New Labour Minister Simon Bridges had his first outing in question time (other than a patsy from his own side last week). Mini me answered on behalf of the PM when he answered my question today :
DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement that the living wage is “simplistic”?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Labour) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, and for two reasons. The first is that the Family Centre’s living wage of $18.40 an hour is calculated on the basis of a two-adult, two-child family, whereas a lot of low-income earners are in different circumstances—for example, students working part-time. The second reason is that it assumes that paying much higher wages is costless, when it is not—it costs jobs. If all employers in the country paid a minimum wage of $18.40, it would cost an estimated 26,000 jobs.
Darien Fenton: When he said that providing New Zealanders with a living wage is not high on his Government’s agenda, was he saying that Kiwi workers should not expect to make a living from their work while he is Prime Minister?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No. Ultimately, above the minimum wage, what is paid is up for employers and their employees to negotiate.
Darien Fenton: Does he believe that the minimum wage of $13.75 an hour is enough for families to live on; if so, why do two out of the five children in poverty come from families in work?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: What is very clear is that actually there is a range of circumstances. For people on the minimum wage with children, for example, there are a range of packages available to them from the Government. The truth of the matter is that actually our minimum wage, as a proportion of the average wage, is the highest in the developed world.
Darien Fenton: How is it fair that his Government is giving minimum wage workers a measly 25c pay rise, while at the same time it is splashing out on $23 million worth of bonuses for Solid Energy’s management?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: What is very clear is that having a job is much better than not having one, and we are very conscious, unlike the other party, which does not seem to understand economic fundamentals, that the higher we raise the minimum wage, the more people are put out of jobs—7,000 under your policy.
Darien Fenton: Why is the Prime Minister still insisting that a $15-an-hour minimum wage will cost thousands of jobs when Treasury and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment both say there is little evidence to support this, and his own Minister of Labour said this morning that there is no science behind that argument?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: It is uncontroversial amongst good economists that the higher the minimum wage goes, the more jobs people do not get. At $15 an hour, it is about 7,000—a town.
My verdict :
Not a bad effort for repeating government lines and economic mythologies about the minimum wage, but not a big step up from the previous Minister, Kate Wilkinson.
Shows a reliance on officials for advice and not much originality in the answers.
Provided some useful lines for the opposition in future debates around work and wages.
Your verdict :
Marks out of 10?