Damien Grant: I'd rather a better phone than feed a hungry child

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If your parents earn less than $600 a week, you are living in poverty. Photo / Getty Images
If your parents earn less than $600 a week, you are living in poverty. Photo / Getty Images

About 270,000 Kiwi children live in poverty, according to a report by the Children's Commissioner last month.

That is a lot. It's a wonder I have not met any. The UN defines extreme poverty as living on US$1.25 ($1.50) a day. On that basis we should be poverty-free but in a classic example of a ghost catcher inventing ghosts, the Commissioner gets creative.

If your parents earn less than $600 a week, you are living in poverty. Not because this is not enough money to live on, but because it is 60 per cent of the median average income, a formula that guarantees poverty.

On top of this the Government subsidises kindergarten, pays for your education, your health care and makes it illegal for your parents to smack you.

The Commissioner goes deeper, looking at "material deprivations" forced upon our most vulnerable. He cites examples, including sharing a bedroom with your sister, no internet connection and, shockingly, not having enough friends at your birthday party.

In response to this appalling blight of poor attendance at birthday parties, the Commissioner recommends spending billions, including $700 million on a make-work scheme for beneficiaries and building 2000 houses a year.

Given a choice between upgrading my smartphone and spending money to prevent an African child from starving, I'll upgrade. I do not care enough about poor African children to help them. Chances are, neither do you.

Compare the cost of your iPhone to your donations to Oxfam. Despite not actually caring, a few want others to think they do. This is why they have a picture of a sponsor child on their $2000 fridge. Most do not even do that.

If we ignore starving African children then there is no moral basis to help relatively well-fed Kiwi kids.

The Commissioner claims there is a cost of $6 billion a year because of child poverty, on the assumption adults would live healthier crime-free lives if they were not poor as children.

But even the Commissioner's report says: "The extent to which child poverty is a causative factor in crime and, in particular, youth crime is unclear."

So, why should we attempt to "cure" child poverty, given that the disease does not really exist and even if it did, we do not care? Perhaps we should abolish the Children's Commission.


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- Herald on Sunday

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