Jamie Whyte defends 'self-plagiarism' claim

Jamie Whyte's piece, which claimed "there is no poverty in New Zealand", was published in the  New Zealand Herald today.
Jamie Whyte's piece, which claimed "there is no poverty in New Zealand", was published in the New Zealand Herald today.

Former Act Party leader Jamie Whyte has defended himself against accusations of "self-plagiarism" after it emerged an opinion piece he wrote on poverty in New Zealand was largely the same as one he penned in Britain a decade ago.

The piece, which claimed "there is no poverty in New Zealand", was published in the New Zealand Herald today.

However, canny readers spotted many similarities between the piece and a work Dr Whyte published in the UK for the Times newspaper in April 2005.

One reader complained that the piece was "about Britain, with the countries reworked ... This is the same article he had published about the UK."

On Twitter, user @LI -- politico posted: "Jamie Whyte 2005 v 2016. He literally copied a previous thing he wrote about Britain."

Political commentator Giovanni Tiso accused the former politician of "self-plagiarism".

"And by the way, in case you're confused, self-plagiarism really isn't okay. As an academic, Whyte would have had this hammered into him," Tiso wrote on Twitter.

Dr Whyte's piece begins: "There is no poverty in New Zealand. Misery, depravity, hopelessness, yes; but no poverty.

"The poorest in New Zealand are the unemployed. They receive free medical care, free education for their children and enough cash to pay for basic food, clothing and (subsidised) housing. Most have televisions, refrigerators and ovens. Many even own cars. That isn't poverty."

The column he wrote for the Times -- headlined "The Only Poverty is in The Head" -- starts almost identically, with the word "Britain" instead of "New Zealand", and a slight variance in what those in poverty receive from the Government.

While reference to the Gordon Brown government in London and specific Labour policies at the time have been removed, Dr Whyte uses the same example of two 10-year-old boys, Jimmy and Timmy, who "live in the same quality of house, attend the same school, visit the same doctor when ill, wear the same brand of tracksuit and so on" to make his point about poverty.

The thrust of his article, that First World countries do not have people living in poverty and that the way poverty is measured is skewed, remains the same.

When contacted by the Herald for comment, Dr Whyte said he did not consider there was anything wrong with submitting a variant of an article he had previously written.

"It is indeed a minor adaptation of an article previously published," he said. "That previous article in the Times was a minor adaptation of the content of a book that I've written. They [the Times] published it knowing that, so I'm completely happy to admit the fact. I just don't see a problem with it."

Dr Whyte said he was inspired to submit the opinion piece after reading a column in the Herald about child poverty in New Zealand by Associate Professor Susan St John, spokeswoman for the Child Poverty Action Group.

He believed her argument was "wrong" and the statistics used flawed, he said. The method used to measure poverty was the same definition as in the UK, he said.

"I've written this piece about four times altogether in various different places, and I thought, well I'll take that stuff and change it here and there, the bits and pieces that are relevant [to New Zealand], and that's what I did."

The piece was still an original work written by him, Dr Whyte said, adding: "There's clearly no such thing as self-plagiarism."

Dr Whyte voluntarily submitted the article to the Herald, and was not paid to do so.

Dr Whyte did not inform the Herald the article had been previously published.

The Herald accepted the article in good faith. It would not have appeared had the newspaper known the background.

- NZ Herald

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