Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Insults fly as battle lines set

Education, especially roll-out of national standards, signalled as major issue.

Dumped ministers Kate Wilkinson and Phil Heatley make way as newly promoted minister Nikki Kaye moves to her seat. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Dumped ministers Kate Wilkinson and Phil Heatley make way as newly promoted minister Nikki Kaye moves to her seat. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Prime Minister unapologetically defined National as a pro-foreign investment, pro-roads, pro-infrastructure, pro-PPP, and pro-Sky City Convention Centre kind of party.

In a fired up speech on the first day of Parliament for the year, John Key painted National as a Government that was busy doing things to expand the economy on issues that Labour and the Greens opposed.

He appeared happy for education to continue to be one of the big political battlegrounds, especially around national standards, which will continue to roll out this year.

"If Labour want a fight on education, bring it on!"

When it came to air and water quality, Labour and Greens were happy to have measuring, monitoring and reporting.

"But when it comes to kids' education, 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil'," Mr Key said, making the verbal signs for the saying.

Mr Key tabled the Prime Minister's statement, setting out the Government's programme for the year, including continued social welfare reform, reform of the Resource Management Act, and work-focus for prisoners.

Other party leaders were given it four hours in advance.

Labour leader David Shearer attacked Mr Key's record in Government saying 1000 people a week were leaving for Australia, unemployment of 7.3 per cent was the highest in 14 years, that 85,000 young people were not in work or in training and that New Zealand had had the worst economic growth of any Government in the past 50 years.

He said the unemployed were real people who had worked at the Hillside Workshop in Dunedin or Spring Creek Mine on the West Coast.

"They are the New Zealanders whom John Key and his 'Mr Fix-it,' Steven Joyce, have forgotten."

For the most part, Mr Key avoided criticising New Zealand First or its leader, Winston Peters.

The feeling was not mutual however, and Mr Peters attacked National and both Mr Key and Mr Joyce individually as wealthy individuals who thought all money was good, no matter what use it was put to.

He set one of his first bottom lines for post-election negotiations next year if New Zealand First holds the balance of power - mechanisms to devalue the Kiwi dollar.

"I want to make this very very clear - there will be no Government after the election when [National] fly the white flag that doesn't go along with this plan to deal to our massively over-valued dollar."

He also took issue with Labour's policy of gradually raising the age of superannuation.

"It's a myth to say we can't afford it."

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei said the direction set out by the Government did not reflect the intrinsic character of New Zealand or the underlying values of New Zealanders.

"Their hands-off economic conservatism benefits their wealthy backers and runs counter to our country's proud history of economic egalitarianism and fairness."

"Their cold hearted social policies run roughshod over our decades-old social contract, of supporting people when they need help and our loving commitment to be our brothers' and sisters' keepers."

Parliament's first day

"When it comes to spending, Labour and the Greens are the Usain Bolt of spending. They are the world champions when it comes to spending."
John Key, Prime Minister

"New Zealanders don't want standup comedy - they want somebody to stand up for them."
David Shearer, Labour leader

"The Prime Minister's plan offers more of the same blame and excuses. A boring plan by a bored man."
Metiria Turei, Green co-leader

"Seldom in our history has a Government assumed such an air of lofty arrogance in such a short time, conceit, vanity, big-headedness ... there is no engine room of ideas."
Winston Peters, NZ First leader

"I place on record our determination to survive - as a party - as a movement - and as a people."
Tariana Turia, Maori Party co-leader

- NZ Herald

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