Claire Trevett

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

English slams Shearer's speech

Labour Party leader David Shearer. Photo / Mark MItchell
Labour Party leader David Shearer. Photo / Mark MItchell

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said Mr Shearer has come up with nothing but last year's slogans and no new policy in his State of the Nation address today.

"He says that he wants to be hands-on, and yet opposes every hands-on move National is making to encourage investment and growth. On top of that, Labour still hasn't apologised for their wasteful policies the last time they got their hands on the economy,'' Mr English said.

"And to make it worse, at the same time their coalition partners the Greens are up in Auckland busy working out how to stop everything they don't like - which includes everything to do with growth and jobs.''

Labour leader David Shearer outlined his party's plans to work on policies such as ensuring school children can move seamlessly from school to a job or further education, and to develop an alternative White Paper on child poverty to challenge the Government's.

Mr Shearer delivered his State of the Nation address in the working class suburb of Wainuiomata in Wellington today.

The speech was short on actual policy - and instead aimed to set out his reasons for advocating more interventionist policies, saying the market-based approach had failed.

Setting out Labour's goals for the year ahead, he said its top priority was jobs - including working with local councils on local projects to ensure people did not have to leave their hometowns for work.

It would also focus on boosting the manufacturing sector and the high-tech industry.

"We will not create more better-paying jobs by simply exporting more milk powder. We've been talking about it since Mike Moore invented lamb burgers. Our future prosperity will be carved out by backing the talent of businesses working in high-tech."

He had also asked his team to take a look at the transition from school into further training or jobs, saying the lack of support there was "a flaw in the system."

"Without this we will continue to see kids without the right skills to get a job, falling through the cracks."

Child poverty was also a focus and he said its Social Development spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern would prepare an alternative White Paper to help combat child poverty.

"We need a smart, hands-on Government, a Government that is prepared to be a player, not a spectator."

He said the party's recent affordable housing policy to build 100,000 cheaper homes, particularly in Auckland, was an example of such an approach.

"It's ambitious, but New Zealanders can see right through the Government's hands-off approach that leaves it to the market."

He did not ignore the economy, saying there was still a need to get Government debt under control and re-stating Labour's intention to introduce a capital gains tax to try to shift investment from property into businesses.

He also accused the National Government of having low expectations which were holding the country back.

"For four years, we've been fed skilfully spun excuses for why we can't get ahead. It's the global financial crisis, the Canterbury earthquakes, the global outlook that is the problem ... There is always an excuse for why we can't get ahead. I refuse to accept that for New Zealand."

He used climate change as an example of the Government dragging its feet, saying it was not enough to be "fast follower."

He poked fun at Prime Minister John Key, saying Mr Key's recent announcement of more youth apprenticeships was the result of "an epiphany" that there was a youth unemployment problem.

"And I want to thank whatever focus group brought that to his attention.".

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- NZ Herald

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