Few would disagree that the objective of Shane Jones' job scheme, "to get his nephews off the couch", as addressed in your recent editorial, is most laudable, but the key to its success will be in the packaging.

The greatest reward we can hope for from such a scheme is that those who it is targeted to benefit (and that's what our mindset should be) will have their dignity and self-esteem restored - anything else is a bonus.

But for that to happen the work offered will have to be real work, creating real assets of tangible value, paying a proper wage - anything less will fail. People know when they're being conned.

The good news is we've done it before and we know it works. Many readers will remember the Ministry of Works, not only for the many great projects it built, but just as importantly for the huge numbers it employed, who otherwise would have been Shane Jones' "nephews".


And if we can consider the Jones scheme in that context - real jobs producing real assets for real wages - then any debate about making people "work for the dole" is negated.

The jobs would be advertised there alongside other work, if any, that is offered at the employment office, and anyone not in work would be steered there before the dole is even considered.

Yes, the old MOW had a reputation for employing lots of people who stood around leaning on shovels, but have you seen the nonsense that these days passes for private enterprise efficiency whenever the contractor is required to mow the grass alongside our rural roads?

And, lest we forget, those thrown on the scrap heap by Rogernomics didn't ask for it - we did it to them in pursuit of a dream that has now become a nightmare.

We took away their sense of dignity and self-worth - so we owe them!

And there is another important principle involved here, one lost sight of since Roger Douglas had his evil way - people before profit.

Yes, the price of fixing the problem will be high, but when measured against the cost of doing nothing it will be cheap in the long term.

If we really want to have the society we espouse, but only pay lip service to, as in the case of the haka before All Black games, let's grab a real piece of Maori wisdom and learn to say out loud: He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.