Fear of the State vs Omnipotent big data inter-agency mass surveillance: Will $320m for family & sexual violence actually do anything?


In 2016, John Key’s Government was under an enormous amount of pressure as network news TV broadcast images of NZers living in cars. Key assured voters that Ministry of Social Development staff had tagged alongside the Salvation Army in going up to these desperate people to see if they could be of assistance…

Prime Minister John Key claimed a team of social workers went out to Bruce Pulman Park in Takanini on Monday night where they spoke to people in eight cars — none of whom wanted the Government’s help.

“MSD and the Sallies went around and knocked on [the] eight cars that they could find,” he says.

…less than 24 hours after Key made that statement, the Salvation Army came out angrily denouncing that claim and stated no MSD staff had come along with them.

What Key hadn’t appreciated is that the neoliberal welfare state agencies are there to terrify, intimidate and break beneficiaries so that the interaction becomes so awful the poor chose to flee these agencies rather than seek them out.

That’s why the Salvation Army had to distance themselves when Key claimed MSD staff had tagged along because the Salvation Army knew those most in need fear the Government and would refuse any help if they thought MSD staff were accompanying the Salvation Army.

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That’s why the National Government in 2017 was so surprised at the ‘hidden’ number of homeless using Motel emergency allowances because the homeless try to avoid the state departments. Now that every state agency all share information, they help chase debts that have been built up by the poor when those poor touch base with any agency.

From stealing babies straight from a women’s womb, to spying on beneficiaries with powers not even the Police have, to the State House meth hysteria, the most vulnerable don’t see state agencies as anything they can trust or believe in. Such is the demand for big data algorithms, the privacy of the individual has been sold off and with that privacy any trust the individual has in the state.

People chose not to fill in the census, they didn’t forget.

So what to make of todays announcement of $320m on family and sexual violence...

In an announcement this morning, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government would commit $320 million over four years to what she called the first-ever joint Budget bid from multiple government departments.

The funding would provide further funding for Integrated Safety Response, a three-year police-led pilot, she said.

The scheme was set up in Christchurch and Hamilton by the former National government in 2016, and today’s announcement meant it would be expanded to Gisborne, Counties Manukau and Kaitaia.

Under ISR, every family violence call to police is referred to a team of government agencies which share information, assess risk and then set up a safety plan.

…it’s good that there will be a promotional advertising campaign calling on behaviour change and support for the men who cause this violence, but my suspicion is that once people in harms way realise calling the Police triggers inter-agency backlash then those in danger will stop calling Police.

The problem is those most in need don’t see Government departments as saving or helping them. If the by-product of calling for help is a Government social worker who is going to snatch the baby at birth, why go to the hospital?

If the by-product of calling the Police is the family split up and the children forced into foster care with a chance of being abused in state care, why call the Police?

Those who have been the whipping boy at the hands of a neoliberal welfare state are unlikely to turn to it in their deepest need.

The legacy of the neoliberal welfare state are vulnerable people too traumatised by the experience of the interaction to ever hold out their hand in need again.



  1. “What Key hadn’t appreciated is that the neoliberal welfare state agencies are there to terrify, intimidate and break beneficiaries so that the interaction becomes so awful the poor chose to flee these agencies rather than seek them out.”

    That is only true to a degree, it is certainly not what the law says, under which they operate, the system is much more sophisticated.

    The reality is that they will provide help, but it comes with so many strings and conditions attached, it makes it very difficult for many to manage such requirements and to even go and apply for benefit.

    And when a person gets benefit support, she or he is already reminded of a catalogue of obligations and requirements, so they will be told, you better get off the assistance we grant you very soon, or we will call you in to ensure you will make an effort and get into some form of work.

    Also are babies not usually snatched from their mothers, or carers, CYFS and the now active replacement agency for it are woefully inadequate in their staffing, qualifications and access to homes and foster parents, they simply cannot deliver what there is in need for it.

    What I am worried about with the new announcement to day, that is a vast expansion of state powers, to try and severely interfere again into many people’s lives, where perhaps other approaches should be tried.

    We will get more monitoring, record gathering, observation, surveillance and sanctions, which most will do all to avoid. Angry partners will only get more angry and rather go underground than cooperate. It will all cost heaps of money and deliver too little.

    Of course some assistance is going to be good and welcome, but the whole set of proposed additional ‘support’ and measures gives some reason to be concerned.

    The state getting ever more power to interfere directly in people’s lives will lead to a new growth industry of monitoring, administering, counselling and sanctioning people, needing ever more personnel.

    Those affected will become unmotivated to cooperate, and make it difficult to implement measures.

    • Why do I get the impression this is a government very happy to just pour $320 million as an amorphous lump into an area that benefits a well-established industry based around the overwhelming presumption of guilt of males? Is there even a microscopic portion of it directed at combatting psychological and material abuse of men that is inherent in modern society? No? Then the higher incidence of suicide, alcoholism, serious injury, homelessness, poor education in men must be brought on by sheer male contrariness.

    • It would probably be better to make sure that every one has an income adequate to live on and for those at the lowest levels of income to be in a zero tax bracket. It all comes down to money in the end and the most efficient way to to get money where it is needed is directly to those in need. It will also have the greatest benefit to the economy because the recipients have no choice but to spend it into their local community.

    • “Angry partners will only get more angry and rather go underground than cooperate. It will all cost heaps of money and deliver too little.” Yes, Marc.

      The one time my small son rang the police when his father was on the rampage, I took the phone and told the police not to come,and that everything was ok. I knew it would only make my husband worse – and it may be one of the most foolish things I have ever done.

      A television campaign to curb male violence is a complete waste of money likely dreamt up by the usual public servant idiots – probably with the degrees in Social Policy which replaced the ubiquitous MBA.

      If only culture change were that simple. Further I suggest that politicians who profess to believe that advertising campaigns will lead to changes in behaviour are liars, hypocrites, simpletons, or all three.

      Also growing up in a nice white middle class violent family which effectively destroyed one or two of my siblings, I would have preferred to have been in that family than extracted from it. Children will accept anything as normal, and that is just part and parcel of the dark underbelly of violence which permeates NZ society.

  2. Who cares about John Key anymore, seriously move on. Look at the statistics around poverty, inequality and homelessness since our supposedly caring side won the treasury benches, they have all significantly worsened. Shame on all of us for not taking a stand and marching in the streets, for what is frankly a national disgrace. Too many brothers and sisters on the left like to believe they are kind and caring, but results say otherwise, we are as much to blame as the right.

    • plus 100 mickey the left are as much too blame for the mess we are in the problem is who can fix it and who will fix it and when

  3. Our coalition government should start with reducing the number of bottle stores and businesses that can sell alcohol this needs to be done asap. Alcohol is one of the main drivers of violence and yet its available everywhere 7 days a week/. A multi faceted approach is needed to address violence.

    • Add to that every poker machine not in stand alone casinos.
      For everyone attacking or complaining at the government, please offer alternatives.

  4. Yep alienate people and they come to view you are an adversary not a friend. My opinion of govt is it an all time low and I doubt it will change. I can only imagine what it must be like for people in need which disturbs me deeply. I have always believed one of govts key roles is to protect and help those in need and they are in my opinion failing in that obligation.

    This to me at least just looks like a marketing campaign but you know marketing only gets you so far. There has to be a worthwhile product or service behind it too or people soon stop buying what’s being sold.

  5. Yes the punitive arms of State “Welfare” will likely have a counterproductive effect here.

    NGOs though may help if they get the funds back that National took off Rape Crisis, Womens Refuge and the closing of Relationship Services. Only if though, extreme data sharing is not required as the condition for the money.

    The “Pink Shirt” type campaigns are worth doing rather than not doing to help raise awareness, given that a number of unionised workers are now adding paid domestic violence leave to their Collective Agreements.

  6. So female ‘A’ calls the Police after partner ‘B’ assaults her. Police arrest partner ‘B’ and find evidence on him that he is involved in using or selling ‘P’. Female ‘A’ is not involved in ‘B’s’ drug behaviour.

    This is all reported to MSD/HNZ who then grill female ‘A’ about the nature of the relationship she has with partner ‘B’ and partner ‘B’ using or dealing in ‘P’. Next minute she is turfed out of her rental (if it is a HNZ rental) and she is investigated and prosecuted for benefit fraud. Setting up a safety plan for female ‘A’ – spare the insult.

    This inter-departmental sharing of information is simply a strategy to oppressively police the victims of domestic abuse.

      • I think I’ve said before that MSD service managers use these sort of tactics on their own staff.

        A woman currently working for them applied in advance for a day’s sick leave for a scheduled medical procedure – I think a colonoscopy- and was later told that she had to produce a letter from the surgeon saying what the procedure was for. She knew that she didn’t have to provide this information, but did so. This particular sm – a notorious bully – said that she kept these notes on staff health for her ‘personal files.’

        Another just-retired woman was asked by her young male sm to provide a GP’s letter with a prognosis about how her arthritis was likely to pan out in future. The GP refused to provide such a letter saying that the sm should not have been requesting it.

        • And do not forget the matter of the HNZ bully manager who bullied a staff member so badly that the staff member committed suicide. It was initially reported in the media but was shut-down very quickly, no doubt by HNZ senior management. Result, bully-boy manager still in his position and staff still scared. No accountability.

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