Willie Jackson: Working for dole won’t work
By Richard Harman (author)
Employment Minister Willie Jackson says he shares Shane Jones’ passion to get Maori unemployment down and he has proposed a package of measures in a paper to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to address the issue.
He met Jones yesterday and agreed to incorporate some of Jones’ ideas in his paper.
But he says he stops short at Jones’ “work for the dole” proposals.
And he says that idea would never be accepted by Labour or “the boss” – Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.
He says that jobs that are funded by the Government have to be real jobs “not just scrub cutting.”
Jackson and Jones are both outspoken, high profile Maori who have also both returned to Parliament after a period of being away.
They have both come back with a mission to address Maori unemployment.
They come from different backgrounds; Jackson the urban Maori media star and one time left-wing MP and Jones the establishment bureaucrat and businessman with strong connections into more conservative provincial Maori society.
However, both are seized with wanting to bring down the Maori unemployment figures.
The September 2017 Household Labour Force survey showed Maori unemployment at 9.9% against European unemployment of 3.5%.
But it was Jones’ comments on “Q+A” on Sunday when he said he was taking a “Work for the Dole” policy to the Cabinet that has provoked a more widespread discussion on the issue.
“ I am not going to remain silent any longer while my young ne’er-do-well nephews in Kaikohe and other places fall victims to the gangs and they’re in Disneyland,” he said.
“They’ll be made to go to work, and where it is necessary, to pay them.
“They’ll have to receive a minimum wage, but there will be no more sitting on the couch.”
Jones’ language was probably provoked by a desire by NZ First to brand themselves as distinct to Labour.
But the imperative for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is to maintain a seamless unity between Labour and NZ First.
So at her post-Cabinet press conference yesterday she said that what Jones was calling “work for the dole”, Labour was calling “ready for work.”
We are essentially talking about the same thing,” she said.
Asked about Jones’ proposal to end dole payments if unemployed didn’t take up jobs she said there already was a sanctions regime in the welfare system.
“That’s provided us with the tools to ensure that people do take up the job opportunities that are available to them.”
Jackson though wants to see an employment strategy which strengthens communities and provides real jobs.
“You don’t fix unemployment by following Jonesy’s idea and chucking a few Maori out there cutting scrub for a few months,” he told POLITIK.
“You have to create a real job, jobs with dignity, by forming relationships with local Maori, with trade unions, with businesses.
“We have to target the Kaitaias or Northland or South Auckland or West Auckland where there are 27,000 unemployed and target these groups who have not been supported or funded by the National Government.
“I’ve been working on getting that funding across.
“There is money that is available.”
Jackson says he already has a proposal in front of the Prime Minister and he is now going to incorporate within that some of the ideas that Jones is talking about.
“But I am not supportive of this nonsense about working for the dole.”
Jackson says he has numerous proposals from people around the country to create real jobs.
"They are saying give us a chance, and we will be able to get our youth going.
“We need a cross-agency approach to this.
“We need Social Development to be working alongside Shane’s setup and Te Puni Kokiri and myself.
“It’s pretty simple.
“We need to invest in areas where we can get the community up and running.
"Let's work side by side with these people that will get a comprehensive strategy that will lead to real jobs not go down the track of get off your backside, or we are not going to give you the dole anymore.
“I don’t want to be talking about welfare all the time; I want to be talking about real jobs.”
But these are only minor differences between the two Maori MPs.
“I can work hand and hand with Jonesy,” said Jackson.
“The thing is we have seen inter generational unemployment; both of us.
“I’ve seen it in the urban sense, he’s seen it in the north.
“We are both of the same mind and the same sentiment. It’s just Jonesy has got his own way of expressing things.
“But his sentiment is right; his passion is right, but we have to be careful that we are not penalising our own.
“We came into this Government to offer hope to our people.”
A debate like this a refreshing change from much of the polticial debate in Parliament.
Both Jackson and Jones are passionate about ending Maori unemployment, and both are realists.
That those passions should occasionally highlight differences between the two MPs does not obscure their main argument; that the Government needs to have an activist employment policy particularly among the Maori unemployed.