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Rhetoric On Welfare Won’t Create A Single New Job

5 July 2002

National’s Rhetoric On Welfare Won’t Create A Single New Job, Says Maharey

National’s welfare policy released today is devoid of any new ideas and long on rhetoric, says Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey.

Plans to reintroduce the work-for-the-dole scheme are astounding given the scheme was conclusively proved not to work when National tried it in the 1990s. Other plans to focus on benefit crime and to work test sole parent beneficiaries promise a sad repeat of Jenny Shipley’s beneficiary bashing campaigns and are completely uncessary because the current government has dealt with both issues effectively.

Steve Maharey said National has a responsibility, as the major oppostion party, to put up a sensible welfare plan and the fact that they haven’t suggests the party would hand the portfolio over to Act if they were ever elected to government.

“Taking tough about welfare is the kind of tub-thumping populist politics Bob Simcock has been forced to retreat to because he doesn’t have any new ideas. These aren’t sensible policies, they are designed to get National through the election so that Muriel Newman has an easy run to be welfare minister in any National-Act government.

“Although called National’s ‘employment’ policy, this is actually only a recipe for tightening the screws on beneficiaries. Where’s the regional and skills development strategies, and where’s the detail about how new jobs would actually be created, which would be part of any genuine employment policy.

“Let’s be very clear about one thing – the work-for-the-dole scheme was a failure.

“Work and Income’s own evaluations said beneficiaries who received no support from the department at all were more likely to get a job than those shoe-horned into make work schemes. Work-for-the-dole kept beneficiaries so busy they didn’t have time to look for real work.

“Labour’s approach has been to support front-line Work and Income staff to focus on getting people off welfare and into work – rather than spending all their time administering the punative sanction-ridden system National created to chase votes in the 1990s.

“Employment has been one of the many success stories of this government. More people are now employed that at any time in our history and at 5.3% our unemployment rate is better than many of our major trading partners (eg. USA: 6.0%; Australia: 6.3%).

“We have seen 104,000 new jobs created under this government. The number on the unemployment benefit has dropped from 193,000 in December 1999 to 124,000 in May 2002. Contrary to Bob Simcock’s claims, long-term unemployment has also dropped 30% over the last two years.

“The few good ideas in this policy have actually been pioneered by this government. For example the plan to build a bridge from school-to-work is what our Gateway programme and the pilot destinations tracking scheme have achieved. Labour will expand both of these programmes.

“We will continue focusing on making work pay – so that beneficiaries have a real incentive to move off welfare into real jobs, paying real wages – and we will continue to invest in training and in-work support so that getting and keeping the job is possible,” Steve Maharey said.

Ends

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