Poverty and pessimism – slump in consumer confidence brings more unpalatable news to Robertson and the Govt

When the  country’s  newspapers devote  their  cover  pages  to  advertisements  captioned “The  cost  living crisis”, it’s not something  that  makes palatable  reading  for  government ministers.

When the advertisements come from an organisation like Kidscan, appealing for donations “to make sure children in poverty get the food they urgently need this  winter”, those ministers may well choke on  their morning lattes.

Prime Minister Jacinda  Ardern  has  other  weighty  issues  on  her  mind – at least for now – as  she  prepares to fly off  to  Europe to  talk  trade  in  Brussels with the  EU and  security in  Madrid   with  NATO.

But  for deputy Prime  Minister Grant Robertson,  left  to  mind the  shop while she is away, the media’s highlighting of a cost-of-living crisis and the persistent challenge of child poverty could  dampen  his normally  cheery  optimism on  the  state  of  the  economy.

Yet  another  dampener would be the latest Westpac McDermott Miller Consumer Confidence Survey, which has  recorded the lowest reading on NZ consumer confidence since the survey began in 1988. Continue reading “Poverty and pessimism – slump in consumer confidence brings more unpalatable news to Robertson and the Govt”

Budget unleashes laments from groups that were overlooked or short-changed (including hopes of Human Rights empire-building)

And how did the people react to the boost in spending announced in this year’s Budget to promote our wellbeing?

In some cases by pleading for more; in other cases, by grouching they got nothing.

But Budget spending is never enough.

Two lots of bleating came from the Human Rights Commission, which somewhat draws attention to the potential for a $15 million a year saving by abolishing the agency – a budget-trimming measure advocated by the ACT Party.

One statement – in the name of Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero – said Budget 2022 has pluses and minuses for the disabled community.

On the plus side,there was considerable investment in the new Ministry for Disabled People and other funding which has the potential to benefit the disabled community.  And there was some funding for community-based services which support the disabled community. Continue reading “Budget unleashes laments from groups that were overlooked or short-changed (including hopes of Human Rights empire-building)”

Poverty and the housing “catastrophe”- Govt MP’s screed of social policy successes is sullied by the Sallies

Labour  MPs  delight in speaking  of  what  the Ardern  government is  doing   in  resolving  the  housing  crisis.

Take, for example,  Dr Duncan Webb, MP for Christchurch Central, who this week told the House the  government is making real progress.

“For the first time in a long time, we’re building more houses than there are people needing them….A housing crisis that was nine years in the making, and we’ve turned the corner. Only today figures have come out to show that not only have prices stabilised but there’s been a small drop in prices across the country, and that is indicative of the progress that we have made.

“How many houses did that lot build when they were in government? This government in the  4  years it’s been here has built 8,000 new houses. We have turned the Housing Corporation into a renter, a property developer, and a responsible landlord—2,400 in the last year, and do you know what? The Prime Minister said in her statement that we would have 2,000 more built in the next year. We will absolutely address these issues.

“Forty thousand building consents were issued in the last year. For the first time in a long time, we’re building more houses than there are people needing them. The Resource Management Act (RMA) fast-tracking legislation is being able to open up whole new developments so that we can have more housing development, and, of course, the RMA reforms—the Natural and Built Environments Bill—is going to progress that.

“Warmer homes, the idea that we need to go and make houses not only livable and warm but healthy as well, and our Residential Tenancies Act reforms and Healthy Homes reforms as well— awesome. On top of that there’s $3.8bn set aside for infrastructure funding so that we can unlock the potential of areas of land to make new strong communities with housing for everyone. Continue reading “Poverty and the housing “catastrophe”- Govt MP’s screed of social policy successes is sullied by the Sallies”

MPs (socially distanced) will be back in Parliament tomorrow – meanwhile Ministers have been appointing and spending

It looks like Parliament will be sitting again tomorrow – whoopee – although the MPs who turn up will be socially distanced rather than sitting virtually.

Who made the decision seems to be a matter for conjecture.  Thomas Coughlan, reporting in the NZ Herald, noted the ACT Party announcement that Parliament will return to sit this week in socially distanced form.

 But that was news to speaker Trevor Mallard who, along with many MPs this morning, found out about Act’s plans via press release.

Act leader David Seymour said he “welcomed the parliamentary business committee decision that a socially distanced Parliament will go ahead next week”.

Mallard, however, said Parliament’s business committee had not actually decided anything when it met on Friday night. Rather, it had not decided to delay Parliament or progress with another plan. Continue reading “MPs (socially distanced) will be back in Parliament tomorrow – meanwhile Ministers have been appointing and spending”

Public service pay will get scant lift from Robertson – but let’s see if the Budget can keep govt’s poll support in the clouds

The  Ardern   government  is  cruising  along with  poll ratings  still far  above those of  its  opponents  and a  leader   enjoying  almost cult  status.

Her  deputy, Grant   Robertson,  wears  a  matching  suit  of  political  armour,  although one-time Labour  Minister (and then ACT  leader) Richard  Prebble contends  he is   the worst  finance minister  since  Rob Muldoon.

Until  now  the  government  has  been borne   along   on  a  cloud  originating  in  the successful  deflection  of  the  Covid  pandemic.  Its  policies  have  escaped   any   deep  scrutiny from  mainstream media,  partly  because of  preoccupation  with  the  pandemic,  and  partly because of  the  teflon  aura surrounding Ardern.

Even   when  there  is a  stumble,   as  happened this  week with her  speech  on NZ-China  relations  and  the  latest  chapter  in the  Mallard story, she  is  within hours  back  on  her  cloud. Continue reading “Public service pay will get scant lift from Robertson – but let’s see if the Budget can keep govt’s poll support in the clouds”

Greens see red despite benefit increases – but Michael Cullen could tell them (and the Ardern government) what safety nets are all about

The Ardern  government has  made  “well-being”  such  a  focus  of  its  policies  that many  New  Zealanders  think  it  is   now  the  way  forward.

Labour’s ally, the  Green Party, is so enamoured  with  the  “well- being”  philosophy  it  sharply criticised   the  government for raising the  level of  main  benefits  “by less than $8 a week” from April 1.

“We have a poverty crisis in NZ, and we must go further and faster to deliver income support that enables everyone to live with dignity,” says Green Party spokesperson for Social Development & Employment Ricardo Menéndez March.

“The government currently expects a single person over 25 years old to be able to get by on just $250.74 a week, and they’re supposed to celebrate that rising to $258.51. That extra eight dollars isn’t even enough to buy a block of cheese.”

Menendez  March  says it is  “disingenuous”  of  the  government to continue to say indexing benefits to wages is the best thing they could have done, and 

” … even the Children’s Commissioner said they need to be bold and courageous, and actually lift benefits.

“Indexation of benefits to wages means little without a substantive lift in core benefits to close the gap which has continued for decades.”

Continue reading “Greens see red despite benefit increases – but Michael Cullen could tell them (and the Ardern government) what safety nets are all about”

Welfare beneficiaries to get their annual increase soon but poverty action group is bound to press for more

Our Beehive Bulletin … 

Good news flowed from the Beehive at the weekend for Ngāti Maru treaty claimants and – affecting significantly more people – welfare beneficiaries.

Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni announced that main benefits will increase by 3.1 percent on 1 April, in line with the rise in the average wage.

She reminded us the Government announced changes to the annual adjustment of main benefits in Budget 2019, indexing main benefit increases to the average wage, rather than the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

This is the Government’s second annual adjustment based on increases in the average wage,

“ …  making it fairer on low income families and helping reduce poverty amongst our most vulnerable,” said Carmel Sepuloni.

Around 385,000 families and individuals will be better off getting more than double the annual increase they’d have received using the old Consumer Price Index measure, she said. For example, a couple with children could get $13.24 more Jobseeker Support a week from 1 April in line with the average wage increase. Continue reading “Welfare beneficiaries to get their annual increase soon but poverty action group is bound to press for more”

Now we know (roughly) the cost of a day off for Matariki – and for good measure the Govt will be changing the Holidays Act

Our Beehive Bulletin … 

When our kindly PM announced 24 June 2022 will be the date for New Zealand’s first official celebration of Matariki, she didn’t mention the cost – at least, not that we recall.   But this week we learned from ACT leader David Seymour that estimates included in official advice to the Government are somewhat eye-watering for the businesses that must pick up the tab.

Mind you, the Government hasn’t finished burdening employers with holiday obligations, although it says it is doing them a big favour by accepting all of 22 recommended changes to the Holidays Act made by the Holidays Act Taskforce.  Just to make things clear, you understand.

News of this was among the latest announcements from the Beehive which – for the record – includes a big tick of approval for the government from the Standard & Poors credit ratings agency.

New data on child poverty are the subject of a post, too (although these don’t show the impact of Covid, which can only have exacerbated inequities). Continue reading “Now we know (roughly) the cost of a day off for Matariki – and for good measure the Govt will be changing the Holidays Act”