Labour leader Phil Goff has targeted workers' wallets in his pre-Budget speech, saying Labour would ensure those on low to middle incomes got the most benefit from tax cuts and there was a case for taking GST from fruit and vegetables.

But Finance Minister Bill English says there is nothing new in Mr Goff's policies, which are a recipe for more debt and higher taxes.

Mr Goff delivered the speech in Nelson yesterday, saying the Budget's expected increase of GST to 15 per cent would impact strongly on those on lower wages, yet the proposed offsetting tax cuts would disproportionately benefit those on high incomes.

He said Labour would reverse National's expected cut in the top tax rate from 38 per cent to 33 per cent.

"That is the same group - which includes parliamentarians and Cabinet ministers - that got the lion's share in the last round of tax cuts."

Mr Goff said he was not opposed to people working hard and being paid well for it.

"But what you have to weigh in is whether the person who got a $1000-a-week pay rise, as we saw in the media last week with a number of chief executives, needs another $700 a week in tax cuts."

He said households were already likely to face higher prices as inflation was forecast to rise, interest rates would go up and fuel and power prices would increase above the rate of inflation. Add-ons such as the emissions trading scheme would also add pressure.

"There could scarcely be a worse time to put pressure on family budgets than right now.

However, he stopped short of saying Labour would reverse any GST increase. Instead, it intended to introduce a fairer package to compensate for it.

It included lifting the threshold at which the top rate of 38 per cent kicks in to about $100,000 instead of $70,000.

Labour would also cut the taxes paid by those on lower incomes.

Labour is opposing any increase to GST. Mr Goff said that while he had long advocated a low consumption tax with no exemptions, an increase of GST to 15 per cent would put New Zealanders in the top five consumption-tax payers in the OECD.

That strengthened the need to consider exemptions to fruit and vegetables, although Labour was unlikely to look at exempting wider food groups because of the difficulties in categorising them.

He estimated GST on fruit and vegetables now put about $175 million to $200 million into the Government coffers.

The losses could be offset by the recent increase in tobacco tax.

He said the idea was not yet Labour policy as it had to weigh up whether it would actually result in lower prices and ensure there was not excessive red tape.

"But it is an option people have said the Government should be looking at and we believe it should be looked at."

Mr English said there was nothing new in Mr Goff's speech, just the "same old twin pillars of more debt and higher taxes".

"In this speech alone, Goff has added another $90 million a week to Government borrowing to fund his hollow promises."

Prime Minister John Key had made it clear any switch between GST and lower personal taxes in next week's Budget would leave the vast majority of New Zealanders better off, Mr English said.

Mr Goff also canvassed his party's thinking on changes to foreign investment policy, saying while good investment was desirable, especially for new ventures, care had to be taken about strategic assets and areas which were natural monopolies.

"We should not allow cumulative purchases of farms that would allow control over Fonterra, for example, to slip out of New Zealand."

The Labour Party is also considering further incentives for people to sign up to KiwiSaver and reinstating the 4 per cent contribution from employers into workers' KiwiSaver accounts.

National has held the employer contribution at 2 per cent.

LABOUR ON TAX
* Reverse National's expected cut in the top tax rate from 38 per cent to 33 per cent.
* Top-rate threshhold to begin at about $100,000 instead of $70,000.
* Cut taxes paid by those on lower incomes.
* No pledge to reverse GST increase but possible exemptions on fruit and vegetables.