Labour leader Jacinda Ardern is committing to lifting 100,000 New Zealand children out of poverty by 2020 if her party is elected.
During last night’s Newshub leaders’ debate, National Party Bill English promised to set a specific target for reducing child poverty.
He said 50,000 children should be lifted out of poverty through the government families package announced in the Budget in May – and, if National was re-elected, further initiatives could double that result.
Ms Ardern told Morning Report this morning she was pleased but surprised to hear her National Party counterpart commit to a target.
When asked if Labour would commit to the same number by 2020, she said yes – measured as 50 percent of the median income.
“My goal is to eradicate child poverty in New Zealand,” she said.
“We can lift about 50,000 as well, when it comes to the extra 50,000 that of course is something that we’ll have to set targets for in government … Our package relative to his at budget time actually did more for lower or middle-income families.
“He said he’ll do 50 [thousand] based on his tax package, the extra 50 [thousand] I assume that means he’s going to have another tax package.
“If that means he’s going to only target low-income families, that’s positive.”
In the debate she claimed 290,000 children in New Zealand were living in poverty.
“That’s what most organisations in New Zealand tend to use,” she told Morning Report. That was based on UNICEF figures.
“It’s the number of families living on 60 percent or less of the median income.
“Bill English then disputed that figure, so a little bit of a lack of clarity around what he based that number on,” she said.
Ms Ardern said it was good to hear Mr English put a number on it after all these years. His predecessor, John Key, had refused to set a target, saying it was too hard to measure.
“After nine years we’ve finally got Bill English saying there’s child poverty in New Zealand. I think that’s a bit of a win.”
She said Labour had also already committed to the goal set by the Children’s Commissioner of cutting child poverty by 10 percent.
In Wellington this morning, Mr English defended his decision to announce a target on live television.
“It was just a great opportunity in a debate where everyone is focused on the election and you’d have to say they are very interested, it was a great opportunity to be able to announce that target in a way that people would actually see it and believe it.”
Mr English said several of National’s initiatives – such as an increase in the accommodation supplement and free GP visits for under-13s – would also help reduce child poverty.