Leaders engage over wages and tax

The sparring continued between National and Labour yesterday as Phil Goff sought to discredit National's response to his 10 "vital statistics" attacking the Government's record.

Labour's original list included various figures on the economy, the unemployed, beneficiaries, the wage gap with Australia and the exodus across the Tasman, and the costs of National's tax cuts.

Prime Minister John Key dismissed the list as rubbish and said Labour did not seem to understand the international circumstances that have affected New Zealand's economy.

National later released a rebuttal to Labour's list. Among other things it claimed after-tax average wages in New Zealand had grown faster than in Australia, beneficiary numbers were falling and the economy had grown in eight of the past nine quarters.

Mr Goff returned fire yesterday. "They've acknowledged implicitly by not challenging the figure that they spent $1.1 billion more on tax cuts for the wealthy than they took back from GST. Clearly that is borrowed money.

"They've been borrowing to pay for tax cuts. That's irresponsible."

He said he had underestimated the exodus across the Tasman, which he put at 100,000 since National took office.

"The Herald pointed out that it was 113,000 New Zealanders that had left, yet I remember John Key promising that that would come to an end. That hasn't happened. It's got worse.

Mr Goff spent yesterday in Hawkes Bay, visiting a Marewa kindergarten, a Grey Power meeting of about 30 people and Future Col.

He received the strongest support talking against National's plan to partially sell state assets, but was challenged on whether Labour's policy of a minimum wage of $15 an hour would hurt small businesses.

He said under Labour New Zealand companies would be more likely to gain government contracts, even if cheaper bids came from overseas companies.

He remained confident despite Labour sliding to 25.9% in a Fairfax Media-Research International poll, taken after last week's leader's debate during which Mr Goff was goaded by Mr Key's cry of "show me the money".



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