29 Jan 2013

PM spends much of first speech criticising Opposition

8:06 pm on 29 January 2013

The Prime Minister has outlined the Government's priorities for the coming year in his first speech to Parliament, but spent much of his time criticising the Opposition.

John Key signalled more work programmes in prisons and a focus on the Christchurch rebuild, but his speech concentrated on what he described as the failings of the Opposition.

He told MPs on Tuesday the only policies Labour and the Greens can produce involve spending a lot of money for little gain.

"We know that when it comes to spending, Labour and the Greens are the Usain Bolt of spending. They are the world champions when it comes to spending, nothing has changed and they'll continue, given half the chance, to do it again.

"They can't help themselves - every time they open their mouth, they either get it wrong, or they spend money they don't have."

In return, Opposition parties launched their own attacks on the Government's track record on the economy and what they described as the politics of fear, hate and arrogance.

Labour leader David Shearer said the Government has failed to meet voters' expectations and hit back at the Prime Minister's criticisms of the previous Labour-led government.

"What, we should say sorry for running nine years of surpluses - something that this Government hasn't been able to do one of yet. Sorry for paying off debt, sorry for getting unemployment to the lowest in the Western world?"

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei told Parliament that all the Government is doing at the moment is name-calling, rather than addressing the real issues facing New Zealanders.

Ms Turei said deep down, John Key knows it is the Government that has failed.

"All the Government is good for is name-calling, slander and schoolyard jibes that seek to ridicule real work that the Opposition is undertaking to address the big issues like unemployment and housing affordability.

"You know a government is tired when all it can do is attack great ideas that are popular with the public."

The Prime Minister also confirmed that this year's Budget will allow for new operating spending of $800 million and any new capital spending will come from the proceeds of partial asset sales.

Work programme in prisons

A work programme is already operating at Rolleston Prison in Canterbury, but John Key told Parliament on Tuesday that others are planned for Tongariro/Rangipo in the central North Island and the Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility.

Mr Key said the programmes are aimed at upskilling inmates and doubts they will result in less work for the private sector.

Prisoners would be engaged in a structured, 40-hour week of work and rehabilitation activities. Some inmates would be paid - but it would depend on the type of work they are doing, he said.

Outside the House, Mr Key told reporters the intention is to improve inmate's rehabilitation.

"The aim here is to just to build up that skill base. A lot of people do their time, they want to come out. Frankly, they want to go clean but they've got to have the skills to get a job."

The Prime Minister said the Government has a target of reducing reoffending by 25% by 2017.