No time to waste for Key

Last updated 00:27 10/11/2008
JOHN SELKIRK/Dominion Post
ON THE MOVE: Prime Minister-elect John Key is moving quickly to implement National's policies.

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Vote '08

No more 'honky males in suits' Key hits out on trade and high finance Nick Smith: in the Nick of time Keep an eye on that guy Final count: Greens gain MP, Nats lose one Key blames 'reckless' money men for crisis Clark briefed Key on Apec Labour or Greens could pick up seat Bail laws changed by Xmas, Power pledges Hide has a new target

Prime Minister-elect John Key is moving swiftly to install his new government - bracing for more bad economic news and poised to rush through a raft of law changes, including tax cuts by Christmas.

A day after claiming the biggest victory since MMP was introduced in 1996, Mr Key is likely to be thrust on to the international stage as early as next week.

In a regime change as sweeping as his victory, he has signalled he plans to attend the Apec forum in Peru, a gathering of Asian and Pacific leaders, if swearing in a new Cabinet can be fast-tracked.

Saturday night delivered an emphatic win for National - prompting a dramatic and immediate cleanout among Labour's top ranks.

In a night of shocks, NZ First leader Winston Peters and his party were ousted and an emotional Helen Clark resigned as Labour leader.

Her deputy, Michael Cullen, followed suit yesterday, marking the end of an era.

Mr Key, 47, made it clear a top international posting was Miss Clark's if she wanted it, saying there was a precedent and that her international standing merited such a move.

Mr Key now has a rapid learning curve in foreign affairs ahead of him. As well as Apec, he has confirmed that, since having a long conversation with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, he will have a meeting with him.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Helen Clark said her office would cooperate in a smooth transition. Miss Clark, 58, had no plans to travel to Apec.

Mr Key will name his Cabinet within the week after talks with ACT, UnitedFuture and the Maori Party in Wellington today and tomorrow. But his first task will be to summon the Treasury and the Reserve Bank mid-week for an updated picture of how the economy is faring. He has been warned to expect that things have got worse since October, when the books were last opened.

Mr Key has promised to haul in public service chief executives as one of his first tasks as prime minister, for a line-by-line review of departmental spending.

Election night delivered Mr Key 59 seats in a 122-seat Parliament. He is expected to wrap up confidence and supply deals with ACT and UnitedFuture quickly.

Mr Key will also meet the Maori Party, which is believed to be seeking a role for a minister outside Cabinet.

ACT's return with five MPs is a surprise resurgence, marking the comeback of former Labour finance minister Sir Roger Douglas.

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Sir Roger made it clear yesterday that he wanted a role back in the Cabinet - but Mr Key repeated his refusal to have him there.

"I made it clear on the campaign trail I was going to lead a centre-Right government that was moderate. I do not believe that's compatible with having Mr Douglas in Cabinet."


* Tax cut package before Christmas, kicks in on April 1.

* Line-by-line review of government department spending.

* Law and order changes remove the right of worst repeat violent offenders to be freed on parole, clamp down on gangs and drugs, toughen bail laws.

* Passage of transitional relief package for workers hit by redundancy.

* Change to Education Act 1989 to set national standards in literacy and numeracy.

* Appointment of infrastructure minister.

* Reform of Resource Management Act.

* Introduction of "voluntary bonding" scheme for graduate students and teachers.

* Halt to growth in health bureaucracy.

* Funding of 12-month Herceptin courses for breast cancer sufferers.

- The Dominion Post

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