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Labour's strategy for a modern, dynamic economy

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"The Labour Party was formed to represent and advance the interests of working people throughout their lives. That remains our mission today. The tools may change but the job is the same," Labour finance spokesperson Michael Cullen said at the launch today of the party's economic package.

"We want a modern, dynamic economy in which people feel both challenged and valued. To that end, we will broaden the objectives of fiscal policy to include sustainable growth, full employment and social equity and will impose a five-year freeze on tariffs to allow our few remaining tariff-reliant industries to adjust.

"Labour supports free trade. We just don't see why we should make a crusade of pulling down our tariffs harder and faster than the rest of the world. Already too many of our manufacturers have been forced to the wall or across the Tasman at the cost of thousands of New Zealand jobs.

"This is a watershed election. The choice is between a change of direction toward greater fairness and opportunity under Labour or a more vicious version of National's failed ideology.

"In coalition with Act, National would lose any semblance of a social conscience and return to the mentality which applied when Ruth Richardson, as Minister of Finance, gave us the infamous Mother of All Budgets.

"Only this time, the tax cuts would not be mainly for the wealthy. They would be exclusively for the wealthy.

"The Right's addiction to cutting taxes and cutting costs is essentially negative. Our approach will be positive and will focus on raising incomes.

"If New Zealand is to be affluent again, we will have to reduce our current over-reliance on commodity exports in favour of a high-wage, high skill, knowledge, economy.

"Our small and medium-sized businesses are well-suited to take up this challenge but they are not getting the leadership or physical assistance they need from central government. This is a tragedy as it often takes only a small, smart intervention to spell the difference between success and failure," Dr Cullen said.

"Our $200 million a year industry development programme is designed to fill the gap. We will complement this with a variety of initiatives to enhance the skills of the workforce. These include our apprenticeship, skills training, education and student loans policies.

"The Government's attitude toward economic management is narrow and preoccupied obsessively with the financial sector. The outcome of this lack of vision is pedestrian growth and increasing income inequality.

"New Zealanders deserve better. They will get it under Labour," Dr Cullen said.

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