PM woos voters at mosque
By NATALIE AKOORIE and The Dominion Post
Friday, 17 October 2008
Prime Minister Helen Clark has used a visit to a Hamilton mosque to rail against a call from Winston Peters to cap immigration.
Miss Clark donned a headscarf for her visit to the Hamilton Mosque and Islamic Centre where she said immigration numbers would not change under a re-elected Labour Government.
Miss Clark was responding to an announcement by the former foreign minister that his party, NZ First, would cut immigration numbers to ensure Kiwis do not have to compete with immigrants for jobs if the economy goes into decline.
“I personally think where we've got the quota set is about right,” she said.
“And 60 per cent of that quota is for skilled migrants. It's very difficult to get in now without having a job offer.”
She said if there was less work, there would need to be fewer work permits.
“That's the first place to look if you're looking for more jobs for Kiwis. And from our point of view, Kiwis do come first for jobs.”
Miss Clark acknowledged that immigration had been Mr Peters' “bread and butter for a long time” but migration had built New Zealand and was driving the economy and society forward.
“We've got to make it work for New Zealand and the major communities.”
Inside the mosque Miss Clark told about 50 male members that the Government was sympathetic to uniting families.
“People have to be able to bring a family member within the bounds of our policy.”
Meanwhile, beneficiaries could earn extra money while receiving benefits under Labour's social development policy, unveiled by Miss Clark yesterday.
Miss Clark told a community meeting at Wintec that the new scheme would help beneficiaries move back into fulltime work.
From April 1, 2010, beneficiaries would be able to earn $100 per week on top of their existing benefits, up from $80 currently. This would rise to $140 by April 2012.
The changes were estimated to cost a total of $133 million and are similar to a policy released by the National party earlier this year.
Labour will also keep superannuation for married couples to 66 per cent of the average wage.
The prime minister also spoke to Waikato University students who had packed a lecture theatre to hear more about the universal student allowance.
Many of the students shook her hand afterwards and some even formed a guard of honour for her entrance to the auditorium.