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Cullen on Brash: Is that all?

Cullen on Brash: Is that all?

Finance Minister Michael Cullen said today Dr Brash's Orewa speech was vastly underwhelming.

"It's hardly surprising National chose not to hype its leader's speech. It's tired old rhetoric from a tired leader," said Dr Cullen. "Dr Brash is sticking to the same right wing prescription he peddled so unsuccessfully at the election.

"Voters saw it then for what it was – National's predictable agenda for cutting core government spending, slashing benefits, removing workers' rights and compromising the environment," said Dr Cullen.

"It didn't work in the nineties when National was in government, it wont work now."

This government has restored spending in education, health and other key social services after years of National party neglect in the nineties.

"New Zealanders are now reaping the benefit of improved access to higher quality services and facilities," said Dr Cullen.

"Dr Brash seems to forget New Zealanders have enjoyed six years of sustained economic growth well ahead of the OECD average. The country's wealth has grown by twenty five billion dollars and we are closing the income gap with other developed countries," said Dr Cullen.

"We have been prudent managers of the fiscal purse and are well placed to weather any dip in the economic cycle.

"If this is the best Dr Brash can do then John Key can breathe a sigh of relief – the leader's day of reckoning is coming sooner rather than later," Dr Cullen concluded.

Reality Check

On government spending: Government spending has grown at a slower rate then the economy as a whole. In 1999 core spending was 33% of GDP. It's now about 31%.

On red tape: The World Bank repeatedly rates New Zealand as the easiest place to do business.

On a growing income gap with Australia: Dr Brash asserts average after tax income in Australia was 20% ahead of New Zealand in 1999 and has grown to 33%. Fact: Between 1999 and 2004 New Zealand's GDP per capita grew nearly 13%. Australia's grew by 9.5% That is New Zealand grew nearly 40% faster per person than in Australia. Over the five years previous when National was in power New Zealand grew 40% more slowly per person than Australia

On the economic cycle: Dr Brash blames the government for an expected slowdown while explaining away the 1998 downturn. Economies always go through cycles and slow down after strong growth. Treasury is only forecasting economic growth to slow to 1.7% by next year.

On unemployment: Dr Brash says unemployment will rise steeply. Not so. Treasury forecasts unemployment to rise slightly from 3.4% to 3.8% by next year. This would still be the lowest in the OECD.

On health: Health spending has grown to reflect National's underinvestment in the nineties. The government spends about 5.9% of GDP on health, about the middle of the OECD. We are getting results. More people are being treated, more quickly. We're doing 27,500 more day procedures than in 1998/99. Male and female life expectancy is increasing. The five yearly increase in male life expectancy as at 2002 was the highest recorded during the last 100 years. On police: We have added 1100 extra police staff since coming into office and have committed to a 1000 further sworn staff over the next three years.

On benefit numbers: In Dec 1999 there were 401,415 working age people on income tested benefits. Now (as of Dec 2005) there are 302,083.

On underinvestment in roads: The state highway spend for the next ten years is around $12 billion, the highest ever. Roading expenditure has increased 40% since 2003/04. In Auckland in National's last year in government $131 million was spent on highways. Last year this rose more than ten fold to $1.35 billion.

On literacy and numeracy of school leavers: International comparisons show our schools produce good results. Performance is improving in many areas of numeracy, literacy and science achievement in primary schooling. Results for 2003 and 2004 show for the first time in at least a decade a significant reduction in the proportion of school leavers with little or no formal attainment.

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