Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > The betrayal of our young people

The betrayal of our young people



In 2007…


Today, in the suburb where I grew up, I want to talk about what I consider to be an important part of The Kiwi Way. I want to talk about opportunity, and hope, and how we can bring these to some of the most struggling families and communities in New Zealand.

Part of The Kiwi Way is a belief in opportunity and in giving people a fair go.

As New Zealanders, we have grown up to believe in and cherish an egalitarian society. We like to think that our children’s futures will be determined by their abilities, their motivation and their hard work. They will not be dictated by the size of their parent’s bank balance or the suburb they were born in.

We want all kids to have a genuine opportunity to use their talents and to get rewarded for their efforts. That’s The Kiwi Way, and I believe in it. After all, I was one of the many kids who benefited from it

You might ask “where will the money come from?”

The fact is we are already spending millions of dollars for Wellington bureaucrats to write strategies and to dream up and run their own schemes. I want more of those dollars spent on programmes that work, regardless of who thinks them up and who runs them.”

John Key, 30 January 2007


Unemployment rate December 2007:

77,000 (3.4%)


In 2008…


“The National Party has an economic plan that will build the foundations for a better future.

  • We will focus on lifting medium-term economic performance and managing taxpayers’ money effectively.
  • We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.
  • We will cut taxes, not just in election year, but in a regular programme of ongoing tax cuts.
  • We will invest in the infrastructure this country needs for productivity growth.
  • We will be more careful with how we spend the cash in the public purse, monitoring not just the quantity but also the quality of government spending.
  • We will concentrate on equipping young New Zealanders with the education they need for a 21st century global economy.
  • We will reduce the burden of compliance and bureaucracy, and we will say goodbye to the blind ideology that locks the private sector out of too many parts of our economy.
  • And we will do all of this while improving the public services that Kiwis have a right to expect.  “

John Key, 29 January 2008


In 2010…


“90-Day Trial Period extended to all employers

The 90-day trial period is to be extended to enable all employers and new employees to have the chance to benefit from it, says Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson.

The extension is among planned changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000 that Prime Minister John Key announced today in a speech to the National Party Conference.

“The Government is focused on growing a stronger economy and creating more jobs for New Zealand families.”

“There are a lot of people looking for work and the changes announced today will help boost employer confidence and encourage them to take on more staff….”

… “Trial periods were introduced to encourage employers to take on new staff and I’m pleased to see this is occurring”.”

Kate Wilkinson, Minister of Labour, 18 July, 2010


In 2012…


Household Labour Force Survey: June 2012 quarter

Unemployment: 162,000 (6.8%)


“New youth pay rates kicking in

The Government will re-introduce a a youth pay rate which will see 16-to-19-year-olds making a minimum $10.80 per hour.

The new pay rate, to be called the ‘starting-out wage’, will not be compulsory but 40,000 teens will be eligible.

It will kicks in on April 1 next year and the Government estimates it will create up to 2000 youth jobs in the first two years.

The starting-out wage will be set at 80 per cent of the adult minimum wage, which is currently $13.50 per hour.

It will apply for six months after starting with a new employer. The move was National Party policy ahead of the election last November.”

Dominion Post, 9 Oct 2012


The above facts and stats tell a grim story.

The prologue to this story are the high expectations which John Key presented to the people of New Zealand in 2007 and 2008.

In 2007, Key spoke of  “opportunity, and hope, and how we can bring these to some of the most struggling families and communities in New Zealand “.

In 2008, Key pledged that  “we will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.

Four years later;

National’s latest ‘offering’? To cut the minimum wage for 16 to 19 year olds.

The logic of this policy – planned to start on 1 April 2013 – defies comprehension. In fact, the only way it can be understood is that National is utterly desperate.

New employment figures are due out on 4 November from Statistics NZ, and this blogger predicts that unemployment will rise from 6.8% (currently) to 6.9% or even 7%.

Quite simply, none of National’s policies have worked.

Even Key’s promise to raise wages has been an abject failure, sending thousands of kiwis to Australia and further afield, in search of jobs.

National’s plan to cut the wages of young New Zealanders is similar to their cynical ploy to depict welfare beneficiaries as lazy, drug-users, criminals, etc.

Instead, they are targetting 16 and 17 year olds – who have no vote – and have no voice in Parliament.

And they are targetting 18 and 19 year olds – who are adult enough to drink, get married, and go to fight in wars overseas – but will not be paid an adult’s wage.

National claims that the new youth rates will create 2,000 new jobs. Aside from mocking this figure as a gigantic step down from the 170,000 “new jobs” promised last year – it is more likely that those 2,000 jobs will simply displace older workers.

In doing so, the employment of young people on lower pay will simply mean,

  1. Less money spent by young people on services and consumer goods,
  2. Young people unable to support themselves fully
  3. A new motivation to send more New Zealanders overseas
  4. New Zealand becoming a low wage economy of the South Pacific

How can a young New Zealander survive on $432 a week – less tax?!

It wasn’t too long ago that Bill English admitted on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 6 November 2011,  that it was almost impossible to live on the full minimum wage ($13.50/hr),

GUYON:  Okay, can we move backwards in people’s working lives from retirement to work and to wages?  Mr English, is $13 an hour enough to live on? 

BILL:  People can live on that for a short time, and that’s why it’s important that they have a sense of opportunity.  It’s like being on a benefit.

GUYON:  What do you mean for a short time?

BILL:  Well, a long time on the minimum wage is pretty damn tough, although our families get Working for Families and guaranteed family income, so families are in a reasonable position.Source

If it’s “ pretty damn tough ” to live on $13 or $13.50 an hour – what on Earth must it be like to try to survive on $10.80 per hour?

And how does our smile & wave (and forgetful) Dear Leader reconcile slashing the minimum wage by his promises to raise wages?

Specifically, these promises,

“We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

We want to make New Zealand an attractive place for our children and grandchildren to live – including those who are currently living in Australia, the UK, or elsewhere. To stem that flow so we must ensure Kiwis can receive competitive after-tax wages in New Zealand.”  – John Key, 6 September 2008

“We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.” – John Key, 8 February 2011

The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

By now, more and more New Zealanders are waking up to one simple reality; National cannot lead this country to prosperity or anything remotely resembling it. Their policies for growth seem predicated on,

  • cutting wages
  • asset sales
  • bullying and demonising beneficiaries
  • planning dangerous and unsound deep-sea drilling of the East Coast of the Nth Island
  • mining in conservation lands

It is the height of desperation and bloody-mindedness that National’s major policy of job-creation relies on cutting wages as some kind of “bribe” for employers.

It is the depth of stupidity that will see young people on $10.80 displacing older workers, as employers cut costs in order to maximise their profits – especially as consumer spending is dropping. (See: Electronic card spending drops in September)

It is this sense of sheer miserly selfishness that resulted in,

  • tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 which benefitted the richest in this country
  • abolishing tax credits for children, so they were now taxed on their megre earnings from jobs such as paper-delivery

Is this, then, an act of desperation from John Key and his inept “government”?

You better believe it is. And things are about to get a whole lot worse as National turns this country into a low-wage economy, making us the ‘Mexico’ of the South Pacific.

My message to New Zealand is two-fold;


Voters: if you want more of this incompetant government that takes money from our young people, whilst cutting taxes for the richest  – vote National.

For those foolish people who vote National: enjoy your life here in New Zealand. Do not follow us to Australia.


Labour Party: pull your finger out. It is high time you started firing on all cylinders and presented this country with an alternative vision and road.

Now’s good.






Radio NZ: Listen to report on Checkpoint

Radio NZ: Listen to Checkpoint interview with Phil O’Reilly (Business NZ)

Radio NZ: Listen to Peter Conway on Checkpoint (CTU)

Radio NZ: New teenage workers’ pay rate set

Fairfax media: New youth pay rates kicking in

Fairfax media: Division over ‘starter’ wage

Other Blogs

The Jackal: National determined to increase exodus

No Right Turn: The return of youth rates





= fs =

  1. Murray Olsen
    10 October 2012 at 3:36 am

    All Key’s policies work exactly as intended – to turn us into a low wage third world economy with no sovereignty. I suspect Labour don’t know what to do because they are basically singing from the same neo-liberal songbook – some of the songs they choose might be different but the message is the same.

  2. Kari
    10 October 2012 at 5:36 am

    Note to the writer of this article are you forgetting that we have an M.M.P. electoral system in this country. Everyone waits till the next election for big changes to come to improve their lives. People in this country in which your article is I aimed at who are eligible to vote need to learn that politicians have and will always make idealistic promises they are unwilling or unable to deliver.Therefore it is up to each and everyone one of us to remember this and be far more thoughtful as to who and how they choose to vote for or support. However I am not in the dark when it comes to the fact that to many people vote purely on self interest. To use a famous quote i.e. “No man is an island” I would also like to add to this that people need to remember (in regard to how it effects/affects people in relation to everyday life)this also includes not only every “man” but every woman and child and indeed life in general as we know it. Responsibility is a powerful word and a word that politicians need to remember and more importantly focus on in their professional duties as they are after all the employees of the people of this country although I know many of them selectively choose to forget this.

  3. Craig Coffee
    10 October 2012 at 8:16 am

    Well thought out and written as usual Frank,..my view is that Labour don’t have the ball’s to make the hard decision’s either,…I would think that the only way to help the economy is to back out of free trade deals,..and to put NZ companies first in line for government or infrastructure contracts even if they’re tenders are a little more, in the long run, at least Kiwi workers would be getting our hard earned tax dollars, which would then be spent in NZ.

    • Janya L
      10 October 2012 at 10:48 am

      Agree Craig, the short term cost increase in using local suppliers and contractors would be far outweighed by the increased tax take, lower unemployment, reduced poverty and improved socio-economic direction. Bit of a no-brainer really, which leads us to how do we let this government continue until 2014? At least most of these 17-19 year olds will be voting – I suspect not for National.

  4. Priss
    10 October 2012 at 9:25 am

    Hah! I love the punchline!

  5. murray
    10 October 2012 at 10:10 am

    A beautifully plotted analysis, as usual Frank. Hugely depressing though. I despair at the lack of political awareness in our youth. This must in some way explain this governments reluctance to deal with youth alcohol issues. The last thing they want is for our young to stop partying, sober up, and realise what’s being done to them.

  6. Barry J
    10 October 2012 at 2:34 pm

    The mark of desperate politicians (such as our present government) is the constant use of absolute BULLSHIT!

  1. 30 October 2012 at 8:01 pm
  2. 8 November 2012 at 2:01 pm
  3. 11 November 2012 at 3:33 pm

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