MEDIAWATCH: Carmel Sepiloni’s Q&A interview on gagging Children’s Commissioner’s Oranga Tamariki Oversight isn’t good enough

“Do you have the humility to admit the changes (to the Children’s Commissioner oversight of Oranga Tamariki) could make things worse”.

That was the question Jack Tame delivered to Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni on Q+A this morning in another masterclass of public broadcasting excellence.

I have been highly critical of this Minister and this decision to remove the Children’s Commissioner away from oversight of OT and I was eager to hear the Minister explain exactly what the hell she’s doing.

The answers were appalling.

The Minister’s position is that removing the Children’s Commissioner from having oversight on Oranga Tamariki is a misrepresentation of the facts because the Children’s Commissioner wasn’t technically appointed to do oversight in the first place and that the Children’s Commissioner was passing issues along to the Ombudsmen to investigate anyway, meaning the new model of 6 faceless bureaucrats hidden inside the Education Review Office will provide all the oversight necessary.

Let’s unpack the bullshit technicalities the Minister is using to hide behind here.

The Minister is absolutely correct in stating that the Children’s Commissioner wasn’t supposed to remain in an oversight capacity. They were tacked on at the end because Oranga Tamariki’s newly weaponised uplift powers were so over the top and draconian that the Children’s Commissioner was added in temporarily as an attempt at a check and balance to state agency powers that enabled the state to take a child from a parent using nothing more than a MSD algorithm.

Remember, Oranga Tamariki is a neoliberal experiment in welfare. It uses Big Data to justify uplifting children immediately to save money in downstream justice, crime and health costs.

Oranga Tamariki has always been about saving the State’s wallet, it isn’t about the welfare of the child who is viewed as a ‘client’.

To make the cost savings, OT had to weaponise uplifts, streamline 0800 numbers to immediate action teams, change the law over parental power to stop the state seizing your child and of course, MSD made sure anyone who did have a child uplifted wasn’t eligible for Legal Aid.

The supposed counter weight to such enormous powers was the Children’s Commissioner being temporarily appointed  as an oversight. While they weren’t funded to investigate problems (that’s why cases were handed over to the Ombudsman), the Children’s Commissioner could give vital voice to the damage Oranga Tamariki was causing.

To hide behind technicalities as the Minister has done in this interview to obscure what is actually happening is such an abdication of Ministerial responsibility we may as well start calling her Chris Faafoi the Second.

It is ironic in the extreme that as we wade through the historic abuses inquiry by the State on vulnerable children, to the point where hundreds were tortured using electricity, here is the State removing vital transparency of a Government agency that has enormous powers with few checks and balances.

These Children, these vulnerable children, must be given MORE scrutiny, MORE transparency, MORE resource, MORE genuine care. Removing the loudest voice that can actually challenge Oranga Tamariki and their extreme unchecked powers when those State Agencies have such a shameful history of abusing those children is disgraceful social policy.

The system wants to ensure it can’t be held accountable and they will sacrifice any and all to keep their neoliberal experiment in welfare alive.

I didn’t fucking vote Labour for this sort of shit!

Good interview Jack.


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