Poverty a growth industry

Last updated 07:56 17/10/2012

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The three mystic apes are a pictorial maxim, writes Rino Tirikatene (Labour) in From the Beehive.

Together they embody the maxim “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil”. In the Government's case the three apes represent “see no poverty, hear no poverty and speak no poverty”.

There is sometimes said to be a fourth ape that embodies the principle “do no evil”. In the Government's case the fourth ape represents “do nothing about poverty”. The National Government claim they are doing enough to address poverty.

This claim comes despite growing evidence they are not: according to the Child Poverty Action Group, 270,000 Kiwi kids live in poverty, David Shearer has pointed out that 80,000 kids often go without breakfast and one media outlet found 40,000 kids are fed by charities.

In a developed country, this is unacceptable.

Between 2004 and 2007, under the last Labour government, child poverty fell.

From 2008 onwards, when National took office, child poverty started to rise - just like it did under the National government of the 1990s.

Under National, poverty is our biggest growth industry. A Unicef report found we rank 20th out of 35 countries when it comes to child poverty.

But despite all of the evidence the Government wants to see, hear, speak and do nothing about poverty. Under the Government's “Better Public Services” targets, there is no mention of reducing poverty. John Key is careful to avoid the issue and when he cannot, he plays it down.

This is unacceptable from a leader, especially the leader of a country.

Child poverty is particularly important to me. The rate for Maori children living in severe and persistent poverty is double the rate for Pakeha children.

This tears at me and it is part of the reason I am a member of the Labour Party. Child poverty is inconsistent with Labour values and it is inconsistent with Kiwi values.

A Labour government would, and will, take poverty seriously.

David Shearer has committed the next Labour government to providing breakfast for kids in low decile schools. This is part of our commitment to eliminating poverty.

Although the Left seem to be the only ones interested in eliminating poverty, this is not a political issue.

It is an issue that runs far deeper - it is an issue about basic decency.

» Rino Tirikatene is the MP for Te Tai Tonga.

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