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coalition talks 2023

The BulletinNovember 15, 2023

One small U-turn for Act and National, one possible leap forward for coalition deal

coalition talks 2023

As the coalition negotiations are pursued up and down the North Island, and wishlists mount, what is and isn’t happening while the caretaker convention is in place, asks 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.

History repeats as Winston Peters plays by The Rules

You might expect that any mention of a U-turn during coalition talks would relate to policy, but in this instance, it was somewhat literal. After heading to Wellington yesterday, reportedly to possibly meet with Winston Peters, David Seymour and Christopher Luxon turned around and came back to Auckland last night, where Peters is and where he reportedly got a haircut. They are reportedly, possibly, going to meet today. After dinner in Wellington last night (Peters in absentia), Shane Jones said, “It’s time for the kauri tree from Whananāki to meet with the totara trees”. This “whacky races, Benny Hill theme tune” vibe is familiar and expected. In 2017, while we waited for coalition negotiations to conclude and a government to be formed, there were stories about whether a wink from Jacinda Ardern meant anything, stakeouts, foreign buyers being the subject of negotiation discussions, and Peters taking his time. As Ben Thomas writes in The Post, Peters is playing “The Game” and by “The Rules”, both titles of turn-of-the-century dating bestsellers.

Wishlists and priorities fill the vacuum

From the top of the North to the bottom of the South, wishlists for the new government are mounting, and these are just stories from the last few days. With news that State Highway 1 to Northland over the Brynderwyn Hills may be closed for months to repair storm damage, business leaders continue to ask for a long-term solution. In Invercargill, they want funding for an emergency water supply. Auckland councillor Richard Hills says Auckland must be a top priority for the new government. Christchurch wants clarity on water regulation, among other things. Federated Farmers is asking for fairly immediate action on a range of issues. At the same time, retirement village residents went to Wellington yesterday to ask for an end to what they see as “exploitation” of the elderly by village owners. Broadly, businesses want a business-friendly government, while most of us want to pay less for food, petrol, power, and flights. As BusinessDesk’s Pattrick Smellie writes (paywalled), there’s a tension between those two things, especially in the desire to address the lack of competition in multiple sectors. Infrastructure New Zealand has penned an open letter to Luxon regarding the sector’s problems. Despite the clock running down to the end of the year, likely finance minister Nicola Willis maintains there will be a mini-budget before Christmas “to see the true state of the New Zealand economy and the government’s finances.”

What your government is not doing

Taking care in the Beehive. Image: Tina Tiller

Toby Manhire has spoken to constitutional expert Andrew Geddis about what the caretaker convention actually means, what continues to happen, and what does not happen while it’s in place. For all the urgency and pressure conveyed about the wait and via the wishlists, it’s worth noting that Geddis says the caretaker convention is working as it should. Manhire catalogues where gaps are emerging, noting the particularly real consequences for those waiting on things like immigration decisions. It’s a good read.

Free trade implications of failing to meet Paris Agreement obligations

As I touched on yesterday and Manhire details this morning, our lack of or diminished presence at global events is one consequence of this transitional period. We will face scrutiny at Cop 28 about our efforts to meet our Paris Agreement obligations. RNZ’s Eloise Gibson has a story about what may await an incoming climate change minister. As Gibson writes, New Zealand could find itself in breach of its free trade deal with Europe if it walks back its commitments under the Paris Agreement. The deal is on track to come into force in 2024 and includes an enforceable promise by both parties to “effectively implement” their 2030 climate targets under the Paris Agreement.

Keep going!