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English Signals National Policy Directions

Opposition Leader Bill English today said National wanted to send a very strong signal on sentencing and was considering a policy that meant life imprisonment would mean life for the worst offenders.

"At the last election the public voted overwhelmingly for tougher sentences for violent crime in a referendum. The Government has ignored that voice, but National is listening," he told a meeting of social and voluntary sector providers in Auckland today.

"National will send a very clear message to murderers who randomly take the lives of innocent people.

"New Zealand has had a bad week. We've seen random, brutal violence, lives of innocent people lost as they go about their daily lives. These events are a reminder if we need it, that the sense of order, the sense of security we usually enjoy, is fragile.

Mr English said Labour had created poverty traps. Waiting lists for state houses were growing and Labour had no plans for people to move on. People should have access to state houses while their need was great but then move on as their need diminished.

"The more help we give people the harder it is to avoid dependency. The Labour Party opposed benefit cuts through the 90s, but has now adopted the benefit levels set in 1991. Mr English emphasised the role of the community and families in important decisions and choices. "Any government should be careful about interfering too much. I've never found a community that doesn't have some capacity to determine its own future.

Mr English said he wanted to see more robust and open discussion on issues like the Treaty of Waitangi. "To raise any issue like this in Wellington means being branded a racist by Helen Clark and the Labour Party.

Mr English said limited resources were no excuse for the Government's incompetence in managing health services. National was formulating a rescue plan, including a financial bailout and giving district health boards 'the tools to do their job', Mr English said.

Ends

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