It’s great to see John Key taking a sudden interest in addressing child poverty in New Zealand.
In Parliament in 2012, when Metiria Turei produced a graph showing how fast inequality was growing, his response was:
That graph looks like the National Party’s poll ratings while in Government, so I appreciate the member showing it to the House.
In 2013 he refused to set any target to reduce child poverty, because:
I think the view is that there are many ways you can actually define and measure poverty, so the Government would rather have a series of programmes.
(I’ve always assumed it was best practice to have clear goals and measurements so you can figure out if your programmes are actually working, but I’m just a comms nerd.)
In fact, child poverty has been such a low priority for our government that the Minister of Social Development thought the very notion of measuring child poverty in order to address it was hilarious.
But let’s be fair. When you’re dealing with an issue as serious as child poverty, of course you want fresh ideas – and Key says he’s interested in things like:
Breakfasts in schools, free doctors’ visits for young children and tax credits for low and middle income families
The only problem is, every one of these ideas is contained in the final report of the Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty – recommendations 60, 52 and 5, to be precise.
That report was published in December 2012. It made five recommendations about ways to measure child poverty – which Key refused to take up. It recommended a universal child payment – which Key rejected. It recommended all homes be properly insulated – which Key dodged, while claiming credit for a policy concession the Greens negotiated. It found that there was overwhelming evidence to support investing in the early years of a child’s life – which Bill English rejected.
I’m sure there’s excuses already lined up – oh, we needed more information; oh, the fiscal situation’s improved so we can do more – but the fact is that time and time again, National have refused to take onboard even the most independent, well-researched, expert suggestions on how to address child poverty. They dodged the issue for the entire election campaign, only releasing a welfare policy (focused on finding new and interesting ways to “incentivise” people off benefits) three days before Election Day.
Yet inequality and poverty are issues which New Zealanders take very, very seriously. So why the sudden change of heart? Because the spin for the next three years is “centre ground”. And when you compare Key’s comments with his government’s record on child poverty? Spin is all it is.
In the post-Dirty Politics era, I feel it’s only ethical to reveal my sources. All links in this post were provided by a very well-informed source: