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John MacDonald: Coalition talks- merger or hostile takeover?

Author
John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Mon, 20 Nov 2023, 2:15PM
Christopher Luxon fronts media. Photo / Michael Craig
Christopher Luxon fronts media. Photo / Michael Craig

John MacDonald: Coalition talks- merger or hostile takeover?

Author
John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Mon, 20 Nov 2023, 2:15PM

I have never negotiated a merger. And I have never negotiated an acquisition.  

But I still think I could teach our incoming Prime Minister a thing or two. 

Because here we are into another week of coalition talks between National, ACT and NZ First and, after all the to-ing and fro-ing from the Cordis Hotel in Auckland, we still don’t have a new Government. 

But the bit about it all that seems so obvious to me - but not to the great negotiator, it seems - is why didn’t he sort out this sticky stuff right at the start instead of leaving it until now? 

The sticky stuff or the sticky things I’m referring to are NZ First’s opposition to National’s plan to tax rich foreigners buying houses here to help pay for its tax plan. And National’s weariness of ACT’s plan for a referendum on the Treaty of Waitangi principles. 

As you probably know, ACT and NZ First have found some common ground on the Treaty referendum idea, which is obviously proving to be a bit of a fly-in-the-ointment for National. 

So why on earth didn’t National sort this out right at the start? Then Luxon would have known whether there was a realistic chance of forming this strong stable Government we keep hearing about. 

Of course it was easy for Luxon to stride past the cameras in the early stages and bang on about making great progress. Of course he could say that when his plan was to leave the tricky stuff to the end.  

They probably were making great progress if they were doing all the easy stuff first. Not so great now, though. By the end-of-the-day yesterday, he wasn’t talking about progress. He was talking about the meeting with Winston Peters being “helpful”. 

You‘ll have your own interpretation of what that means. My interpretation, is that Luxon was saying the meeting was “helpful” because he got a better understanding of why Winston was digging his heels in.  

That’s pure speculation on my part.  

But even I - who isn’t the great negotiator and who doesn't claim to be the great negotiator -  can see a mile away that this is turning into a cock-up. If it isn’t already. 

What was Luxon’s plan, do you think? To get Winston Peters and David Seymour so far down the track with all the simple stuff that they’d cave-in on the tricky stuff, because he thought they’d already be seeing themselves in Government? 

You know what it’s like. You apply for a job. You get an interview. Then maybe a second interview. And this is over a few weeks. And, by then, you’re drafting your resignation letter in your head, practising your farewell speech, working out the best route to take to get to the new job in the mornings, and then they offer you the job but the pay is less than you wanted. But you’re so invested in the new job that you just say yes.  

Is that how Christopher Luxon saw it all playing out, do you think? 

Either way, his minimal political experience versus David Seymour and Winston Peters’ political experience is proving to be his achilles heel. 

Remember all the big talk on election night? “I’m going to use the next three weeks until the special votes are fully counted to actually progress the relationships and the arrangements with each individual party.” 

That’s now starting to look like a lot of hot air, doesn’t it? And if hot air - at best, political naivety. 

I was reading Matthew Hooton’s column in the NZ Herald at the weekend and he was saying that Luxon is a talker, not a listener. And he reckons there’s growing frustration with with his “I-know-best” approach. 

Which makes these talks look more like a hostile takeover than a merger.  

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