One on one meetings between the two main party leaders and Winston Peters last night suggest that the end to the Government formation talks is near.
Though a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said simply that he would not comment on the meeting, it is a fair bet it was about the Ministerial positions National was prepared to offer NZ First and their preference for the type of Government arrangement.
Jacinda Ardern’s meeting would have been the same.
Peters will now take those offers along with the two separate policy offers to a meeting of his Caucus and then a telephone conference with his board.
Peters said the party was about 98% there on policy.
“We’ve got two sets of policy arrangements,” he said late yesterday afternoon.
“They are obviously different because they are different parties.”
He said he wasn’t saying the board was happy with both sets.
“The board knows precisely what they both mean depending on what we do if we take that choice.”
POLITIK understands that there has been an ongoing communication between NZ First and the the two main parties while the talks took place.
Neither party seems stressed by the fact that the Government formation process is taking longer than was anticipated.
Privately most MPs thought peters was far too ambitious with his December 12 deadline.
There is though some frustration that the the policy detail work could not have been begun on a provisional basis before the writs were returned on October 12.
However, the negotiations to form the next Government can legally continue for another five weeks.
Only then must Parliament meet.
If there was still no agreement, then National would occupy the Treasury benches but would have to survive a vote of confidence
Parliament would open as normal (though whether there would be a substantial speech from the throne would be debatable) and then the Address in Reply debate would take place.
This is a vehicle for a wide-ranging debate but also permits motions expressing lack of confidence in the Government to be moved by way of amendment.
At that point, NZ First would have to make its mind up who to support or whether to abstain. But that is a highly remote possibility and is really more of an escape route if there is not political agreement beforehand.
There is, however, another earlier practical deadline.
The East Asia Summit meets in the Philippines on November 13 -14 and will involve a heavyweight group of leaders including US President Trump; Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang; Russian Prime Minister Medvedev along with the Indian Prime Minister and the leaders of all East Asian states and Australia.
Then immediately following that meeting is the APEC summit in Viet Nam which will include a sidelines meeting of the TPP 11 partners.
Whoever is Prime Minister will lead the New Zealand delegation to these meetings. If it is Ardern, they will be her first major international meetings.
If there is no Government, then it is likely that both English and Ardern — and even possibly Peters – would all go.