Labour has rolled out new policy to make cervical screening free for all 25 to 69 year olds if re-elected in the coming general election – its latest gambit to wrestle back ground as a new poll shows it still dropping and National nudging over the 40 per cent mark.
The policy to fully fund the cervical screening programme at a cost of $20 million a year will be announced today while leader Chris Hipkins is on a campaign trip to Christchurch.
In Petone, Taxpayers Union crashed National’s sign-waving event in Petone and tense conversations between the two groups have occurred, with National “a bit ratty” at its arrival.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER THE LIVE BLOG
The cervical screening announcement is the latest in a pitch by Labour for votes, following on from its policy to bring in free dental care for those aged under 25.
The screening would save up to $100 in co-payments, which are currently paid to get the screening and would benefit about 1.4 million people. Labour’s women’s health spokeswoman Willow Jean Prime said cervical cancer was one of the most preventable cancers, and it was critical cost was not a barrier to screening.
However the polls show it is so far struggling to entice voters with five weeks of the campaign left - a Newshub Reid Research poll last night has Labour down to 26.8 per cent while National has nudged over the 40 per cent mark. The Greens are up 2.7 points to 12.3 per cent, while Act drops 2 points to 10.1 per cent.
On those numbers, National and Act could form a government earning 66 seats (National with 53 and Act with 13).
National leader Christopher Luxon was on level pegging with Hipkins as preferred Prime Minister at 22.5 per cent.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon bites into a pie in Johnsonville on the campaign trail. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Today, all political parties’ eyes will be on the pre-election opening of the books, the Prefu, when Treasury will reveal the updated figures for revenue, spending and debt – and its updated forecasts for the years ahead.
On Monday, Hipkins said the government’s finances were in a “challenging position” but the economy was turning a corner with inflation coming down.
He was certain Labour would able to meet all of its spending promises on the campaign, if it was re-elected – and again questioned whether National would be able to afford its tax cuts, saying it had refused to release its full costings for the policy.
However, National’s finance spokeswoman Nicola Willis insisted the tax-cuts policy was affordable, regardless of the state of the books. National intends that the $14.6 billion over four years be fully funded by a mix of new revenue measures (such as a foreign buyers tax), and cuts in spending by some public sector bodies.
The campaign continues today with Hipkins in Christchurch to announce the new policy and promote Labour’s move to make prescriptions free, while Luxon will be campaigning in the electorate of Hutt South, which National’s Chris Bishop is hoping to win back from Labour’s Ginny Andersen.
On Monday, Hipkins was in Nelson promoting Labour’s free dental care policy – including getting his own teeth checked by a dentist while Luxon spent yesterday in other Wellington regional electorates, which National is hoping to win back from Labour – including Otaki and Ohariu, where his deputy Nicola Willis is trying to best the incumbent, Labour’s Greg O’Connor.
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