Key gets specific about Pacific

Last updated 05:00 31/05/2014

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Prime Minister John Key leaves on a three-nation trip to the Pacific tomorrow with an eye on the fallout from Labour's immigration policy among Pasifika voters.

The five-day visit, which takes in Samoa's independence day celebrations on Monday and stops in Tonga and Niue, includes representatives of other political parties as well as the Government's new economic development ambassador to the region, Shane Jones.

Key said the trip was a good opportunity to make announcements "reflective of the sort of aid and work we do in the Pacific".

He will also be seeking support for New Zealand's bid for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council.

"I'd be extremely hopeful that in the case of Samoa, Tonga and Niue that they would support New Zealand for the Security Council on the basis of how much we do to support them. But in the end, like any other country, their vote's up to them," Key said.

His trip comes at the same time Labour is defending plans to limit immigration when numbers spike, such as this year when net migrant numbers are tipped by Treasury to top 40,000. "The single biggest thing that will help the Pacific vote is that National is pro-migration," Key said.

Labour has confirmed the family reunification category is one area it could target to bring overall numbers down.

"The pretty simple message from David Cunliffe to the Pacific community is your families are not welcome here under a Labour Government. Under National we take the view they are welcome," Key said.

Labour leader David Cunliffe, who will be represented on the trip by his predecessor David Shearer, said Labour had not yet released its immigration policy.

Recent comments from Labour related to using migrant flows as one of a suite of measures to curb house price inflation and keep interest rates down.

Labour's immigration spokesman, Trevor Mallard, has ruled out any change to the quotas from the Pacific and free entry for Australians.

During the trip Key will hold talks with the leaders of Samoa, Tonga and Niue as well as the King of Tonga. He will also visit tsunami-hit areas of Samoa as well as tourism and aid projects.

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- The Dominion Post

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