Lest there was any doubt Labour's conference was about jobs, leader Andrew Little announced the solution to youth unemployment was in an Andrew's Army of rat hunters and bush whackers and even gave himself a job.

Andrew's Army will come in the form of Labour's new policy to offer under-24 year olds on the dole a 6-month stint working in community jobs such as on the Conservation estate in pest eradication or path maintenance.

The job Little set for himself was to win the 2017 election.

On November 18 Little will mark his second anniversary as Labour leader.


At his first conference Little's aim was to reassure Labour's members they had made the right choice when they elected him leader.

It clearly worked - this year, the standing ovation started the moment he walked into the room.

Even his jokes went down well.

Those related to the infamous piece of rug-art depicting a naked and generously proportioned Little.

Little joked the artwork had made his arms look bigger than they actually were. He added the style of art was "socialist realism". "I'm just thankful it wasn't cubism. Or pointillism."

Labour's delegates have clearly decided he is ready to govern - and in Labour that is no mean feat.

The bigger problem is convincing the rest of the country of that.

This party conference was all about putting on a show of being ready to govern.


The Future of Work report, released at the conference, is a significant piece of work although its launch was overshadowed by the proposal of a training levy on businesses to try to get New Zealand workers rather than migrants into areas of skills shortages.

But overall the report provides a thorough diagnosis of a problem that does have to be dealt with.

There are some some loopy gimmicks - "creative thinking clubs" anyone?

There are the inevitable vast tracts of meaningless waffle such as recommendations to "develop a new vision for Pasifika in New Zealand", to "enable work for beneficiaries" and to "make New Zealand a magnet for talent".

But there are also proposals to boost training for both young workers and older workers forced to make a career change.

There are proposals to overhaul Work and Income into an agency that delivers more than benefits and corrals people into looking for jobs.

If there is a problem with the report, it is that it appears to put the primary responsibility for creating, finding and funding training and new jobs in the Government's hands and therefore on the taxpayers' pocket.

Labour finance spokesman Grant Robertson insisted business too would be expected to do their bit, something which will send quivers of horror through the business community.

But there are repeated references to the Government putting funding in for everything from technology, training, regional infrastructure development, to grants for businesses large and small, councils, and organisations.

Combined with Little's announcement for unemployed young people, the report has a distinct whiff of a modern version of Muldoon's "Think Big".

It is likely major spending items - such as a Universal Basic Income payment - will be put on ice.

That is because the problem for Labour is what it long has been has been - if it is to look like a Government in waiting, Labour must first and foremost be seen as being able to be trusted with the purse strings.

Countering every question about spending by pointing at National's signal of tax cuts will not quite do the job.

Labour's deputy leader Annette King described Andrew Little as a "no frills" leader.

He may indeed be "no frills" but judging from the lineup of policies in waiting, he is definitely not budget brand.