OPINION: The Key Government has had some target practice, before putting up a slew of new targets this week.
Most notably, it would narrow the wage gap between New Zealand and Australia (although it gave itself plenty of wriggle room by setting 2025 as the target date).
Prime Minister John Key this week claimed to have made a good start, quoting figures showing real after-tax wages in New Zealand have increased by 11 per cent since September 2008.
In Australia, during a similar period, the increase was only 7 per cent. Even so, "there is still lots to do".
In Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Key was challenged on another commitment: to stop the exodus of Kiwis to Australia. What is the average number per week of New Zealanders leaving for Australia? Mr Key didn't have the numbers and couldn't confirm if Labour leader David Shearer was right to brandish figures showing a record high 1000 Kiwis a week are now moving to Australia.
What about the Government's record with job growth? Last year National was promising 170,000 new jobs in four years. We have two years to go, but Mr Key is apt to be overly ambitious with these things. His cycleway project was supposed to create almost 4000 new jobs. It has created about 710, mostly temporary or part-time.
The latest targets are for the public service to achieve in the next five years. They are not a wishlist, Mr Key was adamant – "they are a to-do list". His government aims for "further traction" in reducing crime, long-term welfare dependency and educational underachievement.
These are praise-worthy objectives. They include reducing the number of people on a working-age benefit for more than 12 months from 78,000 to 55,000.
But that does not mean thousands of beneficiaries will be moved off the dole into paid employment. Public sector leaders – the people being held accountable for achieving the targets – have limited means to generate jobs, including within their budget-strapped departments. But the ACC has been showing what can be done with the right incentives, as it trims the numbers of long-term claimants on its books. The prospect is real, therefore, that beneficiaries will simply be bumped off the dole regardless of whether they have work and an income.
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