David Seymour and Winston Peters. (Image: Tina Tiller)
David Seymour and Winston Peters. (Image: Tina Tiller)

The BulletinNovember 9, 2023

The people behind the scenes as Act and NZ First meet

David Seymour and Winston Peters. (Image: Tina Tiller)
David Seymour and Winston Peters. (Image: Tina Tiller)

Winston Peters and David Seymour are yet to meet, but the chiefs of staff for both parties got together yesterday, and the slow waltz to power continues, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

First contact made

A couple of movie titles sprang to mind as news came through last night that the chiefs of staff for Act and NZ First had met. One stars Jodie Foster, and the other Amy Adams. We make our own fun as we approach the “one month since election day” mark. For the sake of context, discussions between NZ First, National and Labour took two months to complete in 1996. In 2017, the election was held on September 23. Negotiations concluded on October 12, and NZ First announced it would go with Labour on October 19. As RNZ’s Jane Patterson explains, Chris Hipkins and all existing ministers who were elected as MPs at the election may have to be sworn in again as a temporary measure this weekend. Warrants for the caretaker ministers from the last Parliament expire this weekend.

The chiefs of staff at the heart of the negotiations

As Audrey Young writes (paywalled) for the Herald this morning, first contact between the two parties was made via the critical behind-the-scenes players for the two parties, Andrew Ketels (Act) and Darroch Ball (NZ First). Young introduces us to them and Luxon’s chief of staff, Cameron Burrows. The Herald’s Claire Trevett reports the meeting between Ketels and Ball went well. National leader Christopher Luxon and NZ First leader Winston Peters are holding their talks in Wellington this week. Trevett suggests talks are likely to carry on into the weekend and possibly next week. David Seymour and Peters are yet to meet.

Winston Peters as foreign minister?

Yesterday, Toby Manhire outlined what Act and NZ First may seek as part of their deals. Manhire noted that Peters may be satisfied with a return to the role of foreign minister, and while he has recently demonstrated behaviour that has raised questions about that suitability, “he has generally made a decent foreign minister in the past.” Two senior journalists at The Post, Andrea Vance and Luke Malpass, present opposing arguments on that front. Vance writes that “the world is a raging, belching bin fire. The last thing it needs is Winston Peters throwing a fag end on the flames, and grabbing the torch of New Zealand’s foreign policy.” Malpass argues that “Peters is the best person in the New Zealand system to be foreign minister. He is possessed of massive amounts of experience, has mana and relationships in the region.”

Treaty and taxes

While secret, silent and Luxon’s “doing things differently” have become common ways of describing these coalition talks, Act and NZ First have made comments about a couple of positions that will prove tricky, to say the least. NZ First’s Shane Jones spoke to Waatea Radio on Tuesday and, as the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan writes, cast doubt on National’s ability to get its foreign buyers’ tax across the line in coalition talks. The Herald’s Jenée Tibshraeny has also reported (paywalled) on lobbying efforts to stop the incoming government’s proposal to tax commercial and industrial building owners half a billion dollars more a year. As Tibshraeny explains, “National expected the change to generate $2.1b over four years — enough to pay for the tax cut it proposed to give residential property investors by once again allowing them to write off interest as an expense when paying tax.” David Seymour continues to talk about a referendum on the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. Yesterday, former prime minister Jim Bolger poured cold water on that happening saying “it won’t” and “it shouldn’t happen”.

Keep going!