Prime Minister-designate Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand’s unemployment rate should be below 4%.
She has also put a timeline on the government’s plan to ban overseas speculators from buying existing homes in New Zealand, saying the mechanisms to do so will be established by Christmas.
Ms Ardern made the commitment this afternoon while addressing a room full of unionists in her first major public speech since becoming prime minister-designate.
A major party of her speech hinged on what she, and incoming deputy prime minister Winston Peters, call the “low-wage economy.”
She says Labour is aware that, while the majority of workers are employed by big, profitable companies – some small businesses will feel the effects of the new government’s plans to raise the minimum wage to $20.
“That’s why one of the tasks for the Tax Working Group will be to look at models overseas for lower taxation for small businesses.”
For too long, Ms Ardern says, a line has been pushed that decent wages and strong economic growth don’t go together.
“I simply don’t buy into baseless claims that paying people well means there will be fewer jobs. In fact, the overwhelming weight of evidence is that strong wages for all working people help to boost growth and create jobs.”
She says GDP per capita is “barely growing” and unemployment is stuck at 5% but she says it should be below 4%.
This is because, she says, the economy has become more geared toward speculation and extraction than value-added exports.
“Low wages aren’t simply a problem for low-wage workers, they are a problem for businesses and the economy.”
Ms Ardern says under a Labour/NZ First government, “we can finally have fair wages.”
She says unions, such as the CTU, played a “crucial part of our campaign.”
She also confirmed a Labour-led coalition will set up a ministerial inquiry into the mental health crisis, and also, into the abuse of children in state care.
She says Labour wants to “hit the ground running,” emphasising her party’s plans for the first 100 days in office.
She praised her predecessor, Andrew Little, and talked up his new role as minister responsible for Pike River re-entry, in “keeping with the commitment I made to the families in August.”
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