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Kiwis to exercise their democratic right -

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Kiwis to exercise their democratic right

The World Today - Friday, 12 September , 2008 12:10:00

Reporter: Kerry Ritchie

ELEANOR HALL: In New Zealand where the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, has just announced a date for
the election. New Zealanders will go to the polls on the 8th of November and the Prime Minster says
she's looking forward to the fight.

Joining us now in Auckland is New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie.

So Kerrry, Helen Clark's going for a 4th term, she says she's looking forward to the fight, how
tough will it be for her?

KERRY RITCHIE: She definitely has her work cut out for her Eleanor. Over here there's one house in
parliament and there's 120 seats. So to get a majority she needs roughly 61. Labor at the moment
over here has 49 seats and all the talk is whether Helen Clark will be able to get a majority at
the next election and there's a lot of talk that she won't be able to.

If she was going to win she would definitely have to make government with the Maori Party or the
Greens. There's also a lot of talk about the Opposition over here. John Key who is the leader of
the Nationals and there's an expectation that the Nationals might actually be able to get enough to
form a government on their own.

So John Key's been getting a lot of good press but he's accused of not having a lot of policy. And
here's what Helen Clark had to say about him. She wanted to make it clear that he's all talk and
not much substance at the press conference this morning.

HELEN CLARK: This election is about trust. It's about which leader and which major party we New
Zealanders trust. Our family's and country's future with. This election is a choice between a
government which has shown that it can make the tough choices and an opposition which flip-flops on
almost every major issue.

It's an election between a government which takes principled positions and an opposition which says
what it thinks the audience in front of it wants to hear.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's the Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark, calling the election this
morning.

Kerry, we've been hearing a lot about Winston Peters who resigned as foreign minister a couple of
weeks ago. What's the speculation about what prompted her to set an election date today?

KERRY RITCHIE: Well Winston Peters has been Helen Clark's controversial foreign minister who stood
aside a few weeks ago and he's been causing her a lot of headaches as he's investigated over
undeclared political donations. But look Winston Peters, he's been making front page here for weeks
but I really don't think that's the main factor.

Listening to Helen Clark I think she's got big plans for the election campaign and she wanted a lot
of time to announce policies. She says she wants to announce new policies on health, education,
environment and the speculation was that Labor would always call it early. They had to call it
before November 15th so that Helen Clark could get the message out and she's also recently got her
emissions trading schemes through Parliament.

And she did that with the support if Winston Peters who is the leader of the New Zealand First
Party. So there was really no reason to wait any longer and here's a bit more of what Helen Clark
had to say at the press conference.

HELEN CLARK: We've been determined to keep our country green and clean and protect our unique
environment. The emissions trading scheme, the biofuel sales obligation, the renewable energy and
energy efficiency initiatives - all these and more put New Zealand in a leadership role on these
issues. It's not in our country's nature to be mere fast followers.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Helen Clark again. She's listing the achievements of her government there
Kerry but what are you hearing when you talk to voters? Are they impressed with the government?

KERRY RITCHIE: Yeah, Helen Clark really wanted to make it clear that by re-electing Labor the
country is in safe hands. I am talking to a lot of people who are going to have a vote on November
8th and I am sensing that there is quite a bit of Helen Clark fatigue over here. People can't
pin-point why they are not going to vote for her. They just tell me they are not going to. They're
going to give the new bloke, the leader of the National Party, John Key a go.

So I think it's quite similar to what we saw in Australia in the lead up to the federal election
there regarding John Howard. There's a lot of talk of people saying Helen Clark's simply been here
for too long and it's not healthy for a country. The Opposition leader John Key is about to hold a
press conference and the expectation there is that he is going to come out firing and attack Helen
Clark and have a go at here.

So could be quite interesting.

ELEANOR HALL: So it all begins. Kerry Ritchie our correspondent in New Zealand, thank you.