People have become bored with economic inequality and
poverty issues again after a surge of interest following the
global financial crisis, University of Otago politics lecturer
Dr Bryce Edwards says.
The Child Poverty Monitor released yesterday was likely to
become a ''door-stop'' report of little interest after
initial media reports, he suggested.
''It doesn't resonate with the public just hearing yet
another study, survey, tome, telling them what they already
know. I think the story will die an early death,
The economy was set to be the hot-button issue of next year's
election, but child poverty was still on the fringes.
The Child Poverty Monitor, released by Children's
Commissioner Dr Russell Wills, shows a quarter of New Zealand
children (265,000) live in poverty.
Ten percent live in severe poverty.
Seventeen percent experienced material hardship, including
cutting back on fresh fruit, vegetables and meat, not
replacing worn-out clothes, not having at least two pairs of
shoes in good repair, having to put up with feeling cold, and
postponing doctor's visits because of cost.
Dr Edwards said it was a difficult issue for the Labour
Party, as its members cared about child poverty.
Despite claims it was becoming more left-wing, the party was
yet to produce a lot of relevant policy.
And the party's flagship economic policy of a capital gains
tax could actually worsen poverty, by increasing rents.
''Anything to do with fiscal settings Labour seems quite
close to National actually, and arguably that's the area that
has the biggest influence on economic inequality.''
''Identify politics'' involving gender and ethnicity issues
were, to an extent, replacing economic inequality on the
political radar, he believed, citing a resurgence in feminism
in New Zealand universities and Labour's female candidates
''Class politics'' came to the fore after the 2008 financial
crisis, and it was still more prominent than a few years ago,
but interest was waning.
Dunedin social agencies contacted yesterday were cautiously
hopeful the monitor would put the issue on the political
Presbyterian Support Otago chief executive Gillian Bremner
said the general public was still largely unaware of the
extent of poverty.
She believed greater public awareness increased the chances
of the Government addressing it.
Benefit levels never recovered from the cuts of the early
1990s, and their inadequacy was a major driver of poverty,
Salvation Army Dunedin Community Ministries manager Lindsay
Andrews called for ''radical policy change'' to address
struggling families' ''genuine needs''.
''The present economic climate that we have is putting
families at risk. That immediately impacts children and their
needs are not being met.''
He supported the living wage campaign, but action was needed
to address the high cost of living, too.
Methodist Mission director Laura Black said while the
monitor's themes were ''depressingly familiar'', it filled a
gap in New Zealand's approach to dealing with ''appalling''
child health and welfare statistics.
''We can only fix what we choose to see. Successive
governments' refusal to measure or even formally recognise
child poverty has been a stain on our reputation as an