12 Sep 2017

The Leader Interview - Jacinda Ardern

10:01 am on 12 September 2017

Labour's line on foreign buyers of New Zealand housing needs to be tough, even if it affects free trade deals, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says.

Jacinda Ardern joined Morning Report's Guyon Espiner in Auckland this morning as part of our series of in-depth election interviews:

She said the party's proposed policy - under which non-resident speculators would not be able to buy existing homes - would mean renegotiating free trade with South Korea, but the same concern would not apply to New Zealand's trade with China.

NZIER's John Ballingall said yesterday Labour was not anti-trade, but its position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership would depend on whether it brought in the ban.

"This would not be permitted under the current TPP text. A ban is also not possible under the Korea-New Zealand FTA, the provisions of which now apply to the China FTA as well," he said.

Ms Ardern told Morning Report her party's foreign buyers policy would stop overseas speculators from overheating the housing market.

She said foreign buyers were estimated to make up 3 percent to 13 percent of New Zealand house sales.

However, she admitted the agreement with South Korea would be affected.

"We would need to renegotiate that free trade agreement with Korea," she said.

She was confident though that it would not affect trade with China.

"If we clarify that with that Korean agreement, then, no, it wouldn't have a flow-on effect for China because that's about that favoured nation status.

"Korea has that carve-out for themselves. Australia managed to do it.

"Our government never tried - and that's the point with the TPPA as well, they never tried to seek this carve-out, other countries did - and the fact that they didn't was wrong."

She said although Labour wanted to remain a part of renewed TPP negotiations, its line on housing needed to be "pretty firm".

"We want to be in there but our housing bottom line is pretty firm for us, but again I'm not going to negotiate here though because I still want to be able to have a hand that's not revealed in the process we're about to go through."

On potential coalitions

Ms Ardern said she would not say, as New Zealand First leader Winston Peters had previously suggested, that it was constitutional convention for the party with the most seats to form the government.

"I would call it an expectation ... I think people have a general expectation that that's what happens.

"I don't preclude our ability to form government without having that strongest percentage of party vote."

She said she could not guarantee there would be any Green MPs in a Labour-led Cabinet, but would expect there would be if there was a coalition agreement between the two parties.

The Greens and Labour have a memorandum of understanding, expiring on election day, which requires them to work together.

"I can't guarantee what the result will be."

Other points and policies

On climate policy, Ms Ardern declined to say whether she would decide to have no new coal mines, but said it was important to move on.

She would not commit to a ban on new deep-sea oil and gas drilling, but wanted to move away from them.

"We just have to accept that we have consents that exist that do have a running time on them."

"We need to adjust the transition away from those non-renewable sectors."

She said that along with ruling out land and capital gains taxes for the family home, the party had also ruled out an inheritance tax.

If she were elected, she would keep the portfolio for children as well as that for arts, culture and heritage, but said she would need support to keep both those roles.

"The [children] portfolio is ... a practice-heavy portfolio - it does include for instance the old Child Youth and Family - so I would need to make sure I had firm assistance."

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