Christopher Luxon says a “significant milestone” has been reached in terms of policy deals with both Act and NZ First, but David Seymour says a deal is still days away and the National leader may have had “too many weet-bix”.
Luxon has met with Winston Peters this afternoon to discuss ministerial positions, which he expects to be done quite quickly.
Act and NZ First will now be looking at the respective deals National has signed with them. Luxon doesn’t believe there will be major issues through that process.
Despite what he called significant progress, Luxon wouldn’t say whether it was likely the Government could be formed by the end of the week.
Luxon told reporters: “We’ve achieved, I think, a significant milestone overnight and that is that we have actually closed down and agreed policy programmes with both Act and also with New Zealand First.
“That’s a major achievement.”
Luxon said he will continue conversations to make sure Act and NZ First can also both sign on to each party’s policy programmes and agendas “that we’ve agreed with them individually”.
Luxon said the negotiations will “kick on” and move to ministerial responsibilities and Cabinet.
“I don’t think that needs to take a long time. We’re going to work very quickly through it as fast as we possibly can.
“There is very good intention from, from all three party leaders to resolve this as quickly as possible.”
Luxon said the negotiations have included going “through every line item of all three parties’ manifestos” and working through all the policy positions and “the differences and different mechanics for achieving the same or different goals”.
“We’ve done the policy work first and foremost before we’ve had any conversation around Cabinet positions and we’ll now kick that off.”
Luxon said he was “very relieved” to reach this point in the negotiations.
“I really do appreciate everybody’s patience with the process, but I do believe it will actually make for a much stronger Government.”
Luxon said he wasn’t aware of any concern expressed by Act or NZ First about the deals that had been agreed to, but didn’t “expect that to be a major”.
He still wouldn’t offer a potential date when the next Government might be confirmed.
“I can just tell you, it just got a lot simpler, it’s getting a lot closer.
“We’re on the home stretch.”
Luxon said all parties had had to make trade-offs, which would be revealed when the final announcement was made.
“But from our point of view, I think all parties are getting the major parts of their agenda away.”
One of Act’s key policy promises was a referendum on the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, something National considered “divisive”.
Asked whether the referendum had been accepted by National, Luxon first referenced the trade-offs made by the parties. He later said he wouldn’t discuss specific policies.
Luxon confirmed National would deliver tax cuts but refused to say whether the proposed foreign buyers’ tax had survived negotiations.
He believed the process, lasting more than five weeks since election day, had been done quickly given he had sought agreement between all three parties.
“We actually want NZ First and Act to be able to support each other’s programmes when we get to government.
“We have a very, very big work programme, a very clear agenda laid out for the next three years.”
On Chris Hipkins calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as Labour leader while still caretaker Prime Minister, Luxon believed it was “unhelpful”.
”I have to say, up until this point, I think the relationship between the incoming and the outgoing government has been very constructive and in New Zealand’s broader interests,” he said.
”We would all love to see hostilities cease in the Middle East, all New Zealanders are horrified by the images that we’re seeing on our TVs, but the reality is you need the conditions for a ceasefire to be there and that requires that you need both parties wanting to progress a ceasefire.”
As he left the Cordis after his meeting with Peters, Luxon said it had been a “very enjoyable and productive meeting”.
He said they started to discuss ministerial responsibilities, but would not divulge whether that included the role of Deputy Prime Minister.
He said National had approved its policy agreements with the two parties, and it was now up to Act and NZ First to consider each other’s and make sure they could support them.
Peters has said he and Seymour spend this morning discussing those, after receiving each other’s last night.
”We’ve got no more issues with National-Act, or National NZ First on policy,” Luxon said.
On previous days, Luxon had said there had been no conversations about roles, including Deputy Prime Minister.
He said today’s discussion had been around which MPs’ skills were best suited to which portfolios.
Luxon said it was up to Act and NZ First to say whether they were happy with each other’s policy offerings, not him.
“That’s an issue between the two of them. They have had a series of meetings over the course of the last week. I don’t expect that to be a major problem, but I think you should get them to confirm that.”
Luxon’s announcement that National had completed the talks on the policy side of the deals with Act and NZ First appeared to have taken both Peters and Seymour by surprise, both of them later saying that it was not quite a done deal yet.
Luxon said he had made it clear they needed to look at each other’s deals before anything could be finalised, but he believed there was a “good level of comfort” already.
Luxon said he and Peters discussed some final adjustments to wording in the NZ First agreement in their meeting this afternoon, before moving on to talk about how to form a good Cabinet.
On what further cross-checks were needed, Luxon said those related to the shape of the final arrangement.
”That is in terms of how we bring the whole documents together with respect to ways of working, and we want to confirm all of that. But that is largely us working through a bit of process.”
He said he had always said the priority was getting the policy side done first, and it was now for NZ First and Act to close that off between them.
He could not say how much longer it would take. “We just need to close out ministerial appointments and positions.”
He said the agreements would show where the give and take had been, but the focus had been on getting a full work programme together.
”We are all committed to making sure our agreements are transparent.”
Arriving for his meeting with Luxon, Peters was unaware Luxon had intended to announce the completion of policy deals between National and his party.
Asked for his thoughts on the deal, Peters said: “I’ll tell you later.”
Pushed for his reaction, Peters said it was important for him to be on the same page with Luxon before commenting.
Emerging from his meeting 90 minutes later, Peters said the National and NZ First parties had not completely finished finalising an agreement on policy.
It slightly contradicts what Luxon said ahead of the pair’s meeting that National had agreed on policy matters with NZ First and Act.
Peters said there was still some cross-checking and wording that needed to be clarified.
He said questions from media indicated to him that Luxon had said the entire coalition deal was finalised.
Peters said he had relayed that to Luxon during the meeting and the National leader was “aghast”, according to Peters.
Today’s meeting had been in part to discuss the allocation of ministerial portfolios.
Peters didn’t answer when asked if he was the next Deputy Prime Minister.
Asked whether the pair had made progress on portfolio allocation, Peters encouraged reporters to wait and see.
“We’re just to the final stages, few cross-checks to go and confirmation that letters and words are right.”
Peters said Luxon’s comments were “right in that context” and that there were “certain logistics to complete”.
Peters said he had seen the agreement between National and Act last night and had been working on it with Act leader David Seymour all morning.
Act leader David Seymour told Newstalk ZB that Luxon did not jump the gun, but might have been too enthusiastic.
”He potentially Luxon woke up and had too many weet-bix, he’s not entirely wrong, we are very very close, but there are a few i’s to dot and t’s to cross before we finish the policy part of it,” Luxon said.
Seymour said nothing had been signed yet, as the respective leaders had yet to bring the agreed policies back to their parties.
”Until you do those things, you haven’t actually agreed,” Seymour said.
He said it was unfair to assume the deal was only between the three leaders.
”It would not quite be accurate to say the deal had been completed out of respect to [the rest of their parties]”
Seymour joked he had closed his account at the TAB after making some inaccurate predictions on this process only taking a few more days last week.
”So I am not betting on this anymore, but if I had to put a bet on it, I would say we are a day or so away.”
He would not say if he had been named Deputy Prime Minister yet, but did say they were still “discussing appointments”.
”Nothing has been confirmed until it is signed,” Seymour said.
Earlier, National Party deputy leader Nicola Willis reaffirmed the incoming Government will deliver a mini-Budget before Christmas but stressed the emphasis on the word “mini”.
Asked on Newstalk ZB Wellington Mornings whether the new Government would be in place by the end of this week, Willis said they had never set a deadline but they were keen to get stuck in.
“There is a real desire from everyone involved to get to work on implementing our manifestos, to get to work on steering this country in a better direction, so I’m pretty keen to be at my desk doing that work.”
Willis did not think there should be a time limit on negotiations because that could lead to “all sorts of other problems”.
Asked whether there would still be a mini-Budget before Christmas, Willis said there would be.
“Emphasis on the word ‘mini’,” she added.
Willis said there have been compromises on all sides of the coalition negotiations and trade-offs have been made.
“We are making compromises but we’re doing that in a way that we think is consistent with the broad mandate we’ve been given by New Zealanders and by and large, the people we’re negotiating with are being reasonable about that.
“They understand that no one will thank them if they’re seen to hold the country to ransom with less than 10 per cent of the vote.
“No one wants the tail wagging the dog. No one wants a situation where a smaller party is dictating the direction of the country or the way it’s governed.”
Willis said she has not been involved in any discussions about ministerial portfolios and who does what – that was for the party leaders to consider.
She has been clear she wants to be in the finance role.
“I think reducing the cost of living and strengthening the management of this economy is critical and that’s a job I can lead.
“It’s not about me or my ego. If you go into politics thinking: ‘What can I get? Who can I be?’, you shouldn’t be there because it’s not about us as individuals, it’s about the country we are here to serve.”