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Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

Our Prime Minister entered parliament vowing to make New Zealand, "...the best place in the world to raise children." Even before Covid she had over two years to advance this goal.

She said she devised a plan to reduce child poverty on a flatmate's floor in Hastings. A plan so simple it could be written on a piece of paper might have merit. Equally it might fall short of understanding the many facets of the child poverty problem.

Jacinda's basic proposition is to tax more and distribute more. Her first big child poverty reduction policy was known as 'Best Start'. Every baby born gets an extra $60 a week. Most keep it for 3 years. A few from wealthier families lose it after their first. That deals with the $ part of child poverty - perhaps the $uperficial aspect.

Next she turned her attention to children on benefits. Thousands were missing out on $28 weekly because their mothers wouldn't name their fathers. This requirement had long been the case in order that Dad paid something towards the upkeep of their child and figured, at least to some degree, in their lives. Jacinda stopped this requirement (even though the last Labour government argued strongly for fathers to be held accountable). Maybe she had to keep the Greens on side. It was after all one of their policies.

In fact most of the children the PM wants to help - those in poverty - are on welfare. Around one in 10 babies is born onto a benefit each year, often as a second, third, fourth (or higher order) child. The last National government was trying to discourage adding more children to an already struggling family but the PM decided their policy was punitive and unkind so repealed it. People should not be judged for having more children whatever their financial circumstances are. It doesn't matter that highly effective long acting contraceptives are now absolutely free. Personal responsibility is so old hat.

Two years into her reign, Jacinda would have been unperturbed to learn that 12,000 more children were on benefits (that's before the Covid fallout). At least their caregivers were getting more money in their bank accounts. At least that guaranteed they'd get food in their stomachs and roofs over their heads.

Well you'd have thought so. But charities keep asking for more donations to extend food-in-schools programmes; foodbanks are now so desperate they are asking the government to subsidize them and the waiting list for state houses has soared.

The Prime Minister's stated goal, her primary reason for being in a supreme position of power, has been missed. And that's because she is shallow, and dangerous with it.

A 12 year-old girl rang John Banks' talkback programme on Friday, August 7. When Banksie asked her, "Don't you think the PM is pretty?" she answered, "She might be pretty on the outside but that doesn't make her pretty on the inside."

Out of the mouths of babes.

Lindsay Mitchell has been researching and commenting about welfare since 2001. Many of her articles have been published in mainstream media and she has appeared on radio, television and before select committees discussing issues relating to welfare. The NZBR and Family First have published commissioned reports and she stood as an ACT candidate in 2005 and 2008. Her practical experience includes having worked for five years as a volunteer with beneficiary families and teaching English as a second language at Rimutaka prison.

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