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Clark Heads Into National Country

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Fuseworks Media

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By Maggie Tait of NZPA

Wellington, Oct 1 NZPA - Before the election date was announced Prime Minister Helen Clark told her MPs they needed to get their hard hats on and work hard.

Today she didn't wear the hat but she did don a fluorescent yellow vest, safety glasses and earplugs as she visited Juken Nissho Mill in the National-held Wairarapa electorate.

Out on the campaign trail Miss Clark had lunch with the workers before putting on the safety gear for a tour of the plant.

Sitting next to Miss Clark while she had her sandwiches and cup of tea was team leader Guy Blathwayt.

Topics at lunch included the economy, education and apprenticeships and Mr Blathwayt talked to her about the young men who came to the mill without basic life skills.

"It's always interesting to get up close and personal with our leaders," he said before getting back to work.

"She talks a lot of sense."

At a Grey Power meeting later in the afternoon Miss Clark didn't need her safety gear but she tried to saw into support for National.

Miss Clark told the audience of about 100 in Masterton not to put the economy, health and education at risk by voting for National.

She didn't mention support partner New Zealand First leader Winston Peters while extolling the virtues of several measures his party got out of Labour -- including free off-peak public transport for senior citizens, hearing aid discounts, and increased superannuation.

Miss Clark said the elderly were also getting more elective surgery, benefiting from rates rebates and those who entered into reverse mortgages would be better protected under Labour.

She argued against the time for a change message, asking what gains the older folk wanted dumped.

The audience also had a lecture on things National would sell and privatise, all just to offer lower tax cuts of an extra $18 a week.

When raising Iraq this time Miss Clark did not use the much disputed 60 body bag claim she made at another Grey Power meeting recently.

Miss Clark faced questions on the Emissions Trading Scheme, high dairy prices and support for victims.

A large part of her speech was dedicated to talking about education -- which was also how she started her day in a speech to the PPTA's conference in Wellington.

In that speech she talked about government policy and announced two extra professional development days for secondary teachers to work on building the new curriculum, the NCEA qualification and Schools Plus initiative to keep kids in school longer. Primary schools got one new teacher-only day. The conference was also told terms of reference for a staffing review had been agreed to.

Rotorua Girls High computing and multimedia teacher Teresa Besley said Miss Clark talked about a lot of things the sector needed to do, which was fine so long as the money and staff were there to do it.

"We just want the best for the students," she said.

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