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Time For Act To Reconsider Newman's Role

Time For Act To Reconsider Newman's Spokesperson Role, Says Maharey

The Act party will be giving serious consideration to replacing Muriel Newman as its welfare spokesperson after yet another embarrassing blunder, Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said tonight.

Mrs Newman further revealed her poor grip on the welfare portfolio by issuing an intemperate press release to Northland media claiming there has been a 'shocking rise in the number of long term unemployed' in the region. In fact the number of long term Northland unemployed has dropped to a four-year low. Mr Maharey said Muriel Newman and the Act party had a responsibility to tell the truth and to stop talking down the economy.

"Unemployment in Northland remains a significant problem which the Government is actively working to address, but I deplore Muriel Newman's attempts to talk down her local economy by using inaccurate information.

"Statistics New Zealand data reveals that the number of long term unemployed in Northland stood at 1,600 for the June 2000 quarter - the lowest rate experienced since the December 1996 quarter and one of only three quarters since December 1994 in which the rate has been under 2,000.

"Muriel Newman continues to confuse Statistics New Zealand information with internal records kept by the Department of Work and Income. This is despite many attempts to get her to understand the difference between the sets of data.

"Statistics New Zealand's Household Labour Force Survey is the only accepted measure of unemployment. The figures kept by the Department of Work and Income are an administrative tool to help provide assistance to those people who are actively looking for work or more work.

"Policy changes introduced by National, such as work testing of beneficiaries have increased the number of beneficiaries who are counted in the Work and Income data. This does not mean that there now more unemployed Northlanders, simply that groups such as those on the DPB and the spouses of some beneficiaries are now counted because they are being work tested.

"The Government is actively working in partnership with local government, businesses through the Department of Work and Income to bring Northland's unemployment rate down even further. It is time that Muriel Newman stopped bagging the hard work being put in on the ground in Northland and worked to build a strong future for the region," Steve Maharey said.

Ends

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