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Parties Trade Blows Over Lengthening Dole Queues

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Phil Goff
Phil Goff

Wellington, July 21 NZPA - Labour and National traded blows over lengthening dole queues today, with the Opposition accused of a policy backtrack and the Government attacked for not doing enough to help.

Labour leader Phil Goff was in National's sights for backtracking on his call for the dole to be paid to redundant workers, regardless of the income of their partners.

Mr Goff said yesterday the measure would be temporary and was aimed at taking the pain out of increasing unemployment during the recession.

Today, when asked if that meant everyone should be entitled to the unemployment benefit no matter how wealthy his or her partner, he said: "No, no, that's not true.

"This is about ordinary low and middle income New Zealanders, who desperately need transitional help when somebody in the family loses their income."

However, he refused to specify what counted as middle income, and whether there would be a cap.

"I'm saying, as I said yesterday, the details haven't been worked out.

"Is it for millionaires? Of course not."

Prime Minister John Key ruled out the proposal yesterday, saying it would cost about $1 billion over three years and said Labour seemed to believe there were pixies printing money to fund such policy.

The pixies returned today when Mr Key mocked Mr Goff for backtracking.

"It sounds as though the pixies at the bottom of the garden got swine flu overnight," Mr Key said.

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.

Ms King said only 1245 people had received special redundancy assistance through the Restart package.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said 3690 people had been granted Restart assistance.

She also said that 1557 people had come off benefits last week.

Mr Goff said it was wrong that anyone who lost their job and whose partner earned more than $26,000 was not eligible for assistance with retraining or looking for a job.

Ms Bennett said this was not correct as while that person may not be eligible for a main benefit, they could receive other grants and assistance.

Questioned about youth unemployment, Ms Bennett said the Government was concerned but she pointed to large increases in student allowance and loan applications as a sign many were seeking more training.

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