Parliament holds last debate of the year

Last updated 17:06 18/12/2008

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Parliament adjourned today for the summer recess after the traditional debate which gave parties the last opportunity of 2008 to complain about each other.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English launched the debate by saying a "tired, muddled and scandal-ridden Labour administration" had been pushed aside, but he quickly moved to the challenges the new government faced.

He told Parliament 2009 was going to be a very tough year.

"Unemployment is set to rise to at least 6.5 per cent, the government's books will be in the red for the foreseeable future, families and businesses will have a growing sense of insecurity because of loss of jobs and because of their vulnerability to international and domestic economic downturn," he said.

But he assured MPs the Government had a plan to turn that around.

"Parliament can expect to see from this government a sense of urgency in dealing with long-term issues which have sapped the confidence and the dynamism of the New Zealand economy," he said.

"It was okay when the world was going fine and New Zealanders were spending up large, but the economic outlook now demands a sense of urgency, focus and leadership.

"That is what National will bring to Parliament next year."

Labour leader Phil Goff was sceptical about Mr English's assurances.

"You're in government now. . .we would have expected some sense of urgency and a plan presented to address the impact on New Zealand of the international economic and financial downturn," he said.

"There has been no such plan. For two weeks we have debated light bulbs and justice bills which experts say don't make any difference at all.

"We have debated jobs – the stripping away of the rights of working people.

"This government has taken away job security, undermined the ETS (emissions trading scheme) and scrapped $400 million investment in forestry which would have created jobs around the country."

Mr Goff said the biofuel industry had been undermined and KiwiSaver had been gutted.

Green MP Sue Kedgley said her party was worried because the international crisis had crowded out debate on all other issues.

"Climate change is on the backburner, when the reality is that the meltdown of the ice in the North and South poles and glaciers around the world will have far more impact on our future than any banking collapse," she said.

"We will be called to account by future generations and we will be called on to assist the billions of people who will suffer if we don't respond quickly enough."

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ACT leader Rodney Hide, Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples and United Future's Peter Dunne also took part in the debate, with less invective and more optimism than had been delivered by the main parties.

Parlilament adjourned until February 10.

-NZPA

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