You’re going to start hearing a lot about “bottom lines” over the next few months. That’s when a party outlines a particular policy it’s not prepared, in theory, to budge on when it comes to negotiating a potential coalition. For example, if I say that a crisp sauvignon blanc is a bottom line for my birthday party and you turn up with a pinot gris, there will be a firm negotiation over whether or not you’re allowed entry. In that scenario, I’d probably accept that as long as you stick to the pinot, the rest of us can carry on. But in government, the balancing act might not be that simple.
Act, for example, has made it clear that if a potential National government doesn’t agree to a certain set of policy terms, it would be prepared to forego the baubles of office and sit on the cross benches. That would mean every single government decision would need to be individually negotiated with Act (or the opposition) if National wanted to see it pass.
And in recent days, prime minister Chris Hipkins has noted that his party will outline “bottom lines” on tax policy ahead of the election.
So what happens if Labour’s bottom lines don’t align with the Green Party’s newly announced wealth tax? Hipkins was asked by RNZ this morning whether he’d be prepared to lead a minority government, should the Greens choose to sit on the cross bench. “If we set bottom lines and we say these are areas we’re not prepared to compromise on, that will be the case,” said Hipkins.
“I think all of the smaller parties do need to be careful in terms of what they set as bottom line demands. That doesn’t just apply to our side of the aisle, it applies on the other side of the aisle as well, because I think there is an aspect that New Zealanders should get the government that they vote for recognising that under an MMP environment that government might not always be able to form a majority outright and will have to work with other parties.”
Hipkins said a minor party having a bottom line doesn’t mean they should hold disproportionate power in any decision-making, “MMP is based on the premise there is compromise, of course, parties are also entitled to set bottom lines,” he added.
Make sure “bottom lines” is firmly in your election year glossary as we head into the final four months of the campaign.