Labour could still win power at the next election,
National deputy leader and Finance Minister Bill English told
National's northern regional conference in Auckland this
morning in a speech warning against complacency.
"The Opposition can be divided, it can have many leaders and
co-leaders, it can have no vision, very little policy, be
disorganised but under MMP it can win and we need to remember
that every single day."
He said National would need to win the highest vote any
incumbent Government had ever won - it was re-elected for a
second term in 2011 with 47.31 per cent of the vote.
He also told delegates to make no assumptions about who was a
potential voter, pointing to a large representation at the
conference from south Auckland.
Political polls consistently have National well ahead of
Labour but not always in a position to govern.
The March Herald DigiPoll survey had National on 50.8 per
cent and able to govern alone compared with Labour's 29.5 per
cent and the Greens 13.1 per cent, a combined 42.6 per cent,
but the polling of New Zealand First and smaller parties such
as the Maori Party by just a percentage point or two can
dramatically alter the results.
Mr English said despite the Government's achievements in
addressing a broad range of issues from the crime rate to
reducing welfare dependency and the improvement in the
economy, voters would not be thinking about rewarding
They would be thinking about which party could support them
best and offer them the best opportunities.
He praised Prime Minister John Key whom he said engaged
"respectfully, warmly and openly" with a broad range of New
Zealanders everyday through the media and in person.
To a question from the audience, Mr English defended
National's decision to keep the pension age at 65, as per a
promise by Mr Key in 2008.
If he now raised the age "frankly no one would believe
anything else he ever says".
"John Key means what he says and that has been a critical
part of the trust the public has had in this Government.
"Quite apart from the super issue, that is critical to our
broader credibility, that we have got a Prime Minister who
deals with them honestly and sticks to what he says."
Sticking to the promise had allowed the Government to focus
on other costs.
After 30 years of debate about retirement policy, it was now
settled because of the firm undertaking not to change
"And for the time being we can afford it. In this Budget [on
May 15] we will run a surplus, we will pay national super to
about 600,000 people."
The cost of super was going up every year by about $300
million to $400 million and that would pick up a bit. "We are
paying the bill."
Mr English slammed Labour's new monetary policy tool which
would allow the Reserve Bank to adjust up or down the
KiwiSaver rate for employees' contribution within a band of
about 8 to 10 per cent.
Mr English said people preferred simple rules they could
understand and everyone knew what happened when interest
rates went up.
KiwiSaver was a completely different thing.
"KiwiSaver is longterm retirement policy that is designed for
stability over 30 to 50 years.
"You do not want the Minister of Finance messing around with
that every six weeks like the Reserve Bank does with interest
- By Audrey Young of the New Zealand Herald