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Campaign Likely To Focus On The Economy

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Alan Bollard
Alan Bollard

The economy is likely to continue to dominate the election campaign this week and attention will focus on tomorrow's interest rate decision by the Reserve Bank.

Governor Alan Bollard is tipped to cut the official cash rate by a full percentage point in the face of an economic recession and despite a high rate of inflation.

Prime Minister Helen Clark and National's leader John Key both said yesterday they expected Dr Bollard would "look through" the 5.1 percent inflation rate and move to bring down interest rates.

Mr Key said he thought the reserve bank governor would be "reasonably aggressive" and consider inflation had peaked ahead of a fall later in the year.

Neither of the main parties intend making any more big-spending policy announcements.

Finance Minister Michael Cullen is looking ahead to the mini-budget he will introduce in December if Labour wins, and National is equally cautious about making promises while the economy is in recession.

Both the main parties have strategies locked on the economy, and who is best at taking New Zealand through what is now accepted as tough times ahead.

Neither staged big events yesterday and the campaign settled into a series of relatively minor engagements and announcements.

Among them were:

* National promised to fast-track the remaining stages of the Waikato Expressway linking the city to Auckland and complete it within 10 years at a cost of $790 million. The money will come from infrastructure funding that has already been announced;

* Maurice Williamson, National's transport spokesman, was in trouble again for talking about high road toll charges. Leader John Key criticised him in August for saying $5 charges were likely on some roads, and yesterday he mentioned $3 for "very long hauls". That's an easy target for the Government and when Mr Key was asked why Mr Williamson kept doing it he replied: "I doubt that he will in future.";

* Miss Clark denied that Labour's new ads were negative campaigning, although they show Mr Key making a series of conflicting statements about various issues and conclude he can't be trusted. "After all, it's all the National Party's own words and they don't say the same thing to a range of audiences," she said. So the flipflop ads point that out." Mr Key said he wasn't going to retaliate because Labour was making a fool of itself;

* The Maori Party gave a preview of its Treaty of Waitangi policy, due to be released today. It wants a parliamentary commission to ensure the Crown meets treaty obligations and ensure new migrants are educated about it;

* Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons bungy jumped off Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown, and said she'd wanted to do it for 20 years. Ms Fitzsimons, 63, said her spine was given a good stretch.

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