8 Nov 2016

Labour defends job policy cost: 'The numbers add up"

6:56 pm on 8 November 2016

Labour leader Andrew Little is defending the costings for the party's job scheme policy for young unemployed New Zealanders, as presented to the media at the party's annual conference, and the way one of his senior MPs has dealt with the "aftermath".

Labour leader Andrew Little ahead of the party's conference on 4 November 2016.

Labour leader Andrew Little speaks with reporters ahead of the conference over the weekend. Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

Mr Little announced the policy in Auckland on Sunday.

Under the policy, 18 to 24-year-olds who had been on the jobseeker benefit for six months would be paid the minimum wage to work for six months with the likes of the Department of Conservation or charity groups.

Media reports questioning the $60 million price tag were described as a "hatchet job" and "biased" by Labour MP and party campaign manager Phil Twyford, a debate that has now spilled over into Parliament.

Labour has now distributed material showing how it arrived at the $60m figure.

It said that was based on the assumption not all people would stay in the job for the full six months - an assumption that appeared nowhere in the original announcement.

If the policy was costed on the full six months, per person, the costing would have been closer to $90m.

But Mr Twyford was not backing down.

"There was no mistake in the numbers, the numbers add up, this is simply about the assumptions of the cost modelling," he said.

"It is a very good policy, the modelling that went into the numbers was rational, it was logical and we stand by them."

Mr Little was also standing by the numbers given to the media, saying he was satisfied with the way the policy was presented, and the way the "aftermath" had been handled.

He was asked if he condoned one of his MPs attacking journalists on social media.

"I don't get to control what Labour MPs do on Twitter or other social media, I expect them to exercise a level of responsibility.

"I'm very thankful that we have MPs who are passionate about Labour policies."

During parliamentary question time, Prime Minister John Key used a question from Mr Little about job seeker numbers to bait him.

"Just because the Leader of the Opposition can't actually get a policy right at his 100th annual conference and now is known as 'Angry Andrew' with the journalists."

At that point he was cut off by the Speaker of House, David Carter, who told the House Mr Key had "gone far enough".

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