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Clark Rules Out Big Spending Unless To Boost Economy

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Prime Minister Helen Clark today told Labour faithful at an election campaign rally that she did not intend to announce more significant spending initiatives.

The focus would instead be on the economic stimulus package in light of the worsening international financial crisis.

Miss Clark detailed previously announced spending promises to the 350 or so gathered in a conference room at Te Papa in Wellington.

These included the HOPE policy where Crown land is freed up for cheap housing; changes to allowances to include people who wanted to upskill or retrain after being made redundant; modern apprentices; and universal student allowances.

Miss Clark stuck to the economy theme throughout her speech speckling it with criticisms of National which she accused of not being ready to face tough times.

Labour is behind in the polls but Miss Clark believed that might change.

"A change to a leader with the learner wheels on no longer seems as interesting as it might have even a few weeks ago," she said.

"At times like these, the premium value is attached to those who have experience and judgement; are resolute and steadfast; have done the hard yards; have had their feet held to the fire; and have proved their strength at times of crisis."

She said National had a record of using tough economic times to "trot out" secret agenda policies and pointed to measures taken in the 1990s -- from cutting benefits and means testing super then reducing it, to adding charges for using hospital and imposing market rentals on stat housing.

Labour faithful applauded as she accused National of wrecking KiwiSaver and turning the New Zealand Superannuation Fund into a private piggy bank for pet projects.

Talking to reporters Miss Clark was asked about future election spending promises.

"Our focus now is on the economic stimulus package which is something within the first 40 days, not the first 100 days (as several National initiatives were timetabled) and we are going to be entering into discussions with people now about the shape of that."

Asked if she was ruling out more big spending promises, she repeated that the economic stimulus package was the focus.

"...and what needs to be done to protect New Zealanders and advance our economy through a pretty challenging item in the international environment. We're looking at growth rates among other developed countries which are simply dismal."

Miss Clark did not plan to attend United States President George Bush's international summits to discuss ways to fix the world financial system. The first was to be held on November 4.

"My total focus now is on preparing to govern post-November 8; on getting an economic stimulus package right; on taking our people through what is a slow, slow time."

Miss Clark said Labour plans to bring forward infrastructure spending and prepare people with education and skills aimed to put New Zealand on the front foot.

She would attend summits after the election, if she won.

"After November 8 I very much look forward to going to APEC, the east Asia summit, and any other summit where I can advance the interests of New Zealand."

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