Penalties pledged for silence
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.