Editorial - Small cork bobbing

Last updated 05:57 10/11/2012

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As we study the latest unemployment figures, we can take some comfort from the Greeks' grim experience. Their unemployment rate has climbed to 25.4 per cent, yet their government is pressing on with more austerity measures to deal with its debt burden.

Our unemployment rate increased in the September quarter to 7.3 per cent. But if you believe Prime Minister John Key, we shouldn't necessarily believe the official statistics. The figures came from just one household labour force survey, he said, "and like a lot of surveys, from time to time, it can produce unusual data".

But Mr Key shouldn't too glibly ignore the political and social implications, when 13,000 more people have lifted the unemployment total to 175,000 (a 13-year high) and Maori and Pacific Island unemployment rates are above 15 per cent. Council of Trade Unions secretary Peter Conway rightly observed these are not just numbers - they are people and families.

On the same day the labour force figures were published, furthermore, Dynamic Controls - a company which designs and makes controls for powered wheelchairs - announced 60 staffers will soon be out of jobs.

The Government's political opponents, inevitably, are reminding National of its commitment in 2010 to deliver 170,000 new jobs over four years. What's gone wrong? The number of people employed fell 8000 in the September quarter and the employment rate has fallen in two successive quarters. We now have 70,000 more people out of work than when National took office in 2008.

Mr Key understandably has tried to distance his Government from this evidence of a serious policy failure. The global financial crisis and international trade were influencing our economy and these were out of the Government's control, he said.

The analogy Mr Key drew should make us nervous about his disinclination to change course.

He described New Zealand as "a very small cork in a very big ocean", yet maintained the country is "on the right track". If a small cork can stay on the right track while being swept along by currents and tides, good fortune - not good governance - deserves to be given the credit.

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- Waikato Times

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