John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: National steals some Labour policy

John Key. Photo / Mark Mitchell
John Key. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Good ideas in election year are as rare as hen's teeth. So there are few qualms when it comes to politicians stealing them from one another.

However, National's outright copying of Labour's plan to create a far more co-ordinated, whole-of-Government approach to stopping vulnerable children falling through the cracks is as brazen as it gets when it comes to gazumping your opponent. It's daylight robbery, pure and simple.

That is not the only area where the Prime Minister's Statement to Parliament, which provides a generalised outline of the Government's programme for the year ahead, seeks to neutralise the few areas where the major Opposition party has managed to establish significant points of difference.

Click here for the Prime Minister's statement in full.

Labour intends to focus on the cost of living in the run-up to the election in the belief rising prices since the 2008 election makes National especially vulnerable on the economic front.

Key's response is to try and turn the tables on Labour by claiming current monetary policy which is guided by the Reserve Bank's focus on containing inflation will minimise price rises. "We note that this is not the position of some other parties in this Parliament;" John Key says, referring to Labour's plan to revise the Reserve Bank's targets to take in other economic indicators like the exchange rate.

The implication is prices would rise even more if the Reserve Bank has too many disparate objectives.

Key also produces figures to show the price of goods and services has risen by 6 per cent since the last election, while the after-tax average wage has actually gone up by 16 per cent.

Thank tax cuts for that. The figures might be right. But they won't equate with most people's experience in the nation's shopping malls.

That is even less the case for public servants who have had little if any in the way of wage increases under National - presuming they still have a job.

The statement points out that National has reduced the number of full-time positions in the public service by 5 per cent since coming to office.

There is more restructuring to come to make government bureaucracy "smaller and smarter". No detail yet mind you. That will be revealed in a speech by Finance Minister Bill English in a few weeks time.

Required under Parliament's rules to be delivered on the opening day of the year's sitting, Prime Ministers' statements tend to be less about detail and more about direction - Labour's as well as National's in this year's case.

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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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