Government fails to deliver key election promise on time despite being one of PM’s top priorities

Benedict Collins
Source: 1News

The Government has failed to deliver a key election promise on time despite it being one of the Prime Minister’s top priorities.

Jacinda Ardern launched Labour’s election campaign in August last year promising to have an expanded $300 million Flexi-wage subsidy in place by Christmas.

“We will roll out a support package to support businesses and employ up to 40,000 New Zealanders whose employment is impacted by Covid-19,” she said at the launch.

In November, Ardern said having the scheme up and running by the end of the year was the Government’s second highest economic priority.

But the expanded subsidy still isn’t in place, and appears to be still about a month away. The National Party said the Government has failed to deliver on a promise.

National social development spokesperson Louise Upston said she was “just not sure why the Government have waited and failed to deliver on getting people into work”.

“They’re clearly not worried about the number of people who are on the benefit and the growing number of people who can’t afford housing and can’t afford to put food on the table.”

Upston said she believes the Government is risking more New Zealanders moving into long-term unemployment.

“Right now, more than 200,000 Kiwis are on the jobseeker benefit. Announcements alone do nothing to help those without jobs.”

However, Kirk Hope of Business NZ said he could understand why it is not a focus for the Government.

“There are a lot of other things that have probably been keeping them awake at night and, again, I think if the conditions deteriorated they could pull it out then.”

1 NEWS asked the Prime Minister’s office about the delayed scheme, but was referred to Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni.

Sepuloni repeatedly refused to be interviewed about the issue, with a two-sentence reply from the minister’s office being sent instead. 

“Work on the Flexi-wage expansion is well underway, and as noted, will be announced in the next three to four weeks,” it read.

“We have nothing further to add at this juncture.”

The scheme helps businesses employ workers most at risk of long-term unemployment, a growing concern during the pandemic.

National originally introduced the flexi-wage subsidy in 2012.