National's first policy after leadership coup: $10k for businesses that hire a worker

National leader Todd Muller visits Blum, a furniture company in Auckland, to announce his first policy: a $10,000 cash payment to businesses that hire a full time worker.
Ricky Wilson/Stuff
National leader Todd Muller visits Blum, a furniture company in Auckland, to announce his first policy: a $10,000 cash payment to businesses that hire a full time worker.

National has pitched its first policy after a leadership coup: a $10,000 cash payment for businesses which hire a full-time worker.

The party's new leader, Todd Muller, visited furniture company Blum in Avondale, Auckland, on Friday to announce the party's pledge to small business owners in a speech.

National would give each business that hired a full-time worker a $10,000 cash payment, a scheme that would be on offer from November — after the 2020 election — until March 2021.

Businesses would be able to claim the payment for up to 10 new employees, which could mean a $100,000 cash infusion from the Government. National would also limit the "JobStart" scheme at $500 million, or at 50,000 new jobs created.

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Speaking to a crowd of about 70 people, including members of a local business association, Muller said business owners that hire an employee before Christmas will be the "heroes" of the economic crisis.

 

"I think a number of New Zealanders are not yet aware that they're unemployed, but they will be. What is required here is a Government that understands how to rebuild New Zealand across the whole of the economy," he said. 

"For a lot of small businesses, the cost of taking someone on is really quite significant, in terms of equipment and support. And often they're quite small in terms of scale, and to go from three people to four people is a really big bridge of confidence."

The policy would effectively subsidise a quarter of a minimum-wage worker's annual salary, which is $39,000 before tax. A business would receive the first $5000 when the employee is hired, and another $5000 after 90 days.

 

Despite the policy being open for all businesses, not only small businesses, Muller said it was "a signal of intent, that the National party will stand beside small businesses and help them grow".

Muller, after rolling former leader Simon Bridges from the leadership a week ago, has sought to position himself and the party as a champion for small businesses hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis.

Days after claiming the leadership, he gave himself the small business portfolio. He has focused his questions for the Prime Minister in the House on the Government's assistance for small businesses.

On Friday, Muller committed National to "regular, incremental increases" to the minimum wage, "which some employers, business groups and think tanks won't like, but we'll take that on the chin". 

"But a government, like this one, that significantly increases the minimum wage in the middle of a lockdown, when firms have no revenue, simply has no idea about small business or employment at all," he said. 

He claimed himself "at least a bit of an Aucklander" who knew of the city's traffic woes from his time working at Fonterra, and said the city had urgent needs. 

"Another three years of [Transport Minister] Phil Twyford should be out of the question."

The Covid-19 crisis has caused significant economic damage. Since a nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of the virus, an additional 53,000 people have taken up the unemployment benefit, employment dropped by a record 37,500 jobs in April, and a survey showed one in 10 households had failed to pay the rent or mortgage.

The Government has spent billions trying to protect jobs and soften the blow for workers turfed out of a job.

A wage subsidy scheme has pumped more than $10 billion through businesses into worker's pay cheques, and a newly announced $1.2b income relief package will provide full time workers who lose jobs due to Covid-19 a weekly payment of $490 for 12 weeks - twice the rate of the standard unemployment benefit.

Stuff