Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Health and education top concerns

John Key. Photo / Dean Purcell
John Key. Photo / Dean Purcell

More than one-third of voters say health and education are the most important issues for them this election, well ahead of wages and taxes.

In the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey, both National and Labour supporters selected health and education as their most important issues.

Overall 37.4 per cent of respondents chose those areas - including 36 per cent of both Labour and National voters.

Few people believed the political leaders were most important, despite the emphasis on leadership during the campaign.

It was the least chosen option, selected by just 5.7 per cent overall, although almost one in 10 National Party voters chose the leaders, a reflection of the popularity of Prime Minister John Key.

Despite the emphasis on the cost of living during the campaign, only about a quarter (26.5 per cent) rated the hip-pocket issue of wages as the most important.

Again there was an almost equal proportion of Labour and National voters selecting it.

Despite apparently widespread opposition to National's proposal to sell minority shares in some state assets, only 8.7 per cent said it was the most important issue for them, including 16.6 per cent of Labour voters and 3.6 per cent of National voters.

Another area of recent political contention was well down the list - savings and superannuation policy was selected by just 9.2 per cent despite the prominence it had after Labour's announcement that it would raise the retirement age to 67 by 2033 and make KiwiSaver compulsory.

National's policy is to keep the retirement age at 65 but to automatically enrol workers in KiwiSaver, requiring them to opt out.

The environment was selected by only 8.6 per cent of people, mostly Green Party supporters, of whom 28 per cent chose it as the top priority.

Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader Phil Goff have frequently crossed swords on the subject of the economy and wages during the campaign.

And yesterday, Mr Goff again tackled National over the youth wage and minimum wage, accusing Mr Key of deliberately sitting on Treasury advice that contradicted the National leader's claims that increasing the minimum wage would cost jobs.

Mr Key has repeatedly said that Labour's policy to increase the minimum wage from $13 to $15 an hour would cost up to 6000 jobs as businesses cut staff to pay bigger wage bills.

That was based on Department of Labour advice.

However, recently released Treasury advice from March 2010 contradicts that, saying there was no evidence that past increases had resulted in increased unemployment rates.

The paper, which was released to TV3 under the Official Information Act, also said that extending the youth wage to more people would probably have little impact on youth unemployment.

National recently announced its "starting out wage", allowing bosses to employ young people for up to six months on 80 per cent of the minimum wage.

Mr Goff said Mr Key had known about the advice for 18 months but chose to ignore it for political purposes, rather than present all the facts to voters.

- NZ Herald

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