Good intentions won't solve child neglect

Tue, 27 Nov, 2018

The Prime Minister’s Child Poverty Reduction Bill – set to pass into law this week with the support of every party except ACT – will do nothing to solve child neglect, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The Bill will measure how many children live in households with less than 40, 50, or 60 per cent of the median income, but will tell us very little about whether they are being fed, clothed, and housed.

“The legislation makes clear to future governments what has to be done to ‘solve’ child poverty – tax one group to bring their incomes down and give to another group to bring their incomes up. But that’s not a measure of child poverty. It's not even a measure of income.

“If income was all that was lacking to solve child poverty then GDP per capita quadrupling over the last 80 years, or governments spending tens of billions of dollars a year on welfare, would have solved it. Income doesn’t guarantee kids are looked after. In fact, taxpayer-funded income can make matters worse by eroding personal responsibility.

“ACT is proposing a radical change to the bill by taking the best part of it – the measurement of material hardship – and defining it clearly. It will require Statistics New Zealand to interview 200 children each year to find out whether they are receiving the basics and to report to Parliament with their findings. It would give a real picture of how real children are living.

“Governments would then need to fix the underlying causes of child neglect – the housing crisis, and our education and welfare systems.

“At the heart of this debate is personal responsibility. The Prime Minister’s initiative – which the National Party has signed up to – represents a belief that the world gets better by more taxing and transferring.

“Politicians have an obligation to give New Zealanders a better tomorrow through better public policy. We had the opportunity to measure real child neglect, but instead the Prime Minister has tabled legislation which concludes that we should do more of what's already failed.

“If we could make New Zealand a better place simply by having good intentions, the current government would have solved all of our problems.”