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    Letter No.112
    17November, 1999

    30 October 1999

    Labour leader Helen Clark tells National Radio that her government would aim to cut unemployment to 3%.

    31 October 1999

    An Employers and Manufacturers Association survey finds many workers lack adequate numeracy and literacy skills. The Association says that basic literacy, analytical ability and personal skills are generally assumed to be delivered by the education system.

    But secondary teachers' union president Graeme Macann says that schools are not at fault for under performing students. Macann says the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots in NZ has created disparities in schools which contribute to the problem. He also says that schools do not have the resources to properly educate the rising number of people who are not native English speakers.

    Helen Clark pulls back from her 3% unemployment target by saying it is a long-term goal and not something her party should be held accountable in the next three years.

    1 November 1999

    The chief executives of Australia's top 100 companies have had an average 22% pay rise in the last year. The average Australian CEO income is now $1.84m, not including stock options and bonuses.

    2 November 1999

    Alliance leader Jim Anderton says that raising the minimum wage by $20 a week would create jobs because the minimum wage workers would spend this money in their communities.

    Marsden Pt is the preferred site for a huge timber processing plant planned to be built for Carter Holt Harvey. The plant is expected to eventually employ about 180 operational staff.

    3 November 1999

    Student borrowing is rising. The average loan last year was $5,700, up from $3,600 on the year before. About 70% of fulltime students took out loans last year .

    Richard Prebble launches ACT 's tax policy of reducing the top income tax rate to 20%, a move which he says will create 80,000 new jobs.

    The Bank of New Zealand introduces its internet banking service and says it will close 20 more branches as a result. Managing director Mike Pratt says rural branches will close as the bank begins to offer services on the net. He also says that most of the BNZ's 197 branches will downsize over the next three years.

    4 November 1999

    The NZ unemployment rate drops to 6.8%. See our latest Statistics That Matter.

    Social Services Minister Roger Sowry disputes the authenticity of a Labour TV ad about the effects of poverty in NZ. In the ad, Helen Clark talks to a solo parent who reports she has only $40 $50 to live on after she paid her rent of $310. Sowry disputes that the woman receives only $360 to support her seven children. He says she should be getting $620 a week from Winz.

    Labour's Pete Hodgson says the woman meant to say that she had only $50 left after she paid her bills. The solo parent tells TVNZ that she was receiving $490 a week, and did not know she was entitled to $620.

    The Labour Party and Alliance agree the minimum wage should rise to $7.50 per hour. Both parties also intend to lower the age at which young people qualify for the adult minimum wage. Currently, people may be paid youth rates until they are 20. Labour would see the adult pay rate start at 18 years, while the Alliance would begin adult working rates at 16.

    5 November 1999

    Winz says the solo parent featured in the Labour TV ad incorrectly stated her accommodation costs. Winz has asked the beneficiary if it could disclose the full circumstances surrounding the case but the woman refused.

    Meanwhile, Helen Clark accuses Winz of running a National Party agenda, saying it is inappropriate for a public service agency to make what she calls a highly politicised statement.

    6 November 1999

    Winz now says that the solo parent in the Labour Party TV ad is getting as much as she is entitled to.

    Labour's Pete Hodgson remarks: "None of this addresses the basic issue that this woman has difficulty in Auckland's highly-priced housing market finding affordable and adequate accommodation for her family"

    7 November 1999

    The ANZ job ads survey records a rise in the number of situations vacant ads in October. This is the 14th consecutive month of rising ads.

    An Auckland domestic purposes beneficiary has worked for half a year as an auto dismantler receiving no wages because of a misunderstanding at Winz. Scott Ka was told Winz would provide his employer with half of his $160 weekly wage but it didn't, and the employers didn't pay the other half either. Winz`s Denise Fink says the situation arose through a lack of follow-up and communication and that changes to practices would not allow this to happen again.

    8 November 1999

    Babcock, the company that maintains NZ Navy ships at Devonport, announces cuts to 40 jobs. Babcock says the new Anzac frigates did not need maintenance and the Canterbury has had its maintenance programme rescheduled as it is now in East Timor. After cuts, Babcock will have 230 workers well down from the 700 workers it had when it took over the contract from the Navy in 1994.

    Two people are arrested in Naenae after refusing to leave the Winz office after a dispute.

    9 November 1999

    Statistics New Zealand publishes the country's annual National Accounts. Employment income increased just 0.2% last year. Savings, at 2.6% of the national disposable income, are at the lowest level ever recorded.

    At 4.1%, the US unemployment rate is now its lowest rate since 1970. There were 310,000 new jobs created the US in October.

    The domestic purposes beneficiary in the Labour Party TV ad asks Roger Sowry to stop picking on her. Sowry replies that his comments have not been of a personal nature and that his initial concern was that the woman was not receiving her correct entitlement. he also maintains that Labour was running an ad they knew to be inaccurate.

    The Homeless Focus Group in Palmerston North calls on the PN City Council to open up empty council flats as a shelter for homeless people. The group says there is a need for at least 12 beds for people who are `sleeping rough.' Methodist social Services worker Debby Green says some of the homeless are former psychiatric patients.

    A year after opening new offices, Winz is still storing the furniture they inherited from older government departments. Most of the furniture lies in storage at sites around the country.

    ACT's Richard Prebble says his party has no intention of cutting benefits or putting time limits on benefits. He says he is opposed to raising benefits.

    11 November 1999

    TVNZ complaints committee rules that the Labour TV ad leaves viewers with a false impression.

    The Australian unemployment rate drops to 7.1%. There were 47,400 new jobs created in Australia in October.

    12 November 1999

    An NZ Herald editorial criticises Winz's decision not to reveal the cost of storage for their redundant furniture on the grounds of `commercial sensitivity'. The Herald says it is inappropriate for a public service agency to erect a wall of silence around its activities when it has no competitor to gain advantage from such information.

    Roger Sowry says the National Party will ask the Broadcasting Standards Authority to order the Labour Party to apologise for inaccuracies expressed by a beneficiary in their TV ad. TVNZ's complaints committee does not have the authority to require an apology.

    Helen Clark discards the comments, saying her party is tempted to put National's ads about their "economic miracle" under the same scrutiny.

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