25 Sep 2023

Election 2023: National Party confirms it could work with NZ First

1:21 pm on 25 September 2023
National Party leader Christopher Luxon campaigning in Hamilton on 25 September 2023.

Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

National Party leader Christopher Luxon has confirmed he would seek New Zealand First's help to form a government if necessary.

After months of refusing to explicitly state whether he would work with New Zealand First, Luxon posted a video on his Facebook page on Monday morning.

He said his preference was to form a two-party coalition with ACT, but would work with New Zealand First too, if necessary.

"I believe that government [a coalition between National and ACT] would be in the best interests of New Zealanders at this very uncertain time.

"However, if New Zealand First is returned to Parliament and I need to pick up the phone to Mr Peters to keep Labour and the coalition of chaos out, I will make that call. And frankly, I think Chris Hipkins will ultimately do exactly the same thing.

"That's not my first preference, we all remember 2017. New Zealand First hasn't gone with National in 27 years and could choose Labour again."

Luxon declined an interview request with Morning Report, but speaking to reporters from Hamilton while on the campaign trail, he said he had made the statement to get voters to understand how tight the election race was.

"We're at crunch time ... [advance] voting starts in a week's time, and so it's important that I've made every appeal and every pitch that I can to the New Zealand people as to why I think the country has a great future, but actually there's an awful lot at stake."

He refused to outline any election arrangements about what kind roles ACT or New Zealand First could take.

"We will sort out coalition agreements and arrangements on the other side of the election. What I can tell you is Nicola Willis will be finance minister, I will be prime minister."

Luxon also said he knew Peters, albeit not that well, but had a good enough relationship that he could work with him. However, he said he did not know if he had Peters' phone number.

"I'll make it work if I have to."

From time to time over the past few years, he had caught up with Peters for the odd drink and they had run into each other at various points, he said.

Peters was critical of the focus on the issue of potential government partners, saying voters would ultimately have the final say.

"This is an extraordinary circumstance, which for months has gone on, where that has become a question, whereas the issues of the day and the crisis economically and socially and also of our democracy has taken the second place and that's extraordinarily disappointing, because in the end the voters of this country ... will decide this issue, not politicians, and most certainly not the media," he told Morning Report.

"Mr Luxon has been besieged for months, like every other political party, in an attempt to try and rule New Zealand First out of this campaign. As I said, we believe in democracy."

Winston Peters

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Peters said he "ran into" National Party spokespeople while on the campaign trail and there was no "pre-organised" meeting between them ahead of this announcement.

However, he was clear about his views on Labour, saying he ruled them out already two years ago.

"I'm not going to go down the pathway of racism and division and separatism, which is the very programme that they've been putting in place."

Peters has continuously defended his decision to form a government with Labour in 2017, when Labour won 37 percent of the vote and National had 45 percent. He repeated his claim that former National Party leader Bill English had told him he was about to lose his position.

Last week, English told Newsroom that was a "ridiculous claim" and a "fabrication".

Working with ACT?

Earlier this month, ACT floated the possibility of a new kind of governing arrangement if National refuses to cooperate during post-election negotiations.

Party leader David Seymour threatened to resort to a confidence-only deal, which would require the larger party to seek ACT's backing for all government spending - or "supply" - decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Peters, on the other hand, did not outline any sort of deal he would be making with National if they return to Parliament, saying he was too experienced to be making "unreasonable, immature" demands.

"If you have a circumstance that is not in your coalition agreement - and we've been wise enough and experienced enough to understand this - being the overriding responsibility and it's written into the contract, is to discuss these things internally and come to a resolution that both parties are happy with. That's the way you go ahead with experience.

"The other way of going ahead is utter chaos or support of extortion, because you're getting things by intimidation that you won't do something and the number one thing that you're looking at is not what the political parties think, it's what country needs."

In a statement, ACT Leader David Seymour said his party and National were on the same page about a future coalition government.

"New Zealand needs a government that takes the country in a better direction. In the end, it comes down to a simple question for voters - 'Who do you trust?'"

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs