4.00pm: MP's gaffe reported internationally
The fall-out from Lockwood Smith's race remarks have been reported in the UK and Australian news.
The Daily Telegraph said Dr Smith had "put his foot in his mouth" and reported that National Party leader John Key was quick to "rebuke his immigration spokesman".
In Australia, a story in The Melbourne Herald Sun ran the headline: "Racist comments land New Zealand MP Lockwood Smith in trouble".
2.10pm: Key parroting big Aussie banks, Cullen taunts
Finance Minister Michael Cullen has accused National leader John Key of panicking under pressure from Australian-owned banks over the Government's deposit guarantee scheme.
"We want to be sure we have a scheme that does not load excessive risk on to the New Zealand taxpayer."
He said Mr Key and his finance spokesman Bill English, in calling for faster action on wholesale bank deposits, were being unduly influenced by the big banks across the Tasman.
"We are not going to be stampeded by the Australian banks into hasty decisions", said Cullen.
12.20pm: Nats reach into the medicine cabinet
National Party leader John Key tells a Grey Power audience in Hastings that National would fully fund a number of medicines, including a one-year course of Herceptin, the breast cancer drug.
12.15pm: Kiwis are savers after all
Finance Minister Michael Cullen proudly announces that KiwiSaver has been taken up by twice the number of people originally forecast.
827,000 people are now KiwiSaver members.
Cullen said the figures showed the scheme had been a "huge success", increasing people's personal financial security and strengthening the economy by promoting savings.
He attacked National's plans to scale back KiwiSaver from a scheme requiring minimum 4 per cent contributions from members and their employers to a "two plus two" scheme.
10.50am: Rugby to honour great NZer
The Prime Minister (and the NZRU) have just announced a new trophy which will be played for in test matches involving the All Blacks and England.
The trophy will be in honour of the late Sir Edmund Hillary. A very good idea.
The first match for the Hillary Shield will be at Twickenham, in London, on November 30.
10.45am: Peters plays the race card
Winston Peters today stepped up attacks on Lockwood Smith and National.
"When it comes to immigration - National's racist undertones are clear," he said in a speech to the Pacific Economic Transformation Conference in Auckland.
"Let me ask this audience - how insulted do you feel when a senior National Party MP says that Pacific peoples don't know how to shower or use the bathroom?
"That is the ultimate insult and these politicians want to be the government."
10.10am: Phar Lap, pavlova, Split Enz and Russell Crowe - "enough is enough!"
National leader John Key says it's about time Australia stopped snapping up the best of New Zealand.
Statistics New Zealand figures show more than 47,000 people left for Australia on a permanent or long-term basis during the year to September.
"One of the really worrying things is one in four people who have been to university have now left New Zealand and live overseas. That is the worst brain drain of any country in the developed world", Key told Paul Holmes in a radio interview.
He said he does not accept the argument that Australia is so attractive, New Zealand cannot compete.
9.50am: Bollard didn't go far enough - Peters
The Reserve Bank should have been bolder and cut the Official Cash Rate by a full one and a half per cent to relieve serious damage to the economy, says New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.
"While this morning's one per cent cut is a reasonable first step, it is too little, too late," said Peters.
"Other countries have slashed their interest rates substantially in recent weeks. Our Reserve Bank has twiddled its thumbs while jobs are lost, businesses have gone broke and families lost equity in their homes.
"I also hope the trading banks do pass the full effect of the cut on to struggling homeowners and not use the credit crunch as an excuse to add to their already obscene profits."
9.45am: PM says Nat's crime policy "unrealistic"
The Prime Minister is accusing National of trying to make out that under a John Key Government, crime would not exist.
National's latest policy release promises to increase the prison sentences for those who abuse, neglect, and kill children.
Helen Clark said this morning that Labour made the sentences longer many years ago and she says National is not being realistic.
"The National Party [say] that somehow if you vote for them, there will never be another murder or assault or rape or knife attack. Everyone knows that's not real."
9.35am: Key in the Bay
John Key is in Hawke's Bay today, visiting what have become safe blue-ribbon seats for his National Party.
The three electorate seats of Tukituki, Napier and East Coast were held by Labour until 2005, when a massive swing saw the region switch to favour National.
This morning, Key will walk through the suburb of Taradale, before making a minor health policy announcement to Greypower in Hastings, followed by a visit to the Hawke's Bay A&P show.
8.40am: "Don't burn bridges" - Turia
The leadership of the Maori Party are themselves expressing some diverse views today.
In the Dominion Post newspaper, co-leader Dr Pita Sharples was quoted as saying the Maori Party would prefer Labour to win the election because that is what its supporters wanted.
"The feeling is still there - Maori are joined at the hip with Labour. There is no doubt about it."
Fellow co-leader Tariana Turia was beating a different drum, when spoken to on Radio New Zealand this morning.
She said she was surprised by his comments and the door was still open to National.
"It's no good talking and then finding that the political party of your choice may not even be the government and so I think that we it owe it to our people to keep all the doors open."
8.05am: "We need you as much as you need us"
Prof Paul Moon from AUT's Maori Studies Department says there is a good chance National will need the Maori Party if it wants to govern, which means it would have to review its position on abolishing the Maori seats.
Prof Moon said National leader John Key might come to a compromise with the Maori Party, such as delaying the entrenchment of the Maori seats until a second term of a National government.
He suggested the Maori Party needs National as much as National needs the Maori Party but says it is difficult to know whether a coalition between them would last.
7.55am: Policy over bacon and eggs
At a breakfast for invited guests at Auckland's SkyCity hotel this morning, National Party leader John Key brushed aside this week's gaffes by two of his top spokesmen - Lockwood Smith's "Asians with small hands" remark and Maurice Williamson's dogged determination to talk about road tolls, despite insistence by Key that "very few" roads would need to be tolled in any way.
Here's our political reporter Audrey Young's take on the matter.
- NZHERALD STAFF, with NZPA and NEWSTALK ZB