Jobs our biggest priority

Last updated 13:50 10/10/2012

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OPINION: As I write this column I am travelling in the United States, writes Clare Curran (Labour) in From the Beehive.

I'm lucky to have been given the opportunity to spend three weeks in six states looking at the importance of intellectual property for business growth and for creativity and innovation to flourish.

While I'm here I'm paying attention to the US presidential election. It's starkly obvious that there's a fork in the road for the US economy. As the saying goes, when there's a fork in the road, you should take it.

Simply put, Barack Obama's strategy is about stimulus before debt containment and Mitt Romney's the opposite. In the last few days some promising figures have emerged of job creation in the US. In the three states I have visited so far, there are signs of growth.

Our biggest priority as a country is to have an economy that creates more jobs. We need investment in the productive economy and in skilled jobs in businesses that are manufacturing things that we can export.

Instead, in New Zealand we are seeing the opposite. The continued effects of the high value of the New Zealand dollar are pushing more firms to their tipping point. The latest survey of business conditions shows growth prospects have stalled.

Meanwhile, more people are losing their jobs and their futures. Too many people are being driven offshore. In Southland the count is getting higher. Tiwai Point, the Mataura meat works and the Takitimu coalmine are the latest casualties. On the back of the stream of recent job losses, Stats NZ have recently published information showing that median incomes have also stalled. This is more proof that under the National Government Kiwis are finding it harder than ever.

It's time to take the fork in the road. What will help manufacturers the most is having a more stable, lower dollar.

It's time to change our monetary policy. As Labour's finance spokesman David Parker has said: The Reserve Bank should be looking to copy other countries' central banks to "put grit into incoming capital flows", target a lower exchange rate, and use new tools intended to protect financial system stability to provide better economic conditions for exporters.

Labour will make the necessary bold, innovative changes to support high-value and high-growth businesses so they can create better jobs that pay better wages. We have to make our economy work for us.

» Clare Curran is the MP for Dunedin South.

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