24 Nov 2023

Coalition deals signed and sealed, now it's time to deliver

From Focus on Politics, 7:00 pm on 24 November 2023
Focus on Politics: Winston Peters, David Seymour with Christopher Luxon in front of the Beehive.

Photo: RNZ

"What we have achieved together, I think, is historic" - Christopher Luxon

It took 40 days and 40 nights - but at long last, the country knows what its new government will look like.

New Zealand's first-ever three-way coalition: National, ACT and New Zealand First finally signing on the dotted line in the ultimate Black Friday deal. 

The three leaders' style - each at their own podium in the Beehive's banquet hall - augurs an unpredictable term ahead. National's Christopher Luxon was corporate and aspirational, ACT's David Seymour earnest and exacting, with Peters fractious and mercurial. 

NZ First leader Winston Peters, National Party leader Christopher Luxon and ACT Party leader David Seymour at the formal signing ceremony on 24 November, 2023.

Winston Peters, Christopher Luxon and David Seymour at the formal signing ceremony. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Indeed, asked whether they trusted one another, each had a different response. 

Luxon: "Absolutely".

Seymour: "I trust all ministers in our Cabinet, that's how Cabinet collective responsibility works and that's how I'll operate". 

Peters: "We don't answer stupid questions. We've shaken hands here to be capable of earning trust. Please understand what real life looks like for adults. We've shaken hands on a commitment to make this government work because this country desperately needs it, make no bones about it."

Read more: 

The unique dynamic is acknowledged in the documents - with a detailed prescription for the working relationship. 

Much interest also centred on the deputy-prime ministership, symbolic of the power tussle between ACT and New Zealand First through the election campaign - the impasse finally resolved with an unorthodox time-share arrangement: Peters for half the term, then Seymour for the rest. 

It's either a creative solution or a childish sop - an easy target for mockery by the new government's opponents. 

Peters also took Foreign Minister, with Seymour picking up his new Minister for Regulation portfolio, aiming to cut red tape, funding this by shutting down the Productivity Commission. Other contentious roles stay with National: Nicola Willis is Finance Minister, as promised. Judith Collins is Attorney-General, Todd McClay is Agriculture Minister. There are also roles for the partner party deputies: Workplace relations for Brooke van Velden; Regional Development for Shane Jones. 

On policy, all three parties have signed up to National's 100-point economic manifesto and 100-day plan except where specified. ACT did not win its Treaty referendum but gets to make its case with the legislation going at least as far as select committee. NZ First has secured a $1.2 billion regional infrastructure fund, an independent inquiry into the country's Covid-19 response, and shutting down any chance of the others hiking the pension age. 

Perhaps the biggest casualty of the agreement is National's proposal to let foreign buyers back into the housing market, which it had estimated would net the government $740m a year. Luxon insists the money can be found through savings and reprioritisations.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon on 24 November, 2023.

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

RNZ Political Editor Jane Patterson told Nine to Noon the party would need to work hard to find those savings, with numbers being pushed to the limit. 

"They're going to have to really get busy and find more savings again, to reflect in the mini-budget how they're going to pay for it while also accommodating all of the concessions made through these agreements." 

She notes many of the policies included in the deals are as expected - matching with what the parties campaigned on. But the contentious Treaty referendum will be a serious political stumbling block when it reaches the public consultation stages. 

"Basically National and New Zealand First have said 'it's up to ACT to convince us that it's a good idea' so they've kicked it for touch because they can then drag it out through the select committee process and then make their arguments.

"On the flipside it gives a forum for the debate to be had which David Seymour said was his main purpose during the campaign and also really to explore some of those arguments."

NZ First also has a provision to "conduct a comprehensive review of all legislation except when it's related to or substantive to full and final Treaty settlements that includes reference to the principles of the Treaty and replace all such references with specific words relating to the relevance and application to the Treaty or repeal the references".

"That is a retrospective act potentially," says Patterson, "that is going to be a very interesting one to watch."

With the paperwork signed and the ink dry, the machinery of Parliament can now swing into action. The timeline for the 100-day plan - yet to be revealed - is terribly tight, with just three sitting weeks before Christmas. 

The deal is signed and sealed - now the real work begins.

In this week's Focus on Politics, Deputy Political Editor Craig McCulloch examines the coalition deals and the personalities behind them. 

Listen free to Focus on Politics on Apple Podcasts, on  Spotify, on iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts.