Are all New Zealanders better off after three years of his Government?
Why should New Zealanders feel better off under his Government, given the $37 billion borrowing with no growth, the 56,000 extra people unemployed, escalating child poverty, and the smallest annual increase in median wages in 11 years, with people working hard but unable to get ahead?
They do not have to feel better off. Some do, but some, depending on their circumstances, feel the pressure of paying the bills, holding their jobs, and getting their debt down. We are there to do as much as we can to support those New Zealanders. In respect of their incomes, the facts are that real after-tax incomes have risen, not decreased.
Are the rising number of children now living in poverty under his Government—up to 228,000 in the last 3 years—as quoted by himself 2 weeks ago, “now better off”; if so, how?
The problem of the rising number of children in benefit households is a product of both the New Zealand recession, which was precipitated by the bad policy of the previous Government, and the global recession. Of course they are not better off being in households living on benefits instead of wages, but Labour has criticised every single move this Government has made to turn round long-term welfare dependency. But we will persist—most New Zealanders want us to—and we will succeed if we are re-elected.
Can he confirm there has been an increase of 21.8 percent in the number of New Zealanders now receiving a main benefit since National became the Government, and has that made New Zealand better off?
The Labour Party exists, as I said yesterday, in a funny little world that pretends the global recession never happened. Of course there are more people on benefits, because we have been through one of the biggest recessions New Zealand has had in a while, but our economic policy is creating more jobs and higher incomes, and our welfare policy is getting alongside people, supporting them, encouraging them, and sometimes pressurising them in order to assist them back into the workforce. Despite Labour’s relentless criticism of our positive moves on welfare, we will keep going.
Does he stand by his comments yesterday during the questioning of the Minister of Finance on the double credit downgrade that there has been no downgrade, or has it not yet registered that the verdict is in on National’s economic management and it is a “failed to achieve”?
There is a verdict that I suppose the voters will deliver on that economic management in a couple of months’ time, and they certainly delivered a verdict on Labour’s very damaging economic management, at the last election. It was quite a devastating verdict and Labour has not quite got over it. The fact is that New Zealand is in better shape now than it was in 3 years ago to withstand the most difficult global circumstances in a generation. I think it is tribute to New Zealanders that they have shown the resilience to deal with these very difficult circumstances, and we will continue to support them.
Why can he do something about the TV timeslot for Coronation Street, but says that he can do nothing about the wages of the lowest paid in New Zealand, like the staff who clean his office every night?
The Prime Minister has an extraordinary range of capacities and talents. Almost everyone in New Zealand recognises that, except for the Labour Party, which still thinks that the former Prime Minister will drop down out of the sky back into the Prime Minister’s seat and everything will be right again. Well, that is not going to happen. John Key has shown remarkable leadership skills through difficult times in New Zealand, and I think he would be the first to accept that he has not fixed every problem, but he has fixed quite a lot.