9 Nov 2023

Winston Peters as coalition talks continue: 'Speed is of the essence'

3:17 pm on 9 November 2023
Winston Peters speaks to media after emerging from the Treasury offices, as negotiations for forming a government with National and ACT continue.

Winston Peters speaks to media after emerging from the party's temporary offices near the Treasury building, as negotiations for forming a government with National and ACT continue. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has spoken briefly to media as talks to form the new government continue in the capital.

The leaders of National, ACT, and New Zealand First are all at Parliament, and there are signals a meeting between all three could happen sooner rather than later.

Speaking outside of the Treasury building on the Terrace, Peters told reporters he would answer "rational, sane questions" and would not speak about any confidential details of the talks.

Negotiations were "substantial, they're progressive", he said.

"It takes a lot of time to get to the detail because the detail's got to be cross-matched with other detail.

"We've only been going four days given the fact it was on last Friday late in the afternoon we got the facts that others were relying upon - but not us," Peters said.

"Speed is of the essence," he said, when asked if there was a deadline for the talks to conclude.

"We're not wasting time here, some of us would like to get back home - we've been on the [campaign] trail for two and a half years."

Winston Peters speaks to media after emerging from the Treasury offices, as negotiations for forming a government with National and ACT continue.

Peters smiles Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Peters was also asked in which portfolios he would best be placed, given his experience as a politician and former minister.

"Our experience is best placed in trying to get a good, sound, much much better government organised going into the future.

"This country's got to turn a dramatic decline in our economy around we're going at less than 0.1 percent, that's GDP (gross domestic product). Next year according to the IMF (International Monetary Fund), we're going to be 159 in the world, we've got to turn this around right here and right now and that's why these talks are seriously substantial.

"We've got people working the second longest hours in the OECD. The reason why we're failing is right here in this place down here called Parliament."

When asked about how negotiations and the relationship was progressing with ACT leader David Seymour, Peters said it was obvious both parties were in discussion with National.

"Those are the critical engagements we're involved in, just like we've always been in the past and this will happen as we get further down the track, maybe sooner - much sooner - rather than later. But nothing unusual about that at all."

He refused to answer questions about potential areas of disagreement, including the partial rollback of the ban on foreign home buyers, saying that was a "confidential matter".

The APEC summit - attended by some of the world's most powerful leaders - will start in San Francisco next week. National's Christopher Luxon has said he would be keen to be there if there was a government deal in place in time.

That summit and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), happening at the moment, were both on leaders' minds as they progressed the talks, Peters said.

"And here we are, with a three-week delay, because people decided to have people enrolling on election day," he said. "They had 35 months to enrol, but no, we had people going to the election day as parties with manifestos, not knowing who the constituency was. That's not democracy.

"We had three weeks' delay as a consequence of that and I wish the media would focus on who caused that delay than the last few days, and we've been flat out all day and half the darn night trying to get the negotiations completed."

The law was changed in 2020 to allow people to enrol to vote on election day - it was passed with New Zealand First's support.

When the change was made, an extra week was given to allow for the extra checking likely needed. That meant three weeks between election night and confirmation of the final result.

While it was "seriously important" for New Zealand to be represented at prime ministerial level at PIF, that opportunity had "been missed", he said.

"And it's very important to be at APEC, but let's look at the barrier, or the obstruction, or the detour, put there by the Labour Party that we have to live through", he said, including the need to renew the warrant of Chris Hipkins as prime minister which will expire this weekend."

Ranked second in the New Zealand First caucus, Shane Jones was coy when asked for any updates as he walked into Treasury.

"No. Great news, I've been to Farmers' to buy some underwear," he said.

NZ First's second-ranked candidate Shane Jones after emerging from the Treasury offices, as negotiations for forming a government with National and ACT continue.

New Zealand First's Shane Jones. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Jones hosed down a question over whether his purchase indicated he would be staying in Wellington for a few more days to get the deal done.

"I can assure you, they're singlets and not undies."

Speaking to reporters at Parliament, Luxon said the parties were "working away on a few issues and we're making progress" but declined to give further details.

He could not "really say" when asked how many days away a deal might be.

Christopher Luxon

Christopher Luxon speaking to media on Monday. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"We're working as hard as we possibly can. There's really good faith and good will, with all the political leaders that are there and we're making good progress," Luxon said.

He "would like to go" to APEC but said his "real priority was making sure we form a strong, stable government".

The three parties negotiating had not yet all met together but they "would be doing that shortly", Luxon said, though he refused to give more specific details.

He defended the time taken to put a deal in place, saying it "had not yet been a week since the official vote was counted".

"We had 20 percent of our vote not counted until three weeks after election night, which was an issue, I think, in itself, so we can speed it up in the future.

"But importantly, what we're doing is making sure that we can actually progress as fast as we can."

Seymour said meeting with National and Luxon was part of the plan today. He did not mention whether that might include Peters.

"Meeting with them (National), we've obviously had quite extensive engagement over the last three weeks and that's been useful," he said.

"It carries on and obviously now there's three parties involved that changes things slightly, but I'm feeling pretty good about it.

"We're gonna be in government together, the voters have made that a mathematical inevitability. So we're gonna have to meet a lot of times over the next three years.

Seymour told reporters he had "got a bit of a moratorium on the level of specific detail on meetings".

"Politicians in New Zealand have always said that some things are just off limits, some things are in the public interest, other things aren't. And where that line is, is slightly different for each politician.

"I think that we've balanced well the need to be negotiating with people in good faith," he said. "Equally, we've got to be very mindful in the three or four weeks since the election people have been paying taxes to pay MPs' salaries. So we've got an obligation to be as open as we can, while also getting a good result for them at the end of the process."

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