I was dismayed that the government had taken no action to reinstate youth minimum wages.
This despite National knowing that after Labour abolished youth rates, youth unemployment shot up by 12,000.1
Thanks to Labour’s action and National’s failure to reverse it, thousands and thousands of young people now leave school or training and quickly become demoralized.
These young people don’t have the skills to earn the minimum adult wage – but they’d be quite happy to take a job for a couple of dollars an hour less.
Maybe you can remember doing the same thing – you were thrilled to get a foot on the bottom rung of the job ladder, and it wasn’t long before you worked your way up.
But the Government says these teenagers have to find a boss who’s prepared to pay them an adult wage for no relevant experience and few skills.
Otherwise they have to go on the dole.
If they can’t get a job for $12.75 an hour, they’re not allowed to accept one for, say, $10. They have to go home and lie on the couch for $4.50!
16 year olds with no work experience and skills struggle to find jobs when they have to be paid $13 an hour.
And on the economy generally:
New Zealand’s economic decline over the last half century is one of the steepest on record anywhere.
Reversing that decline won’t be easy.
To use a phrase sometimes used in another context, we dare not settle for the soft bigotry of low expectations that says “ah yes, but New Zealand is a nice place to live”.
Of course it is.
But we need to transform our economic destiny too.
We need to give our people a reason to believe that we can once again offer a standard of living similar to that in other developed countries – as we had only 50 years ago.
In 1975, another National leader, Rob Muldoon, campaigned on “restoring New Zealand’s shattered economy”.
Sadly, he didn’t. By the time he’d finished with it, it was almost totally shattered.
This generation of political leaders must do better.
A challenge indeed.