Hard News by Russell Brown


The Report Card

"Undistinguished" would be a fair, even generous, word for New Zealand's showing in the Unicef report An overview of child well-being in rich countries released yesterday. The New Zealand Herald's story sums up our shabbiest performances:

New Zealand was the worst on two items (children killed in accidents and injuries, and 15- to 19-year-olds in education) and second-worst on another two (teen pregnancies, and 15-year-olds eating their main meal of the day with their parents).

And the indicators of which we can be mildly proud:

New Zealand scores best on educational achievement, ranking sixth-best in the world on an indicator of reading, mathematical and scientific literacy and eighth-best on the proportion of children living in homes with at least 10 books (94 per cent).

Simon Collins has also written a more detailed analysis, which includes this interesting observation:

The number of babies dying before their first birthday has fallen dramatically in New Zealand from 7.6 per cent when the Plunket Society began in 1907 to just 0.6 in this report and 0.5 per cent last year.

But it has fallen even more dramatically elsewhere, so New Zealand has slipped from among the best in the world to fourth-worst among 25 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Only 0.2 and 0.3 per cent of babies die in the best-performing nations, Iceland and Japan.

And …

New Zealand scores even worse - worst in the developed world - on the number of children under 19 killed in accidents and injuries, including violence, murder and suicide. We lose 23.1 for every 100,000 children every year, compared with 22.9 in the second-worst nation, the US, 15.1 in Australia and an OECD average of 14.3.

You may note a reasonable correlation between countries with "smacking" bans and countries at the other end of the scale from us. It's probably not the day to be firing out a press release demanding the right to smack.

Children's Commissioner Dr Cindy Kiro was quick out of the blocks yesterday with some thoughtful commentary and a wish for better data. Today's Morning Report discussion will presumably appear soon on the Radio New Zealand website (still not sure what I think of the re-design).

Internationally, the story is the dreadful performance of two rich countries, the US and the UK, which are ranked bottom overall in the survey (there were not enough data to include New Zealand and Australia in the overall results, but both countries would have come in the bottom half and probably the bottom third). A BBC analysis also finds that:

European countries dominate the top half of the overall league table, with the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Finland claiming the top four places …

No country features in the top third of the rankings for all six dimensions of child well-being, although the Netherlands and Sweden come close to achieving this.

British newspapers have almost all gone big on the Unicef story, demanding change, while the US papers have run agency stories and devoted their banners to their president defending his latest claims about their war. It's a bit tragic.

As is this award-winning photograph of a US Marine, returned from Iraq, at his wedding.

Just to cheer you up after that, Adolf at Sir Humphreys rides forth against the evil MSM and, as usual, totally gets the wrong end of the stick. Priceless.

I'm still loving Instaputz.

Yet another stadium idea. Interesting and attractive, but I can't tell if it's viable and it's almost certainly too late in the piece.

And, finally, I attended and participated in InternetNZ's Auckland copyright workshop yesterday. I was struck by what seemed to be a general feeling - even amongst the IP lawyers - that the Copyright Amendment Bill errs much too far towards the interests of copyright owners and needs some significant work. Peter Gutmann gave an excellent presentation that I'll try and either link to or post here. Meanwhile, Nat Torkington, who presented in the same slot as Peter, has a useful wrap-up of the day on his O'Reilly Radar blog.

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