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Key Gets National's Campaign Back On Track

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

John Key should be pleased with himself this morning.

National's leader has pushed his party's election campaign up there with Labour's after being in its shadow for the first three days.

In last night's TV One leaders debate he was a match for Labour's Helen Clark.

He didn't beat her but he gave as good as he got, delivered a few swift jabs and came out of it smiling.

She could have been harder on him at times, it seemed, and maybe she didn't want to be seen being brutal.

It was a good, old fashioned, feisty head to head between the two candidates who want to lead the next government and voters got a good look at Mr Key under pressure.

Miss Clark got her chances as well, and she used them to leave no doubt about why she thinks she should take Labour into a fourth term.

It's because she has the abilities and the experience to handle a crisis -- and that's what New Zealand is facing along with the rest of the world because of the international financial situation.

The economy is going to continue to dominate the election campaign.

Miss Clark and Labour's finance spokesman Michael Cullen have been able to use that to their advantage.

On Sunday she used her campaign launch to announce the bank deposit guarantee scheme, and on Monday she released Labour's universal student allowance policy.

National didn't have anything to match those high impact events, and it was left to quibble about how much it would cost and complain about not being briefed in advance.

And yesterday Miss Clark showed another strand of Labour's campaign when she launched billboards which say "Keep it Kiwi".

They're about state-owned assets, which Labour believes is one of National's weakest points.

The billboards focus on Kiwibank, KiwiSaver and KiwiRail, and the message is they won't be safe under National.

In other campaign developments yesterday:

* Labour's finance spokesman Michael Cullen laid out an economic recovery programme he said would be implemented before the end of the year if Labour wins the election;

* National launched its maternity policy, promising to reinstate Plunketline and make sure every new mother and baby would have weekly contact with a lead maternity carer for the first nine weeks;

* The Greens were horrified when National said it would scrap the $1 billion home insulation programme. National said it was reckless and wasn't properly funded, the Greens said National's environment record was "abysmal".;

* New Zealand First leader Winston Peters questioned the cost of Labour's universal student allowance policy. Labour says it will cost $210 million a year, Mr Peters said that was much too low. He supports the policy regardless of the cost; and

* Dr Cullen said a Labour government would tell the New Zealand Super Fund to invest more of its cash in New Zealand.

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