National hammers Labour's plan

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 11/08/2014

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Welcome to the twilight zone of another election campaign, where any spending your opponent promises is a bribe - but your own is a careful investment in the future of New Zealand.

OPINION: Sticking to the script yesterday, National was on Labour's case over its pledge to extend free doctors visits and prescriptions to the over 65s, a promise that matched National's pledge at the other end of the age scale recently when it extended free GP visits to the under 13s, which Labour is also promising.

National's response was swift. Labour's promise to the over 65s was reckless, extravagant and costs were bound to blow out.

This is the "Coca-Cola" principle apparently - or at least that was the analogy used by outgoing Health Minister Tony Ryall. If you make Coca-Cola free, more people will drink it. Ergo, make doctors visits free and more people will go to the doctor, not necessarily a good thing.

However, when more young people go to the doctor as a result of making their visit free, that demonstrates there was a previously unmet need, according to Ryall.

National is hoping, of course, to remind people of Labour's previous spending boo-boos - like its promise at the last election to make the first $5000 of income tax free, or scrapping GST off fresh fruit and veges. Both have since been retired after Labour realised it was out of step with the public mood for austerity.

After musing out loud about possible tax cuts in a third term, however, National may have given its opponents more room to move this time round.

But David Cunliffe's wasn't playing to National yesterday.

The campaign launch was all about giving the Labour grassroots a reason to get out and vote over the next six weeks.

The smile on Cunliffe's face was almost as wide as the big red bus which carried Labour supporters off after the launch, suggesting he felt like he got that bit right at least.

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