Labour embarrass David Clark

David Clark, Dunedin North MP, has his first big interview today on Q+A. He generally responded to questions with well rehearsed phrases. Except two questions. After questions about the $15 per hour minimum wage (Q+A transcript):

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

And then on Mondayising Waitangi and Anzac Days:

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.

Clark followed up the interview with a press release:

$15 minimum wage a winner for workers – Clark

That is full of carefully crafted phrases, but no costings. The Herald report on the interview and aren’t flattering:

Labour MP clueless on minimum wage price tag

Labour MP David Clark has admitted he doesn’t know how much it will cost employers if the minimum wage is raised to $15 an hour, despite sponsoring a bill to do just that.

Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour was a start to fixing some of the problems, he said.

But he admitted the cost to employers had not yet been calculated.

When asked what the overall cost would be, he said Labour did not know exactly how much it would cost.

He then admitted he had not costed it, but understood there had “been work done around it”.

“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,” he said.

Shades of Phil Goff’s election campaign embarrassment with “show me the money”.

Clark is a first term MP, have to cut him some slack. But he has work experience at Treasury, and is Labour’s shadow spokesperson for Revenue. He should be able to manage some numbers.

He’ll have to take this on the chin and hopefully learn from it. But it’s symptomatic of a much bigger problem. A Labour problem.

Labour selected Clark as candidate for a safe Labour seat, everyone expected he only needed to turn up to win Dunedin North after Pete Hodgson’s retirement.

I campaigned against Clark. He repeated carefully learnt lines at every meeting. He was elected. In Labour’s ledership contest after the election I heard David Parker recite some of the exact same lines Clark had been using.

Eight months later, on Q+A this morning and in his press release, Clark is still repeating the same lines. What’s going on going on here? He’s been an MP now for more than half a year.

It’s not entirely Clark’s fault. He seems to be doing what’s been asked of him by his party. He’s a reliable repeater.

And Labour are still running their election campaign. They put a lot into opposing asset sales during the campaign, it was their main election focus. They are still campaigning against asset sales. They are promoting anti asset sale petition. Labour MPs still use No Asset Sales avatars in social media.

And at the same time Clark’s minimum wage bill was drawn from the ballot Clayton Cosgrove had his anti asset sale bill drawn. That bill is designed to fail, it’s simply another campaign continuation.

Clark was lucky having his Monday-ising bill drawn from the ballot several months ago. He was lucky it got automatic support from Peter Dunne as it fitted with United Future policy.

Clark was lucky having his minimum wage bill drawn from the ballot this week.

Clark was unlucky that Labour handed him a lemon bill without checking the juice.

Labour selected Clark, they have groomed him as a faithful reciter, they helped him with Member’s bills.

And I guess they submitted the $15 bill to the ballot in the hope that it could be used as a campaign extension.

But campaign slogans won’t get this bill through. It would probably have been doomed anyway, adding costs to government and to employers in the current economic climate would have been rejected.

That doesn’t save the pile embarrassment Labour have dumped Clark in. Even if they do some number work and ‘show the house the money’ when this bill has it’s first reading it will be a dry lemon by then.

I don’t know if Labour are still campaigning from last year, or if they are early campaigning for 2014. But if they want to present themselves as a credible new government then I hope they’ve put a bit less time and resources into futile campaigning and a lot more effort into the basics.

David, your party has let you down here. Lesson learnt. It’s time you ditched Dr Slogan and started thinking and speaking for yourself.

3 Comments

  1. I Thought David Clark did a great job in the interview but typical of Shane to suddenly get aggressive and keep it going -“what’s it going to cost?” I do not like that style of interviewing – he has a bad habit of ‘ambushing’ by tone of voice etc.

    BUT – David was let down and realized it when the question was asked – obvious no one informed him on that issue.

    So I guess everyone will still be wanting answers. I am not that concerned about the Monday holiday – too much hype – I am more interested in whether raising the minimum wage will help. I actually believe it will.

  2. You’re obviously not an employer then Quentin. If the minimum wage goes up, I will have to increase every staff member’s pay by a similar percentage to protect relativity between jobs. That will cost me something of the order of $150k per annum, which as an employer, I simply do not have. If the minimum wage is increased beyond emplyers’ ability to pay, the only result will be job losses.

    PS: All of my staff earn MORE than the minimum wage, some considerably more.

    • Thanks for your comment. You are right I am not an employer . That’s why I wondered if the raise will be beneficial – I have to believe that it could work out for all concerned, if the raise is not set to $15ph. Otherwise, how do we address this issue?

      Thanks for your insight as employer