Williamson gaffe adds fuel to 'secret agenda' fire

National's latest policy gaffe has seen front bench MP Maurice Williamson described as "exuberant" and "excitable" by his leaders as they tried to salvage the situation.

Mr Williamson, National's transport spokesman, forced the party into damage control after he said on Sunday drivers could face $50 a week toll fees on new roads if there was a change of government.

Yesterday he had to retract that, saying the figure was wrong and National was not considering toll charges of that level.

Earlier, deputy leader Bill English tried to play it down by saying Mr Williamson had become "too exuberant" during Sunday's Agenda programme on TV One.

National's leader, John Key, described the MP as "excitable" and sources said Mr Williamson had been talking out of turn about policies which had not been finalised.

His comment on Agenda brought a flood of criticism from the Government and the Greens.

Ministers claimed it was further evidence of a "secret agenda" and the Greens said toll charges would hurt poor people.

The party has suffered from previous blunders when MPs have talked about policies they knew little about, and which had to be cleared up by Mr Key.

Mr Williamson said on Sunday National would build five major toll roads in partnership with the private sector.

"I don't know anyone that wouldn't pay $3 to $5," he said, explaining that it would cost them more than that to keep their car running for 40 minutes in Auckland's gridlocked traffic.

Finance Minister Michael Cullen said National had a user-pays agenda and Transport Minister Annette King said there were divisions within National about the policy.

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2 Comments & Questions

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the Greens said toll charges would hurt poor people.

How does a toll (which will be optional, as there will be alternative routes)hurt "poor people" more than a compulsory 10 cent per litre regional petrol tax?

Typical green party 'If it helps the economy, then it hurts poor people' philosophy....

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Sure the possibility of road tolls is concerning, but this one incident combined with other recent National Party incidents just goes to highlight the insidious nature to which the National party is handling its policies. The aim of any political party is to gain power to make their policies the dominant governing perspective - and the national party can not do this if they inform the New Zealand public of their policies to entirety, they just wouldn't get the vote. Instead we have seen a "nicer" version of national emerging through the media - unfortunately for Key and Co the real National party seems to have a way of shining through occasionally. Secret Tapes, and bumbling MP's seem to be the only truth we are getting from National!

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