6 Nov 2023

National leader Christopher Luxon: Referendum on Te Tiriti would be 'divisive and unhelpful'

10:28 am on 6 November 2023
Christopher Luxon speaks to media after the reveal of the special votes in Election 2023

National Party leader Christopher Luxon says coalition negotiations will take as long as they need to. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

ACT's proposed Treaty referendum would be "divisive and unhelpful", National leader Christopher Luxon says.

Luxon told RNZ's Morning Report a referendum on the Treaty, which was campaigned for by ACT, would be "divisive and unhelpful".

He previously said that a Treaty referendum would not be on the coalition table.

"Our view, through the campaign, is well understood. We think it is - a referendum would be divisive and unhelpful."

But Luxon said he thought Labour MP Willie Jackson's comments to TVNZ's Q&A programme over the weekend that a Treaty referendum would cause civil unrest were "unhelpful" and "intemperate".

"We need this country to be more unified, not less unified and I just didn't think those were appropriate remarks to be making," he said.

"We're going to make sure we deliver and run a government for everybody, we know that there is a lot of work to deliver better outcomes for Māori - the way in which we deliver that will be different from the previous government, but the bottom line is that we need to get going, we need to get into that quickly."

The final count from the election was released on Friday, showing National will need the support of both New Zealand First and ACT to govern.

Luxon said coalition negotiations would take however long was needed.

"I think we're making great progress. I mean, the fact that it takes three weeks to get a fifth of our votes counted, so we have clarity only on Friday, and we've been making progress, I think is positive."

He said he was meeting with both parties individually to hash out what trade-offs may be needed and he believed there was "good will and good faith" from all three political leaders to "move through this as quickly as possible".

"Practically speaking I've been working with each individual party and that's because it's the most efficient way to actually understand each other."

Once those conversations were completed, National would "bring everyone together" and make announcements, he said.

Asked whether he was concerned about a miscommunication between ACT and New Zealand First, after NZ First leader Winston Peters said on Sunday he had been texted by someone from the ACT Party offering to meet, but they did not identify themselves, so he did not respond, Luxon said both Peters and ACT leader David Seymour had indicated they wanted to meet and talk.

"More importantly, you're hearing from all three leaders that there is good alignment around the goals of what our government will need to deliver around the economy and health and education and law and order," he said.

"There's good intention to move through this as quickly as we possibly can to give clarity and to form a strong and stable government."

Luxon said he still hoped to release a mini-budget before Christmas and reiterated his intention to shorten Parliament's summer close down period.

He was confident there would be time to pass any legislation required by July to bring in the tax cuts National promised during the election campaign.

"We know we've got a lot of work to do and a big legislative agenda - particularly in that first 100 days - and importantly what we're going to do is make sure that we get moving and that's why I said to you that we'll keep running Parliament right up until Christmas."

'We've got to look to the future'

ACT's deputy leader Brooke van Velden says her party has a responsibility to work with New Zealand First to form a stable government.

The two parties' leaders are planning to meet face-to-face as they both hold coalition talks with National following the final election results.

Van Velden told RNZ's First Up the party would not be conducting its negotiating efforts via the media but ACT's MPs were committed to being "good representatives in Parliament" for those who voted for them.

"Members of the New Zealand public voted and it's our job to form a strong, stable government," she said.

"It looked likely that it could be two [parties forming a coalition], now we know that it's three parties we've got to look to the future, get together around a table and figure out a negotiation that works for everybody and will actually deliver the result that everybody voted for."

ACT party deputy leader Brooke van Velden speaks to media following the party's campaign launch in Auckland on 17 September 2023.

ACT's deputy leader Brooke van Velden says ACT's MPs are committed to being 'good representatives in Parliament'. Photo: RNZ / Calvin Samuel

Van Velden did not answer directly when asked if she was worried the coalition would mean a 'hand brake' to policy changes ACT wanted, but said the party's door was open to New Zealand First.

ACT had spent the time since the election ensuring its caucus - which includes five new MPs - had the right culture, she said.

"Parliament put on their [sic] own induction programme for new MPs, but we also acknowledge that people don't just become a new MP, they become a new member of a team," she said.

"And I think what we've shown over the past three years is that ACT has had the best caucus culture in Parliament, and that's what we'd like to achieve in the next three years going: where everybody knows that they are a member of the team."

The final election results showed the "majority of New Zealand voted for change", van Velden said.

"Our desire is to deliver for the people that lent ACT their vote this time, so that we can actually be in Parliament and giving their voice to a Cabinet table or to a future government."

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