On a recent visit to the West Coast, I caught up with some of the Spring Creek miners who’ve just lost their jobs.
One miner who should be celebrating the arrival of his new-born son told me that he’s now worried about paying the bills, may lose his house and is considering moving his family away from Greymouth so he can find work.
Another guy I spoke to moved back here from Australia so he could train as a miner. But 10 weeks into his apprenticeship, he had the rug pulled out from under him and he’s now out of a job.
I’m hearing stories like this right across the country and last week, we were hit with the shocking new statistic that unemployment has now reached 7.3%. That’s the worst rate in 13 years, since National was last in Government.
There are now 175,000 people unemployed. The situation is particularly dire for young Kiwis with one in four aged between 15 and 19 out of work. Māori and Pasifika families are being hit hard too with the unemployment rate topping 15%.
The government says it’s a ‘blip’. It is simply throwing its hands in the air and saying ‘there’s nothing we can do’.
Well I think there’s plenty we can do. Labour has some concrete ideas, including paying employers the equivalent of the dole if they’re prepared to take on apprentices. We’d require companies that win major government contracts to take on one apprentice for every $1 million of taxpayers’ money they receive.
We would also give businesses tax breaks for research and development, so they can find new markets for their innovative ideas and create high-value jobs. We’d support the manufacturing and exporting sector by giving the Reserve Bank a wider mandate to tackle the high and volatile dollar.
National’s path takes us towards fewer jobs, lower wages and more of our people heading to Australia.
Labour’s path is about creating a new, clever economy – one where the Government backs businesses and workers.