4 Nov 2016

Gareth Morgan rules out future coalition

3:34 pm on 4 November 2016

Economist Gareth Morgan says his new Opportunities Party would not form a coalition but he could happily work with either Labour or National.

Mr Morgan, a philanthropist and economist who set up The Morgan Foundation - a charitable trust "primarily for the purpose of reducing the wealth disparities between people" - announced this morning he had resigned from his position as a foundation trustee to launch a political party.

Speaking outside Parliament this morning, Mr Morgan said he wanted to push and nudge politicans into making a difference.

"It's nearly Guy Fawkes' so I'm here to really to light a fuse under this."

He said The Opportunities Party would be a list-only party, and would not run candidates in electorates, but he did not have anyone lined up for the list yet.

The process would be to get the party's policy into the public arena then see who would be an option as a candidate, he said.

The first policy will be released on 8 December.

"I've got a reasonable amount of confidence I know what to do, and then I say 'well, why the hell don't they do it?' And it's this averaging issue, you know they all gravitate toward the middle, they call each other names all 'oh we mustn't take any risks with any of the voters, we might lose one to him', you know, it's just garbage."

"Anything could happen. We're just going to give it a good honest go and just see what the people ask, whether people get behind us and say 'yeah, this is worth giving a chance' and if we're not, we're not."

He told Nine to Noon he would not be interested in joining a coalition, but would be comfortable working with either Labour or National.

"The idea is definitely to have influence on who the government of the day is."

"If you're talking Labour and National we've got overlaps with both, and personally I could work with Andrew or John, I enjoy both of their company and their contribution. And I think I will draw support from across the spectrum."

He said he wanted to have sufficient influence, and would be aiming to get at least 5 percent of the vote, which was why he was making the party list-only.

"I'm only happy with 5 percent ... I want to be there in sufficient numbers to have influence."

However, he did not want to waste his time, and said financial members would be reimbursed if there was not sufficient support.

The newly announced political party garnered 200 members in less than two hours after he announced it.

He wanted to spend as little as possible on the campaign, he said.

In a statement earlier, Mr Morgan said The Opportunities Party would aim to improve fairness, environmental sustainability and national pride while reducing poverty and housing prices.

The party would release its policy priorities by the end of January and said the first target was to make the country prosperous, but also "make New Zealand fair again".

However, he laughed off a comparison to Donald Trump during the conference outside Parliament.

He said fear of losing votes made established parties "champions of inertia and only ever reluctant proponents of incremental change".

Mr Morgan has been outspoken in the past about capital income taxes for the wealthy, controlling pet cats and reducing the number of feral strays in order to protect wildlife.

Gareth Morgan announcing his new political party, The Opportunities Party.

Gareth Morgan addresses the media after announcing he was launching a political party. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

He told the press conference he was pleased with how the cat issue had progressed and that it was now up to councils to deal with.

He also said he was on record as not agreeing in principle with having Māori seats long-term, but saw the need for them as things stood for now.

"Part of the policies we will be releasing that will be to do with naitonal pride, is about honouring the treaty."

The Party's website displays a flag similar to the 'Red Peak' flag design, which was added to a shortlist in the first referendum on replacing New Zealand's flag after online public support, but gained only 8.77 percent of the vote.

In a video posted on the site, Mr Morgan said he thought the country was not reaching anywhere like its full potential.

"So the beef I have with establishment parties and career politicians is they try to do as little as possible - they don't want to have their voters disturbed. Well, clearly I don't have that issue, so I'm here to disturb you," he said.

'Establishment' parties respond

National Party campaign chair Steven Joyce welcomed Mr Morgan's party, saying "the more, the merrier".

Answering to Mr Morgan's goal to galvanise political action, Mr Joyce said: "New Zealanders know they've got a strong stable government that is delivering for New Zealand."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said he had a lot of respect for Mr Morgan, but starting a political party could be tough.

"Kim Dotcom and Colin Craig have demonstrated that merely having money isn't a sufficient condition to being able to get into Parliament," he said.

"It's actually really difficult to build a political party under 12 months before an election that has a chance of crossing a 5 percent threshold.

"If you look at the Green Party, it's taken us 20 years to where we've gotten to today. And you need people on the ground. You need volunteers. You need candidates all over the country and is a significant challenge."

Mr Shaw acknowledged Mr Morgan's new party would be championing causes central to the Green Party agenda, but didn't think he would steal votes.

"He's actually trying to get that constituency that are currently voting for National, who are concerned about the environment, but who won't vote Green."

"If he is going to take votes from anyone, it will be the National Party," Mr Shaw said.

Mr Joyce disagreed with Mr Shaw, saying it was more likely Mr Morgan would compete with the Green and Labour vote.

"He is lining himself up alongside the Labour and Greens party in terms of saying he wants change from the status quo," he said.

"I imagine he's competing with them for votes, but ultimately the public will decide and that's why we have elections for."

Mr Joyce said it's too early to say whether a National-led government would work with Mr Morgan, if elected into Parliament.

"We don't even know what sort of party Gareth's got, who else is in there, what his policies are, I think we're a million miles from considering whether we'd work with him or not."

When asked who his voters would be, Mr Morgan said "anybody who cares".

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