Key announces employment summit

Prime Minister John Key has announced an employment summit next month as one of the economic initiatives the Government is taking in a "particularly challenging" year.

The summit would be held in Auckland on February 27 and would be chaired by a private sector representative, he said at a press conference in Auckland today.

It would involve a range of stakeholders, employers and unions.

"I don't want the employment summit to be a talk fest, I want it to be a do fest," he said.

"And if those initiatives raised at the summit make sense and are affordable, the Government is not going to be afraid of adopting some of them."

The Government is grappling with the task of getting the economy through the international recession with minimum damage, and Mr Key said it was going to be "a balancing act".

He said other governments had been forced to change their spending plans and initiatives already taken by his government should not be under-estimated.

"We are showing the leadership that's absolutely required," he said, rejecting Labour Party complaints that ministers had been sitting on their hands during the summer recess.

"As (Finance Minister) Bill English pointed out yesterday, Labour put out three press releases over the entire Christmas period," he said.

"They were all in relation to Gaza. That's probably the lowest number we've seen from the Opposition. So I don't think they're really in a position to start throwing stones."

Mr Key said he was confident the Government was on the right track as it went about protecting the economy from the ravages of the global recession.

"We're using our balance sheet to try to provide support to the economy," he said, pointing to the $7 billion that will go into it through tax cuts and other measures that have already been announced.

Mr Key said he did not expect "universal agreement" among politicians and commentators about what was the right economic prescription.

"But this is a time for leadership, and we have a strong sense of the things we want to achieve and an economic prescription which we think will work," he said.

"That includes a personal tax cut programme, structured spending, and a number of other initiatives we will be announcing.

"Those are our expectations. We can't push back the tide of a global recession, but what we can do is make sure that New Zealand is in the best position possible to weather that storm."

Mr Key said one of the things that put New Zealand in a stronger position than most other countries was its relatively high interest rates, which gave the Reserve Bank room to help the Government by lowering them.

"I actually think New Zealand is in a better shape than a lot of other countries but we need to be nimble. We need to try some new things and take some different approaches," he said.

Mr Key has called a meeting of senior ministers for tomorrow. They will meet in the Beehive to discuss details of further initiatives and be briefed by the Treasury on the latest economic situation.

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