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20 Feb 2018 5:13
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  •   Home > News > Politics

    Jones presents government with a problem

    Ministers are doing their best to play it down, but Shane Jones' proposed work-for-the-dole scheme presents a problem for the coalition.

    Ministers were blindsided when Shane Jones announced his work-for-the-dole scheme at the weekend and they've been doing their best since then to pretend it isn't going to be a problem.

    It will be, because Jones is a New Zealand First MP and he has to be seen to deliver on the commitment he's made.

    In his own words, that commitment is to get idle teenagers, particularly those in the Far North, off the couch and into work.

    As minister for regional development, he's going to use his $1 billion fund to create projects that will generate the jobs his "ne'er-do-well nephews in Kaikohe" and others like them will be taking up.

    Calling it a work-for-the-dole scheme was a misnomer from the start.

    Saying people will have to work for the dole sounds tough and effective, but that's not what this is.

    Jones said his recruits would be paid at least the minimum wage, which is more than the dole.

    Someone who moves into a job and gets a wage isn't on the dole.

    They're in paid employment, like anyone else.

    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made clear there's no way the Jones scheme is going to be called work-for-the-dole.

    She prefers Work Ready, or something like that.

    Jones isn't worried. He thinks Working for Your Country would be a suitable substitute.

    The problem is with the other bit of Jones' scheme.

    "They will be made to work," he said.

    He'd probably like to drag them off the couch and dump them in the bush to plant trees, which would gain him vast applause, but that isn't the way it works.

    Assuming he can create the jobs, which he is able to do, an employment offer has to be made to the couch dwellers.

    What if they prefer to stay where they are? Where does the compulsion come from?

    Ardern brushes that off, saying there are already sanctions in place for those who refuse to take up job opportunities.

    She's right. This is from MSD's website: "For single clients with no dependent children, the first sanction is a maximum 50 per cent reduction of their main benefit, for a second failure they face a 100 per cent suspension of their main benefit, and a third sanction will result in the main benefit being cancelled."

    Labour won't strengthen those sanctions, and the Greens wring their hands over any sanctions at all.

    If the status quo is maintained, what will Jones achieve other than creating jobs which can be offered to his target group?

    He's going to have to come up with something better than that, something that works, or he'll be exposed as a an ineffective loudmouth.

    That's not how he sees himself.

    "Not only am I a New Zealand First MP, I am a man of mettle and mana from the north and I'm not going to back down in the face of problems that confront the north," he said.

    Jones is working on it with Employment Minister Willie Jackson. They'll take proposals to cabinet.

    Watch this space.


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