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Act leader David Seymour (Image: Getty Images/Tina Tiller)
Act leader David Seymour (Image: Getty Images/Tina Tiller)

The BulletinNovember 22, 2023

Seymour jockeys for position but coalition deal close to being inked

Act leader David Seymour (Image: Getty Images/Tina Tiller)
Act leader David Seymour (Image: Getty Images/Tina Tiller)

David Seymour’s bid for deputy PM reportedly slows final talks, and final cabinet positions are yet to be worked out but the end of talks is nigh, 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.

A deal is close

Luke Malpass is reporting this morning that “MPs and leaders involved in coalition negotiations are all but ready to decamp to Wellington to ink a coalition deal.” As Malpass writes in The Post, it’s understood David Seymour’s public bid for the deputy prime minister role yesterday slowed down the final talks, but coalition partners are hopeful a deal can be struck in Auckland on Wednesday, with the aim of signing an agreement in Wellington on Thursday. There is the small matter of potential days of delays to flights in and out of the capital caused by yesterday’s fog.

Luxon goes hundies on weet-bix while he can

In a bit getting close to resembling the old All Blacks versus kids “how many can you do” ads, incoming prime minister Christopher Luxon expressed his displeasure at Seymour’s public touting by suggesting that it was Seymour who had eaten too many weet-bix that morning. Luxon went on to deliver a rousing endorsement of the breakfast cereal, forcing me to clarify that as he is not yet sworn in as prime minister, he does not yet have to adhere to the cabinet manual rules that require all ministers to refrain from endorsing specific products. He will have to refrain from saying the Sanitarium-owned brand “powers this nation” and is “a great product” once he is.

Nothing to say we need a deputy PM, or that there can only be one

Luxon described the role of deputy prime minister as “largely a ceremonial role”. It is sometimes described as such. It is also the second-highest paid role out of all covered by the parliamentary salaries and allowances determination, after the role of prime minister, and pays $334,734 per annum. As Toby Manhire writes, “when called upon it carries, by definition, enormous responsibility.” Winston Peters was acting PM for six weeks in 2018. Manhire also explains that Luxon has options. Electoral law expert Andrew Geddis says there’s nothing to say there must be a deputy PM appointed or that there can only be one deputy PM (despite the two bits of legislation quoted referring to ‘the’ Deputy PM). “And I guess you can make a system with more than one Deputy PM work,” he said, pointing out that Fiji has three.

24 days to produce a mini-budget

As Thomas Coughlan writes in The Herald this morning, the timing of Nicola Willis’ planned mini-budget has always been aligned the release of Treasury’s Half-Year Economic and Fiscal Update (Hyefu). These are the fiscal forecasts the finance minister has to ask Treasury to produce by the end of December under the Public Finance Act. While there’s an out for finance ministers in election years, Willis has confirmed she will be delivering the Hyefu and will release her mini-budget alongside it. If the new Government was sworn in next Monday, Coughlan notes it would have just 24 days to produce a mini-budget if that timing is to be retained. As BusinessDesk’s Jem Traylen notes (paywalled), this interregnum “is always brutal for public servants in the policy area” as the issue of what to do with policy work already underway rears its head. Traylen cites the Ministry for the Environment’s extensive work programme to put in place Resource Management Act reform, which the incoming government has said it will repeal. As BusinessDesk’s Ian Llewellyn writes (paywalled), the change of government has also put paid to work being done by a panel on policy priorities and actions to alleviate energy hardship. The recommendations of the Energy Hardship Expert Panel are no longer under active consideration because of the change of government, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says.

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