Incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has been grilled over whether it’s appropriate to send two members of his coalition negotiation team back to Wellington for a break as the talks drag on.
Luxon told media gathered outside Auckland’s Cordis Hotel that he wanted to make sure his team got some time with their families this evening and those based in Wellington would fly home for the night and come back tomorrow, with talks wrapping up for the day.
It was put to him that most people don’t have the luxury of seeing their families when they have work obligations.
”I think it’s disingenuous to say [that],” Luxon said.
”Our teams on all sides on all parties have been working extremely hard. You see some of the work, some of the work goes very much later on.”
“All I am saying is this evening we’re sending two of our people home because they’ve been here most of the week and actually I want them to see their family- it’s not unreasonable and they’ll be back here tomorrow.”
Luxon said he understood it was the taxpayer, through Parliamentary Services, who paid for the flights.
He was pressed on whether he should just crack on and try and get a deal done as quickly as possible rather than sending people back to the capital.
”We do it very infrequently most of our team has been here through the course of this week,” Luxon said.
He said he has been agnostic about which city the talks are in.”It’s been purely about what makes sense to do when and where and we’ve also done a lot of work virtually as well between us.”
Luxon met with Winston Peters this afternoon and has spoken with Act’s David Seymour over the phone.
“You can get quite a lot done in 30 minutes,” he said of his meeting with Peters. The NZ First leader was seen swiftly leaving the Cordis after his meeting with Luxon.
The prime minister-elect is expected to meet with Peters again tomorrow.
“We have just been talking frankly about policy and that is what we will continue to do,” Luxon said.
He said there was no point talking about ministerial positions until the “actual substance” was aligned.
“We need to get this wrapped up and we are making progress. We understand everyone’s been very patient with us.
“It will take as long as it takes.”
On whether Parliament could resume before the last week of November, Luxon said he was not going to get into timings.
“We honestly are in the last stages we’re just trying to get that last bit of understanding and agreement between parties.
“We are trying to make sure that whatever format we end up determining and announcing the reality is that all three parties need to be able to support each other’s policy programmes,” Luxon said.
Meanwhile, NZ First leader Peters believes Parliament can theoretically resume “much more quickly” than the last week of November as he continues negotiations with National.
Peters spoke with an almost apologetic tone as he struggled to provide any new answers to waiting reporters ahead of his second in-person meeting with National’s negotiating team at Auckland’s Cordis Hotel today. He then left the Cordis Hotel after less than 30 minutes, a much quicker meeting than his previous ones which have all taken more than two hours.
He left without a word to media, except to say to one reporter “I got you a present”, giving him a plastic spinning top and chuckling as he did so.
Asked on his way into the short meeting about whether the parties were at the finish line of discussions, Peters laughed.
National leader Christopher Luxon arrives at a central Auckland hotel this morning for ongoing coalition talks. Photo / Dean Purcell
He couldn’t confirm whether this was his last meeting with National nor could he say whether the two parties would finally reach a compromise on policy issues.
”We’re going as fast as we possibly can and I know everybody’s impatient but we’ve just got to get this right.”
Media reports over the last week have widely speculated National’s proposed tax on foreign home buyers, intended to fund its tax cuts, was dead.
Peters speculated how those reports could be accurate given talks were confidential, but did acknowledge the vacuum of information.
”Look guys, I’d like to tell you more but I can’t.”
As negotiations dragged on, questions remained on when Parliament would resume and the next government could advance its policy agenda.
Peters seemed optimistic about a quick return.
”Well, theoretically, it could start much more quickly than the last part of November but we’ll see.”
He didn’t specify a date.
There were only two weeks left in November and given talks had not yet ended, it would be quite unlikely the House would resume next week.
It was understood the last week of November and the first full week of December were being considered for the resumption of Parliament
Meanwhile, National deputy leader Nicola Willis was vague on the future of her proposed foreign buyers tax as speculation mounts that one of the key aspects of National’s plan to offer tax cuts has been shot down during negotiations.
Several media reports have cited the proposed 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers of New Zealand homes worth more than $2 million as a contentious issue in discussions between National, Act, and particularly, New Zealand First.
Politics show Newshub Nation reported this morning the tax - expected to generate $2.8 billion over four years to help fund tax cuts - was “basically dead”.
Willis, who exited Auckland’s Cordis Hotel at 1pm after a two-hour meeting with NZ First’s Winston Peters, said nothing was decided until talks concluded.
”Until we have finalised a government and announced it to New Zealand, nothing’s final.”
On today’s meeting, Willis said the two parties were “aware of each other’s views and positions” and had a shared motivation to get a result for Kiwis.
It was understood the three parties were still deliberating on the structure of the deal they would strike - whether it would be one deal encompassing all parties or two separate deals National had with Act and NZ First.
National leader Christopher Luxon last night said the three leaders had discussed the potential of a deal between Act and NZ First alongside two agreements the parties would have with National.
However, Peters didn’t appear to be on the same page, saying today there would either be one big deal or two separate deals.
Willis said she wasn’t sure about the final structure but acknowledged the need for all three parties to agree on the next government’s policy agenda - something Act leader David Seymour said yesterday.
”The result that the electorate has delivered us requires arrangements in place between three parties because no two parties would have the votes to pass legislation in Parliament at this point.”
Both Willis and Peters had promised to deliver a mini-Budget before Christmas, analysing the state of the government books.
Willis today emphasised the realistic outcomes of that mini-Budget.
”We’ve put emphasis on the word ‘mini’ in mini-Budget and the reason for that is we are necessarily constrained in what we can do between now and Christmas,” she said.
”What we will have is a half-year economic and fiscal update which will provide us an opportunity to transparently share with New Zealanders the real state of the books, the real state of the economy, for us to respond to that as a government in terms of what our fiscal priorities will be, what policy we’re kicking off to respond to New Zealand’s economic and fiscal situation and to get on with the main job which is reducing the cost of living for New Zealanders.”
NZ First leader Winston Peters left the Cordis Hotel at lunchtime, but said that he will be back for further talks this afternoon. Photo / Dean Purcell
Last night, National leader Christopher Luxon indicated the three party leaders had discussed the potential of a deal between Act and NZ First.
So far, National had been looking to strike separate deals between it and the other two parties.
However, that raised questions over how support could be ensured for future legislation if not all three parties were signed up to the same agreement.
Peters today stated there would either be “one deal or two deals”, likely referring to one deal encompassing all three parties or two separate deals Act and NZ First would have with National.
Peters didn’t state his preference when asked.
”We’re relaxed about that accepting identity is important and we’ll carry on having those discussions.”
Act leader David Seymour told Newstalk ZB yesterday he felt there needed to be one agreement that could support the next government’s policy agenda.
David Seymour said on Friday there needed to be one agreement that could support the next government’s policy agenda. New Zealand Herald photograph by Alex Burton
Earlier, Luxon said on arrival at today’s first meeting that negotiations were “really close” to being wrapped up with the “topic of conversation” getting “narrower”.
”We’ve got a couple of issues to close out and that’s what we’re working on today,” he told reporters this morning.
When asked if these were “thorny” issues to thrash out, he said no, “not necessarily”.
”They are issues where we want to understand where everyone is at,” Luxon said.
He was unsure if he’ll meet with Act’s David Seymour today, saying plenty of negotiations have also been done over the phone or through other channels.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters arrives for his meeting with Prime Minister in waiting Christopher Luxon. Photo / Dean Purcell
Before going into the meeting, Peters said today’s talks would again be focused on policy, saying the two parties were “coming to conclusions”.
Asked what update he could give Kiwis, Peters said: “Well I can’t until the meeting is over.”
It’s understood the next Government’s application of the Treaty of Waitangi is still being discussed between the three parties.
Act remains hopeful its proposal to hold a referendum on the Treaty’s principles is still achievable, despite National showing no support for it.
NZ First has publicly stated its intention to reform Te Arawhiti, the office of Māori-Crown relations, and address what it believes is the Waitangi Tribunal’s misinterpretation of the Treaty. NZ First MPs have stated a referendum is not something they had campaigned on.
Discussions were ongoing between Act and NZ First about how the two parties could converge in relation to their priorities regarding the Treaty.
Also yet to be finalised was how the agreement between the three parties would be structured.
So far, Luxon had referenced the separate deals National was looking to strike between Act and NZ First, but it had raised questions over how the two smaller parties could be assured their promised policies would be supported by all three governing partners.
Last night, Luxon said the matter had been something the three leaders had spoken about and revealed a deal between Act and NZ First was “something that we will look to do”.
Pressed on why three separate deals were necessary, Luxon said he wouldn’t speculate publicly.
He also revealed a second meeting featuring all three party leaders would likely occur in the coming days but not before further talks between individual leaders took place over the weekend, likely in Auckland.
The three leaders have only all met together once before and it was only a brief encounter. Asked why there was a need for another three-way meeting, Luxon said it was important for all parties to be clear on what had been agreed and have an opportunity to raise any last-minute issues.
Winston Peters (left), Christopher Luxon and David Seymour met as a trio for the first time earlier this week. Photo / Winston Peters
On Friday morning, Luxon said he had scheduled meetings with both Peters and Seymour - similar to what occurred on Thursday.
However, he later admitted the Seymour meeting was no longer necessary and the pair had been communicating by phone to resolve remaining outstanding issues.
It was understood there was little need for the pair to meet given a deal between the two parties was close to completion.
Luxon and Peters met for about two and a half hours, which the former described as “very good”.
Peters told reporters after yesterday’s meeting there were still points of disagreement to finalise.
However, speaking to the Herald about 5pm, Peters said it would be fair to say National and NZ First were close to an agreement on policy.
At the time, Peters had just left a meeting of Act representatives, which he described as positive. All three leaders indicated they were very close to reaching a deal, but remained reluctant to state when Kiwis could expect their next Government to be formed.
It was likely more in-person meetings would occur today in Auckland. Sunday’s agenda hadn’t been finalised.
Luxon had previously stated his preference to announce the final arrangement of the National-led Government in Wellington, but did not rule out talks continuing in Auckland on Sunday.
NZ First leader Winston Peters said he was still talking policy with National and yet to move on to which of his MPs might be ministers. Photo / Dean Purcell
The formation of Luxon’s Cabinet and ministerial portfolios was being left to the end of negotiations, as was the confirmation of the next Deputy Prime Minister. Peters, Seymour and National deputy leader Nicola Willis had been cited as possible candidates.
Seymour previously said there had been loose discussions of the allocation of ministerial posts between Act and National, while Peters said talks between him and Luxon had concerned policy only.
Ahead of his meeting yesterday, Peters acknowledged some of NZ First’s policies had been ruled out during negotiations.
Peters refused to name those policies and said it was not the time for him to make those kinds of announcements.
“We’ve got to do that collectively.”
When asked if the next Government would deliver on promises of a mini-Budget before Christmas, Peters said: “I think I can say that, yes. Not a mini-Budget but an announcement.”
He left in his vehicle before he could elaborate on what form that announcement would take.
Adam Pearse is a political reporter in the NZ Herald Press Gallery team, based at Parliament. He has worked for NZME since 2018, covering sport and health for the Northern Advocate in Whangārei before moving to the NZ Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime.
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