National Party leader Bill English takes aim at the Govt's employment law changes, unveils his party's 'Project NZ jobs' initiative

National Party leader Bill English takes aim at the Govt's employment law changes, unveils his party's 'Project NZ jobs' initiative

By Jason Walls*

Opposition leader Bill English has used his State of the Nation speech to attack the Government’s “labour-market experiment,” and to launch a campaign to fight the Government’s new employment law changes.  

But English was forced on the defensive moments after the speech, when questioned by reporters about recent National Party leadership speculation.

During the speech, English called out the Government’s proposed new rules around industrial relations, telling party faithful in Wellington the legislation will have a negative impact on jobs and workers.

“Labour plans to remove the starting out wage and 90-day trials in the name of supporting workers, but instead will make it much harder for young, unskilled and vulnerable workers to find employment,” English said.

He was also critical of the government’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $20 by 2020, claiming a higher minimum wage won’t help anyone who can’t get a job.

The planned labour market reforms are expected to be rolled out throughout this year.

English said National is launching Project NZ jobs, which aims to explain the Government’s proposals and “fight the reforms” being pushed through Parliament.

The project’s website went live during his speech, and says it is “designed to provide more information so New Zealanders can assess the benefits and costs of the proposals themselves.”

“The most important thing for workers, is that they have a job and New Zealand has had one of the strongest job markets in the world in recent years. We currently have the third highest rate of employment in the developed world and one of the highest rates of full-time employment,” the website says.

“Despite this track record, the Coalition Government is planning changes to the employment market that will significantly increase costs and risk for New Zealand small and medium-sized businesses. That puts NZ jobs at risk.”

In a statement coinciding with the speech, National’s workplace relations spokeswoman Amy Adams said the changes will “increase risks and costs for small and medium-sized businesses.”

She said businesses across the country are already losing confidence and are planning on hiring fewer people – recent figures from ANZ show small business confidence is at an almost decade low.

“All the evidence is that our current employment settings are some of the best and most successful in the world. Labour needs to explain why bringing in reforms that have strangled growth in other economies is a good idea,” Adams said.

She added that project NZ jobs will help explain the Government’s proposals to small and medium and sized businesses to “fight the reforms.”

Leadership speculation just "gossip," English says

Despite the project’s launch, a press conference held directly after the speech was dominated by speculation English is planning to step down as National leader.

Any reference to any leadership change, English called “gossip.”

He said the rumours are not true, adding that he had “no knowledge” of any leadership changes afoot, confirming he had no plans to step down.

English referenced National’s high support in the polls as a reason to keep things the way they are for the party’s top brass.  

When questioned about National’s caucus retreat next week, he was adamant there will be no discussions about the party’s leadership.

"I would be surprised if the prospects of promotion were not discussed [within the caucus] – that’s just how politics works," he said, when asked about some of his colleague leadership ambitions. 

Adams, standing next to English at the press conference, threw her support behind the former Prime Minister, calling him a “remarkable” leader.

Adams said she is not aware of any imminent changes to National’s leadership.

*Jason Walls is's new parliamentary reporter.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


Comment Filter

Highlight new comments in the last hr(s).

So “Project Jobs” is about complaining a lot?

I suppose that’s better than the previous effort to create a housing crisis.

I was really surprised when I assumed they were making constructive suggestions.

I was really surprised (or not) by the fact that the landing page for the initiative has a fundamentally incorrect premise.
The proposed changes (for 90 day trials) only apply to businesses with 20 or more employees.
How many of those people facing up in that landing video would be subject to that...
Maybe the market gardener...? But even still, her workforce would be highly casualised anyway.

It appears that if National learnt anything from the election it is that NZers are too stupid to actually read legislation before coming to a decision.

Though not a fan of Bill, I actually see some merit in this initiative. Why fix a system that isn't broken in the first place? I am afraid the government is alienating the business community in its pursuit to appease more votes from the working class in the next election.

I’m not sure we’ve been creating lots of good well paying jobs...

The problem I have is them naming it and making it sound like a big initiative. They can argue the ideology of it but the fact is their ideology is hands off. So to suggest they are doing a project and to set up a website about it is a bit much.

There is a mistake on this site. It’s actually “protect” not “project”. Which in some ways is better but in some ways it’s worse. “Protect” sounds backwards.

They won't create jobs by driving up the costs of employing people nor decrease costs of rentals by driving up the costs of running rental housing.

I also recall when we were on the ascendancy in our rock star economy reading that Bill was telling us all it was a good time to push for a pay rise. I guess now isn't a good time though?

We need to get rid of this Government at the earliest opportunity ............. they are an absolute disaster .

You voted for them.

True and he has previously admitted it was an error, in hindsight. However, that election is done and dusted. What's more important is where he and other NZ First voters at the last election will put their votes at the next one. If NZ First fall below 5% as I fervently hope they will, I see a win for a National government and we can start undoing as much of this current Government's changes as feasibly possible.

Wishful thinking much? NZ First has proven the only pragmatic party willing to work with anyone under the MMP system. The only way of making a National government a reality is one of two scenarios

1) The economy tanks near election time, even then they need to get over 60 seats by themselves.
2) A coalition with NZ First which demands Bill English and Paula Bennett get the chop.

NZ First is Winston Peters. Pragmatic is putting spin on his legacy. He is an unprincipled opportunist. I wont be flying the NZ flag at half mast when he pegs it.

Ex Expat, will you turn down the Super Gold Card when you reach retirement age? My bet is that you will be at the front of the que! Winston Peters has pledged to enhance its benefits so there is even more for you to look forward to.

Politicians that earn your respect are now marginalized but no less acquisitive! Look in the mirror before judging someone else an opportunist. Its you thats hoping for a financial meltdown so you can play the white knight to a cash starved business and retire on the profits. Each to their own.

Given my household pays circa $100,000 into the public trough each year, you bet I'll be in for every cent due to me when the time comes, albeit I'll never come close to pulling out what I put in. Such is the high price of living in a social democracy when you earn a good income.

As for White Knighting, where is the issue? You can inject capital into a business at many stages in its life. Is there anything less honourable about waiting until that capital value is maximised? I want my money to work hard, PE does that when timed right.

Nah, won't happen.
1 - Winston will be dead by then.
2 - Unless Labour royally screw things up to a colossal extent (let's face it, it is a distinct possibility), they will still beat National.
1 - National party has no credible succession for leadership.
2 - The current govt. has an incredible incumbent advantage over any challenger. Watch the polling trends over the next 18 months - this will likely become apparent.
3 - NZ First will collapse without Winston, but the voters won't all go to National. And, there will also be the dead vote factor of the steadfast supporters.
4 - Jacinda will have a toddler on the campaign trail. I do not care who you are, but you cannot compete with that.

I'm not saying Labour staying in is a good thing, I'm merely saying that it will be very hard for the National Party to compete in the next election cycle.

Re #1. Were you just guessing or had heard the scuttlebut going around about the big C?

It's a called a revolution. You are free to start one but it will take some one with huge determination and belief, rather than someone who just wants a bigger slice of capital gain on his many properties.

Have you already forgotten your months of ranting about how you wouldn't vote Nats because they'd been an absolute disaster? Maybe you just like recreational ranting.

Maybe its easy to make promises and criticise when you are in opposition but once you get to the coal face you discover that the glib platitudes of an opposition don't solve complex problems.

The histrionics are a tad premature and very, very silly.

No maybe about it Ralph, it is most definitely a completely different ball game when the ball is in your court. The last election was I believe a lot more about negativity re National than positivity re Labour. Perhaps if Key had stayed they may still have scraped home. But the hard cold reality is, with no coalition partner of any substance, and the demise of United & The Maori parties, the only chance was WP. Even if he had been courted rather than insulted by National his policies aligned better with Labour, and then of course all that old history, vendettas some might say!

Project forwards yes...But always remember to look back...and see others true colours...and those closer to home.

Project backwards....

No affordable Housing. for sale. Tick.

Land Banking in a big way....Tick.

No Infrastructure improvements..where needed....Tick.

No stopping Money Laundering..Tick.

Actually encouraging Money buy their Shonkey Houses...Tick.

Giving themselves a pat on the back, plus a pay rise and denying the truth..Tick.

No Capital Gains Tax to encourage em.with .yellow stickers...please note...Tick.

No Extra Police to stop Crimes and Meth their Rental/Mental Houses..Tick...tick....Tick..Tock.

No encouraging real business, except Real Estate..Tick.

Selling are souls to the overseas Asian Marketers. and any other big shots.....Big Tick.

Selling our Electricity Suppliers cheap to burden the Users...Tick.

Encouraging Fossil Fuels...Tick.

Encouraging Mining Tick..

Encouraging Aluminum Smelters ...tick...tick....tick.

Closing Mines...tick..

Encouraging get out of Jail Free cards for deceased Miners deaths...Tick.

Discouraging finding their Bodies ..Tick.

Taxing Peter to pay John, Paul....and Bingo..and making Movies.....Tick.

Sky Tower Gambling encouraged...Tick.

Flag.... all else chance.....Tick.

Importing Inflation...tat and rubbish....but not paper bags....Big Tick.

I could go on.....But then..I would get ostrichised.....Head in the Sand.....Big...No

Wasn't Bob Englis that guy who got into some type of crooked threesome down in Southern Clueless that should have ended up with jail for someone at least except for some helpful career advice to the boys in blue - a bad time for all of NZ. Thank god those days are just a bad memory now.

Protect NZ Jobs? What, by importing 70,000 low skilled people each year?

Yeah, and by saying that New Zealanders are all unemployable druggies based on no evidence whatsoever, but some guy in the Koru Club said it, so who needs facts.

"There was a 14% increase in work visas granted in the year, to 44,500"

I don't see much difference between Labour and National. They are both locked in to selling our last and best asset which is our low population.
Neither party recognizes the huge costs that are yet to be met in building infrastructure for all these people and providing the services of police, education and health. So far the population growth has been at the expense of the NZ lifestyle and low wages for workers.
About 80% of the voting population vote for either Labour or National so this must be what people want or are they just too stupid to vote for real change.

Your access to our unique content is free - always has been. But ad revenues are diving so we need your direct support.

Become a supporter

Thanks, I'm already a supporter.