Can National stop digging please?

By   /   February 15, 2018  /   15 Comments

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National just doesn’t get it.  Bill English’s persistence with the accusation that Labour had an $11.7 billion fiscal hole in its figures was, by far, his biggest mistake as Simon Wilson in the NZ Herald says. But did they learn? Even in the face of clear political damage they kept digging.

National just doesn’t get it.  Bill English’s persistence with the accusation that Labour had an $11.7 billion fiscal hole in its figures was, by far, his biggest mistake as Simon Wilson in the NZ Herald says. But did they learn? Even in the face of clear political damage they kept digging.

Now National are persisting with another blatant subterfuge: that they were the party that lifted 85,000 kids out of poverty and that they are much more ambitious in their goals to reduce child poverty than Labour.   

So in the debate this week on the first reading of The Child Poverty Reduction Bill, the opposition continued to dig themselves an even deeper hole in speech after tired, self-justifying speech. Paula Bennett, Michael Woodhouse, Louise Upston repeated the mantras that they alone were the caring ones.

Jan Logie’s speech came closest to exposing National’s outrageous fabrication

Looking at that one measure over a different time period tells us a very, very different picture about the success of that last Government’s approach to child poverty. …That Opposition’s measure should have been from when they came into Government to the end, and they should have been looking across different measures like this bill will set up, because if they had, and were completely honest about what had happened, then they would have admitted that the latest household income survey showed that the number of children living beneath 60 percent of the median wage, after housing costs, which is the relative income poverty line, is now 290,000—30,000 more than in 2008. Most importantly, between 2008 and 2016, the number of children experiencing the most severe poverty rose from 105,000 to 140,000. So the point of this bill is to have a suite of measures—a comprehensive look at how we are doing, to stop Governments cherry-picking numbers that put rhetoric and their own political ambition ahead of the well-being of our children.

As Jeni Cartwright says in her blog Confusion reigns on measurement of Child Poverty – THANKS BILL, National’s 85,000 claim is based on hardship data taken from 2011, the height of the impact of the recession rather than when National took power in 2008.  Also the reduction in the last few years has a lot to do with the stepped up role of private charities, who fill some of the gaps reducing measured hardship. These are stop gaps measures.  Reports from the coal face now tell of growing food insecurity, homelessness, and families in growing desperation. Charities are increasingly overwhelmed.

Michael Woodhouse appeared to think the 85,000 was the result of National’s families’ package. He refers to the throwaway line pre-election from Bill English about taking 100,000 children out of poverty as if it constituted a real plan

The previous Government took 85,000 children out of poverty. Its Family Incomes Package, passed in Budget 2017, was mostly repealed by this present Government in order that they can give my children completely free first-year tertiary education—an example of both misguided targeting and a lack of ambition. The previous Government committed to taking 100,000 children out of poverty in this term of Parliament, and now we have a target that says that if they’re lucky, with a fair wind—and they don’t completely muck up the economy the way business is concerned they might do—that target is going to be 100,000 children out of poverty in 10 years

While never too coherent, Paula says

The first thing is the targets. The targets are too low. To go out there and say that it’s something like 70,000 over 10 years to be doing the—and we might get to 50,000; it’s too low. It’s just simply not ambitious enough. Work out your priorities. Work out what needs to be done in your next Budget. Put that into place. Look at your debt levels. Look at what needs to be done. Follow a great example, actually, of two previous finance Ministers under National and know that you actually can put more money genuinely into tens of thousands of New Zealanders’ homes that need it.

Let’s be clear: deliberate cuts made by Bill English to Working for Families has wiped about $2.5-3 billion from the finances of low income families since 2010. Spending on WFF by 2016 was $700m per annum below the real value of WFF in 2010.  Pre-election they suddenly discovered that there was a problem and that the cuts and outright neglect had been too severe. They had the means to remedy this last year, but instead they dangled a carrot of a 2018 increase to Working Families. That is, poverty would only be addressed if they were elected. Their Families Package was minimal and their figures showed it came nowhere near restoring $700m of spending let alone making up for the lost income since 2010. Lack of indexation would have eroded this as the figure shows:

Figure Did National propose enough to restore Working for Families?

Displaying a lack of understanding of what the figures actually show, Woodhouse goes on to bluster.

Yes, there were nine years, and in nine years a far greater number of children were lifted out of poverty than at any time in this country’s history, and the previous Government was the first—it supported those families through a significant recession and then it raised benefit levels for the first time in 42 years.

The data is not yet showing the impact of the minimal benefit increase, but the evidence from the social sector is that it made very little difference.

Louise Upston enters the fray:

What we’ve seen, if we look at results and if we look at what has been achieved, is that 85,000 children have been lifted out of poverty in the last five years. So what the New Zealand public want to know is is the new Government paying attention to what worked, or is the new Government going to be ideologically driven and going to just abandon anything that the previous Government had in place that worked?

Let’s be clear—even if some families now have shoes for their kids, raincoats and thus have slightly fewer material hardship lacks so they fall out of the hardship figures, their poverty is not addressed. Their parents don’t have enough income and as a consequence they have too much debt.  Both the hardship data and income figures have another limitation: the survey on which they are based include only families with a residential address. Growing homelessness is making this data less representative and reliable.

This government’s Family Package is a great deal more likely to impact on child poverty than was National’s. While not perfect, and is coming in months too late, and is not indexed properly, it is a much bigger package.

Under Bill’s plan, working families would face draconian clawbacks after the very low threshold of just $35,000. They had to do this to limit the overall cost of the package to pay for proposed tax cuts which were largely to the benefit of the better-off. National would have created a great deal more family poverty among working families and they had no vision or plan at all for their pie in the sky lifting 100,000 kids out of poverty.  Please stop digging Bill.

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About the author

Co-director retirement policy and Research Centre, CPAG management committee


  1. Kim dandy says:

    They can dig as deep as they like.

    • Susan St John says:

      so long as people don’t start to believe them

      • Al says:

        Unfortunately many people still believe the rubbish that they continue to put out. I suspect much of the belief is not based on ability to actually critically analyse the data rather a version of ideological blindness

      • Historian Pete says:

        Little chance that they won’t believe them. It’s like the claim that Russia interfered in the U.S. election. Zero evidence for the claim, just confident assertions from U.S. security organisations that they are confident that Russia did interfere. No matter the record from the NSA, FBI, and CIA of multiple cases of fabrications and downright lies. Its Goebels “big lie” theory. Tell the big lie and keep on repeating it and the public will believe you ![ if you control the news media]. And this is despite the fact that the U.S did interfere in the Russian elections in 1995 and actually were quite proud of it and publicised it in Time magazine. We have our own exceptional people in New Zealand who march in lock step with the exceptional people of the U.S Empire !!!

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      And, and, and, place a large boulder over themselves so they can appear again after 202o please.

  2. Priss says:

    Bill English’s credibility is zero. His constant lies with that fantasy $11.7 billion hole” and other instances of deception make him unfit to be a parliamentarian. No wonder politicians have a lower credibility rating than real estate agents, prostitutes, and car salesmen.

    As for Paula Bennett, well, hypocrisy knows no bounds with this woman. She is a parasite. She used the welfare system to put herself through university and bought a house on welfare, and then denied others the same opportunity. National and Bennett deserve each other.

  3. XRAY says:

    English was so blinded by his market knows best ideology and therefore equally blind to the problem of poverty of its and his making that he was never going to do anything but rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    He was dragged kicking and screaming by polling only, I would guess, to confront a problem he knew not how to fix and forced to tinker.

    Although NZ will be better off waving this dinosaur goodbye the creeps waiting in the wings of the National Party are still singing off the same old lie sheet by the looks of it and promise no better!

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      English is a product of John Key/Steven Joyce ilk where he does what he is told by his paymasters the global elite so English was a born disaster who has no humanity or care for the majority of NZ voters.

  4. Marc says:

    I am waiting for this government to deliver more, so far so good, but let us wait and see, much talk and we await the walk.

  5. Marc says:

    National are jerks, we know, I also have a track record of email correspondence with Jacinda Ardern, which reveal, she did sweet nothing during all those years under National, where serious issues were raised re their ‘welfare reforms’. Where are the reversing steps that we expect, where is the action to bring back justice? I hear and seen none of it, do not force me to present the details, which I have. Words and talk are cheap, action is needed, we get just more words.

  6. Jack Ramaka says:

    The Offshore Bankers have been dictating New Zealand’s growth strategy, and over the past 9 years we have successfully grown our debt to the Offshore Bankers.

    We have successfully doubled our housing prices and doubled the size of our debt to the Offshore Bankers. I would have thought it would have been smarter to double the number of houses built ?

  7. WILD KATIPO says:

    … ” Paula Bennett, Michael Woodhouse, Louise Upston repeated the mantras that they alone were the caring ones” …


    Paula ‘ The Motel Lady ‘ Bennett .

    Wasn’t she the one running round behind the Double Dippers back while he was planning the Budget and putting family’s in motels and colossal debts they could never have a hope in hell of paying back ?

    Is that the one?

    ‘Sweety ‘ Bennett ???

    The National party joke rumbles on. And fortunately for us all , – its rumbled on down the road and into obscurity. This country needs the National party like a cancer patient needs a relapse.

    Nine years of Chinese drip torture is more than enough , thank you very much.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Yes we need to take our country back by changing the “reserve bank Act” so we can buy our assets back at fire sale prices as they were sold for.

      Labour first government did this after the big depression in 1937 so why not now as we are approaching another ‘Greece failed state’.

      Labour now must grow some balls.

  8. Observer Tokoroa says:

    I thought Susan St John’s Article was excellent.

    So I wrote a few words.

    Admittedly I am not a writer of any quality. But i get a bit puzzled as to why some writers post multiple posts and mine often miss the bus entirely.

    So I dropped my monthly contribution to Daily Blog – on the grounds that not even my money has any mana.

    A pity really.

    For, – apart from Trotter and Minto – The Daily Blog is a really Positive, Perceptive and worthwhile Publication.