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Labour vows to lower unemployment

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 12/05/2017
Andrew Little. © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Andrew Little.

Labour has opened its election year congress with a promise to lower unemployment to four per cent in its first year in office.

Finance spokesman Grant Robertson said in his keynote speech on Saturday the party's mission was full employment, and in government Labour would be "relentless" in getting the basics right.

"In the first term of government we will lower unemployment to four per cent," he told cheering delegates.

At present it's running at above five per cent. "And we are going to address the scariest number you will hear this year - the 90,000 15 to 24-year-olds who are not in employment, education or training."

Mr Robertson also said a Labour government would review taxation, and make the system more fair for everyone.

Labour leader Andrew Little will speak to the conference on Sunday. He has said he will unveil a negative gearing policy to level the playing field for first-home buyers, and the big topics of his speech will be health and housing.

Mr Little will be firing up delegates, the party's foot soldiers, for the coming election campaign.

He told TV3's The Nation before the conference opened that he would announce a negative gearing policy.

That's the system that allows owners of rental properties to claim tax write-offs - one of the reasons buying multiple properties and renting them out is so popular.

It's one of the reasons there's a shortage of houses to buy and Labour has previously signalled it intends removing the tax break.

"All of our housing initiatives are first-term initiatives, they'll be stuff we can do as early as possible, as quickly as possible because the housing situation now is in crisis," Mr Little said.

"We are going to level the playing field and make it easier for first-home buyers to get their first home." Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler has suggested the government should consider the impact it's having on the housing market. Prime Minister Bill English has ruled that out.

He said this week the government's tax policy was to treat businesses consistently "and there doesn't appear to be a strong reason to carve out the rental business".

Mr Little also announced would be unveiling Labour's immigration plans in the coming weeks, aiming to reduce immigration by more than 20,000 people a year.

The policy will target work and student visas. Before Mr Little's speaks there will be a showcase featuring six new women candidates.

Other speakers at the conference include its president Nigel Haworth and CTU president Richard Wagstaff.

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