8 Nov 2011

National leader says party helped those in hardship

1:46 pm on 8 November 2011

National Party leader John Key says his party has done everything it can to help those living in hardship but acknowledges those on benefits and earning low incomes have had a tough time in the past three years.

Before the last election, Mr Key warned about a growing underclass in New Zealand and during an extended interview on Radio New Zealand's Morning Report he agreed it remained a problem.

However Mr Key said that in the face of recession National had done its bit by not cutting Working for Families tax credits nor benefits.

He said the way out of poverty is clear. "I think the single biggest thing we can actually do is try and get people off welfare into work."

The Labour Party has announced it would gradually extend Working For Families tax credits to cover beneficiary families, but Mr Key said one of his concerns over that policy is that it would futher trap people on welfare. "That's really ... saying to a lot of people 'you are going to be destined to a life of low income'."

On whether families living on the minimum wage can make ends meet, he said that, depending on the make up of the family, Working For Families tax credits would mean they get more than the minimum wage.

Mr Key was also asked about National's presidential style campaign, which features him on almost every billboard in the country.

"I don't think that's actually new," he said. "What's new is that Labour aren't having Phil Goff on the billboards.

"Helen Clark was on every billboard for every campaign and that was because their party had great belief that she was a good strong leader."

John Key says the one thing he's learnt as Prime Minister is that the easy problems are dealt with long before they get to him.