16 Dec 2022

National, ACT, Greens and Te Pāti Māori on the year ahead

From Focus on Politics, 11:02 am on 16 December 2022
Christopher Luxon

National Party leader Christopher Luxon Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

As the political year comes to an end, party leaders are looking forward to the summer break and pondering their approach to next year's election. 

Last week, we heard from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about a year that's seen anti-government sentiment and economic turmoil on the rise.  

This week the man who wants her job, National's Christopher Luxon, expounds on the need in this political environment for bolder action than was seen under his National predecessors John Key and Bill English. 

He fended off criticism of a dearth of policy, saying more will come in election year - and dismissed the gaffes made in his first year as leader, saying they are immaterial to the broader community. 

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Luxon would - based on current polling - need ACT's David Seymour in a coalition to get into government. 

Seymour stops short of directly criticising Luxon - saying he had been impressed with his performance - but ACT would be needed to hold National to the right wing of politics. 

ACT leader David Seymour (December 2022)

ACT leader David Seymour reflects on 2022 and the coming election year. Photo: RNZ / Anneke Smith

"There's so far nothing to indicate that Chris Luxon will be anything different from the last five incoming National Prime Ministers who've said a lot of very aggressive things about Labour's policies but also kept Labour's politics. The reason you vote ACT is that you don't think that's going to be good enough this time."

On the other side of the political spectrum are the Greens - regularly polling around or better than its result in 2020. The party has been in a strange position this term of being in partnership with a majority government - the first under MMP. 

Co-leader James Shaw says the party wants more MPs at the Cabinet table "because that is where you get the most influence". However, he and co-leader Marama Davidson say they value being members of a party that's not comfortable with power. 

"I think that's a good thing and I think we should always be questioning whether we're getting too comfortable and whether we're actually doing what we came here to do or whether we're allowing the kind of fog of being involved to cloud our judgment about our integrity," Shaw says.

Green Party Co-Leaders speak to RNZ's Giles Dexter at the end of 2022

Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Davidson says the Greens will always be a party of activists, and they are proud of that. 

The final party represented in Parliament is Te Pāti Māori - and while its MPs number just two, they could play a pivotal role next year. 

While the latest polls favour National and ACT - a number of others this year put the Māori Party in that deciding king-or-queen-maker position. 

Co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer however seem more attracted to the activist side of the equation the Greens have been working to keep in balance. 

Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer speak to RNZ at the end of 2022

Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.  Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Waititi says he has no ambitions to be a minister at any cost, because they are there to fight for mana motuhake - which sits outside of Parliament. 

"Governments, they come and go. So I'm not interested in sitting in a government that continues to denegrate the mana motuhake of our people. 

Ngarewa-Packer says when it comes to the honouring of te Tiriti o Waitangi, advancing Māori, and addressing the redistribution of wealth, the other parties have not shown the commitment they would need to see. 

However the vote falls next year, some difficult negotiation over policy priorities and Cabinet responsibilities seems inevitable. 

In this week's Focus on Politics, RNZ's political team sit down with party leaders to reflect on 2022 and cast forward to election year.

Tune in on RNZ National at 6.30pm on Friday, on Saturday at 5.10pm, or check back here to listen on demand after it's played

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