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Maxim Institute: No. 135, 4 NOVEMBER 2004

Maxim Institute: No. 135, 4 NOVEMBER 2004

Two is not enough

Is the Charities Bill still a muzzle?

Kiwis call state housing home

Care of Children Bill - in urgency

Prostitution referendum petition extended

Change Agent Workshop Masterton next Tuesday

Two is not enough

Singapore is getting smaller. In the 1970s, when the average number of children per woman was six, Singapore worried about overpopulation, and launched a "Stop at Two" campaign. That campaign worked so well that the government had to reverse its policy. In 1987, it launched a "Have Three or More" policy, but that didn't work. So the government, which once rewarded parents who had themselves voluntarily sterilised, shifted to offering paid maternity leave, thousands of dollars in baby bonuses, and tax breaks for nannies.

In The Empty Cradle, Phillip Longman reports that "no industrialised nation still produces enough children to sustain its population over time, or to prevent rapid population aging."

Figures released yesterday by Statistics NZ show we are having a mini baby-boom. But long term, New Zealand faces a birth and superannuation crisis as population aging threatens to create retirement problems.

Increased immigration will not make up the shortfall in new births. Though immigrants often arrive with their families, the next generation of immigrants is likely to adopt any anti-natalist values prevalent in the host culture.

According to the Howard Center, a think-tank in the USA, religion, not government regulation, holds the key. Director and writer, Allan Carlson, who has done considerable research on this issue, argues that neither free-market nor socialist explanations of falling fertility fit the facts. Increasing secularisation, on the other hand, is a good predictor of decreasing fertility. A secular culture is often masked to the negative attitude toward children inherent in a secular world view. However, in places where religion is viable, Carlson says, you can expect to see higher birth-rates.

Is the Charities Bill still a muzzle?

The Government has promised significant changes to the Charities Bill, which looks set to be passed into law by the end of this year. However, in a rare moment of agreement, ACT and the Greens both warn that the Bill could still act as a muzzle on charities who combine their work with community and national activism on social and political issues.

The Bill will establish a Commission which will register and monitor charities. Registration is voluntary, but charities will miss out on tax exemption if they don't sign up. Provisions in the Bill under fire from charities and political parties include prohibiting officers of charities from getting indemnity insurance, requiring the charities to fund the Commission through fees, when other commissions are funded from taxes, and the Commission's wide powers to de-register charities for various reasons, including carrying out activities that are not central to their charitable purpose.

Commerce Minister Margaret Wilson has announced some changes to the proposed legislation, including a $9.8 million commitment from government, which will mean that the initial registration process to the Commission will be free for all charities. Charities earning less than $10,000 a year will not be required to pay ongoing fees, and those earning more than $10,000 a year will pay annual fees ranging from $50-$75.

Ms Wilson is also asking members of the Social Services Select Committee to consider codifying the common law so that charities can undertake secondary purposes, for example advocacy, in support of their charitable purposes. Whilst these proposed changes do make some improvement, Green MP Sue Bradford says they ignore the real concerns of the voluntary sector, that it remain free from excessive government control. ACT MP Muriel Newman said the Bill was opposed by virtually all the charities that made a submission, and it has the power to undermine the voluntary infrastructure underpinning civil society.

For more information visit http://www.charitiesbill.co.nz

Kiwis call state housing home

Housing New Zealand's Annual Report released last month shows that almost 9400 families became dependent on the state for their housing last year. The Minister for Housing proudly announced that this means almost 185,000 Kiwis now call a state house 'home'. These families may never own their own home and it is likely that they will be further reliant on the state to meet their basic needs.

The second report from the New Zealand Institute, It's not just about the money: The benefits of asset ownership, was released shortly after Housing New Zealand's. It highlighted the importance for households and communities of owning assets such as real estate. This indicates it would have been more positive to announce that the $3.7 million from the Housing Innovation Fund for state housing was instead being used to assist those 9400 families into their first home.

Low-cost housing should be available for families as a last resort, but the numbers of people requiring state housing should be decreasing, not increasing. Kiwi families gaining the independence and pride that comes with ownership of their first home would be a far greater cause for celebration.

However, on a more positive note, the Housing Innovation Fund in partnership with the newly established 'Housing Aotearoa' has made $64 million available for community-based organisations, such as church groups, iwi and housing associations that provide housing. Community organisations have traditionally been in a much better position than a centralised government system to address real need when it arises, so this is a positive move.

Care of Children Bill - in urgency

This week the government announced its intention to speed up the committee stage of the Care of Children Bill, with uninterrupted debate so that it can be passed next Tuesday.

For more info visit: http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3082846a6160,00.html

Anyone concerned about the Care of Children Bill should contact their MP this week. http://www.maxim.org.nz/letter/cu_letter.php

Prostitution referendum petition extended

MPs Larry Baldock and Gordon Copeland presented over 140,000 signatures on the petition form for a referendum to the clerk at parliament last week, and a two month extension has been approved. With the number of signatures required to secure a referendum being reduced to 271,000, over half have already been collected. The organisers are asking that all signed petition forms be posted as soon as possible before Christmas.

For more information, and to pledge to collect signatures visit http://www.stoptheabuse.org.nz

Change Agent Workshop Masterton next Tuesday

Masterton will host the tenth Change Agent workshop for 2004 on Tuesday 09 November. The seminar will address the current issues of civil unions, education and hate speech.

For more information visit: >www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/whatson_page/whatson.html

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Sir Winston Churchill

Where does the family start? It starts with a young man falling in love with a girl - no superior alternative has yet been found.

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