Does she stand by her statement that the growth in benefit numbers is “slowing”?
I stand by my statement of 12 October that “The growth in the number of people on benefits slowed to 0.6 percent in September.” The member needs to read the whole press release, rather than relying on headlines.
Can she confirm there has been no downward trend in total benefit numbers in the last 6 months, according to her official figures and contrary to her claims, and, in fact, benefit numbers have gone up by over 13,000 in that period—every one of them a person?
Yes, I can confirm that every person who loses his or her job is a person. I can also confirm that it is the growth in the numbers that I have been talking about, rather than numbers themselves.
If unemployment is the No. 1 priority for this Government, as claimed by the Minister in the House last week, why have unemployment benefit numbers continued to climb over the last 6 months, now reaching 65,281, which is an increase of 41,000 in total since National became the Government and an average of almost 2,000 people a month going on to the unemployment benefit since it became the Government?
I think if that member listened to the Hon David Cunliffe today, she would have heard that he advised the House that we have been in the toughest recession since the Great Depression in 1929. Quite frankly, what I have been talking about is that the rate of unemployment benefit increase is slowing. It increased by 5.3 percent in September 2008 when the previous Government was in office, it increased by 2.6 percent in September 2009, and there was 2.1 percent growth in September 2010.
Is she aware that she has blamed the increase in the number of those receiving the unemployment benefit on seasonal factors for the last 6 months, and could she outline to the House which months do not have a seasonal factor?
I can advise that member that I have never once blamed the sun, moons, or the weather, like some people in the previous Labour Government. I can tell the member that she might want to talk about the weather and the seasons, but, frankly, I am not going to.
Can she confirm that when she told the House last week that 5,890 people had cancelled their benefits because they had found work, she failed to inform the House that 7,769 people went on to the benefit that month, and with that sort of manipulation of figures, why should New Zealanders have any confidence that the Government is serious about reducing unemployment or any benefit numbers?
I think it is very important to remember that for people coming on to the benefit, it is very bad for them. However, the fact is jobs are being created and other people are moving off the benefit. I am sure that that member would actually appreciate the fact that it is good for people to be getting back into work.
Can the Minister detail to the House an example where benefit numbers are slowing?
Yes. Auckland is a good example where we can be cautiously optimistic that we have turned a corner.
Well, that Labour member may laugh, but I do not think it is funny. So far this year the number of Aucklanders on the unemployment benefit has fallen from 26,375 in January to 22,636 in September. During the same period, the number of Aucklanders on all main benefits dropped from 110,227 to 108,370. It is cautiously optimistic news.