Michael Laws writes in the Sunday Star-Times this morning about this telethon, and about the charity industry in general - he begins:
IF there is one thing that New Zealand does badly, it is charity. We have a particularly undistinguished pedigree when it comes to philanthropy and much of that is due to the pioneer view that most people are the reason for their own predicament.
Even those that were not the physically afflicted, the abandoned, the acutely vulnerable got short shrift in the early days of settlement. They were financial burdens and their only real hope was Christian charity. Which was hardly overwhelming.
Eventually this gap was formally recognised by central government and the welfare state was created. But that only made things worse. The average Kiwi assumed that their taxpayer contribution was their charity and the mass of the population resisted the annual appeals to supplement various organisation's finances.
This has been accompanied in latter years by a bewildering plethora of new charities. And many are deeply unworthy, overtly political or just plain mad. Both the heart and the pocket have taken on a touch of frost.
Perhaps because of that, many New Zealand charities have now gone feral. Or corporate, depending upon your definition. They know they are competing for scarce dollars and scarcer attention. So they have employed telemarketing teams, sought to embarrass donors into giving more, and employed events and high profile celebrities to boost profile.
The result is that charity has become an industry. An unregulated, unprincipled industry that chiefly rewards those professionals who parlay this guilt game.
He's dead right. We are so sick of telemarketers tugging at our heartstrings that we simply don't answer our home phone if it rings between 5.30 and 7.30pm. We've heard anecdotal evidence that some of these very persuasive telemarketers earn very healthy incomes by encouraging us to reach for our credit card. And that, of course, dfeies the whole ethos of charitable giving.
On to the telethon. Laws, rightfully in our humble and considered opinion, makes some telling remarks:
And what does the Telethon-designated charity do? At first glance, laudable stuff. Raising funds for poor kids with feckless parents. How do we know they are feckless? Because they can't afford to send their kids to school with shoes, raincoats or having brushed their teeth. Or food.
This is a nonsense. Parents who cannot afford to do such are not parents. The social welfare system in this country is sufficiently generous that these basics are not beyond the budget of any self-respecting parent.
KidsCan will argue that they are simply meeting a genuine need. But they are also creating it. It was interesting to hear a board of trustee member from a decile 1 school last week say, on my radio show, that his school did not need the donated items. But, hey, they were free. Who looks a gift horse in the mouth?
And who does? Which school would not like to receive free All Black-branded stuff? Little wonder there is a waiting list to receive the Telethon-generated goodies.
The reality is that KidsCan is subsidising bad parenting. It is allowing dropkick mums and deadbeat dads to spend more money on booze, baccy, dope and the pokies knowing that a charity is now responsible for their kids' basic concerns. It is a prime example of how charity can keep the poor poor and the irresponsible irresponsible. And that is another industry all of its own.
There's only one thing to say. Having seen REAL poverty when we visited Ethiopia in 2007, we agree wholeheartedly with Laws' observations. There is a vast gulf between children in poverty, and parents who make bad choices. For that reason, we have not supported this telethon.