Parties target similar audience

Labour and New Zealand First yesterday launched their 2014 election campaigns, with both parties aiming at similar voters.

Labour leader David Cunliffe launched a comprehensive health policy and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters again weighed into the hot-button issues of race and overseas ownership of land and businesses.

It is possible Messrs Cunliffe and Peters will need to talk on September 21 if Mr Cunliffe is to become prime minister of a Labour-led government.

Mr Cunliffe appears to have ruled Internet-Mana out of any coalition deal, although Mana Party leader Hone Harawira still believes Labour will come calling after the election.

Mr Peters will not deal with the Greens and Mr Cunliffe has made no promises of any coalition with that party, although he will know he needs Green support in some way to form a government.

It was an important day for both the Labour and NZ First leaders as they appealed to the large number of undecided or swinging voters making up their minds whether to vote and, if they do, for whom.

Labour's health policy announcements yesterday add up to more than $300 million. Mr Peters' announcements were not costed.

Mr Cunliffe wants free healthcare for those over 65, while Mr Peters reminded his supporters that NZ First got rid of the surtax, got superannuation back to 66% of the net average wage and introduced the SuperGold Card.

Under Labour, 40% of Kiwis - or 1.7 million people - would be eligible for free doctor visits and free prescriptions.

Mr Cunliffe said last year more than half a million New Zealanders did not go to their doctor when they needed to, because of the cost. About 250,000 did not pick up a prescription for the same reason.

''When people get sick, their ability to pay shouldn't be a barrier to getting good healthcare, which is why Labour is committed to progressively reducing health costs across the board as economic conditions allow,'' he said.

National cabinet minister and campaign chairman Steven Joyce accused Labour of trying to buy its way into power with policies the country cannot afford.

''Labour has announced policies that, on their own admission, add up to more than $16 billion of new spending over four years,'' he said.

''The true total is likely to be higher become the policies have been costed incorrectly.''

Mr Peters knows where his votes come from and wasted no time reminding supporters how much of this country's banks, insurance industry and media is owned and controlled from Australia.

''They vacuum profits from New Zealand totally disproportionate to their contribution to our economy as a whole. Much of New Zealand's wealth is no longer ours to share.''

Opposing foreign ownership would be a major part of NZ First's campaign, Mr Peters confirmed. Much of the policy in Mr Peters' speech had been signalled in earlier meetings but he also had a few sentences on environmentalism, disabled New Zealanders, and policies for the young and Maori, recalling the sacrifices made by the Maori Battalion during the world wars.

Mr Cunliffe was welcomed on to stage by singer Don McGlashan singing a modified version of Split Enz song Time for a Change and Nature.

Mr Peters quoted Dusty Springfield, describing his opponents' policies as ''wishing, and hoping, and thinking and praying''. Some of his political opponents had more political costume changes than Lady Gaga, he said.

National launches its campaign on August 24.

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