Parliament

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

 

Muriel Newman: UNICEF Report Rewrites History


UNICEF Report Rewrites History
Weekly Column by Dr Muriel Newman

This week UNICEF launched a major report on the well-being of New Zealand children. Entitled "When the Invisible Hand Rocks the Cradle: New Zealand Children in a Time of Change", the report was written by six present and former academics from Massey University's School of Social and Cultural Studies.

While UNICEF holds the copyright for the report, a disclaimer states: "the opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of UNICEF". By allowing this politically biased report to be published under its copyright, UNICEF risks not only undermining its own credibility, but also facilitates the dissemination of misleading information - in this case to some 3,000 organisations and governments world wide. The so-called UNICEF report, as it was branded by the media, is a seriously unbalanced and politically correct attempt to re-write history. The authors essentially argue the reforms of the Eighties and Nineties were a failure, and that the Labour-led recent changes have been an outstanding success. Furthermore, through the sin of omission, this report fails to even identify family breakdown and long-term welfare dependency as major contributors to poor outcomes for children.

According to the Economist magazine in November 2000, "recent claims that New Zealand's economic experiment has failed, and that it therefore needs to change course, do not stand up." While there is no dispute about the fact that by 1984 New Zealand had the most distorted economy in the OECD and reform was absolutely necessary, the landmark Economist article sets the record straight about the extent of the reforms: "New Zealand is often portrayed as undergoing a decade and a half of non-stop change. In fact reform occurred in two brief waves: 'Rogernomics' under the Labour government of 1984-87, and 'Ruthanasia', under the National government's finance minister Ruth Richardson, in 1990-91. In both cases, after an initial spurt, reforms stalled during their governments' second terms of office."

In contrast, the UNICEF report states: "from 1984 to the mid-1990s change was rapid and radical. The pace then slowed and has been more evolutionary. The reforms ... were characterised by an ideological framework of neoliberalism."

This subjective analysis not only fails to express the seriousness of the economic crisis we faced in 1984, but also misrepresents the length of significant reform. Further, in spite of all the negative rhetoric about market-driven reforms being bad for children, the report omits to mention that most of these reforms have not been reversed by our current left-wing government.

The authors are also largely silent on the fact that the economic reforms lifted the overall standard of living for the great majority of working families and their children: wages have increased by 11 per cent in real inflation adjusted terms since 1984, spending on education has increased by 70 percent and on health by 71 percent. A key reason for the lack of credibility of the report is that the authors almost totally overlook the negative impact the welfare system has had on the well-being of children over the last thirty years. The welfare system introduced by Michael Joseph Savage in 1938 worked well. For over 30 years there were never more than 40,000 people on welfare - for each full-time person on a benefit, there were 28 full-time workers.

In the early seventies however, the Labour Government fundamentally changed the system, raising benefits and introducing the Domestic Purposes Benefit. As a result, the number of welfare dependents has increased to 400,000. There are now just four full-time workers for every full-time beneficiary.

Further, one in three New Zealand children today live in benefit-led households.

The authors of the UNICEF publication claim that comments made in 1997 by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child about the state of children in New Zealand provided the catalyst for their report. Interestingly they fail to mention that in that same report the UN Committee was very critical of the fact that New Zealand was a world leader in the number of single parent families.

The DPB has now been identified as a risk factor for children by the government's own research agencies. The 110,000 sole parents disproportionately suffer from poor health, depression and low self-esteem. Their 185,000 children are deemed to be at greater risk of infant mortality, child abuse, poor health, educational failure, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, youth suicide and crime.

Not only does the UNICEF report fail to mention the DPB as a major cause of inequality for children, but given that more than half of all Maori families have only one parent, it also fails to mention that the DPB and welfare dependency are significant factors in the under-performance of Maori and Pacific Island children. Welfare in New Zealand has become a juggernaut. It not only damages children but puts a huge strain on working families who suffer the highest tax rates in the OECD, largely because of the cost of welfare which now consumes more than a third of all government spending.

If the academics who wrote the UNICEF report had turned their minds to the serious damage that welfare causes children, and explored initiatives to reform the welfare system and recreate a culture of personal responsibility, then not only would their report have been taken seriously, but their work would have brought praise on UNICEF instead of ridicule.

_____

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. View the archive of columns at http://www.act.org.nz/action/murielnewman.html

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On Rapid Antigen Testing


National Party leader Christopher Luxon is being allowed to get away with murder. Luxon is not being challenged over his repeated assertions that the rest of the world has enjoyed ready access to rapid antigen tests (aka RATS) for a year, so why aren’t we? In fact, the reality across the Tasman for the past month has seen a colossal shambles unfold over (a) the availability and (b) the affordability of these tests. RATS have become a case of panic buying on steroids. Amid reports of price gouging, stock-piling, socially inequitable access and empty shelves...
More>>



 
 


Government: Announces Three Phase Public Health Response To Omicron
The Government has announced a three phase Omicron plan that aims to slow down and limit the spread of an outbreak, Associate Minister of Health, Dr Ayesha Verrall announced today. “Through the course of managing Omicron, we will be taking a phased approach. As case numbers grow both testing and isolation approaches will change in response... More>>


Save The Children: Thousands Join Call To Retain New Zealand’s Children’s Commissioner

More than 6000 Kiwis have joined Save the Children New Zealand’s call to retain the vital role of Children’s Commissioner, as the Government considers a new bill proposing major changes to the office, including the removal of a named Children’s Commissioner... More>>


Science Media Centre: Omicron Outbreak Would Move The Country To Red - Expert Reaction

The Prime Minister has announced if Omicron cases spread into the community, the country will move to the traffic light system's Red setting within 48 hours. Jacinda Ardern also mentioned there will be changes to the country's testing regime, with more use of Rapid Antigen Tests... More>>

Transparency International: New Zealand Retains Top Ranking In Annual Corruption Perceptions Index
New Zealand is once again ranked least corrupt in the world by Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index. This year New Zealand’s score of 88 out of 100 is unchanged resulting in it being first equal with Denmark and Finland... More>>


TradeMe: Property Prices Increase By A Record 25% In One Year
In December, the national average asking price jumped by a quarter year on year, to reach a new high of $956,150, according to the latest Trade Me Property Price Index. Trade Me Property Sales Director Gavin Lloyd said last month’s national average asking price increase was the largest on record... More>>


Statistics: Departures Lift Border Crossing Numbers

The number of people crossing New Zealand’s border went up in November 2021, mostly due to an increase in departures, Stats NZ said today. There were 28,700 border crossings in November 2021, made up of 12,300 arrivals and 16,400 departures... More>>


 
 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

InfoPages News Channels