Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Let's Turn It Around

Tuesday 22nd Jun 1999

Muriel Newman

Article -- Social Welfare

It is apparent that most New Zealanders are now feeling overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of the social problems we face - crime, abuse, violence, teenage pregnancy, suicide, drug and alcohol addictions. They feel that these are the inevitable result of modern life, and that there are no solutions.

That is wrong. New Zealand is a family orientated society. Our voluntary participation rates are high by world standards. This country was built on the strength of our families and communities.

Yet our present levels of family break-up, the precursor of many of the negative social outcomes we now face, are greater than the OECD, Australia, and virtually all of the rest of the world.

Within a generation, family breakdown has gone through the roof. By altering the incentives that underpin our social policy framework New Zealand has moved to being a world leader in the proportion of sole parent families, and children growing up in æbenefit led householdsÆ.

The good news is, however, that as other countries have shown, we can easily turn it around. I read in the media that some people appear to be arguing that our world record level of family break down is nothing to worry about. What I think they are really trying to say is that there are many sole parents doing a great job, who deserve our admiration. I could not agree more. However, their outstanding efforts should not disguise the facts that increasing numbers of New Zealand children (the Minister of Social Welfare puts the number at 90,000) are now at risk of abuse on a daily basis.

A 1998 Ministry of Health report entitled ôOur ChildrenÆs Healthö, listed as the key risk factors impacting on the health and safety of children, being raised in a sole parent family, and having a young mother who had not finished her education. In a British study, ôBroken Homes and Battered Childrenö, Robert Wheelan shows that the safest place in which to raise a child is the natural married family. As families break down, not only does the risk of child abuse increase, but as Pat Fagan of the Heritage Foundation in ôThe Real Root Causes of Violent Crimeö points out, so too does the increase in violent crime. He has estimated that for every 10% increase in out of wedlock births, there is a 17% increase in violent crime. This is especially worrying given New ZealandÆs record illegitimacy rate - 42% for the population as a whole and 78% for Maori.

New Zealand is a family orientated society, and we are quite capable of turning this situation around by addressing the incentives in government social policy. I can think of no issue that is more urgent than this.

Raising kids these days is not easy. For many children, their path through to adulthood is no longer a straight line, but a rough slalom course through very adult problems. Those children raised with clear boundaries, strong values and a well-developed sense of personal responsibility, have a far better chance of keeping on the straight and narrow, than children who donÆt.

Dr Muriel Newman, MP for ACT New Zealand, writes a weekly opinion piece on topical issues for a number of community newspapers. You are welcome to forward this column to anyone you think may be interested.

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines


Mt Roskill: Greens Will Not Stand In Likely Post-Goff By-Election

“The Green Party’s priority is changing the Government in 2017, and as part of that we’ve decided that we won’t stand a candidate in the probable Mt Roskill by-election... This decision shows the Memorandum of Understanding between Labour and the Green Party is working." More>>


Wellington: Predator Free Capital Plan

Wellington City Council (WCC), the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and NEXT Foundation, today announced a joint collaboration to make Wellington the first Predator Free capital city in the world. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Judith Collins’ Efforts At Self Correction

Thousands of prisoners currently in prison may be entitled to an earlier release than expected – and compensation – because Corrections has incorrectly calculated their term of imprisonment. Unless of course, the government buries its mistakes by changing the law and retro-actively getting itself off the hook… More>>


More Justice & Corrections

Sector Opposes Bill: Local Government Bill Timeframe Extended

The Minister of Local Government Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga has asked the Select Committee to extend the report back date for the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 2). More>>


Breed Laws Don’t Work: Vets On New National Dog Control Plan

It is pleasing therefore to see Louise Upston Associate Minister for Local Government calling for a comprehensive solution... However, relying on breed specific laws to manage dog aggression will not work. More>>


Not Waiting On Select Committee: Green Party Releases Medically-Assisted Dying Policy

“Adults with a terminal illness should have the right to choose a medically assisted death,” Green Party health spokesperson Kevin Hague said. “The Green Party does not support extending assisted dying to people who aren't terminally ill because we can’t be confident that this won't further marginalise the lives of people with disabilities." More>>


General Election Review: Changes To Electoral Act Introduced

More effective systems in polling places and earlier counting of advanced votes are on their way through proposed changes to our electoral laws, Justice Minister Amy Adams says. More>>

Get More From Scoop



Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news