4 Aug 2008

National reassures pensioners, plans MMP referendum

5:02 pm on 4 August 2008

The National Party is reassuring pensioners they will not be any worse off if National leads the next Government.

National's leader John Key has told the party's annual conference in Wellington that under National, New Zealand superannuation payments would increase as taxes are cut and wages rise.

He says National would retain all the superannuation entitlements and eligibility rules that senior citizens currently enjoy.

Mr Key says National would keep this pledge and he would resign as Prime Minister and as a member of parliament rather than break it.

Later, Mr Key said he made the promise to resign because he was sick of the Labour Party claiming that National would cut New Zealand Superannuation.

National plans MMP referendum

Mr Key says National would hold a binding referendum on MMP no later than 2011. He says voters have been waiting for some time to be able to vote on the electoral system since the first MMP election in 1996.

Mr Key says if the majority of voters decided MMP was not their preferred electoral system, National would offer a range of electoral systems to replace it.

He says the first referendum would simply ask people whether they support MMP or not.

Mr Key says he believes most people would want to dump MMP, but to replace it with another system of proportional representation.

Cities major battle grounds

Conference delegates have been told that electorates in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch will be the major battlegrounds in this year's election.

Party president Judy Kirk told the approximately 700 delegates that there is a chance for the party to pick up electorate seats, but it is important that National focuses on winning the party vote.

She says National must learn from the lessons of 2005 and be prepared for anything its Labour Party opponents will throw at it.

Mrs Kirk warned delegates they must campaign within the rules of the controversial Electoral Finance Act, which she described as a "nightmare".

Warning against complacency

Delegates at the National Party conference were warned not to be complacent about the election.

National holds a substantial lead over the Labour Party in opinion polls.

Mr Key says the fortunes of political parties can change quickly, and MMP adds a different dimension to politics. He says he is taking nothing for granted, and nor should the delegates.