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National Conference Nero-esque

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"The ra-ra speeches and tin drum banging at the National Party's conference this weekend will not be able to drown out the accumulating evidence of nine years of economic mismanagement and missed opportunity," Labour finance spokesperson Michael Cullen said today.

"National's blind adherence to the ideology of the pure market and its refusal to address the structural weaknesses in the economy - specifically New Zealand's over-reliance on commodity exports - have meant that the recovery is lop-sided and fragile.

"It was never strong and there are growing signs that it is steadily losing momentum.

"Consumer and business confidence are headed south. Retail sales fell 2.1 percent in May after contracting 0.9 percent in April. Employment growth is flattening according to the latest ANZ job series.

"And May overseas trade data out tomorrow is expected to confirm this picture. Statistics New Zealand is expecting a merchandise trade surplus for the month of about $70 million. In previous May months it has been close to $300 million.

"Some of the factors behind the export sector's continuing patchy performance - the drought, the Asian crisis, weak world demand - were beyond the government's control.

"But New Zealand would have been better-equipped to weather these problems had the government had the foresight years ago to encourage the shift to more value-added and knowledge-rich exports which were less vulnerable to swings in commodity prices.

"That is at the centre of Labour's economic strategy. National does not have an economic strategy worthy of the name.

"All it has - and all it has had under Ruth Richardson, Bill Birch and now Bill English - is a programme of privatisation and tax cuts," Dr Cullen said.

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