Jacinda Ardern 'not dismissing' adoption of Todd Muller's JobStart policy despite 'lack of detail'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is "not dismissing" Opposition leader Todd Muller's hiring incentive policy for businesses despite what she described as a "lack of detail".

Muller has proposed giving businesses $10,000 every time they employ a new full-time worker to help them through the COVID-19 crisis, and on Friday Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he's "prepared to consider" it.

But there are parts of the policy that concerned Robertson, for example, a business owner would be eligible for an upfront payment of $5000 if they could prove an intention to hire someone new - but they could fire them after 90 days.

The Prime Minister said in Parliament on Tuesday she has read the policy proposal and is prepared to consider adopting it as Government policy but she still had a dig - suggesting it had been unveiled without enough detail.

"I have read the two pages that the National Party provided around this policy. I'm not letting the fact that there was a lack of detail get in the way of supporting constructive ideas."

She said policy doesn't account for issues around "churn", or employee turnover, and that it "doesn't account for the fact that right now businesses need us to help keep the staff they have".

Robertson went further with a crack at the policy, telling Muller to "finish his homework", which prompted the Speaker to demand an apology. 

Muller has written to the Finance Minister asking if the Government will consider adopting his JobStart policy, and the Prime Minister said she is leaving the decision with Robertson.

You can read more about Muller's policy here.

Ardern said Muller's policy is similar to the Government's youth job scheme Mana in Mahi, which sees employers receive a $9580 wage subsidy and additional support including funding for pre-employment training.

"We do welcome constructive ideas for getting people into work. Ideas such as the one the member has proposed had been in the mix already and exists in some form as part of the Government's programme," she said. 

"I have not dismissed it, because if I were to dismiss it, I would be dismissing the entire premise of Mana in Mahi, which is also a subsidy scheme for employers to take on employees."

She said Mana in Mahi is "a much more comprehensive programme" and that the Government has "considered whether or not we could scale it up and or broaden the criteria for it, and that's why I say ideas like this are in the mix".

Mana in Mahi was expanded by 1850 placements in August 2019 after a $49.9 million boost over four years in the Wellbeing Budget, enabling it to be extended to 2000 participants. 

But the scheme has been criticised as a "disappointment" because of retention issues, and the fact that the Prime Minister said it would be expanded to 4000 people by 2019.

The economic fall-out from COVID-19 saw job numbers plummet by 37,500 in April, the latest figures from Stats NZ show, while Treasury is forecasting unemployment to peak at 9.8 percent in September.