11 August 2016
Mr Andrew Little
Dear Mr Little
I am writing to you to express our Society’s great concern at a very ill-informed, dismissive and offensive column that was written by Jacinda Ardern, the Labour caucus spokesperson for children. The column was published in the Sunday Star Times on 5 June 2016.
Ms Ardern was responding to a study conducted by Lindsay Mitchell a renowned researcher on social issues. The study was commissioned on behalf of Family First and was titled ‘Child Poverty & Family Structure, -What is the evidence telling us?’
The study examines household incomes and family structure from the early 1960s through to the current day and says that while unemployment, low wages, high housing costs and insufficient social security benefits are consistently blamed for child poverty, a major culprit – if not the major culprit – is family malformation, that is, a lack of two married committed parents. Ms Ardern is also disregarding the Final Report of the Expert Group on Child Poverty which found that in 2011, 56 per cent of the households in poverty were solo, while 13 percent were two parent households.
It is disappointing that Ms Ardern dismisses the finding that a major cause of child poverty is a lack of two married committed parents. Our civilisation has always known that the family of one man and one woman in marriage is the foundation of a healthy society. Children raised in a traditional marriage is the best assurance that a child will not be subjected to poverty.
Ms Ardern’s comments that, “families will take many forms. Some children will be raised by one parent some will be raised by two, possibly with some distance in between, and some will be raised by four.” It is very disappointing that she expresses no concern for women who are left to raise children because they have been abandoned by the father of her child. It is disappointing that Ms Ardern does not accept that the traditional family is the bedrock of society.
At the 2013 census it was found that there were 201,804 one parent families raising 212,000 children. Many of these solo mothers have been abandoned by their husband or the father of their children. It is believed that many of these mothers long for the security of having a husband and a father for their children. It is disappointing that Ms Ardern does not support the traditional family and marriage and expresses no empathy with these solo mothers who are heroic and sacrificial. She rejects the findings of the study without providing any evidence that the methodology of the study was faulty. Marriage is for the protection of women and children.
Right to Life believes that we need to have a national conversation on the importance of traditional marriage for a healthy society and for reducing child poverty. We also need to enquire why many of the younger generation are not prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to raise the next generation. With a birth rate below replacement level of 1.9 we have a demographic crisis.
Evidence produced in the report highlights:
- Despite families being much smaller, parents being older, mothers being better educated and having much higher employment rates, child poverty has risen significantly since the 1960s.
- In 1961, 95 percent of children were born to married couples; by 2015 the proportion had fallen to 53 percent. For Maori, 72 percent of births were to married parents in 1968; by 2015 the proportion had fallen to just 21 percent.
- In 2015, 27 percent of registered births were to cohabiting parents. But the risk of parental separation by the time the child is aged five is, however, 4-6 times greater than for married parents.
- Single parent families make up 28 percent of all families with dependent children. These families are the poorest in New Zealand.
- 51% of children in poverty live in single parent families.
- Single parents have the lowest home ownership rates and the highest debt ratios.
The research paper, commissioned by Family First NZ, draws the conclusion that NZ’s rapidly changing family structure has contributed significantly to increasing income inequality.
“Despite marriage being the best protector against child poverty, it has become politically unfashionable – some argue insensitive – to express such a view. But reducing child poverty rates will require encompassing analysis and debate,” says the author Lindsay Mitchell.
Endorsements were made by Dr Don Brash & Michael Bassett
DR MICHAEL BASSETT – former Minister of Health and Local Government for the Labour government between 1984 and 1987, and Minister of Internal Affairs, Local Government, Civil Defence and Arts and Culture between 1987 and 1990; renowned political historian, award-winning columnist and former Waitangi Tribunal member.
“Both poverty and family structure are politically charged issues. For practical and political reasons, available data imperfectly represent the underlying situation. Many groups prefer to promote their own policy agendas while suppressing others. This report attempts to challenge the dominant discourse by highlighting the relationship between increased child poverty and the decline of stable traditional two-parent families. It indicates that changing attitudes combined with government policies may be having significant detrimental effects for many children. It will be most useful if it can stimulate greater awareness and debate on these issues.”
The Labour Party has a proud record of being the Party that supports and promotes the family.
In conclusion, Right to Life would be grateful if under your leadership the Labour Party initiated the national discussion that our community needs to have on the importance of the traditional marriage of one man and one woman as the foundation stone of a healthy society. Our nation cannot survive if we continue to have fifty per cent of our children born out of wedlock. History informs us that the fall of the Greek and Roman Empires was substantially caused by the breakdown of marriage.
Sunday Star-Times 5th June 2016
Child poverty defies simple solutions
This week I opened the paper to find some astonishing “news” – a lack of marriage is to blame for child poverty.
I’ve spent the better part of six years reading and researching the issue of child poverty, and what we need to do to resolve this complex problem in New Zealand
And yet here it was, the silver bullet we have all been looking for. Marriage. Getting hitched. Tying the knot. It turns out that we didn’t need an Expert Advisory Group on child poverty, or any OECD analysis for that matter – apparently all we really need is a pastor and a party.
At least, that’s the world according to Family First, who commissioned a report this week which, they claim, provides “overwhelming and incontrovertible” evidence that when it comes to child poverty, a lack of marriage is our problem, and it’s simply become “politically unfashionable” to talk about it.
I’m happy to talk about it; in fact all of Parliament is. We debated the ins and outs of the institution not that long ago – it was called the Marriage Equality debate. Oddly, I don’t recall Family First supporting the idea of increasing access to marriage when it came to same-sex couples. But I digress.
The major piece of evidence Family First use to back up their claims? Child poverty has risen significantly since the 1960s, and more people were married back then. I am paraphrasing, but that’s the general gist. And yes, those two pieces of information are true. But are they linked? You only have to look at where child poverty figures really jump around to figure that bit out. Back in the mid-1980s, child poverty numbers (after taking into account housing costs) were about half the levels they are now. What happened to cause the spike? De facto relationships and single parenting didn’t all of a sudden become “on trend”.
What happened was Ruth Richardson’s Mother of all Budgets. Government support was slashed, unemployment rates were grim, and child poverty, as you would expect, went up significantly. Equally, you can also see a downward trend in child poverty numbers around the early 2000s when Working for Families was introduced.
So what about the other claims in the report? How about “51 per cent of children in poverty live in single-parent families”. Stating the obvious, surely. Single parent equals single income.
So, Family First, here’s my view for what it’s worth. Families will take many forms. Some children will be raised by one parent, some will be raised by two, possibly with some distance in between, and some will be raised by four. But the other factors Family First was so quick to dismiss – low wages and staggering housing costs – mean we have 305,000 children in poverty. And this is the stuff that needs to change. It’s time we faced reality.
This country has a crisis of fatherhood
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Normally I wouldn’t be seen dead agreeing with Family First. Like Jacinda, I can’t stand their illiberal, verging on medieval, agenda. But on this issue they have a point.
This week I attended the funeral of a close friend’s father. He was a dedicated, albeit slightly eccentric, character who was immensely proud of his son and taken far too soon. He was very kind to me when I lived at boarding school far from my own family, and I clearly wasn’t the only one because the service was standing room only.
His son is a stand-up guy in every respect, and when I look at my friends I can pretty much trace how they’re getting on these days to what their dad was like when we were growing up. At the other end of the scale is baby Moko – where the hell was his dad? Despite saturation coverage for several news cycles, only one commentator has asked this question.
It is easy to argue statistics, but you have to wonder if we shouldn’t stop talking about the Government’s responsibility and start talking about personal responsibility. There will always be exceptions, uncles can substitute and so can a good teacher or coach, but other things being equal, we have a crisis of fatherhood.