COMMENT

If you're looking to vote on accountability and delivery this election, Labour is in increasing trouble.

Another social indicator lays bare yet another promise not met. Child poverty is up, the stats department released the cold hard truth yesterday.

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This was the Prime Minister's calling card. This was the one dear to her heart. Unlike climate change, which was her generation's nuclear moment, where you can fudge your way out of any real sort of accountability.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is faced with figures showing the number of people in material hardship - a major component of child poverty - has remained relatively stagnant. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is faced with figures showing the number of people in material hardship - a major component of child poverty - has remained relatively stagnant. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Although a zero carbon bill has been passed, the fact it will achieve nothing and has exemptions in it you can drive a bus through, you can at least fill time during the campaign wittering on about your intent and hope, and of course using her favourite line: there is more work to do.

No, with poverty, specifically child poverty, things were going to get better. They haven't. They've got worse.

It's a KiwiBuild of social failure.

When you measure material hardship, one in eight kids lives below the line, that is over 4000 more than there were.

At the time of the promise, we were in the in the halcyon days of early government and campaigning where anything was said.

Ardern had just been newly minted as leader and hadn't thought far enough down the road to consider the fact that Winston would pick her and therefore one day be held to account.

She was busy waxing on about 50 to 70,000 kids being lifted out of poverty.

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In fact, the three-year target, the three years coming to an end in September, she was going to shrink the figure from 16 per cent of kids to 10 per cent. She hasn't.


It is the danger of the over-promise. It is the danger of a lack of knowledge around the complexity of the problem. It is the danger of being superficial when you're dealing with other people's lives.

Of course, poverty is such a hopelessly emotive word to start with, and it's a world of averages where you never really get to see the specifics of any given case.

The measure is based around kids and lunches, how much access they have to vegetables, the material possessions in their lives.

It's woolly, and it fails to consider the role of the parent and the quality of expenditure of the actual money in the house.

Mike Hosking. Photo / Michael Craig
Mike Hosking. Photo / Michael Craig

All the more reason not to make promises around it, I would have thought.

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But yet again, a warning of the dangers of the redistribution approach this Government has embraced with alacrity.

The billions that have been put into the social side of the equation, and for what return?

Every social indicator has gone backwards - food handouts, housing queues, jobless payments and poverty. Every single one of them in the wrong direction.

A cheque doesn't solve the issue, and the numbers prove it.