By Paul McBeth
New Zealand First is pledging to raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour within three years as part of a confidence and supply agreement to form a government after the September 23 election.
The increase would be offset for employers with a company tax cut package to negate the increased cost to employers and businesses of paying fair wage's", said party leader Winston Peters in a campaign speech in Tauranga's Red Square, the heart of the Tauranga electorate the now Northland MP held for eight parliamentary terms between 1984 and 2005.
NZ First had achieved "the biggest rise ever in the shortest time ever in this country's history" in the minimum wage in its 2005 agreement with the third term Helen Clark-led Labour government, which lost the 2008 election to National under John Key, after which NZ First was swept from office for one term.
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Over those three years, the minimum wage rose from $9 to $12 an hour, a 33 per cent per cent increase, while a rise from today's minimum wage of $15.75 to $20 an hour represents a 27 per cent increase.
"Drastically increasing the minimum wage will increase productivity and stimulate the economy," said Peters, who reconfirmed the party's long-standing policy to remove GST from the price of "essential food".
NZ First polled 10 per cent support in a poll taken over the five days to Wednesday by Colmar-Brunton for TVNZ's OneNews, down one percentage point from a poll take last month and before the change of Labour leadership to Jacinda Ardern and the resignation of Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, both of which have caused great volatility in the centre-left vote.
With a 13 point jump to 37 per cent support and with the Greens'4 per cent support suggesting it may not return to the next Parliament, NZ First is the best-placed small party to allow either National or Labour to form a government, although on the latest poll figures, Labour and NZ First would not yet command a majority on their own.
Anticipating the usual argument against GST exemptions because of so-called 'boundary' issues, Peters said: "for those armchair critics who have long forgotten, or have never known 'Struggle Street', who don't know what basic or essential food is - I recommend they ask their grandmother".