Election 2014

23 Nov 2011

Renewed focus on poverty in campaign

10:21 am on 23 November 2011

The Green Party is accusing National of having no plan to lift people out of poverty by getting them off benefits and into jobs.

National Party leader John Key has defended his government's record on poverty, saying it has supported those on benefits and low incomes through tough times.

Radio New Zealand political editor Brent Edwards reports that in the final days before the election the focus has shifted back to the growing problem of poverty.

In the Auckland suburb of New Lynn, Green Party co-leaders Metiria Turei and Russel Norman had a coffee meeting on Wednesday with a group of mothers to discuss the issue of child poverty.

Huia Minogue is a Green Party member whose her son Roman features in the party's election advertising.

"If you ask any mother, they're going to find that there's a child in their classroom who hasn't got lunch, or hasn't got an adequate lunch, or hasn't got shoes. I just don't think that's good enough in a country like this," she says.

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National Party leader John Key is adamant there's only one way to lift children out of poverty. "The single most important thing we can do for those children is to give their parents an opportunity to have a job," he says.

Mr Key says that involves supporting businesses to take on more people.

But Metiria Turei says National is doing nothing about jobs. "They have a plan to punish beneficiaries and to require work testing of parents and mothers who are sole parents when their children are still very young, and yet they have no plans for how to create the jobs that they would expect these women to go into."

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In Otahuhu, Labour Party leader, Phil Goff, met the Tafolo family. Originally from Tonga, Palu Tafolo and her husband, who have four children, both work nightshifts as cleaners 30 hours a week at an hourly rate of just over $14.

Mr Goff says Labour's policy of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would help the Tafolo family.

However, John Key argues that raising the minimum wage will simply increase costs for businesses and make it harder for them to employ people.

He says things have been getting better for struggling families.

Mr Key says the number of food parcels being given out by the Salvation Army had reduced because of jobs created during the Rugby World Cup.

"Now, whatever the reason for job creation, what it shows you is that as people move out of welfare into work then they can provide independence for their family, and better and higher-income living conditions."

Overall, however, most voluntary social service agencies face greater, not fewer, demands on their services and are warning that many families face a bleak Christmas.