Real Issues Blog

No man is an island

20 February 15

If you were to look at a CV of my grandma’s life, you probably wouldn’t be over awed. A high school graduate who held down jobs as first a waitress then a nurse’s assistant from her twenties until she suffered a work-related injury at 57, and went onto a disability benefit. Wife of a beer delivery man, mother of three, grandmother of six, and great grandmother of two. + more

On our behalf

Jeremy Vargo
17 February 15

We realise the reality of politics is that a lot of negotiating and decision-making has to occur behind closed doors, so the character of the people we put behind those doors matters. Voters need to be able to trust that whether negotiating with private business for a convention centre, or granting surveillance orders in the name of national security, our leaders will hold their sense of right and wrong, and act well on our behalf. + more

Family at the heart of social policy

Kieran Madden
10 February 15

It takes a family to raise a child. While the short-hand term "child poverty" is much easier to express than "families with insufficient resources to meet the basic needs of their children," it does tend to obscure the obvious fact that kids have parents. Together, they make a family. Together, they suffer the scarring effects of deprivation and missing out on what the rest of society takes for granted. Together, however, they can escape the intergenerational cycles of disadvantage. + more

Back to school

Jane Silloway Smith
02 February 15

Children whose parents are involved in their schooling—whether that be in the form of volunteering in the school, attending sporting events or club activities, or even just asking how the homework’s going in the evening—do better at school than their peers whose parents are not involved. The involvement doesn’t have to consist of hundreds of hours or hundreds of dollars—it just has to be there.+ more

Ever heard of Jackie Robinson?

Alex Penk
08 December 14

In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play major league baseball since the 1880s. One of the most celebrated men in baseball’s history, his story is told in the movie 42. I watched it on a recent long-haul flight, and the abuse he received and the courage he showed were both pretty remarkable. They also highlighted an important truth: that every human being has incredible dignity. + more

"Talking bollocks" about Band Aid 30

Jane Silloway Smith
01 December 14

Criticisms abound for Band Aid 30’s hit single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” The pop artists who took part could have raised more money for the fight against ebola by paying their fair share of taxes. The song’s lyrics are patronising to Africa and its people, portraying a whole continent as a diseased and passive wasteland in dire need of the help of nice white people. As a fundraising effort, Band Aid 30 is selling a simplified message that money cures.+ more

Doing good and making money

Jeremy Vargo
25 November 14

Tattooed across Travis’ shoulder and back are two taniwha, locked in battle. Markers of his heritage, they present a visual challenge: dark and light, good and evil, greed and generosity constantly at war. As today’s business culture grows more and more aware of its impact on the world, some view solely profit-motivated business as “the dark side,” in competition with a society that cares for the needs of its people. + more

Productivity and why it's important

Nathan McLellan
18 November 14

In the recent Speech from the Throne the National-led Government stated its commitment to “build a productive and competitive economy.” This pledge to boost New Zealand’s productivity comes in the context of the oft talked about income gap between New Zealand and other developed countries, like Australia. But why is this income gap important in the first place and what does it have to do with productivity?+ more

The tragedy of Brittany Maynard

Jane Silloway Smith
11 November 14

When we create categories of people whose lives fall outside the protection of the law, we change the way we as a society view the value of those lives. We believe the Brittany Maynards of the world who tell us that life is only valuable if it is without pain, without difficulty. We believe it about ourselves, and we believe it about those around us.+ more

The awkward reality about marriage and inequality

Kieran Madden
06 November 14

For richer, for poorer: an important vow, but not as risky as it might sound. Richer is much more likely. Researchers at the American Enterprise Institute estimate that in the US, the median income for families would be 44 percent higher if the proportion of married families was the same today as it was in 1980. This socio-economic gap is widening between families with married parents and those without, in what the researchers call “family inequality.”+ more

Imagery vs. injury

Jeremy Vargo
28 October 14

Our task as 21st century consumers of global media is to manage this double-edged sword of awareness. Gopnik’s call is for us to compassionately respond to the “injuries” of specific events when possible, and refuse to allow repeated imagery to create a “perpetual loop” of fear. I would add that regularly finding a place in the sun without cell reception helps a great deal. + more

The business of social investment

Kieran Madden
21 October 14

We spend a lot on welfare. According to recent Treasury figures, of the $92.2 billion the Government spends, $50.5 billion flows into welfare, health and education. The thing is, this spending doesn’t necessarily translate into transformed lives. In what I’ve heard wryly described as “trickle-down social policy,” sometimes our most vulnerable don’t actually get the help they desperately need. + more