Prime Minister John Key's claims that high poverty levels in New Zealand are partly due to drug abuse have been slammed as "outrageous and unwarranted".
A child poverty report this week from Children's Commissioner Russell Wills revealed nearly one-third of all New Zealand children are living in poverty, and more than half of them will never escape it.
Speaking about the report, Key told Newstalk ZB the Government wanted to "break the cycle" of welfare dependency in some families.
Labour children's spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern described Key's claims as "outrageous and unwarranted".
He singled out drug abuse as one of the factors in poverty, saying it was why some could not get work.
"If you look at why some people can't get work, it's drug dependency: go and ask any employer…'Do you drug-test people?' and what they'll tell you, if they drug test people, some of those people that they are testing they cannot hire because that's the issue.
"I'm not saying it's everyone, and I'm not arguing for one second that's why everyone's poor, I'm just saying that some people are locked out of the labour market because they're taking drugs, and they are holding themselves back."
Labour children's spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern accused Key of making "outrageous and unwarranted assumptions", and said his response showed why the Government was failing to address rising rates of child poverty."
"If the Prime Minister wants to make claims like this he needs to back them up.
"However, that's unlikely - these are families who are struggling to survive on the lowest of incomes."
Key also said the poverty line in New Zealand was higher than in other, less-developed countries.
"Well it's not poverty Delhi-style: they're people living on a dollar a day, that's not what happening in New Zealand."
Many of the poverty measures were "literally ticking the box" for certain living conditions that were or were not met.
"Some of them are pretty subjective, like the number of times you eat red meat and whether you can afford Christmas presents, so there's quite a range."
Key denied he was downplaying the seriousness of poverty levels, but said the Government already spent billions to support the poor through programmes like Working for Families and housing subsidies.
"I'm not saying there aren't some very poor people in New Zealand - there are - but it's worth remembering what the Government does do."