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Greens challenge Govt. over child poverty


19 November 2002

Greens challenge Govt. over child poverty

Green Social Services Spokesperson Sue Bradford today said if Government had any intention of reducing appalling levels of child poverty in New Zealand it would substantially increase the minimum wage and benefit levels immediately.

"We have report after report coming out now on an almost weekly basis, all saying that around one third of New Zealand children are living in poverty.

"If thirty per cent of our kids living in poverty is not the biggest problem facing the future of this country, then I want to know what is," said Ms Bradford.

"Yet the causes of this poverty, as identified in today's UNICEF report, are going unaddressed by this Government. Rather then setting up some airy fairy 'Commission of the Family' to tell us what we already know, we need this Government to finally take some meaningful, concrete action."

Ms Bradford welcomed the UNICEF report but said while it was the role of agencies like UNICEF to draw attention to the scale of the problem, it was the role of Government to fix it.

"This report quite rightly points out that the disastrous economic experiments of the 1980's, started first by Labour and then carried on by National, are the cause of the poverty problems this country faces now.

"It was the cuts to benefits that this Government has still not fixed and the cuts to wages which likewise have not been addressed which are forcing many families, including working families, to turn to foodbanks and make cuts to essentials like food and heating," said Ms Bradford.

"If this Government has any intention of fixing our disgraceful rates of child poverty then the Greens urge them to immediately increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour and restore benefits to the relative levels before they were cut.

"These two simple measures are long overdue and would be concrete and commonsense measures which would immediately make a real difference to thousands of struggling families.

"Far too many families and children are still suffering as the result of the cruel economic experiment inflicted upon them by many members that are still in this House. It is time for this Government to stop the suffering."

Sue Bradford will attend the launch of the UNICEF report at Turnbull House at 1pm today and will ask oral question number two in parliament this afternoon on this issue.

ENDS

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