Prime Minister Bill English rules out early election

Prime Minister Bill English has rubbished claims of an early election, saying it will be held "within the normal cycle" (Newshub)
Prime Minister Bill English has rubbished claims of an early election, saying it will be held "within the normal cycle" (Newshub)

Prime Minister Bill English has ruled out an early election, saying the idea is "ridiculous".

"It's not our job to deal with the Labour Party's personnel problems. They're losing their moderate and their competent MPs - Phil Goff and now David Shearer," he told the Paul Henry programme on Tuesday, his first full day in the top job.

"The elections for New Zealand will be within the normal cycle, when it's going to work for this country."

Mr Goff is now the Mayor of Auckland, while Mr Shearer is leaving Labour for a senior United Nations role in South Sudan.

Mr English wouldn't be drawn on a likely election date, however: "You'll just have to wait and see."

He also refused to comment on speculation over his upcoming Cabinet reshuffle - except to defend Housing Minister Nick Smith.

"The people suggesting he's not competent are wrong," said Mr English.

"If you ask someone trying to build three or four houses how long it takes and how complicated it is, imagine what it's like if the media are expecting a minister to produce a few thousand houses tomorrow in order to deal with 20 or 30 years of poor planning in Auckland. Well, it's just impossible, but Nick Smith's done a very good job on an extremely complex issue with housing."

And while he isn't ruling out raising the retirement age, he said the situation is improving overall.

"The picture for New Zealand is a bit more positive than it used to be because we have so many older people who are now in work, that's making our economy bigger and making it a bit easier to carry the cost of superannuation and health," he said.

He also said there were other ways of countering the ageing population - such as focusing on cutting long-term welfare dependence.

"You have a lot of young people who could end up getting an income from the Government for 20 or 30 years. That's why we want to continue with our welfare reforms, because progress there has the same effect of reducing long-term costs. It's not just about retirement."

Mr English also brushed off suggestions the injection of poetry into his first speech as Prime Minister on Monday was an attempt to spice up his boring image and harness some of John Key's popularity.

"In the end, you do this job the way you are."

Newshub.

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