Speeches signal parties' major plans

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 09:44 28/01/2013

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You could be forgiven for thinking it was election year after the major parties unveiled their political goals at the weekend.

Prime Minister John Key got things started on Friday with a speech during which he announced a new apprenticeship scheme that would offer new subsidies and be available to people of all ages.

It was set to cost $12 million a year.

Then on Sunday Labour leader David Shearer gave a tone-setting speech which, although light on policy, was designed to focus attention on education, housing and the economy.

The Greens also announced their housing policy, which included a rent-to-buy scheme, over the weekend.

This morning Key told TVNZ's Breakfast show his speech had been well received.

He said that under Labour the apprenticeship programme had cost $40m to $50m a year and there were people going through without getting qualifications.

"Some of the people registered in those programmes were no longer alive," he said.

"It took us a few years to clean up the mess."

Key also criticised Labour's plan for the Government to build houses saying National had always said the $300,000 figure initially projected by Labour would only build one-bedroom apartments.

"What was the only thing that came out of David Shearer's speech yesterday? The only thing?," Key asked.

"The answer was 'by the way we can't do that, the gig's up, it's at least $550,000 now'."

Key said National was focused on its own agenda and housing problems would be solved by keeping interest rates low, increasing the supply of land and streamlining the building sector.

Shearer told TVNZ the Government could no longer sit back and leave things to the market.

"We actually have to be much more active than that," he said

Shearer said the Government's apprenticeship scheme was too little too late when apprentice numbers were down 20 per cent.

"Now, two years later ... we're now talking about getting apprentices in line? Sorry, I don't buy that," he said.

Labour would boost the scheme even further by giving unemployment payments to employers who hired beneficiaries.

"That's cost-neutral, it's a really good idea, I would love the Government to pick it up," Shearer said.

"I have no problems about the Government taking our policies if it's for the good of New Zealand."

He said times had been difficult but the Government needed to be more forward-thinking.

Both leaders also looked to the United States, but for different reasons.

Shearer said President Barack Obama was looking to lead an "active hands-on government that gets in behind its people".

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"That's what I want to do when I become Prime Minister," he said.

Key also referenced the US, saying the country now owed US$16.4 trillion while New Zealand would be back in surplus within a year or two.

- The Dominion Post

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