decided to administer capitalism rather than go for any real changes, they are stuck with the rules written by the capitalists. They need a bit more than a boot up the backside.

  4. I suspect that Annette King, having been around in politics for a lot longer than Ms Turei, is more focused on the quality and content of what the Government is offering than banging the drum about ‘poverty’.

    We’ve all heard the drumbeat.

    But the poverty we’re talking about is not about ‘money’. Millions of people the world over are materially poor, and you know it. And they don’t abuse kids.

    And some abusers have well-paid work. Not materially ‘poor’ at all.

    Keep thinking – past the obvious, and the alluring drumbeats.

    And do find a way to raise the issue of the barely-there wages and benefits without adding the ‘threat’ that poverty is some sort of ’cause’ for child abuse. It’s not. It’s the attitudes to poverty and poor people that may be a deeper causative.

    • Andrea – poverty by itself is not a cause of child abuse but poverty in a land of plenty is the driver of social ills – including child poverty – the world over. To get a handle on this I suggest start by reading “The Spirit Level” and then read the critiques and responses related to the book.
      Why it is a higher priority of the government o allow the 150 wealthiest New Zealanders to amass an extra $3.5 billion in unearned and untaxed wealth last year?
      There is no need for poverty in this country or anywhere else in the world.

  5. Annette King is one that HAS TO GO, as one that is vocal but full of hypocrisy, her cries against Ryall, which may in part be justified, always end up with him firing back at her failings as Minister for Health. She has so much bad baggage, she is only a liability to Labour, I am surprised she is still there.

    I can name others, it is an obsolete lot in their caucus, I call it carcass, it is dead meat sitting there, waiting for the final slaughter.

    If they are the ones we are supposed to rely on and vote for, no wonder the damned polls are as they show. I will vote Green, Mana or something else, not that loser and lying outfit, who never even given any response on welfare issues, that may convince, while I do due to ill health depend on that crap handout we get.

    Fuck you A King and Labour, what the fuck did you do for us between 2000 and 2008???

    My vote will go elsewhere!

  6. John, I disagree with you on various things and issues, but you always make honest and good points and comments. I commend you for that. In some points I even agree on supporting you as mayor, but in others I have doubts. But whatever, you are at least a very honest and solid bloke, and that is what I hold so dear about you. We need more outspoken and honest critics like you, for the good of the country and the society.

    Thank you!

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