Child poverty 'unfinished business'

Dunedin students (from left) Olivia Cornille, Lily Bentall and Renee Veysi grab a selfie with...
Dunedin students (from left) Olivia Cornille, Lily Bentall and Renee Veysi grab a selfie with Labour leader Jacinda Ardern. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
The last Labour government left ``unfinished business'' in dealing with child poverty, and that would be her focus if elected, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says.

In an interview with the Otago Daily Times, Ms Ardern said young low-income families would be thousands of dollars better off under Labour.

``I see this as an opportunity to finish that unfinished business,'' she said.

Ms Ardern has spent much time in recent days defending her position on taxes, and has been ruling out some increases, including to the top income rate.

But she said criticism in the media was not forcing her to scale back her plans or be less bold.

``When you put up ideas they're going to get knocked around, but I still stand by them.

``David Clark gets an extra $8billion to invest in health over and above what the Government has because we made that bold call on [cancelling National's planned] tax cuts.''

She deflected a suggestion that her plans for economic redistribution were modest compared with those of the Green Party.

``Under our changes, children who are living in poverty [and] their families will be thousands of dollars better off per annum for the first three years of their life.''

``I wouldn't call it modest at all.''

Ms Ardern said she was still happy to have controversial broadcaster Mike Hosking as election debate moderator.

She said Mr Hosking's job was to be referee, and she had no problem with that.

This week, Mr Hosking made a misleading statement about the Maori roll and the Maori Party, and came in for fresh criticism after he clarified it on Thursday's Seven Sharp by blaming the confusion on others.

``I understand why the Maori Party would want that clarified,'' Ms Ardern said.

Ms Ardern tends to steer clear of criticising National, preferring to talk about her own party's plans. However, when asked, she criticised Prime Minister Bill English's defining policy, social investment.

``I think social investment is shorthand for scaling back services.

``Investing early [in people's lives] we absolutely believe in, but they're narrowing down the scope so much that we are going to leave people behind.''

Ms Ardern said she was surprised by the size of the crowd in Dunedin, and found it ``heartening''.


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