Labour's annual conference kicks off

  • 07/11/2015
Labour's annual conference kicks off

By Sarah Robson

Labour is clearing out its closet and ditching some of its most contentious policies as it prepares for the 2017 election.

About 500 party members have converged on Palmerston North this weekend for Labour's first annual conference since last year's disastrous election result.

Leader Andrew Little had signalled he wants to drop the capital gains tax and plans to raise the retirement age, saying neither gained much traction with voters, and members voted today not to include them in the party's policy offering going into the next election.

Mr Little has also indicated he will be looking to pare back the party's policy platform; rather than having a suite of 140 policies, he wants to focus on no more than half-a-dozen, "easily digestible" areas.

Much of the focus at this year's conference has been on what Labour needs to do if it is to have any chance of success in 2017.

Party president Nigel Haworth told delegates that while there have been improvements, there is still a long way to go before they are ready for the next campaign.

Mr Haworth said the party must decide whether it is a united, disciplined force or a "jolly decent loose federation of like-minded people and organisations".

"We can operate as a loose federation if we want to, but such behaviour weakens our campaign, weakens our brand and frankly makes us look amateur," Mr Haworth said.

"We cannot afford to look amateur in the political sphere."

Meanwhile, Labour finance spokesman Grant Robertson has reaffirmed the party's pledge to reduce unemployment to four percent by the end of its first term in government - something it campaigned on in 2014.

In his speech to the conference today, he said careers advice urgently needs to be made professional and developed as a partnership between students, schools, businesses and training providers.

Mr Robertson also wants workers to be given greater opportunities for training and retraining.

Health spokeswoman Annette King has used the conference to unveil details of Labour's plan to tackle childhood obesity by reducing the amount of sugar in processed foods.

Mr Little will deliver his keynote speech at the conference tomorrow afternoon.

NZN