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A New Razor Gang And A Benefits Policy On The Campaign Trail

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Key
John Key

Another cost-cutting razor gang is going to be set up if National wins the election.

Party leader John Key announced it on the campaign trail in Dunedin today, saying ministers on the Cabinet Expenditure Control Committee would trim state sector spending and channel more resources into frontline services.

It raised memories of the last one, set up by former finance minister Ruth Richardson after the 1990 election.

It slashed millions from departmental spending, although the situation faced by the new government at that time was much worse than Mr Key and his ministers will if they move into the Beehive.

In 1990 the last Labour budget showed a surplus, but when National opened the books they discovered it was billions in deficit.

And while he was in Dunedin, Mr Key fired up the controversy over the Maori seats by admitting he told the Maori Party National's policy to abolish them wasn't a bottom line.

That was not the same as previous versions he has given of a private meeting he held with Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples.

Dr Sharples says Mr Key gave him an assurance the policy would be dropped if National needed the Maori Party after the election.

Until today Mr Key has denied that version, and during Tuesday night's leaders debate on TV One he said he had given no such assurance.

Earlier today Prime Minister Helen Clark accused him of telling "an outright fib" during the debate.

Labour had its own policy to release today, allowing beneficiaries to earn more from part-time jobs before their benefit starts being cut.

Miss Clark said the threshold of how much they could earn without losing any of their benefit would increase from $80 a week to $100 in April 2010. By 2012 the threshold would be $140.

In other campaign developments today:

* ACT said it backed the Government's bank deposit guarantee scheme, but said other responses to the international economic crisis by both the main parties had been "woeful and irresponsible".

"Their policy promises will make tough times worse," said party leader Rodney Hide.

* National's welfare spokeswoman Judith Collins said her party would make sure children's health camps were fully funded if it won the election.

She was reacting to a report in today's New Zealand Herald which said Central Otago's Roxburgh camp would close and another could be unless a $5 million funding shortfall was met.

"We will ensure health camps are funded adequately and will continue to provide a very important service to the most vulnerable kids in our communities," Ms Collins said.

"If that means fewer policy analysts and fewer communications staff at the Ministry of Social Development, so be it."

* National tried to get more mileage out of the shower head controversy by saying a new regulation would come in on February 1 limiting the size of hot water cylinders in new homes.

It was more "nanny state interference," said environment spokesman Nick Smith.

Building and Construction Minister Shane Jones said Dr Smith had spent too much time in the hot sun. "He is dazed and confused because there are no new regulations limiting the size of hot water cylinders."

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