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Mr Little, a former union head, has chosen a business audience for his inaugural state of the nation address in an apparent bid to reassure them Labour should not be dismissed as unfriendly to business.
Mr Key was on his way back from Europe yesterday and could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman said his lunchtime speech would be on plans to improve the availability and management of social housing. At the start of his third term, Mr Key set out plans to boost social housing for poorer families and sell off some state housing -- plans led by Finance Minister Bill English and new Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett.
Mr Little has a chance to show both business and Labourites what he is made of after winning the leadership by a slim margin from Grant Robertson, who was favoured by both caucus and the party members.
Hanging out his shingle in Auckland is critical for the Wellington-based Mr Little, who said he visited Auckland weekly.
"One of the issues I'll talk about is the importance of Auckland being strong economically and socially as well. For a government thinking about the future, Auckland is an issue on its own that needs to be thought about. It's about understanding Auckland is an important engine room of the economy and confirming it plays a significant role in our thinking about the future. I think it's important to give that message in Auckland."
He said the decision to speak to a business audience was not necessarily an attempt to send a message that he was not the union bogey man.
"I don't think I need to. It's about affirming our priority as we go through the next three years is that we are thinking seriously about what the shape of the economy is going to look like. Economic security is the number one issue, for the country and for households. Small business is going to play probably a more important role in future wealth generation than they do at the moment. So it's setting out some thinking about what the next Labour government needs to be doing around that issue."
He will also set about securing that critical element in leaders: trust. "If we're lifting our polling from 25 per cent to something that gets us to win an election in three years' time then people certainly need to have greater confidence in us and that means trusting us."
He ruled out personal attacks on Mr Key but said he would take aim at some of the Government's measures, including Mr English's recent comments about the probability of small wage increases in the near future.
Labour is reviewing all of its existing policy after its dismal election result.
Mr Little has made it clear his chief targets will include the capital gains tax and lifting the age of superannuation entitlement from 65 -- two policies he believes cost Labour votes.
He has had a solid start but the first poll of the year had National up on 52 per cent while Labour was in the doldrums at 26 per cent.
- Claire Trevett of the New Zealand Herald