INDEPENDENT NEWS

Why the CPAG Should Lose in Court

Published: Mon 28 Nov 2005 01:10 PM
Why the CPAG Should Lose in Court
The Child Poverty Action Group is taking the government to court for discriminating against the children of beneficiaries. They want the existing child tax credit, soon to be replaced by the new in-work payment, to be extended to families on benefits - not just low income families who work.
The problem is, the in-work payment is intended as a reward for working.
A working parent might equally claim they were being discriminated against by having their "reward" granted to others who didn't earn it.
In which case, why not remove all discrimination? That is, all children, regardless of the source or level of their parents income, must be treated the same.
That's Green policy - a universal benefit for children, which would include redistribution of income from not so wealthy single people to wealthy Mums and Dads.
Or, it could be argued, provide no assistance at all. Both would solve the problem of discrimination but there is, understandably, little support for either. Most people want fairness and most people care about kids.
And the CPAG has no compunction in exploiting the second sentiment for all its worth.
Its submission to the Human Rights Commission repeatedly refers to the "best interests of the child" and New Zealand's collective obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
But pause for a moment and consider; did the beneficiary put the best interests of their child (or potential offspring) first when; getting pregnant outside of a stable relationship; giving birth to a child they could not support, sometimes more than once; leaving a financially and emotionally supportive partner for trivial reasons; deciding that staying home was better than working, even if WINZ held the purse-strings?
(It goes without saying that some beneficiaries are on welfare for genuine reasons but they tend not to remain there long. They are not the "life-stylers".)
You see, I question the motives of the CPAG. They say children of beneficiaries are suffering material deprivation. But that is only part of the picture. A New Zealand study conducted a couple of years back clearly showed that children from comparably 'poor' families had worse outcomes when the parent's source of income was a benefit.
The children from poor working families are better off because they live in homes where there is routine, structure, better budgeting skills, fewer self-destructive behaviours and sometimes, there is even a father in the picture.
So, and I am sure the counsel for government will put this argument, it is in the best interests of the child, on balance, to have at least one working parent. That is taken into account with the in-work payment.
To discourage a child's parent from working or being part of a mutually supportive partnership would be to discriminate against that child. To "reward" all parents equally (it is the parent who receives the benefit payment and there is no guarantee it reaches the child anyway) will do exactly that.
But the CPAG don't understand that enforced equality does not guarantee equality of outcomes. Socialists don't, despite an abundance of grim evidence to the contrary. I wish the government well in their attempts to fight this ill-advised campaign.
Lindsay Mitchell
Petitioner for a Parliamentary review of the DPB
ENDS

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