OPINION: David Shearer delivered his strongest speech yet
as leader of the Labour Party, when he yesterday launched a
broadside at the Government's prediction for a "zero Budget" to
be delivered on Thursday.
"A zero Budget is not something to boast about. It's an
admission of failure.
"A zero Budget means zero growth in the economy," he told the
New Zealand Manufacturing and Employers Association council
and chief executive forum in Christchurch.
In contrast to his recent speeches, Mr Shearer was direct in
both his criticism of the National-led Government and in what
alternatives he would offer as a prime minister.
The Government's record was the worst growth record of any
government in the past 50 years. Unemployment had risen by
50,000 and more than 50,000 people left New Zealand for
Australia last year.
Nearly 50,000 more people were on benefits.
"National's excuse for all this is the global recession -
it's the problems in Greece. In fact, in some measures, New
Zealand is only just ranking ahead of Greece," he said.
Yesterday's speech was either a sign Mr Shearer's new chief
of staff, Alastair Cameron, is making an impression or that
Mr Shearer himself has become more politically aware.
Probably, the hiring of Mr Cameron - under a cloud of claims
that he was brought in to oust Mr Shearer - has brought new
energy to the Opposition leader's office.
For the first time since his selection as leader late last
year, Mr Shearer outlined clearly what he and Labour would
A Labour-led government would create jobs by supporting
exporters to expand and earn more; help New Zealanders get
the education and skills they needed to seize the job
opportunities of a 21st century economy; and increase incomes
by investing in science and innovation to create more
And Labour would make it easier for Kiwis to save for their
first home and build a retirement nest egg.
No expenditure figures were included in his speech, but Mr
Shearer earlier told the Otago Daily Times "pegs in the
ground" would be part of the party's preparation for the 2014
election. The party's full policy would not be released until
But Mr Shearer gave some strong hints yesterday he is
beginning to understand the political process. By talking
about tax credits for research and development and a
pro-export policy with the association, he pushed all the
The association has long been a critic of Prime Minister John
Key's administration and Mr Shearer capitalised.
While passing the first test in a pre-Budget speech, Mr
Shearer will be fully tested on Thursday, when he leads off
the debate, after the Budget is presented by Finance Minister