After months of speculation and countless questions from journalists, Christopher Luxon has confirmed he would work with Winston Peters – if required to.
In a video posted to social media, Luxon made it clear that his preference was for “strong and stable” two-party coalition between National and Act. “I believe that government would be in the best interests of New Zealanders at this very uncertain time,” he said.
“However, if New Zealand First is returned to parliament, and I need to pick up the phone to Mr Peters to keep Labour and the coalition of chaos out, I will make that call. Frankly, I think Chris Hipkins will ultimately do exactly the same thing.”
“We all remember 2017. New Zealand First hasn’t gone with National in 27 years – and could choose Labour again. But that decision is ultimately up to you,” Luxon said.
“At the end of the day, elections are about choices. So, if you want to change the government, then I’m asking you to vote for change and choose a better New Zealand.”
On Newstalk ZB, Luxon said this election would go down to the wire. He wouldn’t rule out making Winston Peters deputy prime minister in a potential coalition, instead reiterating that Nicola Willis, National’s deputy, would be the finance minister.
Luxon also confirmed he had talked to Act’s David Seymour who was willing to work with the two parties if absolutely necessary.
“New Zealand needs a government that takes the country in a better direction,” Seymour said in a statement. “In the end, it comes down to a simple question for voters – ‘Who do you trust?’” On Newstalk ZB, he backed Luxon’s call but also labelled Peters “The least trustworthy person in new Zealand politics”.
Luxon has faced months of questions around his potential coalition partners and was up to this point unwilling to confirm his position on New Zealand First. Instead, he would call the situation a hypothetical and indicate he wasn’t willing to comment on post-election arrangements (though National had already ruled out Te Pāti Māori).
Earlier, on Newstalk ZB’s Early Edition, Willis echoed the new National Party messaging. “Realistically, if New Zealand First is to return to parliament and we need to pick up the phone to Mr Peters to keep Labour out, to keep the coalition of chaos of Te Pāti Māori and the Greens out,” she told the programme.
Peters told RNZ that it was “extraordinary” for the media to be discussing this issue so consistently as it was “the voters of this country… [that] will decide this issue”.
He had not had any contact with Luxon to discuss this issue in advance of today, Peters said. As for a possible Labour coalition, Peters once again said he would not work with them again as he opted to in 2017. Chris Hipkins has also made it clear he would not work with New Zealand First, labelling Peters “chaos” during the recent 1News leaders’ debate.