‘Pretty tough’ for workers

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife, Lucy, and New Zealand Prime Minister...
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife, Lucy, and New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and his wife, Mary, lay wreaths during an Anzac commemoration service in Arrowtown yesterday. Photo: NZ Herald

Dunedin's healthy economy means many Cadbury factory workers will be able to find new jobs in the city, Prime Minister Bill English says.

Speaking on the sidelines of his first leaders’ meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Queenstown yesterday, Mr English said Thursday’s announcement was "pretty tough" for the 362 Cadbury workers set to lose their jobs over the next 12 months.

"There are a lot of long-term employees. Cadbury’s been such a feature of the Dunedin landscape and we’re pretty sad to see it happen."

But the city was in "pretty good shape" with low unemployment and a sound economic outlook.

"So I’d imagine that with the kind of support that both central and local government can give to those 300 people, we would expect a proportion of them would be able to get some sort of work, if that’s what they want to do."

Mr Turnbull returns to Canberra this morning after a 24-hour visit to the resort, with wife Lucy, in which the leaders reinforced the close ties between their administrations.

The Australian leader seemed to assume the role of big brother, dominating yesterday’s media conference with a long and effusive opening statement in which he employed flattery to good effect.

That included the claim he and his ministers had come to learn from their New Zealand counterparts.

"I’ve always been an absolute, unalloyed fan of New Zealand — I think you do many things more efficiently and cost-effectively than we do."

The pair fielded questions about trade, security and defence co-operation and the impact of  United States President Donald Trump, while Mr Turnbull was asked about domestic political and economic concerns by Australian media.

Mr Turnbull said the Anzac spirit was "stronger than ever", and never more so than when the two countries came to each other’s aid during natural disasters such as wildfires and the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes.

Paying tribute to New Zealand SAS veteran Steve Askin, who died in a helicopter crash while fighting the Port Hills fire in Christchurch on Tuesday, he said "nature can be very cruel".

Firefighters in both countries had repeatedly "flung themselves into the furnace, standing between the fury of nature and the lives and homes of their communities".

"They are heroic men and women."

Mr English told reporters after the media conference that he had met Mr Turnbull "three or four times" before yesterday’s meeting and was confident they would get on "just fine".

guy.williams@odt.co.nz

Comments

Mr English and other minister's cavalier attitude to the Cadbury closure simply shows their attitude to Dunedin. These are the same ministers who continually promote relocation of jobs from Dunedin in the guise of efficiency. Dunedin may have a lower unemployment rate than Auckland, that doesn't mean we want to equal them. I have seen no reports of the total jobs impact; 350 jobs at Cadbury will be just the start as all the businesses that transact with Cadbury feel the loss of trade. My guess, the total will be more like 600 jobs.

But the government's attitude? She'll be right, Dunedin can look after itself. Mr English seem intent on proving that while he may be from the South, he certainly isn't part of the South.