Labour Impoverished On Poverty

  • Bill English
Associate Treasurer

Labour handwringing about poverty at its conference would not hide the fact it has no policy to deal with it, Associate Treasurer Bill English said today.

"Labour MPs are telling business audiences that they wouldn't change the economic framework. They are telling social policy audiences that same economic framework is causing poverty and they will change it.

"The fact is, Labour has nothing to say on poverty, certainly nothing that meets the expectations of its caucus and its supporters. For example, Labour refuses to commit to any benefit increases at all. Its housing policy is no more than vague intentions.

"Labour MPs propose to go back to the best ideas of the seventies, but they can't do that without cutting housing assistance for thousands of low income people to offer more assistance to a few.

"Labour could usefully spend time endorsing Government programmes aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty, such as education and health initiatives and home visiting programmes aimed at low income communities and disadvantaged families. Strengthening Families is bringing together social agencies so Government support can be more effective.

"The absence of Jim Anderton from the conference shows Labour's unwillingness to confront hard policy choices about poverty.

"Labour will crank up the rhetoric of caring, but try to lower expectations that it will do anything. I expect Sir Paul Reeves will give a rousing speech on social conditions in New Zealand. At least he will mean it," said Mr English.