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Q+A: Transcript of David Clark interview

Published: 2:35PM Sunday July 29, 2012 Source: Q+A


David Clark joins us now from our Dunedin studio. Good morning.


Good morning, Shane.

SHANE $15 minimum wage - it doesn't have a chance, does it?

DAVID Well, it might. I haven't had a chance to talk directly to the different party leaders and members of Parliament yet, and I'm looking forward to having that chance. I think it's a very reasonable policy. It will affect a couple of hundred thousand New Zealanders, and right now, actually, we're all bearing the costs of having people living in poverty, and we don't need to do that. It's an easy fix.

SHANE So why $15 exactly? What research do you have to suggest that $13.50, as it is now, isn't fair, or it shouldn't be $18?

DAVID Well, there's been research that shows that those who are feeding, say, an average family on $13.50 can afford to put healthy food on the table only if they spend over half of their income directly on food. Now, that's not taking into account rent, that's not meaning that you can send the kids on school trips, that's not meaning you can pay for school uniforms and so on. Over half of their income goes directly into putting a healthy meal on the table.

SHANE And so it's all solved with $15?

DAVID Look, it's a start. I don't think that we can put the minimum wage up to $30 an hour. You know, that would have a negative effect on business, and Labour's a pretty responsible party, so we are concerned to make sure that people aren't living in poverty, but we're also concerned that the economy is running well.

SHANE So how much will it cost employers?

DAVID What will it cost employers? Well, it depends who you are as an employer. Most employers and most small and medium businesses pay their employees more than the minimum wage. They understand-

SHANE So the overall cost?

DAVID Well, we don't know exactly how much it will cost. Um, we understand-

SHANE You haven't costed it?

DAVID I haven't costed it myself. I understand there has been work done around it.

SHANE So Labour's criticism and attacks on John Key last week over the bonus shares scheme about him not costing it, it sounds a bit hypocritical.

DAVID Look, I think that we've seen that the millions of the dollars that it will put into the economy of raising the minimum wage will actually have a positive boost, it will have an economic advantage. So we're not talking about costs here. We're talking about boosting the economy. We're also talking about making sure it's a level playing field so that those employers who currently pay their workers properly are not disadvantaged by others undercutting them.

SHANE Let's talk about Mondayisation. Is Labour going to win the next election?

DAVID Look, I think we're, at the moment, pretty hopeful. Things are trending in the right direction. Anything could happen between now and then, but I'm hopeful because actually want to make sure that Kiwis gets a fair deal.

SHANE So given the next time either of these days - Waitangi or Anzac - actually fall on the weekend will be 2015, one year after the next election. Why not leave it till then? Why the hurry now? Doesn't Parliament have more pressing things to do?

DAVID Well, look, you know, when you're in a position to fix something, you get on and do it. Frankly, not doing this now, now that it's before Parliament, is like saying, 'It's not worth fixing the roof because it's not raining.' We've got the chance to get on and fix it now. Let's do it.

SHANE But, with respect, Mr Clark, Labour was in government for nine years. It chose not to do it then. So why the hurry now.

DAVID Um, look, you could use that argument for any change. The world is constantly changing. We work amongst the longest hours in the OECD. It makes sense to put a Monday holiday after we celebrate Anzac, just like we do with Christmas. It's a quick fox. It's only a problem that really surfaced in the public mind when it happened last year that we missed out on two days of our public holidays - they're in the Public Holidays Act - and the year before. And people felt cheated. It's an easy fix. Let's get on and do it.

SHANE And how much is this going to cost? Have you costed this policy?

DAVID The government says that it will cost 13 cents per worker, per day.

SHANE No, has Labour costed this?

DAVID I've seen all of their costs, and I've done my own calculations on it which suggests it will be considerably less than that. It may even have a net positive effect, and that's because you get a boost to domestic tourism, you also get more productive workers from having rests. But anyway, even if it costs 13 cents per worker, per day, as the government estimates - and the government officials acknowledge themselves it's likely to be overestimated - we don't think that's too much to pay to make sure people get to spend times with their families. Hard-working Kiwis deserve all the public holidays they get.

SHANE So these two policies, will they be a priority if you win the next election? Is this what you're going to be pushing through?

DAVID Look, I would be pushing for these things. I think there are bigger issues. There's making sure we have a pro-growth tax policy. You think about things like the Capital Gains Tax that will actually transform our economy. When we're in a position to make those bigger changes, we will, because Labour cares about making sure that we're growing the pie and also about those who are struggling to get along. We want to make sure this country's a better place for everybody to live in.

SHANE Good place to leave it. David Clark, thank you very much for joining us.

DAVID Thanks, Shane.

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