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Why the coalition talks are kept secret and if media demands for updates are unfair

The Mike Hosking Breakfast & Early Edition with Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Wed, 25 Oct 2023, 8:28am
Photo / File
Photo / File

Why the coalition talks are kept secret and if media demands for updates are unfair

The Mike Hosking Breakfast & Early Edition with Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Wed, 25 Oct 2023, 8:28am

Prime Minister-elect Christopher Luxon has said he understands the frustrations of the New Zealand media for being kept in the dark about the ongoing coalition talks, but said the approach is "in the best interests of New Zealand". 

The country is in week two of three of the special votes being counted and the Government coalition talks between National, ACT and NZ First are continuing behind closed doors - with no updates to the media and little said about how the talks are progressing. 

Luxon spoke to The Mike Hosking Breakfast on Wednesday following a day of rest from the negotiations, touring the Chelsea Sugar Factory to learn about how his Government could support the business' infrastructure. 

"Look, at this point, we're progressing in said relationships with the parties, that will remain confidential but I'm pleased with the progress so far," said Luxon when asked for an update on the talks. 

Luxon announced at the start of the talks he wouldn't be giving regular updates on the negotiations as he wasn't "interested in sideshow and parlour games". 

When Hosking asked if the media were asking too much to be given negotiation updates, Luxon said previous examples of the talks being done through the media weren't productive. 

"The New Zealand people delivered a result and I need to be able to make that work - we need good relationships and good chemistry built up," he said.

"I appreciate for the media it's different, and frustrating for them that we're not talking about it but I think it's in the best interests of New Zealand."

Luxon said the current stage of the negotiations was focused on understanding the needs of each party and learning what the achievement aims were. 

"That really requires, instead of doing the daily blow-by-blows, you really want to understand where people are coming from and go into detail on that - and that's important."

Former National Minister, Jonathan Coleman agreed with Luxon's decision to keep the talks away from the public eye - his leader John Key did the same thing in 2008. 

At the time, he chose to negotiate with the Maori Party and Peter Dunne directly. 

"He would have talked to Steven Joyce and Wayne Eagleson but the rest of us found out about the final shape of the deal when it was made public," Coleman told Early Edition with Kate Hawkesby. 

"I just think it's perfectly normal not to reveal your negotiating hand to the public, actually many politicians not involved in the talks will just get the headlines around it."

Coleman said the talks won't have any officials involved, it's solely down to the nature of the politicians in the room who must thrash out which policies they'll aim to push ahead. 

There's "no playbook" for the politicians involved, he said, some talks will be off the record and notes might not even be taken in stages.

There will be back-channel phone calls and many parts of the talks might be considered informal. 

"I heard one prominent political commentator tell Luxon 'you need to tell us what's happening, we're the fourth estate and represent the public' - actually, the people elected are the ones who represent the public," said Coleman. 

"The media are the ones who commentate on it."

Special vote results will be released on Friday next week, showing the final make-up of MPs after the election. 

Luxon said he wants the vote counting to be faster than that but that he wants to work with both parties and progress conversations. 

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