Another incomplete story

May 25th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I’m start to get seriously annoyed at who run story after story on how various families have to survive on $x, and hence need a payrise – without detailing their actual total income including government support. They do their readers a gross disservice by hiding relevant facts from them.

Today’s story is:

Solo mother Kelly Belcher is trying to raise her two young children on around $240 a week, a wage she says is not enough to provide her family with a decent quality of life.

Ms Belcher was speaking at the launch of the Living Wage Aotearoa NZ campaign in Auckland today, which aims to combat poverty and inequality by advocating for better wages for low-paid workers.

She works as a cleaner in Auckland and is also studying for a degree.

“I would earn more on the DPB (domestic purposes benefit) but I’m trying to do the right thing and be productive and work, but I get slapped down for it. That’s how it feels. There’s no quality of life. I look at my two little kids and there’s no activities, there’s no soccer, there’s no swimming, there’s no life,” she said.

Now good on Ms Belcher for working and studying. I am not disputing that life is tough for her. What I am saying is that media have a responsibility to provide complete information on income.

At a minimum there is a family tax credit of $157 a week. The weekly no of work hours appears to be 17.  If Belcher increases her number of work hours to 20, then she would gain an extra $279 through the in-work tax credit and minimum family tax credit. So an extra three hours a week of work would see an extra $14,500 a year.

By contrast an increase in pay from $13.50 an hour to $17 an hour would bring in only $60 (gross) a week or around $50 net.

We also do not know if there is any income from student allowance, or accommodation supplement, let alone child support from the father.

There should be a guideline in place for reporters who do stories which include claims about family income. It should tell the reporter to ask the following:

  • How many hours of paid work, at what rate
  • Do they receive welfare and/or WFF credits
  • Do they get the accommodation supplement and/or live in a state house
  • If a sole parent, is there any contribution from the other parent
  • Do their expenses include anything irregular (such as debt repayment)

I’m not saying that after all that, there will not be a story that shows times are tough for that family. But that the public deserve the have enough information for them to be able to form an independent judgement. Merely repeating claims in a press release is not serving readers.

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45 Responses to “Another incomplete story”

  1. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    Don’t worry. I’m sure Campbell Live will do a fair and balanced appraisal of this soon.

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  2. Pete George (22,867 comments) says:

    Good on her for working to support herself and her family, but…

    “I would earn more on the DPB

    …is a common misconception. DPB is not an “earning” choice, it’s temporary assistance.

    If Belcher increases her number of work hours to 20, then she would gain an extra $279 through the in-work tax credit and minimum family tax credit.

    This highlights an anomaly in our tax system. There is far too much complexity and unevenness, which results in perceived unfairness.

    Peter Dunne included some tax tidy-ups and loophole closures as part of his contribution to the budget. He was criticised for doing it but if I was going to criticise it I’d say it doesn’t go far enough. Our convoluted tax and benefit system needs a major overhaul, and I see the measures in the budget as a bit of a start.

    There’s a lot more that can be done fixing and accumulated mess of taxes – very difficult to reform, especially as it means some people will lose ground. But we can’t leave it to get patch after patch, it gets too complex and distorted.

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  3. tom hunter (4,436 comments) says:

    Merely repeating claims in a press release is not serving readers

    But it is serving the modern media environment of time and cost pressured editors pushing journalists to simply re-write the press-releases.

    It also serves journalists who are not smart enough or experienced enough to realise when they are being played.

    And finally it serves the soft, mushy leftism that forms most of whatever underlying philosophy and ideology they have.

    Which of course serves left-wing political parties very well.

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  4. Bed Rater (239 comments) says:

    That story actually originally read along the lines of “She works 35 hours per week as a cleaner in Auckland and is also studying for a degree”

    Which would mean she earned 6.86 per hour net. I was bored Wednesday evening and emailed the reporter asking why he didn’t question her below minimum wage rates, strangely no reply, and a quick correction followed.

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  5. Lucia Maria (2,208 comments) says:

    It really sounds like low wage jobs are being subsidised by the taxpayer. Personally, I think employers should pay a reasonable wage rather than expecting everyone else to pick up the tab for the person they hire.

    [DPF: That is a nice soundbite but somewhat unrealistic. To do that you would need a minimum wage of say $30 an hour. And then we would have mass unemployment and stuff all exports]

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  6. Archer (170 comments) says:

    I suggest people do what I’ve down and leave feedback (even just a link to this thread) for the reporter, Matthew Theunissen, to improve the quality of his work. I know if I was doing a substandard job I would prefer to get feedback so I could improve.

    http://dynamic.nzherald.co.nz/feedback/author/index.cfm?a_id=743&objectid=10807860

    [DPF: Note I did not mention the name of the reporter of target him. Stories get amended by sub-editors and editors, and we do not know what may have been in the original story submitted by a reporter. Hence I tend to criticise the publication, rather than an individual reporter, as the publication is responsible for the overall quality of what it publishes.

    If people do wish to communicate with a particular reporter on a story my advice is always to be polite and constructive, such as saying it would have been nice to include this info]

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  7. macdee (29 comments) says:

    the tv coverage showed a Pacific Island minister supporting the cause, no suggestion that the contribution made to the church contributes to household financial difficulies

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  8. EverlastingFire (291 comments) says:

    The media is dishing out the propaganda to the masses. Sick of hearing about some ‘victim’ and her kids that can’t survive. What the fuck does women expect doing a cleaning job? A doctor’s salary? Should have thought about getting educated before having two kids. That’s what responsible people would do.

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  9. backster (2,082 comments) says:

    Most of the poverty stricken people I’ve seen on Campbell’s crusade are obese and have a hoard of plump children. Campbell should tell them about the free access to contraception as a means of emerging from their current circumstance.

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  10. meh (165 comments) says:

    There was a small tidbit thrown in during the interview on Campbell live where they said she was still negotiating child support with the kids father. That will have a significant difference on her disposable income if he pays her direct instead of paying into the dpb “pot” but it was fleetingly mentioned and then they carried on with her sob story..

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  11. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    without detailing their actual total income including government support.

    So a self-confessed right winger considers government support to be “income”. I guess that shows how normalized government subsidization of earnings has become, even amongst the Hayekians.

    It’s strange, because I thought the aim of the right wing was to eliminate welfare as quick as one could say “Budget 2012 is the most extreme tax and spend budget in NZ history.”

    And I thought DPF’s main beef would be with the low income earners and their obvious inability to either manage their affairs so as not to depend upon the government or to get off their butts and work longer, harder, faster.

    But there you go DPF, now you know where the projected 30% increase in tax revenues (i.e. your tax expense) over the next four years of your National government is going to be spent, and it seems that your view of how things should be includes government subsidies as being perfectly in keeping with right wing economic theory – such as it exists.

    For the record, I agree with Lucia, above. But I’m left wing according to you and your commenters, even though I’m in favor of eliminating the need for welfare.

    DPF, I’ll tell you how you can help me in my aim. Call up your office cleaning contractor and ask him what he pays his staff. Tell him to increase the hourly rate by 50% and pass on the increase in your bill. Then tell all your business mates what you have done and encourage them to do the same.

    Then call up Matt McCarten and make a sizable contribution to the Living Wage campaign.

    [DPF: Luc if you want to make this personal you should reconsider. I'll slaughter you any day with the facts. Seeing you are going there, I'll just mention that the person I employ as a cleaner gets around $35 to $50 an hour. That is because I pay her for the quality of the job, not actual hours worked.

    Also you seem to lack the intelligence to read what I have actually said consistently over the years. I have never railed against supporting low income families with a couple of kids. Quite the contrary.

    What I tend to object to is families where no adults are in any work at all, and high income families who get welfare.

    One day it would be nice if you actually debate the issues rather than create a false caricature to try and debate against. But I guess debating against your own construction is easier]

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  12. decanker (222 comments) says:

    I agree with Lucia, it’s highlighting how broken the whole WFF idea is. It’s complicated, it’s selective, and it’s working to keep wages down. Scrap it and simplify the tax system. We’d be better off without it and most of the rest of welfare and instead having a low universal income and an across the board tax free threshold of 10k or so.

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  13. CJPhoto (218 comments) says:

    Watched Campbell Live last night about the family that was struggling. It noted that they had only just been advised (By Campbell live) that they were entitled to WFF. That is 5(?) years of missed entitlements.

    The issue is WFF is too complex. Add in that 20 hour thing. We need to simple, low and broad tax. Targeted assistance that is well understood and well known.

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  14. Pete George (22,867 comments) says:

    We need to simple, low and broad tax. Targeted assistance that is well understood and well known.

    Yes, that should be the aim. It won’t be simple unraveling a can of spaghetti tax system cooked with a packet of noodles welfare system with a burger and chips on the side where it’s impossible to be sure what the ingredients are.

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  15. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,798 comments) says:

    The ratbag Presbyterian minister from St Stephens should have told her years ago what she could access through welfare.

    It’s high time the Northern Presbytery had a good hard look at this political activist masquerading as a minister. The first thing they should do is remind him telling lies is a sin.

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  16. Grizz (500 comments) says:

    This woman does not realise how good she has it. I remember being a student with no money and the only income from a student loan. After racking up a substantial debt (incurring interest while studying) I was left with having to pay it off when I started working (also incurring interest). I remember having to buy cheap food, including lots of cabbage, carrots and swedes and feeling jealous when monied friends could buy nice cheeses, bacon, yoghurt and pesto.

    Honestly, students complaining about how shit their life is just turns me off. I have been there, lived through it and are better for it.

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  17. KH (687 comments) says:

    Good post from DPF. Media work of this standard achieves nothing but ‘dumbing down’ of our whole society.

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  18. wikiriwhis business (3,883 comments) says:

    Completely understand Mr Farrars point of view. Fully valid. But he’s the only one telling people what they’re entitles to. The Govt won’t. neither will their agencies. it’s all secret. Her employer will never tell her working an extra 2 hours will help her. Obviously he hasn’t.

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  19. swan (659 comments) says:

    These stories reinforce one of the values of a universal basic income system. Everyone gets the same number, plain and simple. Therefore everyone is aware of the minimum level others get.

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  20. Paulus (2,503 comments) says:

    TV3 is crap – as for little twit he is part of the disinformation.

    Don’t watch – Shortass Street is also crap but also unbelieveable, and has a few laughs.

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  21. dave (985 comments) says:

    DPF,

    I agree. it is a dodgy story. We don’t know whether she is studying part time or full time ( i.e whether she qualifies for a student allowance). This woman should seek to see if she can increase her hours an extra three to 20 hours a week and get the in work payment etc from IRD. Then her low paid job would be properly subsidised by the taxpayer – but if she is studying full time she wont be able to get IWP and student allowance.

    Perhaps her comments about not collecting the DPB are because she is collecting a student allowance? Perhaps the reporter doesn’t even know that either

    Now, I wonder if she would have qualified for the training incentive allowance that was scrapped.

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  22. peterwn (3,168 comments) says:

    Unions and the left just love gathering and telling such ‘stories’. They have been doing it for many years. They are aimed at emotions rather than rational and logical thinking.

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  23. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    @DPF

    I didn’t consider my comments in reply to your post “making it personal”. You did, and on reflection I can see why you did.

    I apologise.

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  24. Alan Johnstone (1,064 comments) says:

    “It really sounds like low wage jobs are being subsidised by the taxpayer. ”

    Of course they are, that’s what WFF and In work tax credits are. It’s a statement of fact. The productive middles classes on $100k – $250k a year supports those whose economic output isn’t high enough to support themselves in a first world country.

    I’ve watched a lot of this stuff on Campbell Live this week, and the message is quite confused. They say they ant higher wages, but I don’t think they really do, what they appear to want is more money. The message is give us an extra $3 or $4 an hour in wages but the hidden subtext is “and don’t cut out social welfare to compensate”

    Two choice, we either accept that the productive support the non-productive and put measures in upskill as many as possible and lighten the load, or we expose those with low skills and productivity to the harsh life the market dictates and suffer social anarchy and the violent breakdown of society.

    Let’s be very clear, people aren’t going to accept abject poverty meekly.

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  25. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    Isn’t there a green of lefty blog you block up with your piss and wind Luc. Just askin’

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  26. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    Oh goody, normal business is resumed…what fun. Thanks expat.

    Hey, you may have missed the news, but it’s the righties in charge currently, dummy.

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  27. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    Ahhh no Luc…..its blue rinse lefties in charge at the moment….

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  28. DJP6-25 (1,274 comments) says:

    Reason #957 not to read or watch the mainstream media. I do read the Korea Herald online. All the Korean reporters put their email address at the bottom of the story. More to the point, they just present the facts. They don’t editorialise. Japanese papers are the same. Very refreshing.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  29. backster (2,082 comments) says:

    LUC….”Then call up Matt McCarten and make a sizable contribution to the Living Wage campaign.”

    That contribution would then go to the same place that his Union Employee’s PAYE which was meant to go to the Inland Revenue Department went.

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  30. cows4me (248 comments) says:

    We need a true conservative media outlet that is “fair & balanced” and questions everything that goes down in this country. Of course most in this country are sheeple brought up and fed lies from our mates on the left. I’m sure if there was a conservative msm outlet in this country the sheeple would slowly awake to the bullshit spun by lefty grippers like Campbell and co.

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  31. Tauhei Notts (1,612 comments) says:

    The story that irritates me is all that raving about taxing paperboys.
    Nowadays newspapers are delivered before 6.00 a.m. and it is against the law to employ school children to work at those hours.

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  32. Fairfacts Media (371 comments) says:

    I have just enjoyed a nice lunch down at the Viaduct.
    The lovely young waitress was from the Ukraine, the bar boy was from Albania.
    What happened to the backpackers from the more traditional places like the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, and Scandinavia?
    Don’t they come to New Zealand any more?
    And don’t we have enough useless fat tubs of lard in West and South Auckland capable of doing such work as serving drinks and waiting on tables and behaving in a pleasant, friendly and professional manner?

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  33. Lucia Maria (2,208 comments) says:

    Alan,

    Two choice, we either accept that the productive support the non-productive and put measures in upskill as many as possible and lighten the load, or we expose those with low skills and productivity to the harsh life the market dictates and suffer social anarchy and the violent breakdown of society.

    Missed out encouraging young women to get married so that they don’t need to be the sole income earner.

    Our society encourages too much sex without commitment.

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  34. Elaycee (4,305 comments) says:

    In GD yesterday, I mentioned the most irritating thing (for me) in this story was the fact that the same Kelly Belcher who appeared in the photo was busy complaining about how she was hoping that her two kids didn’t suddenly need something because she didn’t have the cash, but yet it was obvious in the photo she was pregnant!

    So what happened to personal responsibility? If she is ‘struggling’ with being able to fend for herself or her children (the story said she was a solo Mum), then she shouldn’t have any more kids!

    Or she should get the father of the kids to contribute… instead of just bleating about wanting more money.

    No sympathy from this taxpayer.

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  35. martybc (5 comments) says:

    I think you are right about the quality of media reporting, but isn’t it interesting to see how the comments have degenerated into blinkered right wing nonsense. If a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members, then a persons greatness is measured in a similar way. In which case, we can deduce that many people commenting here are far from great.

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  36. Harriet (4,534 comments) says:

    The first casualty of class warfare is the truth.

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  37. Harriet (4,534 comments) says:

    Lucia Maria #

    “…Our society encourages too much sex without commitment…”

    I think you should keep going on with that line Lucia.

    As Aust Federal Opp Leader Tony Abbott said “Virginity is a precious thing and should not be given away lightly.”

    The ‘elite’ disagreed[very loudly too I might add]- but 95% of fathers of girls [like Abbott himself is] do quietly agree.

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  38. Lucia Maria (2,208 comments) says:

    Harriet,

    Thanks. :)

    Yet today, there is an article on the Stuff website that writes of the dangers of saving yourself until marriage.

    Sheesh, just as bad as a previous article encouraging married people to flirt.

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  39. slijmbal (1,216 comments) says:

    Ladies

    strangely enough lots of people manage to have sex outside of marriage without the end result being children.

    The problem is deeper than your particular flavour of morality believes

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  40. Harriet (4,534 comments) says:

    slijmbal #

    “…strangely enough lots of people manage to have sex outside of marriage without the end result being children.

    The problem is deeper than your particular flavour of morality believes….”

    You mean gays ?

    Are you also saying that the next generation of children DO NEED the shelter of Marriage ?

    What was that Marriage ‘brand’ again that the gays want ?

    Is it that same Marriage ‘brand’ that actually produces children who will also shelter the gays in that next generation of western societies youth, from bigotry, bashings and murder?

    What are the statistics again for the children that have been sheltered inside that Marriage ‘brand’ in their ‘formative’ years?

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  41. Harriet (4,534 comments) says:

    slijmbal #

    As a Christian act towards the gay community – I’ll bring up my children inside of Marriage to respect and protect the next generation of gays.

    You do that next generation of gays a favour and stay the hell away from Marriage !

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  42. slijmbal (1,216 comments) says:

    @Harriet

    pushed a button there!! The lady does protest too much – my comment was exactly face value – the problem is deeper than sex outside of marriage – sex outside of marriage is fine from my perspective when it does not lead to children or STDs – the problem is children outside of a long term relationship or children that need to paid for by other people.

    Interesting to see your obsession with gays though. Says a lot about you

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  43. Frustrated (5 comments) says:

    I didn’t read all of the comments. Do I understand correctly – she is only working part-time while she studies? Fair enough if people want to discuss her options for working/training, whether wage rates, benefit levels are right or wrong, and what she is or should be entitled to. But discussion of a ‘Living wage’ seems completely irrelevant in this situation.

    If a group feels that a ‘Living wage’ is justified, at least come up with an appropriate example ie. someone earning a full time wage. Were the group promoting this story dumb or clever to use it? Who knows. Unfortunately I think the reporter has to put in the dumb/lazy category, and the editor doesn’t get any glory either.

    Here’s an idea for the media: -

    >60% of article is from one ‘side’ of the story, it must have the word ‘biased article’ in bold letters at the top.
    >40% of article is the writer’s opinion, it must have the word ‘opinion’ in bold letters at the top.
    and the rest can be accepted as a valid story.

    How many true news stories would be published from day to day? And how many ‘biased articles’ would be published.

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  44. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    But that the public deserve the have enough information for them to be able to form an independent judgement.

    But DPF, a majority of the public receive some form of state welfare, so independent judgement is unlikely. The MSM is well aware of this, and simply plays to the crowd’s bias.

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  45. Liberal Minded Kiwi (1,563 comments) says:

    slijmbal – you’ll see that Harriet and Lucia are two peas in a warped pod. Angry gay haters who speak of our fellow citizens like they are second class citizens. Moralistic to their evil core. Why they turned this conversation into how they judge other Kiwis is beyond me.

    I am interested in what this woman is studying. What degree will she obtain?

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