Economy, Dirty Politics fire Key, Cunliffe in debate




The first leaders' debate between National leader John Key and Labour's David Cunliffe was a feisty affair as the pair locked horns on TV ONE over the economy, housing and foreign land sales.

Source: 1 NEWS

But first it was about getting Dirty Politics and Mr Key's loyalty to embattled colleague Judith Collins out of the way.

Behind in the polls, Mr Cunliffe was fired up and ready for a fight.

"I think New Zealanders have worked out that John isn't going to be telling the answers to the questions that they want to hear. The authorities are now investigating and New Zealanders will make up their own minds about what they think about the lack of frankness from my opponent," he said.

Mr Key hit back, saying: "If David thinks this is the big issue of the campaign, the sort of side shows and a bit of muck raking, then I think he's missing the point because New Zealanders who've tuned in to watch this show, they care a lot about whether they've got a job, about the education system and health."

And so the debate turned to the economy, Mr Key telling Kiwis New Zealand was on the verge of something special.

"New Zealanders can see that we're on the cusp of something very special for New Zealand and they want to be part of that," he said.

But Mr Cunliffe insisted the benefits weren't being felt by everyone.

He said what people are telling him is "they're wondering where their economy went. They haven't seen any dividend out of it. Half of New Zealanders almost didn't get a pay rise last year and now John's Treasury forecasts are saying growth rates are being cut in half. So we seem to have missed, for many people, the party. They're going straight to the hangover."

The parties' different approaches on housing also lead to some lively debate.

Mr Key said the Government has rezoned more land for housing, but Mr Cunliffe asked how many houses has the government actually finished.

And foreign farm land sales was a sensitive area too.

Mr Cunliffe said if the international market price is higher than the local price young New Zealand farmers and share milkers would never be able to buy their own farm.

Mr Key said we should allow some foreign investment in New Zealand because the country wants to support jobs and growth and we don't have enough capital of our own.

After the debate, neither was prepared to claim victory.

But viewers made up their minds with nearly 46,000 people answering the question: Which leader impressed you the most in tonight's debate, with 61% voting John Key and 39% David Cunliffe.

The two leaders will square off again next week in Christchurch.

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