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Labour gets ready for "the battle of 2011"

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Phil Goff
Phil Goff

By Peter Wilson of NZPA

Auckland, Oct 17 NZPA - Labour has unveiled new policies it believes will give it an edge over National in the next election.

At its annual conference in Auckland today, party leader Phil Goff said if Labour formed the next government there would be new rules put on the sale of farmland to foreigners which would see most applications fail.

"Buyers will have to prove that selling land to them will be good four our economy," he told the conference.

"We will force would-be buyers of New Zealand rural land to invest in New Zealand and our people by bringing jobs, transferring technology, increasing exports or bringing other benefits."

Mr Goff told reporters Labour's new rules would "certainly" stop the Crafar farms being sold to the Chinese-owned Natural Dairy company, the issue which has sparked controversy over rural land sales.

His deputy, Annette King, announced a new policy for children under six which is clearly going to cost considerably more than is now being spent on their care, well-being and education.

She argued it would be money well spent, because the social costs of young people with inadequate education and poor chances in life far outweighed the funding she has in mind.

Policy framework papers released at the conference and discussed by about 500 delegates indicate Labour is getting ready to move away from what has been considered "normal" party policy.

It will change the settings the Reserve Bank uses to control inflation -- something it didn't interfere with during nine years in office.

"Labour is going to make some tough calls to make sure our exporting businesses are competitive, some big calls," Mr Goff said in his speech to the conference.

"We will change monetary policy, we will make the Reserve Bank more supportive of employment and exports.

"We will work alongside industry and universities to grow our research and development."

KiwiSaver will be expanded and Labour appears to be moving towards some form of compulsory retirement saving.

Mr Goff used his speech to set out what he called two different New Zealands.

One is tough and getting tougher for families whose income hasn't kept up with price rises.

People have either lost their jobs or worry about losing them. Everything costs more and there isn't as much left over at the end of the week as there used to be, he said.

In the other New Zealand, things are much easier and are getting better still.

"I experienced the other side of town," Mr Goff said.

"It was a dinner and cocktails at a high-class hotel. In this New Zealand, overseas holidays and luxury cars come easily.

"Good on them for doing well, but in this New Zealand it's getting better for them because they're getting the lion's share of the tax cuts."

Party president Andrew Little, who is standing down early next year because he is contesting the New Plymouth seat in the next election, told the conference to get ready for "the battle of 2011".

"If last weekend's local body election results tell us anything, it tells us the mood of the country is changing," he said.

"The people have said more of the same is not good enough ... there is a sense of unease across New Zealand."

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