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Clark and Anderton – Policies – Special Votes – Foreign Medical Care – Lomu Visits Hospital – National – ACT – Maori – New MPs – Winston – Counting – Defeat – Bill English - Editorial

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CLARK AND ANDERTON: The post-1984 era of hands-off economic policy came to an end yesterday with victorious Labour and Alliance leaders meeting in an Auckland hotel room to build the first Government of the new century. The coalition talks will continue in Wellington tomorrow, after New Zealanders voted for a change of direction and swept Labour back into office on Saturday after nine years in the cold. Helen Clark is already signalling a far swifter transition to power than the prolonged negotiations of 1996.

POLICIES: Cheaper loans for students, bigger pensions for the elderly and higher taxes for top income earners are top of the list for the new Government - and legislation to get things rolling will be before Parliament by Christmas. Politicians will also come under scrutiny, with an anti-defection bill to stop MPs leaving the party that brought them into Parliament.

SPECIAL VOTES: For Winston Peters and Jeanette Fitzsimons, it will be a nerve-racking nine days until the special votes are counted. The election-night tally left the New Zealand First leader holding Tauranga by a slim 323-vote margin over National's Katherine O'Regan. If the specials go against him, Mr Peters will be out of Parliament, as will his five top list colleagues.

FOREIGN MEDICAL CARE: Foreigners are using a potentially deadly scam by impersonating New Zealand nationals to obtain free medical treatment, according to Middlemore Hospital doctors. The problem was unearthed when doctors found the blood groups of some patients "changed" up to three times during hospital visits.

LOMU VISITS HOSPITAL: Young patients at the Starship children's hospital had only one thing on their minds yesterday - and it was not the election. Rugby giant Jonah Lomu - who would not divulge how he voted - stopped by to have a leisurely chat to kids with cancer and to show his support for the Children's Promise Millennium Final Hour Appeal.

NATIONAL: Carnations drooped in the button-holes of tweed coats. The last club sandwich had been eaten. Some silver-haired gentlemen drifted off in their seats, and some simply drifted away. The optimistic chit-chat and clinking glasses of early evening had become as still as the cold tea leaves in the bottom of their cups. Television screens screamed National's defeat and the party-girl was late to her own bash.

ACT: Act began firing its first shots in Opposition yesterday, with leader Richard Prebble lining up targets in the new Government and signalling it will push its "one law for all" stance hard. Refusing to dwell on how the party had not done as well as it had hoped, Mr Prebble plotted out its likely assault plans.

MAORI: The message is loud and clear: Labour can no longer take the Maori vote for granted, despite its clean sweep of the six Maori electorates. Prime Minister-elect Helen Clark made a point on election night of acknowledging the Maori vote: "Kia ora koutou mo to awhina ki a matou - thank you for your support."

NEW MPS: Some of the 31 new faces in Parliament could have been chosen by a soap opera casting director - a transgender mayor, a gay man, a Harvard-educated community worker, a Pacific Island woman and a millionaire or two. There are two firsts - Carterton Mayor Georgina Beyer becomes the first transgender MP in the world and Winnie Laban, a 44-year-old Wainuiomata woman, is the first Pacific Island woman in Parliament.

WINSTON: If Winston Peters looked and sounded as good most of the time as he did on Saturday night, he might not now be in such electoral strife in Tauranga. The best of Winston Peters the dresser, the politician and the father was evident during the fraught hours late on election night.

COUNTING: The Electoral Office has come under fire from political parties for the long vote count after the election. Chief Electoral Officer Phil Whelan had set an 11 pm Saturday deadline for completing the count.

NATIONAL: National is blaming the four-term curse, rather than weaknesses in its own policies and campaigning, for the sharp swing to the left in Saturday's general election. Prime Minister Jenny Shipley is about to launch a high-level post-mortem into why National lost, but party strategists say the main culprit was the historical difficulty of winning four straight terms in office.

BILL ENGLISH: Treasurer Bill English has ruled out a challenge to Jenny Shipley's leadership of the National Party now or during the next three years. Asked if he intended to launch a challenge before the next election, he said: "No, no intention of challenging for the leadership. It is not an issue. Is that unequivocal enough for you?"

EDITORIAL – NEW GOVT: In her first public utterance as Prime Minister-elect in the early hours of yesterday, Helen Clark described herself as "a very cautious person." That comment was no surprise to her supporters and it ought to be noted by anybody reporting New Zealand's change of government to investors abroad today. The Labour Party accepts, as its prospective partner previously has not, that New Zealand's livelihood rests on its reputation in global markets. Sadly, that reputation has owed more to sound government than to private sector performance in recent years.

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