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Kiwis starved of excitement in lead-up to pol -

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Kiwis starved of excitement in lead-up to poll

The World Today - Thursday, 6 November , 2008 12:30:00

Reporter: Kerri Ritchie

ELEANOR HALL: Politicians across the Tasman may be wondering if the mood for change which swept
across America will have any role in Saturday's New Zealand election.

Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark is seeking a fourth term but some are complaining that the
election lacks excitement. The third televised debate between the Prime Minister and Opposition
Leader, National Party Leader John Key, was notably civil.

And as New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie reports both leaders are now being criticised for
getting on too well.

KERRI RITCHIE: Helen Clark and John Key looked relaxed and happy as they entered the studio at
Television New Zealand in Auckland.

TV PRESENTER: Welcome to all of you and also to our studio audience.

KERRI RITCHIE: The New Zealand leaders couldn't ignore that other election which has been hogging
all the headlines. The pair began by congratulating Barack Obama. Helen Clark sees his win as a
positive for her re-election chances.

HELEN CLARK: Firstly this is an incredible day for progressive politics. We do regard the Democrats
as a sister party.

KERRI RITCHIE: John Key believes the result in the US proves there's a mood for change.

JOHN KEY: We'll be looking to advance a strong relationship with the United States. It is an
important relationship.

KERRI RITCHIE: The American stations might have had holograms in their coverage. New Zealand TV had
YouTube - taking questions from voters over the internet. Most were serious.

YOUTUBE QUESTIONER: I am wondering about your policies concerning Israel and how also do you see
our relationship with Israel in the future? Thank you.

KERRI RITCHIE: Another voter asked about the drug methamphetamine or "P" as it's known in New
Zealand.

YOUTUBE QUESTIONER 2: My question is, what will your party do to eradicate the P menace from our
society? Please note, I said eradicate.

KERRI RITCHIE: Then the debate got unusually deep.

TV PRESENTER: John Key, do you believe in God?

JOHN KEY: Oh, look I'm not deeply religious person as I have said before. I also believe I live my
life by Christian principles but I don't sit there and worship a god every night.

TV PRESENTER: Can I put it to you, I mean both of you from a purely pragmatic political point of
view, you'd be far better to come in here and go yes I believe in God or I go to church or
whatever, as a political move.

HELEN CLARK: I think Mark, we are better to come in here and say what we really think and I think
the honest answer we've both given is we don't know. We don't know and we are not deeply religious
people.

KERRI RITCHIE: And that was the tone for the rest of the debate - the two leaders agreed with each
other and joked together. Some political commentators believe it was so cosy, it was almost
uncomfortable.

YOUTUBE QUESTIONER 3: My question to Helen Clark and John Key is, are you two friends outside the
beehive? For example would you be seen at the same Christmas party or even sneaking each other a
Christmas Card?

JOHN KEY: Well, Leigh, I can give you an answer and that is about six months ago I went Manurewa
Primary and a little boy ran up to me, he was about seven years of age, and he said I know exactly
who you are.

And like someone that is a bit odd I said, who am I? And he said you're Helen Clark's boyfriend.
Mate, I'm a lot of things but with due respect, Helen, I'm not your boyfriend, that's for sure.

HELEN CLARK: You know if we weren't in politics, we might enjoy a beer or a cup of coffee together.

KERRI RITCHIE: Afterwards, John Key looked happy with his performance.

So you're confident you're going to win?

JOHN KEY: In the end that is for the hands of the New Zealand public but all I can tell you is out
there on the streets there is a very strong mood for change.

KERRI RITCHIE: So you won't say yes or no?

JOHN KEY: No, that is for the New Zealand public to decide.

KERRI RITCHIE: Helen Clark also looked confident.

TV PRESENTER: Bit tough that you would have a beer with him but he wouldn't give you a Christmas
card? Are you a bit hurt by that?

HELEN CLARK: Oh well. Who is counting the Christmas cards?

KERRI RITCHIE: No one is the short answer, when you're just two sleeps away from an election. Every
minute is precious for Helen Clark. She is behind in the polls and trying to convince voters that
after nine years as prime minister, she remains their best option for the future.

This is Kerri Ritchie in Auckland reporting for The World Today.