26 Sep 2017

Ardern and Davis to lead Labour negotiating team

6:10 pm on 26 September 2017

Labour and the Green Party have begun lining up their coalition negotiators, while the National Party is delaying naming a team until consulting with Winston Peters.

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Photo: RNZ

As Labour and National start making preparations for their respective coalition talks, the two parties held caucus meetings at Parliament this morning.

The government is in caretaker mode, with neither National nor Labour having enough seats to form a government alone.

Both parties are in the process of establishing lines of communication with New Zealand First, which appears to hold the balance of power, while the Green Party has also announced a five-strong team to lead its coalition negotiations.

National Party leader Bill English said this morning he would name his negotiating team after consulting with Mr Peters later this week.

"That'll be something that of course I would discuss with Mr Peters. Of course, we would want cohesive negotiating process in a structure that would suit new Zealand First and would suit National," he said.

Mr English said he was sure Mr Peters would focus on what's best for the country rather than dwelling on anything that happened in the past, including his description of Mr Peters as a maverick.

"I've known Winston Peters a long time, in fact about 27 years I think we've been in Parliament together, longer than just about anyone else in the building.

"So there's a lot of things ... as I said a lot of political pushing and shoving, we've been in different parties for most of that time, I'm sure there'll be some differences of opinion."

Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern announced this afternoon she and deputy Kelvin Davis would head the Labour Party's coalition negotiating team.

Ms Ardern said other members were yet to be confirmed.

She said Labour had firm views on who would be in the talks, but would not release any names until later in the week.

"I can confirm though that late yesterday we did reach out to New Zealand First and indicate that we were happy and available to meet."

Jacinda Ardern said her front bench team would be going through their policies to see where there were areas of common ground with New Zealand First and the Green Party.

"I've tasked our front bench over the next 48 hours to compare some of our policies with other parties policies to make sure we are well prepared for the negotiations."

Ms Ardern said she had a great deal of respect for Winston Peters and her senior MPs had good working relationships with him.

She was asked what Labour could offer New Zealand First.

"A good working relationship with our senior MPs and a good existing working relationship.

"Relationships are important in these negotiations and I'd like to think that we have the existing relationship required to take forward a good negotiation and form a credible, stable coalition long-term government.

Mr Peters was in Auckland today, and was due to arrive in Wellington tomorrow to meet with his new caucus.

The Green Party also announced its own team for negotiating coalitions.

It will be fronted by leader James Shaw with support from the senior MP Eugenie Sage, acting chief of staff Tory Whanau, party co-convenor Debs Martin and former chief of staff Andrew Campbell.

Mr Shaw said the team had the experience and expertise to represent the interests of the Green Party.

National Party deputy Paula Bennett said she would be willing to give up the position of Deputy Prime Minister if that was what was required to make a deal.

"I'm not too bothered to be honest, I love what I do, I'd still be deputy leader of the party, that's the main thing really, so we'd just sort of work our way through it."

Mr Davis was not enthused about doing the same, but also left that up to the negotiating table.

"If it has to be, it has to be. It's not something I'd give up lightly but Jacinda being the Prime Minister's the main focus here."

National's campaign chair Steven Joyce said the negotiations would be about policy.

"It's not about personalities in terms of my personality or anybody else's ... it's about putting together a government for new Zealand."

Asked if he would be willing to give up the Minister of Finance role to allow a coalition to go ahead, he passed the buck.

"End of the day I'm just happy to serve, Prime Minister makes all of those calls."

Meanwhile, discussions about who would or would not be on the National Party negotiating team has revived questions about who leaked details about Mr Peters' superannuation overpayment.

National's chief of staff Wayne Eagleson remained adamant the leak did not come from anyone in the party.

During the election campaign, the New Zealand First leader admitted after questions from the media he had been overpaid his pension for seven years, but had paid the money back.

Three investigations have failed to find out who was responsible for leaking the private information.

Mr Eagleson was among those in government who were told officially about the overpayment. However he told reporters today the leak did not come from him.

"Categorically no ... didn't come from the National Party."

He said he did not know who had leaked the information, and did not say whether or not he had investigated the issue within the party.

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