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Gap Closing Budget Misses Vital Element

MEDIA STATEMENT

For immediate release 15 June 2000

GAP CLOSING BUDGET MISSES VITAL ELEMENT

A budget with the laudable vision of "closing the gaps" has missed one vital element according to Robert Reid, the President of UNITE!, the union representing unemployed workers.

"There is no increase in the general level of the benefit in this budget," Mr Reid said.

"While UNITE! is able to give the budget 8/10 for vision it can only rate it 3/10 for improving the lives of the poorest New Zealanders.

"The pluses in the budget for unemployed workers and beneficiaries are the introduction of income related rents for state tenants, the increase in the special benefit and other pro-beneficiary changes to the Department of Work and Income, the creation of jobs though social, economic and regional development policies and the increase in health and education spending.

"But none of these changes will take those on a benefit out of the poverty trap that Mrs Shipley threw them into with her 1991 benefit cuts," Robert Reid said.

"Until benefits are restored to a just level, those on a benefit will not be able to "participate in a vibrant social democracy" that Michael Cullen's Budget states as his goal.

"While the government must be congratulated on all the extra spending on closing the gaps, these gaps will not close until those locked out of the social and economic system are either brought back into the system through well paying jobs or compensated at a level that means they can still play a full and meaningful role in society.

"We acknowledge that increasing the benefit was not on the Labour Party's election pledge card. However it was a high priority of both the Alliance and Green Parties. UNITE! will work with these parties and Labour to ensure that the gaps are closed through major increases to benefits in 2001," said Robert Reid.

For further information contact: Robert Reid, tel (04) 389 5399 (h), (04) 237 5062 (w)


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