Govt has not abandoned hungry kids (and it is considering fattening some TV moguls, too)

Dunno what them tossers at Radio NZ think they are up to.

They posted an item on their website (here) about we Nats not caring about starving kids.

This, of course, is a calumny.

The item started by saying:

The Government is being accused of not taking child poverty seriously and leaving schools to come up with the resources to feed hungry children.

The item is based on official papers released to the Green Party.

Alf has not seen these papers but Radio NZ says they show Health Minister Tony Ryall originally approved extending the scheme from decile 1 and 2 schools to include decile 3 schools.

The extension would have cost $2.6 million and benefited some 36,000 children at more than 200 schools.

But everybody knows money is in short supply these days, and we have to make sure we don’t imbalance the budget, yet we need to be flexible enough to adopt fresh policies, for example to help worthy people like Hollywood film and TV moguls.

Not quite so much cash will flow into the Treasury coffers if we lower the threshold for television production companies to gain a 15% tax break in line with big screen productions, which The Boss says (here) is being considered.

John Key has returned from a whirlwind visit to Los Angeles, during which he met executives from Hollywood studios including Warner Brothers, Sony, 20th Century Fox and Paramount to promote

New Zealand as a film location. Tax subsidies were a feature of the discussions last week.

Blockbuster films such as the $500 million Hobbit trilogy, currently in production in Wellington, get a 15% government subsidy.However, the starting point for TV shows to secure a similar tax break is by spending $15 million on production costs.

Mr Key said on Monday he has asked for advice from Film New Zealand on whether that threshold should be lowered, but says it is not likely to change for big screen film-makers as their productions normally cost several hundred million dollars.

The Prime Minister is always willing to listen to a bloody good hard-luck story, because he told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report programme that studios raised the issue of tax subsidy schemes for film-making.

Mr Key said the 15% large budget screen production grant was, for the most part, seen as fair. However, he said studios wanted to discuss changes to the subsidy in relation to TV productions.

“There’s a little bit of logic in what they’re saying – I can understand one of two of the issues, but we’ll need to go away and think those through carefully.”

And don’t forget that when he does this, and thinks things through carefully, he is doing his thinking in the best interests of us all, especially by providing jobs.

This includes jobs for foreigners, which underscores his readiness to help the needy wherever they might live on this globe.

John Key said his meetings all aimed at jobs for New Zealanders and his campaign won’t shut New Zealanders out of jobs.

Recent reports say large numbers of foreign workers have been recruited to work in the New Zealand industry, including at Weta Workshop, which has applied to bring 300 post-production workers from overseas.

Mr Key says that will happen from time to time, but he would expect most jobs in movies made in New Zealand would go to locals.

But there have to be sacrifices.

And sad to say, this means Tony Ryall – splendid fellow – decided the proposal to feed starving school kids wouldn’t go ahead in this year’s Budget due to financial constraints.

Or so it seemed from the Radio NZ report, which quoted the Principals’ Federation and the Child Poverty Action Group as saying the Government is failing to show its commitment in meeting the basic needs of young children.

Bollocks.

A different story (here) emerges on the NZ Herald website this morning.

According to this report –

Prime Minister John Key says the Government will support hungry New Zealand schoolchildren if it needs to, but the problem is not as wide as some might suggest and help would be highly targeted.

His comments today come after Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said he was “quite open” to considering a national food strategy for low-decile schools, which is among the proposals of an expert group appointed by Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills.

The Boss is quoted as saying the Government for a long time has been actively engaged in making sure children are fed at school.

He pointed to the Government’s contribution to food charity KidsCan, the extension of the fruit in schools programme and its encouragement of the private sector, such as Fonterra’s milk in schools programme.

“We assist schools where we can, and generally the feedback I get from schools is that while there are some children that clearly need support and some kids that will go to a breakfast programme, it’s not every child and it’s not every school,” he said.

The important thing is that the money is being highly targeted to low-decile schools.

We don’t want to have to feed fat cats, or the kids of Hollywood moguls who might flock here when we make it easier for them to make TV programmes.

The Boss drew attention to a survey in 2007 showing 97 per cent of children went to school having had breakfast and also had lunch.

“So yes, there are some kids we’ve got to make sure we look after, and if the Government needs to support those kids we will. But again, I think it’s more narrowly defined than some people might argue.”

Does this approach make sense?

Well, it makes enough sense to win the support of Labour leader David Shearer.

The Government had dismissed Labour’s proposal to provide breakfast for hungry school kids at low-decile primary schools, he said, but it was great to see a concession.

And get this…

Child welfare group Every Child Counts welcomed news the Government was considering a national strategy, saying their was a need to mitigate the impacts of poverty and then deal with the causes.

That’s the side of the story that should be given more prominence on the Radio NZ website.

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