21 Jul 2020

PM Jacinda Ardern on Winston Peters' immigration portfolio coalition requirement

8:50 am on 21 July 2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says people should look at her party's history if they have any concerns about Winston Peters' coalition bottom line - getting the immigration portfolio.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Peters has made it clear that any coalition agreement at the election will have to include New Zealand First being in charge of immigration.

Ardern told Morning Report: "I think we should look back to our record on these matters. You'll remember when we first formed a government there were a lot of questions to the leader of New Zealand First at that time as to whether he had got any concessions on immigration and he said: "Look, we didn't get everything we wanted.

"Ultimately when it comes to issues around portfolios, those are decisions that solely sit with whomever has the role of prime minister... I'm not going to get into a negotiation around portfolios.

"We formed a government roughly three years ago with New Zealand First, immigration was an issue at that election for New Zealand First. We maintained our position. Ultimately I think it is going to be a different debate at this election given the circumstances with Covid we find ourselves in.

Asked if Labour supporters would be comfortable with New Zealand First holding the immigration portfolio if a coalition were formed, Ardern said: "Look at our record. When we were in negotiations we maintained our position on immigration. So there will be issues where we have differences in position and Labour will maintain its position."

She said she was not implying that Peters asked for the immigration portfolio when the coalition was formed.

Covid-19 response fund

Ardern was also asked about the extra $14 billion dollars in the Covid-19 response fund that had not been spent.

The money was intended for coping with any second wave of the novel coronavirus and for supporting the Covid-19 rebuild and recovery.

"It will be up to voters whether or not they think it is wise or fiscally prudent if any other party choses to use it any other way but I think it is only right that we set what our intent was - it was never a target... it was available funds... anything left then lessens our debt."

Asked for an assurance that the money would be spent in a non-partisan manner, Ardern said: "You'll be seeing exactly where that is going over the next couple of weeks. And we have stuck to the criteria we set ourselves.

"There are a range of knock-on effects that we need to continue to address."

Finally, Ardern was asked about the issue of extradition agreements with Hong Kong in the wake of China's new security law.

"We have asked officials to look at all aspects of our current cooperation in light of the new national security legislation and report back to ministers. We are just waiting for that to happen.

"In the intervening period, I would like to highlight again that New Zealand does not extradite for things that we do not consider to be illegal in New Zealand, I think that's a really important point to make - free association, freedom of speech, freedom of political association of course, those are all things we would not consider to be illegal...

"It's fair to say we are looking at everything right now and have not finalised any decisions but we take this issue very seriously."

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