Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mike Butler: Ignorance makes decisions tougher

Tough political decisions will be made tougher because of voter ignorance, former National Party leader Don Brash told last weekend’s ACT Party conference. Dr Brash pointed to "failure of teachers to teach and politicians to explain some of the basic facts of life", along with “grossly superficial and sometimes totally misleading so-called news on state television."

He cited "the near total failure of the public to see any connection between the sudden requirement by the Labour Government in 2008 that employers would have to pay the same amount to someone coming out of high school at 16 as they paid to an adult, and, the resulting very sharp increase in youth unemployment.”

Minimum wages was a topic ACT MP Sir Roger Douglas hit on, at the conference, when he said that “behind almost every law, there is a bootlegger and a Baptist” – the Baptist being the one who supports the policy out of the goodness of his heart and the bootlegger who backs it for personal gain.

Sir Roger described two kinds of bootleggers in the case of minimum wages.

The first category includes employers who pay above the minimum wage, but compete against those who pay the minimum wage. For them, “a higher minimum wage may drive their competitors out of business.”

The second category includes the unions, “since the workers who most benefit from minimum wages are those with skills – they were already earning more than minimum wage, but no longer have to compete against those with low skills who could get a job at a much lower wage, Sir Roger said.

Brash gave an example of how One News failed to grasp the intricacies of employment politics in coverage of National's legislation allowing employers a 90-day probation period for new workers. On that item, an autistic man said finding a job would be even harder for him now because of the law change.

"Not only was that not quite right, it was the very reverse of the truth," Dr Brash said

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