18 Sep 2018

PM Jacinda Ardern: No cracks in coalition

11:30 am on 18 September 2018

The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is adamant there are no cracks in the coalition government.

Jacinda Ardern at Wellington High School

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the coalition government is unified under a collective decision-making process. Photo: RNZ/ Richard Tindiller

Ms Ardern told Morning Report she was firmly in charge of the Labour-led government and it was incorrect to characterise Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters as hostile.

The prime minister also dismissed suggestions of public humiliation of the Labour coalition because of Mr Peters' comments by over planned policies like refugee quotas and employment relations reforms.

She said the coalition had demonstrated it was the "purest form of MMP government New Zealand has had" and that shared principles between the Greens, NZ First and Labour had allowed ''extensive" collective decision-making across its policy areas.

"I am the prime minister, I am the leader also of the most significant-sized part in this coalition," she said.

"We have a coalition partner and a confidence-and-supply partner. By default in order to pass anything we have to seek agreement with all three.

"That is the nature of this government. There is no question that I lead it."

The National Party had been suggesting Mr Peters was in effect leading the government, vetoing Labour initiatives on issues such as employment law changes.

Ms Ardern said there would be areas that the coalition partners would disagree but characterising Mr Peters' remarks on planned policies as public rebukes was misleading.

"What I refute is any suggestion that there is any disunity," she said.

"Every single day this government makes decisions collectively.

"The list of achievements we've managed to roll out since forming government I would say is extensive and we've done it as three separate distinct parties and I'm proud of what we have achieved."

She said there was no proof that her relationship with Winston Peters was "disrespectful" and that the idea was based on mere speculation on policies that were yet to be announced.

When asked whether NZ First had agreed reforms found in the Employment Relations Amendment Bill in Cabinet, Ms Ardern said all legislation passed through a Cabinet process before it reached the House and that Mr Peters had said he expected the legislation to pass.

She said there could some changes after public consultation.

Troop deployment extension

The government has announced it will extend New Zealand's military presence in Iraq until June next year, despite Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens all having been highly critical of the deployment in the past.

The mandate for the joint training mission with Australia, based in Taji Camp, was due to expire in November.

Referring to an extension of deployment of New Zealand troops, Ms Ardern said the situation in Iraq had changed since Labour was in opposition and that there was a need to continue training the Iraqi army as Isis had not been fully defeated.

She said the role of New Zealand troops in a ''dynamic environment" could change from training and defence to a wider "capacity-building role" and she did not want to rule out a further extension of their presence in the country beyond June.

The mission started in 2015 as part of the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve and more than 30,000 members of the Iraqi security forces had been trained since then.

About 143 New Zealand Defence Force personnel are currently part of the deployment but that will be reduced to 121 from November. Ms Ardern said she expected that number to continue to drop.

Most personnel are based at Taji Camp, but there are also three intelligence officers working out of Qatar.

New Zealand's current deployment to Afghanistan has also been extended through to September next year but would also be reassessed early next year.

At the moment 11 New Zealand military trainers are there working with Afghan Army officers.

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