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Key touts National's 'positive vision for NZ', paints Labour as debt hungry

Monday 31st October 2011

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Prime Minister John Key, facing a narrowing of National's lead over Labour in the latest opinion poll, says the ruling party has a 'positive vision' for New Zealand while the Opposition would borrow more to increase spending.

Key also reiterated plans to pour the proceeds of state asset sales into a 'Future Investment Fund' with the first $1 billion of the $5 billion-to-$7 billion to be spent upgrading schools.

Labour has picked up the sell-down of state-owned power, mining and national airline shares as a billboard issue. "It means we can invest in new, priority assets, like schools, without having to borrow," Key said in a speech to an all-day election summit organised by Business New Zealand.

"Savers will have the opportunity to invest in something other than housing or finance companies," he said.

The Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update, released last week, forecasts economic growth averaging 2.9 percent in each of the next five years, with the fiscal accounts returning to surplus in 2015. The forecasts are largely unchanged from the May Budget, with global uncertainty, such as the resolution of Europe's debt crisis, cited as a key risk.

Key said today the PREFU was "a little ray of sunshine" after the three-year term marred by the global financial crisis, finance company failures and Canterbury's earthquakes.

The return to surplus would allow National to enact policies such as auto-enrolling workers into KiwiSaver and resume contributions to the Super Fund.

He said a National win in the Nov. 26 general election would ensure "strong, stable government, proven economic management and a positive vision for New Zealand."

By contrast, he said, Labour is "a party without a plan."

Key has basked in high approval ratings for all of his first term in office, with Labour leader Phil Goff struggling to gain traction. Key's face is on every National Party hoarding, while Labour is downplaying Goff in its themes, which call for a higher minimum wage and no state asset sales.

Labour appears to be gaining some traction more recently, with the 3 News Reid Research poll showing its support has lifted to 30.2 percent while National's is on 52.3 percent. The poll had the Green Party's support on 9.4 percent, giving a Labour coalition some 40 percent.

Key's speech suggests Labour's latest policy announcements may be resonating with voters, including pushing the retirement age back to 67 from 65, which he described as an attack on "everyone's well-earned retirement."

He dubbed Labour's policies as "a collection of election gimmicks and slogans, like GST off bananas, all of which come with a hefty price tag."

Goff is scheduled to address the same conference today, which features all the major political party leaders.

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