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Labour Highlights Dole Concerns, But National Says Facts Wrong

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Phil Goff
Phil Goff

Wellington, July 22 NZPA - Labour MPs tried to raise individual cases of hardship to highlight lengthening dole queues today, but the Government said they had got their facts wrong.

Labour Leader Phil Goff today raised the case of a constituent of Prime Minister John Key that was published in the New Zealand Herald today.

Mr Goff told MPs that Bruce Burgess was in threat of losing his lifestyle block after losing his job.

The 63-year-old had worked all his life, saved and never collected a benefit and was now not eligible for transitional assistance as his wife earned a very modest income, he said.

Mr Key warned Mr Goff not to play politics with one of his constituents unless he knew all the facts.

Mr Key said a family member of Mr Burgess had contacted his office, but they did not give contact details for him.

Since the media report contact had been made and Mr Key urged Mr Burgess to work with Work and Income to evaluate his individual circumstances and see what assistance they could give.

Shortly after the exchange in Parliament a spokesman for Mr Key told NZPA that it appeared Mr Goff had got his facts wrong and there was more to the case than he mentioned, as Mr Burgess also owned two rental properties.

Mr Burgess was one of a number of cases that Labour raised today to try and show that many people who were losing their jobs were not getting enough support.

MPs were told in Parliament that last week another 1342 people went on the dole and Labour's social welfare spokeswoman Annette King said not enough was being done to help them.

Early this week Mr Goff suggested the Government expand eligibility for the dole to those losing their jobs despite their partners remaining in work.

Today Mr Goff said this proposal was likely to include a gap.

National has been making mileage out of the idea saying Labour would give benefits to millionaires.

Mr Goff said that was not the case and it was targeted at "ordinary low and middle income New Zealanders".

Under media questioning yesterday Mr Goff would not say if there would be a cap on the partner's income but today told Radio New Zealand; "yeah probably there will be a cap".

However he said that was a side issue.

At present, anyone with a partner earning more than $534 a week cannot get even a partial benefit.

"The important point about the policy is that people who are at the hard end of the recession at the moment, who are suffering trauma and who aren't eligible for assistance ought to be."

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