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Clark And Key Continue Campaign Battle

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Labour leader Helen Clark and National's John Key are covering as much territory as they can early in the campaign and today they shift the action to Christchurch and Auckland.

Since launching their campaigns last Sunday both leaders have kept up the pace with policy announcements every day so far this week.

Mr Key has upset the Public Service Association (PSA) with his latest revelation -- a ministerial razor gang will be set up if National wins, charged with going through government spending line-by-line to find out where cuts can be made.

He indicated government communications staff could be the first to feel the axe, saying numbers had swelled from 238 six years ago to 505 in July this year.

"New Zealanders know the service provided by these departments isn't twice as good," he said.

PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott said National was choosing the worst possible time to cut jobs.

"Around the world people are turning to their governments and to the public sector to save them from the worst economic crisis since the 1930s," she said.

"Why on earth would you cut that support network people rely on to get them through the tough times?"

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters warmed up an old campaign theme when he said immigrants were taking jobs away from New Zealanders.

"When times are tough internationally, immigrants are attracted to New Zealand like moths to a neon light," said Mr Peters, who has complained for years that "open door" immigration policies are dangerous and damaging.

Miss Clark responded with quiet assurances that nearly all immigrants had jobs to go to and the country needed their skills.

"There's never been a time in New Zealand's history when we didn't need to bring in skilled people," she said.

In other campaign developments yesterday:

* Mr Key manoeuvred himself into a difficult position by admitting he told Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples that National's policy to abolish the Maori seats in Parliament wouldn't be a bottom line in post-election negotiations.

The policy is seen as a big problem if National needs the Maori Party, and Dr Sharples said last week Mr Key gave him a private assurance it would be scrapped if necessary.

Until yesterday Mr Key denied giving any such assurance, even saying so during TV One's leaders debate on Tuesday.

Miss Clark accused him of telling "an outright fib".

* Labour announced beneficiaries would be able to earn more before their benefits start to abate. The threshold will increase from $80 a week to $100 in 2010 and rise to $140 in 2012.

* The ACT Party said it backed the Government's bank deposit guarantee scheme, but other responses from Labour and National to the economic crisis were "woeful and irresponsible".

Finance spokesman Sir Roger Douglas said the falling dollar would put costs up for households and businesses and exporters would struggle because of the lack of money to fund their debts.

ACT's leader, Rodney Hide, said if he had his way the top tax rate of 39c would be gone by Christmas.

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