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National Is Following Labour Policies, Hide Says

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Peter Wilson of NZPA

Wellington, Feb 28 NZPA - National is following the policies of the previous Labour government and won't be able to lift New Zealand's economic performance until it changes them, ACT leader Rodney Hide says.

ACT has been urging the Government to adopt radical economic policies, without much success, and Mr Hide's comments at his party's annual conference on Saturday were the most forthright he has made since he signed a support agreement with National after the last election.

"New Zealand needs to dramatically lift its economic performance and with National just following largely the policies of Helen Clark and Michael Cullen we're not going to do it," he told reporters.

"People are very frustrated by the failure to drop those policies and move the country forward, they're particularly concerned over the level of spending and the regulation that's still hampering New Zealand."

Mr Hide said government spending was still increasing, and ACT wanted to put a cap on it which would specify the overall size of budgets for the next three years.

He acknowledged the Government was cutting costs, but said it was nowhere near taking spending back to the level it was in 2004.

"Things weren't falling apart then, and if we did that we could lower income tax and company tax to 20 percent -- just by taking spending back to where it was in 2004," he said.

Mr Hide didn't give any details about how ACT was going to achieve a cap on budgets, which doesn't seem possible while his party has five MPs and National has 58, but he said he was working on it.

Former National Party leader Don Brash was a speaker at the conference, and he said time was running out to catch up with Australia by 2025.

Dr Brash is head of the 2025 Taskforce, set up as an ACT initiative to find ways to match Australia's economic performance. However, the Government last year rejected recommendations in the taskforce's first report.

Dr Brash said New Zealand was nowhere near catching up with Australia, and each year that passed meant economic growth would have to increase even faster to achieve parity.

He told the conference that over the last decade 260,000 skilled New Zealanders left permanently for Australia, and predicted the same number would leave during the next decade if nothing was done to match salaries across the Tasman.

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