Labour leader Andrew Little launched an attack on Bill English in his state of the nation speech today saying New Zealand got a new Prime Minister last year "but we don't have a leader".

He had failed his first test of leadership by refusing to go to Waitangi next weekend. He had refused to front in the Mt Albert byelection.

And he had failed for not firing Nick Smith, his friend who had been responsible for housing.

"Bill English is a competent bean counter. But he is showing he is not a leader."

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Little followed Green co-leader Metiria Turei in a joint state-of-the-nation event in a packed hall in Mt Albert.

Turei spoke first. Little spoke for much longer.

Little began by with some very personal reflections on the time he was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 43.

While he waited to see whether the treatment was successful, uncertainty hung over him and his family.

"I know many of your families have faced that same uncertainty.

"I remember sitting at my kitchen table, thinking about my family, about the future, about my wife, Leigh, and my son, Cam.

"It made me think about seizing opportunities; about making the best of this life.

"My battle with cancer colours everything I see, even today.

"It's not just a perspective on life; it's a stronger determination to strive for a system that is genuinely fair for everyone.

"That's why I think it's criminal for people in our country to die from treatable cancer because the Government refuses them the latest medicines."

Little said he was proud to have stood alongside Leisa Renwick and other New Zealanders who fought for the most effective cancer drugs.

"What a powerful win that was last year."

He was also proud to stand with the 45,000 New Zealanders a year who went to the doctor, were told they needed to see a specialist, but were sent away without even being seen because of budget cuts.

"I've been in their shoes. I've sat awake at 3am wondering whether my body would ever heal.

Labour and Greens supporters. Photo / Audrey Young
Labour and Greens supporters. Photo / Audrey Young

"New Zealanders deserve treatment, they deserve compassion, they deserve a health system that puts them first.

"And with a Government I lead, that's what we'll have."

Referring to the election of Donald Trump in the United States and the rise of the far right in Europe, holding on to a positive, inclusive vision was more important than ever.

"We can show there's a better path than isolation and bigotry.

"It's our turn to shine and to lead the way, to be New Zealand at its best.

"New Zealand can be a beacon to the world.

"This is a country for all of us, for everyone who lives here."

Referring to the byelection on February 25, he said Labour's Jacinda Ardern and the Greens' Julie Anne Genter were showing there was a positive alternative Government in waiting.

"It's game on in this election.

"Our campaign starts here today, with our joint state of the nation event."

Every day that National governed the Kiwi dream slipped further away for more and more people.

"Bill English has to take responsibility. He cuts the budget for health and education. He has ignored the housing crisis and sold our state houses.

"The buck stops with him.

"Here's the truth: National is out of ideas and out of touch. They've got nothing new to offer."

Little did not announce any new policy. He reiterated existing policy, such as Kiwibuild, a programme to build 100,000 affordable houses over 10 years, and three years free post-school education and training.

He said a Labour Government would be fiscally responsible and would run surpluses.

He said he was proud to have the Greens present.

"Together Labour and the Greens are committed to building that better New Zealand.

"We're ready to win. We're ready to govern. We're ready to build a better New Zealand."

National Party campaign manager Steven Joyce said this afternoon that both Little and Turei "had nothing new to say" in their State of the Nation addresses.

The two party leaders had "basically just bagged the Government" without offering any new ideas, he said.

"They didn't talk about any policy at all. There's only two reasons for that. Either they haven't done the work or they're too many things they don't have in common so they've decided that they will talk about the think they have in common - how much they don't like the National Party."