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

Leaders-in-waiting tell us just how they plan to run things

Shane Jones, David Cunliffe, and Grant Robertson are campaigning for the leadership of the Labour Party. Photos / NZ Herald
Shane Jones, David Cunliffe, and Grant Robertson are campaigning for the leadership of the Labour Party. Photos / NZ Herald

Q: What is the first thing you would do as Labour's leader?

David Cunliffe: I would work with my caucus colleagues to assemble the best lineup we can to win in 2014 and release the energy of every member of the caucus to take on John Key. I regard unity of the caucus as a top priority.

Shane Jones: Upgrade the Leader's Office, get some smart people in there and get a professional office manager so that the Leader's Office is a permanent man-o'-war. A significant problem we've had is too many caucus members have felt dislocated from what happens at the front bench, and when people feel dislocated, energy levels go down.

Grant Robertson: Plan a tour around New Zealand to hear from New Zealanders about their hopes, challenges and concerns. Take the caucus with me and start putting our message out clearly.

Q: Is the Green Party making too many gains at Labour's expense? If so, what will you do about it?

Shane Jones: I am going to harvest and find my votes in Middle Earth - not flat earth.

David Cunliffe: I am not worried about that. There are plenty of people who stayed at home last time that we can reach. Of course, we also have credibility in the economic and business community which is particular to us, and my own background contributes to that so I'm confident we can reach both down to our base and towards the centre. I believe we can work closely and well with the Greens, but we will be standing for Labour policy and proudly doing that.

Grant Robertson: I want a Labour Party that is as strong as possible and that means maximising our vote. We will need to have a coalition partner. The Greens we have a lot in common with but we also have differences. They've worked hard over the last few years to become more mainstream. They have, in Russel [Norman] and Metiria (Turei), articulate leaders. But Labour will still be the major driving force of a future centre-left Government.

Q: Why is Labour not connecting with voters?

David Cunliffe: The first task is to ensure our own party base is enthusiastically behind the leadership and policies. We also need to give the 800,000 who didn't vote last time a reason to believe. And we need to restore the confidence of many people who used to vote Labour, but drifted to the Green Party or voted Labour under Helen Clark but have gone to National under John Key.

Shane Jones: There is an unfortunate perception that Labour is dominated by middle-class intellectuals who no longer know how to relate to the bloke lugging meat at 4 in the morning into the supermarket or the woman putting her kids off to school before they go and work two jobs in a day. A lot of politics is about emotionally connecting with people. One way of connecting is for them to see a bit of themselves in the personality putting his hand up to do the work.

Grant Robertson: We've struggled to get a clear direct message that speaks to people's everyday lives and to connect our values with the policies we are putting forward. I do believe we've got a good mix of policies, with more to come. The challenge is articulating them in a way New Zealanders say "my life will be better under a Labour Government". I think I can do that.

Q: Which current Labour Party policies need to be changed or dropped?

David Cunliffe: We are already making moves to repeal GST on fruit and veges and have another look at tax policy. I will have an active interest in that to ensure everybody pays a fair share and we are delivering to those in need. We will bring in a capital gains tax.

Shane Jones: The housing policy that restricts foreigners from buying property, I'd like to see that extended to Australians as well. Most of the policies, I fought for them. I will continue to own the power policy [a state-owned company buys power from generators to onsell] but I accept refinements will take place. We shouldn't resile from the capital gains tax, I think we should go ahead with tweaking the monetary system.

Grant Robertson: We have to constantly look at our mix of policies to ensure they will deliver on the values of the Labour Party of equality, opportunity and sustainability. We will have to ensure we have a programme to put to the public that they can see is credible and responsible, so people can see while some policies will take time to implement we will get there.

- NZ Herald

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