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New Zealand opposition leader slams 'dithering' Labour government

WELLINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – New Zealand’s main opposition National Party launched its election campaign, accusing the Labour Party-led government of making mistakes in its coronavirus response and failing to deliver on policy promises.

“You do not want to find yourself in the middle of next year, having just lost your job, relying on a bunch of people with a track record of dithering and not delivering, and wishing if only you had voted National,” leader Judith Collins said in a speech on Sunday (Sept 20) in Wellington.

“Unlike Labour, we get stuff done.”

Ms Collins faces a tough battle to replace charismatic Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the Oct 17 election.

Labour dominated in the most recent political poll published July 30 with 53 per cent support to National’s 32 per cent – raising the prospect it could govern alone.

National is focusing on Labour’s failure to deliver on promises made in the 2017 election campaign, such as a plan to begin a 10-year building programme that would erect 100,000 houses and a pledge to start work on building a light rail network in the largest city, Auckland.

“You will not find a National government wasting taxpayers money on expensive failures,” Ms Collins said.

“We know how hard you’ve worked for the money we’ll be investing, and we’ll treat your money and you with respect.”

National last week announced a plan to reduce income taxes for 16 months from Dec 1.

Labour has said it will introduce an extra tax for earners over NZ$180,000 (S$165,000), but pledged it would not implement any new taxes or make any further increases to income tax during a second term.

“You know that Labour cannot be trusted on taxes,” said Ms Collins.

Still, National’s claim to be better economic managers took a hit just hours before the campaign launch when it was revealed its fiscal policy had a NZ$4 billion overstatement, overestimating savings from stopping payments to a national pension plan.

National said the error would mean its debt levels would be higher than originally announced, but no policy promises were compromised.

Ms Collins also attacked the government over the fresh outbreaks of coronavirus in the community, saying if the contact tracing and testing programme had been up to scratch, Auckland’s Covid-19 resurgence would have been stamped out by now.

The Ministry of Health reported on Sunday that a new case involved a person allowed back into the community after returning from overseas and spending 14 days in quarantine.

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