Shearer talks up chances of Labour win

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Last updated 10:50 17/11/2012
David Shearer
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ
Labour leader David Shearer is looking to shore up his support.

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Under-fire Labour leader David Shearer has assured the party faithful "we are well on our way to victory in 2014".

Speaking to delegates at the party's annual conference in Auckland yesterday, he acknowledged there would be robust debate. "That needs to happen."

In recent weeks some Left-wing commentators and bloggers have called for him to stand aside.

But Mr Shearer, in opening remarks to the conference, said he would be Opposition leader "for only two more years" and then lead the party to an election win.

Party general secretary Tim Barnett said 622 delegates had registered for the three-day conference, the most since 1988.

Mr Shearer's keynote speech, seen as crucial to shoring up his leadership, will wrap up the conference tomorrow.

It is expected to focus on housing policy - a move that yesterday sparked a pre-emptive strike from the Government.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley announced that a planned development at Hobsonville Point, which National had put on hold, would be revived and provide 500 to 600 new affordable houses.

Labour has slated National's poor progress on the development and housing spokeswoman Annette King called the announcement "half-baked and made in a rush".

Mr Heatley said 20 per cent of the 2500 to 3000 houses planned would be priced at $485,000 or less. Half of that 20 per cent would be sold for less than $400,000.

All 34 Labour MPs are at the conference. Former leader Helen Clark is in Auckland and it is understood she will meet members at a social event, but will not attend the conference.

Today, delegates debate constitutional changes, including rules governing the election of leaders.

It is likely to see the party back a move to give caucus members 40 per cent of the vote for a new leader, members 40 per cent and affiliates such as unions 20 per cent.

Now, only MPs in the caucus have a say in choosing a leader.

The trigger for a leadership runoff is also up for debate.

Party president Moira Coatsworth said she expected the conference to set the trigger at 55 per cent or less of the caucus. An option to set the trigger at two-thirds of the caucus looks likely to be rejected.

She said members wanted less control by caucus. A consensus was building around the constitutional reforms.

The party leadership yesterday met more than 100 business representatives behind closed doors.

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