Penal­ties pledged for si­lence

The Timaru Herald - - National News - Thomas Manch

A fail­ure to dis­close child abuse could be pun­ished by three years in prison if the Na­tional Party is elected in Oc­to­ber.

Na­tional MPs Louise Up­ston and Al­fred Ngaro were in Hamil­ton yes­ter­day to fur­ther de­tail the party’s child poli­cies, re-an­nounc­ing the party’s in­ten­tion to cre­ate a new pun­ish­ment for non-dis­clo­sure of child abuse and promis­ing to re­de­fine Labour’s child poverty tar­gets.

Up­ston, the party’s so­cial devel­op­ment spokes­woman, has promised not to cast aside the Labour-led Govern­ment’s child poverty mea­sure­ments but in­stead fo­cus on a new, yet-to-be de­ter­mined ma­te­rial hard­ship tar­get. Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern says Na­tional wants to cut pay­ments to fam­i­lies of young chil­dren, con­tra­dict­ing their claimed fo­cus on re­duc­ing ma­te­rial hard­ship.

Na­tional in Fe­bru­ary de­clared it would cre­ate the new of­fence for non-dis­clo­sure of child abuse, af­ter a 4-year-old boy was badly beaten in Flaxmere and a de­tec­tive said po­lice were not be­ing told ‘‘cru­cial in­for­ma­tion’’ about what hap­pened.

The in­ci­dent sparked de­bate about the ‘‘right to si­lence’’, which al­lows peo­ple to de­cline to co-op­er­ate in crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions, in­clud­ing child abuse cases. ‘‘When peo­ple know there is abuse go­ing on, make peo­ple re­alise that it is an of­fence for them not to dis­close it,’’ Up­ston told Stuff.

‘‘We have got a num­ber of cases in my own elec­torate, the case of baby Moko a few years ago ... If you look at many in­stances af­ter the fact, it comes out that some­body knew and did not speak up.’’

Na­tional would also move away from the Labour-led Govern­ment’s ‘‘mean­ing­less’’ child poverty tar­gets tied to the me­dian wage, to in­stead fo­cus on one of the cur­rent tar­gets used: ma­te­rial hard­ship. ‘‘The nine mea­sures at the mo­ment are very com­pli­cated, they are not that mean­ing­ful for New Zealan­ders, and the one that re­ally makes a dif­fer­ence is ma­te­rial hard­ship,’’ Up­ston said.

‘‘That is why we want to in­tro­duce a tar­get that is more mean­ing­ful and we can fo­cus on that.’’ The party had not de­ter­mined what its new tar­get would be and it was not in­tended that Labour’s cur­rent tar­gets would be en­tirely cast aside ‘‘but fi­nal de­ci­sions have not been made yet’’.

Fam­ily vi­o­lence and sex­ual vi­o­lence would also be mea­sured and have a re­duc­tion tar­get placed on them, as had been done with child poverty, un­der any Na­tional Govern­ment, Up­ston said.

‘‘We suc­cess­fully used Bet­ter Public Ser­vice tar­gets as a way of fo­cus­ing on what mat­tered to New Zealan­ders.

‘‘We will have a tar­get in this area but we are yet to de­ter­mine what that fig­ure will be.’’

Na­tional also wanted to both re­view and ex­tend the ‘‘reach’’ of Wha¯nau Ora but would not fund it fur­ther.

The Wha¯nau Ora model has in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion­ing agen­cies al­lo­cat­ing fund­ing to Ma¯ori health providers, which pro­vide ser­vices and sup­port to wha¯nau.

‘‘Labour have boosted it; we think it is a re­ally im­por­tant in­vest­ment but the chal­lenge at the mo­ment is there is an in­equity be­tween Pasi­fika and other fam­i­lies, so we want to ad­dress that.’’

Ardern, speak­ing to re­porters in the West Coast yes­ter­day, said re­duc­ing the sup­port avail­able to chil­dren would not re­duce the num­ber liv­ing in ma­te­rial hard­ship. ‘‘When it comes to ma­te­rial hard­ship, that is a mea­sure of chil­dren’s ac­cess for in­stance to things like healthy meals. We have a food-in-schools pro­gramme that I have heard no sup­port from Na­tional over, and yet that is one of the prac­ti­cal things we can do to im­prove the well­be­ing of chil­dren.’’

Na­tional has said it would par­tially un­wind Labour’s ‘‘Best Start’’ pay­ments – $60-a-week uni­ver­sally given to fam­i­lies with a new­born in its first year – by mak­ing the scheme means-tested.

The party would in­stead pro­vide each fam­ily $3000 in health fund­ing al­lo­ca­tion to spend on pre- and post-natal ser­vices.

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