Mixed reactions following PM's Child Poverty Bill announcement

By Jessica Tyson

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has received mixed reactions after releasing her new Child Poverty Reduction Bill last night, with it being described as having "no substance". 

The new child poverty law will require governments to set up ten-year targets on a set of measures of child poverty. A strategy will also be developed and reported to promote the overall well-being of children.

“It sets in law four primary and six supplementary measures of poverty and material hardship. It requires the government of the day to then set targets to reduce child poverty,” says Ms Ardern.

According to the 2017 Technical Report by the Child Poverty Monitor 290,000 NZ children - around 27 per cent of New Zealand kids - are currently living in income poverty.  

A total of 135,000 (12 per cent) New Zealand children are living in material hardship; living in households without seven or more items considered necessary for their wellbeing.

National Party leader Bill English says the proposed child poverty legislation is full of positive intentions but contains “no substance to address the drivers of deprivation”.

“National shares the Government’s goal of reducing child poverty. But you don’t need new legislation for any of this. In fact, the public service is already reporting publicly on the exact measures the Government is proposing,” he says in a statement.

However, Salvation Army social policy director Ian Hutson says the Bill has “the potential to really focus New Zealand on eventually ending child poverty”.

“The measures are meaningful and robust and will chart progress well,” he says.

Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa Chair Andrea Jamison agrees and says the Bill is “a watershed moment for children and young people in Aotearoa New Zealand”.

“If passed, the Bill would legislate for an unprecedented level of priority for child well being across the House and throughout government,” she says.

According to the 2017 Technical Report by the Child Poverty Monitor 290,000 NZ children are living in income poverty.  

Ms Ardern says she has not included individual government targets in the Bill.

“We want to leave room for each government to determine their own child poverty reduction ambition. This Bill is about building consensus on behalf of children,” she says in a statement.

But taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says Labour’s proposed child poverty targets are about “delivering socialism, not better lives for children”.

“Tying poverty measures to the median income is simply a target for socialism. It means that as long everyone is equally poor, Labour will have met their goal,” he says.

“The saddest thing about these proposals is they suggest Labour’s claimed concern for kids in hardship was fake all along. This is leftist ideology with no mention of economic growth, getting people of welfare, productivity, employment, and entrepreneurship.”

Ms Ardern says she will be making Government's targets available in time for the public to submit on, alongside the Bill, as part of the select committee process.