Brain drain drove me to return - Douglas

By Anna Rushworth

A political veteran has returned to the fray and agreed to stand again for the party he co-founded nearly 20 years ago.

Sir Roger Douglas branded the current Labour government "growthbusters" at the Act Party's annual conference in Auckland yesterday before revealing plans to run for parliamentthis year.

Douglas would not confirm his chosen electorate but hinted it could be a South Auckland constituency, perhaps Hunua, where he lives.

He refused to comment on whether he would seek a cabinet position if he returned to parliament.

The 70-year-old told about 200 supporters that he was driven to return to politics by the brain drain of 500 Kiwis leaving for Australia every week.

"We are in effect becoming Australia's poor cousins."

Douglas said the average weekly wage was $100 lower in New Zealand than Australia.

He set a target of 2020 for the country to catch up with Australia in terms of wages and economic growth, urging

the audience to get behind the party.

"If I can say yes to becoming a constituent candidate then all of you can do your part."

Speaking to reporters outside the conference, Douglas dismissed claims his Rogernomics policies of the 1984 Labour government would turn people off.

He denied turning his back on the party over the past few years and said he had been "helping them from the sidelines".

Epsom MP and party leader Rodney Hide

said the relationship between Douglas and the party had warmed during birthday celebrations for former colleague Richard Prebble last November.

There had been talk of a reconciliation in recent weeks, ending with Hide announcing Sir Roger had "committed his formidable skills and experience to the 2008 ACT campaign".

And Hide said Douglas had remained on his speed dial.

"We got him standing, that's the key thing. I am very very pleased."

Hide would not be drawn on who would be boss if both men won electorate seats this year.

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