Cunliffe has chance to explain costings

Accusations that a Labour government would go on a spending spree were rubbish, the party's finance spokesman David Cunliffe said yesterday.

Talking to the Otago Daily Times after the release of the costing of his party's election promises, Mr Cunliffe said he was happy to get the debate back on to an economic level.

"I am happy to get this out. It was always our plan to release a fully recalculated document after the release of the pre-election fiscal update [Prefu].

"I have had a team working on this for a week on minimal sleep."

Mr Cunliffe had a marathon trip getting to Wellington for the release of the policy.

After cancelling a trip to Dunedin this week because of illness, he flew to Queenstown on Thursday for a debate with Finance Minister Bill English and other party finance spokesmen.

He drove to Dunedin after the debate, grabbing two hours sleep before getting on to the first flight out of the city to Wellington.

"It's amazing what you can put your body through," he said.

Labour leader Phil Goff was taunted on Wednesday night by Prime Minister John Key when he could not provide costings for various election promises. Mr Key continually called out "show me the money", a catch-phrase made popular in the movie Jerry Maguire.

Mr Cunliffe said the Prefu showed that National would spend $220 billion over the next three years and Labour would spend $221 billion, the difference of $1 billion.

Labour's fiscal strategy retained the full revenue income from state-owned enterprises and that, combined with the tax package and expenditure control, meant Labour's fiscal surpluses would become larger than those forecast in the Prefu from 2017.

"So the following year, Labour pays off debt faster. Flowing from this, larger surpluses and higher returns to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund mean less net debt in the long-term," he said.

Mr Goff said Labour's borrowing relative to National would peak at $4 billion in the 2016-17 financial year.

National Party campaign chairman and Associate Finance Minister Steven Joyce said Mr Goff and Labour had confirmed they had no credibility on economic policy by digging a multibillion-dollar debt hole that Greece would be proud of. According to Labour's estimates, it would need to borrow and extra $3.6 billion over the next four years, he said.

"But once again they are trying to pretend they don't add to net debt by borrowing an additional $6.1 billion for resuming contributions to the New Zealand super fund."

Once that borrowing and the associated interest was added in, that was an additional $6.6 billion, Mr Joyce said.

National claimed Labour had overestimated its income by $2 billion over four years, getting to $12 billion extra borrowing before getting to the capital and operating side of the balance sheet. Labour had stripped back some of its policy commitments and omitted others, he said.

Nothing was identified for inflation-adjusting university funding and funding for policies like youth unemployment and pay parity for aged-care workers had been scaled right back.

The remaining pot of money for "policies yet to be announced" could not cover Labour's promises to extend paid parental leave and restore the previous level of early childhood education spending.



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