Lack of new policy marks Shearer tone-setting speech

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 05:00 28/01/2013

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Labour leader David Shearer has unveiled three new reviews covering the economy, education and welfare, but no new policy in his scene-setting speech for 2013.

Mr Shearer said the party's top priority would be jobs, boosted by its promise to build 10,000 affordable houses a year.

An independent analysis estimated the policy could create 4,000 jobs, Mr Shearer later told reporters.

He said houses could be built for $300,000 on average. Most would be compact houses such as apartments and terraced houses, with a four or five-bedroom home in Auckland costing less than $550,000.

Builders had told him they could bring down costs if they were sure of building in bulk.

In his speech, to about 170 supporters in a sweltering rugby clubrooms in Wainuiomata, Mr Shearer said the country was looking for a government that would roll up its sleeves and back them. "I'm refreshed, I'm fired up and I'm raring to go."

He said it was time to act, and voters wanted a more hands-on government. This year was about preparing Labour for government in 2014.

"We want New Zealanders to know we are ready to govern."

His education team would look at improving transitions from school to further training and high skill jobs - "85,000 young New Zealanders are not in work, education or training. It's a flaw in our system".

He had also wanted a clear plan to diversify the economy - one he could put in front of the country, "not airy-fairy concepts".

It would be undertaken by the economic development team led by finance spokesman David Parker and including revenue spokesman David Clark. A new economic development spokesman, to replace demoted David Cunliffe, would also be involved.

List MP Shane Jones may be in line for reinstatement to the front bench in that role in a reshuffle likely to be announced after Waitangi Day.

The party's social development spokeswoman - at present Jacinda Ardern - would produce an alternative White Paper on how to lift children out of poverty.

Finance Minister Bill English panned the speech as full of last year's slogans and no new policies. "Six weeks over summer to think about new policy, and Labour comes up with precisely nothing," he said. "He says that he wants to be hands-on, and yet opposes every hands-on move National is making to encourage investment and growth."

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