Is Jacinda setting herself up for failure on “child poverddy”?

Is Jacinda setting herself up for failure on “child poverddy”?

Duncan Garner seems to think she is.

All eyes go on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern next week as she potentially signs her own death warrant – but surely she’s too smart for that.

Ardern will set new child poverty targets as the Child Poverty Reduction Minister, targets she says she’ll be personally accountable for, whatever that means. 

She says this is her reason for being in Parliament. We have to take her seriously and at her word. Ardern has upped the ante.

If she fails to meet the targets does that mean she resigns? No. If the answer is yes then she would have been held to account in an extraordinarily unprecedented fashion.

I can’t see it. Usually governments set targets they can reach. They become an optical illusion. 

Still Ardern will want to be bold and brave with those targets too, although she’ll also want them to be realistic enough so she can achieve them.

I reckon she is going to come up with some easy target to claim that she’s solved “child poverddy”, but it will make a mockery of her claims before the election and the claims of Labour over the past few years. She is also going to have to have a measure that will be recognised by all the womble organisations who have been pushing existing measures, which can never be solved.

And her job just got that much harder.

The latest stats show child poverty is falling for the first time in more than a decade.

That’ll be the work of National in raising benefit levels, and getting thousands of beneficiaries with children back into work.

This is a tough, in-your-face area of policy. But it’s OK to reward National with a bit of praise.

There are 20,000 fewer Kiwi kids now living in material hardship – it feels good to say it.

That means they may finally take lunch to school, or wear shoes, or have a bed for the first time or even a toothbrush.

So finally some good news among a decade of what’s perceived as social deficits and community decay.

But a narrative had already taken hold: National is bad, Labour will fix it. There’s no proof that’s actually true.

No there has never been any proof. If there has been any poverty it has been a poverty of parenting, rather than material poverty.

Indeed, the credit for the small drop in poverty should go to Bill English. He’s taken a forensic approach, targeted the poor and he’s had a result.

It means Ardern must carry on the good work. And she will need some early wins. It’s crucial the economy stays growing. Any dip in growth and her job becomes so much harder.

Yet it’s also too simplistic to say National can claim credit for all this.

The soaring house prices were so out of control under National before this year that houses started earning more than people. And housing officials told us this week that sent people spiralling into poverty.

Our poverty is not what we see in Third World and developing countries but it’s still kids going without.

Poverty is relative. There are families in Fiji that would do anything to live on the so-called poverty line in NZ.

Our stretched families have become too stretched and people have suffered when they didn’t have to.

If only more state houses and social houses had been built. It was National’s blind spot, the market ruled and people were left behind.

So Ardern must get the affordable homes and social housing sorted. 

And 44 days into her reality check as PM, it’s dawned on her that none of this is easy and progress is slow. 

And maybe National was starting to get its policies right. The latest stats show that. Ardern should remember that when she launches her campaign next week.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping some of the old and a bit of the new. If it helps kids exit the misery of poverty, we must all play our part.

I play my part by paying taxes. Labour thinks they play their part by showering bludgers with cash. If money was the answer then after literally billions upon billions of dollars over the decades you’d think there would be no poor in NZ.

Jacinda Ardern is going to find that waving her fairy godmother wand won’t actually solve anything, nor will her virtue-signalling and worry face expressions. Life is wholly more tough and she is about to get handed a lesson in that.

 

-Fairfax

 


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