The economy, housing and foreign investment featured while
Dirty Politics barely got a look in as Prime Minister John
Key and Labour Leader David Cunliffe locked horns in
tonight's first televised leaders debate of the election
Mr Cunliffe went into tonight's debate on the back of two
dispiriting poll results which showed support for his party
slipping but gave a confident performance against an
initially nervous looking Mr Key.
Dirty Politics was raised by moderator Mike Hosking at the
start of the hour long debate but Mr Cunliffe let the
opportunity to score hits on Mr Key over the issue go by.
The debate moved quickly to the economy which Mr Cunliffe
said had not delivered for most New Zealanders despite recent
"We seem to have missed for many people the party and we're
going straight to the hangover."
Dismissing that as nonsense, Mr Key, in a line he repeated
later in the hour long debate, pointed to National's record
on economic management and pointed to the future.
"New Zealanders can see that we're on the cusp of something
very special for this country and they want to be part of
Mr Cunliffe called National's HomeStart programme, which
gives homebuyers bigger grants for towards a deposit on new
home "pouring petrol" on a fire.
Mr Key counterpunched by saying he had taken a good look at
Labour's KiwiBuild scheme to build 100,000 homes saying it
would "take years and you build a couple of thousand homes".
On foreign investment in farmland, another emotive issue for
voters, both used disputable numbers to make their point.
Mr Cunliffe said over a million hectares of farmland had
passed into foreign ownership under National, a number which
relies on gross totals.
Mr Key, who by that stage was looking more assured, in turn
said the Overseas Investment Office estimated only 1 to 2 per
cent of rural land was in foreign ownership -- a number that
actually represents the amount that has passed into foreign
ownership in the last nine years.
Mr Cunliffe argued Labour didn't want New Zealand farms and
houses "to be speculative playthings for foreigners, we want
them to be for kiwi families".
Mr Key countered that New Zealand had to allow some foreign
"If we say no to foreign capital whether its ultimately going
into businesses or a little bit going into land then we have
to say no to a stronger economy and the things a strong
economy will deliver".
- Adam Bennett of the NZ Herald