PM's Presser: PM Hints At The State Of Her Nation
PM Hints At The State Of Her Nation
Prime Minister's Press Conference 31st January 2005
The Prime Minister's state of the nation address is due this afternoon at 2pm. Yesterday it was given a quick impressionistic portrait in Helen Clark's second outing in front the press gallery so far this year.
So whilst Auckland slumbered through anniversary day and Wellington basked in yet more glorious sunshine, a small airless amphitheatre under the beehive was teased by the Prime Minister with hints as to the shape of the governments election year strategy.
But prior to getting to the guts of universal benefits, and explaining to the assembled media that giving a tax cut means billions of dollars of transport and health spending could be jeopardised, the Prime Minister announced that one lucky New Zealander would be spending the next year in Iraq.
"This officer will be in Baghdad with the UN assistance mission, not the multi-national force," she said. (See… " Military Liaison Officer to UN Mission in Iraq " for details.)
The Prime Minister's address to the nation
Much like Don Brash, the Prime Minister has been giving welfare reform some consideration of late. Adoption as an alternative for young single mothers was not however advocated by the Prime Minister, rather a complete overhaul of the bureaucracy that surrounds the welfare system. This reform was aimed at simplifying the welfare system.
"It doesn't have so much fiscal implications. The single benefit is about a complete overhaul of the benefit structure so that you focus those who operate that system on case managing people from dependence through to independence."
For those genuinely in need and suffering medical trauma the spectre of being forced to sell Amway to survive was swiftly shown the door.
"There may be people who are in the terminal stages of cancer – so it is not an issue there."
The thrust of the proposed welfare reform was targeted at a wider labour market strategy that would seek to target where employment gaps existed and how to fill them.
"We are very focused now on 'where are the workers coming from?… We have a clear focus in the speech on moving people into work."
Participation of women in the workforce.
Last year's 'Working for Families' package was linked to assisting more women back into the workforce. The Prime Minister was adamant yesterday that the assistance promised in this package would lead to more recipients of the DPB returning to the workforce.
"Now over the past year we have done quite a lot to encourage women to come into work. For example - what we are doing in the early childhood area, and further improvements in the paid parental leave scheme - all these are important in ensuring that women know there is somewhere secure for their kids to be if they are working."
This would in turn assist New Zealand's standing in the OECD.
"If we could crack this issue it would allow New Zealand to make a significant shift towards OECD average incomes."
Savings seen as vital for the New Zealand economy
Savings for housing, education and retirement promise to be a key area of the Prime Minister will address today. There was concern expressed by the Prime Minister that New Zealanders did not have enough confidence in savings schemes.
The Government will now concentrate on giving people more confidence to save. However, Ms Clark said the detail would not be expounded upon in the speech, with plenty more work to be done around the savings issue before the budget.
The Prime Minister pointed out that tax cuts would come at the expense of vital infrastructure such as roading and would be unlikely to help either the poorest New Zealanders or indeed most of middle New Zealand.