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Key Talks Up Nz Election Policies On Pasifika Issues

By Alex Perrottet of Pacific Media Watch

AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch): Prime Minister John Key addressed Pacific issues with host John Utanga on Tagata Pasifika last night, saying the New Zealand government was prioritising early childhood education and encouraging small businesses to take advantage of its probationary employment period policy.

After Labour MP Su'a William Sio and National MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga told Radio Australia last week that Pacific issues were being neglected, Utanga held the Prime Minister to account on a range of glaring issues such as employment and the cost of living.

“There’s probably half a million businesses in New Zealand, they are largely small businesses and so we have to give them every opportunity to take on people, so things like the 90-day probationary period actually really encourage employers to give someone a go,” Key said.

Of the Pacific Youth Awards, the Prime Minister said it was important to recognise achievement and encourage greater employment of Pacific people.

Pacific success
“They are a way of demonstrating that there are a huge number of very successful, young and highly ambitious Pacific people who are doing extremely well.

“They are going to be the lawyers, the doctors, the scientists, the accountants of the future.”

In response to helping out families with costs, the Prime Minister told Utanga, who is also chair of the Pacific Media Centre advisory board, that the single biggest cost is a mortgage and having the interest rates at a 45-year low at the moment is the best way of helping, but that it was a matter for the Reserve Bank.

He said that by not cutting welfare payments, the government protected low-income earners “as best it could”.

“A lot of people talk about the minimum wage in New Zealand but if you are on the minimum wage in New Zealand generally speaking you get your tax back and if that’s the only income in the household you’ll be getting a payment on top of that.”

Utanga mentioned electricity costs and asked the Prime Minister why the government was not helping low-income households when power had been reformed so many times.

Key defended the rise in costs saying it was the cost of building electricity stations, general inflation and said it wasn’t rising as much as it did under Labour.

About cutting funding to Pacific languages, the Prime Minister said he wanted to “keep those languages alive and make sure they are successful”.

Early childhood education
He said the government was now spending $1.4 billion on early childhood education.

About the funding cap for schools, he said: “We did that to put the money into schools that were more at risk and where participation rates were lower and that was definitely Māori and Pacific families.”

Key then praised his list candidate Alfred Ngaro, former pastor and youth worker, who would be the first Cook Islander in the New Zealand Parliament.

“He is very articulate,” Key said.

“If you think about the values and principles that underpin the Pacific community they are very closely aligned to what National believes in,” said the Prime Minister.

“I think National would acknowledge that we don’t get as much as the Pacific vote as we would like.

“So we’ve got to work harder on that community, it is not going to happen overnight.”

Of Maungakiekie candidate Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, Key agreed that he was a strong performer and ministerial material.

“I can’t say whether he will get there in the next three years, I haven’t really sat down and thought about that but he is extremely bright.

“I’m extremely confident he will be a minister one day.”

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