The Government have been peddling 'the recession is over' message for some time now and it must be disappointing for John Key and co that reality keeps crashing his carefully manufactured illusion that everything is just dandy in little old New Zealand and, hey, neoliberalism does work!

It just doesn't help though when 2500 people apply for 150 minimum wage jobs at a South Auckland supermarket. Some of the folk queued for seven hours just for the opportunity to fill in an application form.

This is not a sign of a economy coming out of recession and its significant that the government has chosen not to talk about what happened in South Auckland yesterday.

Okay, it was in South Auckland - apparently home to lifestyles straight out of Outrageous Fortune according to one commentator who should know better - but it would be really stretching it a bit far for John Key or Paula Bennett - or even the unpleasant John Tamihere - to claim that these 2500 people are simply trapped in a 'welfare dependency culture'.

So best to say nothing and wait a few days before recommencing bashing beneficiaries.

What the government couldn't avoid commenting on though is the latest official unemployment figures which show that the number of the people on the unemployment benefit rose by 13 percent in December.

66,328 people were receiving the Unemployment Benefit at the end of December 2009 up from 58,541 in November.

It's kind of embarrassing for John Key who said at the end of last year: ‘My message to New Zealanders is I think they can feel a bit more confident as they go into Christmas that their jobs will be retained.’

It's a big rise in unenployment but the figures are only the tip of the iceberg. They do not include the people who have simply given up looking for work and nor do they include the large number of people who are underemployed - people who cannot get enough paid work hours.

Last time I looked, in November, the number of people in part time or casual work who actually want fulltime jobs rose to 24.4 per cent (122,000 people), from 16.5 per cent a year previously.

Paula Bennett's response to the new unemployment figures can only be described as ludicrous.

In the same sentence she claims that a 'economic recovery' is underway but - get this - unemployment will continue to rise.

So factories and businesses will continue to shed workers but the economy is not in the poo, Paula? How does this work exactly? Is this a 'recovery' where no new jobs are created? Does Bennett have any idea at all about what's going on?

No wonder the Labour Party have demanded that Bennett just stop with the excuses.

Of course the Labour Party does not get a 'get out of jail' card just because John Key and Paula Bennett have no answers to the unemployment crisis.

To repeat what I wrote in November:

Because there is a political vacuum on the left, the National-led Government is not being confronted by the kind of aggressive political opposition that is sorely needed. More so its not being confronted by a organised opposition that is advocating a clear alternative to neoliberalism. And I don't mean an economic alternative that is a mix of neoliberalism and 'Keynesian lite' policies which seems to be the CTU's docile position these days.

It's clear that neoliberalism cannot provide New Zealanders with a secure economic future but its also abundantly clear that neither the Labour Party or the Combined Trades Union have anything to offer other than more platitudes and rhetoric.

Despite the talk about Phil Goff moving the Labour Party leftwards, this remains true today.


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