National Leader Christopher Luxon on the campaign trail --- dealing with the accompanying media might be easier than dealing with future coalition partners.

National and ACT yesterday had to deal with the consequences of ACT Leader David Seymour’s comments on Saturday night that the party was still open to not being in coalition with National but instead would vote in Parliament on a bill-by-bill basis.

It would seem that his speech in Hastings was unexpected by National.

It also seemed to catch ACT’s campaign unawares.

But no matter how logical Seymour’s argument might have been, it thoroughly undermined the persistent argument from National that a government deal between Labour, the Greens and Te Paati Maori would be a “coalition of chaos.”

Instead, Labour leader Chris Hipkins said Seymour’s proposal would be a recipe for instability and chaos.

“The idea that you could have Christopher Luxon and Winston Peters trying to form a government with David Seymour on a daily basis threatening to veto any decisions that the government might take shows the kind of chaos you could expect under a National, ACT, New Zealand First government.”

POLITIK was the only media outlet present when Seymour made the comments at a public meeting of about 120 people at the No. 5 Café in Hastings on Saturday evening.

He was quite specific. If National and ACT could not agree on ACT’s three main points; a radical redefinition of what the Treaty of Waitangi might mean followed up by a referendum, massive cuts to the public service, and an overhaul of government regulation, then ACT would support Christopher Luxon as Prime Minister, but ACT would have to work “more distantly” and “we’ll have to work through vote by vote to do it.”

There is nothing radical about that proposal. In effect, it describes ACT’s last term in government between 2014 and 2017.

For example, David Seymour refused to support National’s proposals in 2017 to amend the Resource Management Act because the amendments did not go far enough.

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“The reason for opposing this bill is that, frankly, it’s pathetic,” he told Parliament.

“I mean that in the proper sense of the word. In comparison to the problems that this country faces under the Resource Management Act and the level and scale of reform that is necessary and possible, this bill is pathetic.”

Nevertheless, his opposition infuriated National, who then had to do a deal with the Maori Party, which provided for greater iwi participation in the planning process to get the legislation passed.

Currently, the Greens Cooperation Agreement with the Labour Government requires that they will support the Labour Government on procedural motions in the House and at Select Committees and “will not oppose it on matters of confidence and supply for the full term of the upcoming Parliament.”

But Labour has enough votes of its own to pass whatever it likes. Simply, it has not needed the Greens.

That is not likely to be true of whoever forms the next government. On current polling, Labour would need the Greens and Te Paati Maori votes to get anything through the House, and National would need ACT and very probably NZ First also.

At the very least, it would slow the ability of the government to do anything right down.

In 2019, Climate Change Minister James Shaw wanted National’s support for the Zero Carbon Act so that it was bipartisan legislation which would not be randomly amended by future governments.

To get that, he brought National’s climate change spokesperson, Todd Muller, into the discussions within the government to develop the legislation.

But NZ First, Labour’s coalition partner, objected and demanded that the talks with National stop.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern agreed with NZ First, and Muller was left out of the final stages of the Bill’s development, which included the crucial setting of methane targets.

Shaw plainly disagreed with her decision.

“I want to apologize to Mr Muller personally for some of the background process here, which has not gone as I would have liked nor, in fact, as I had intended,” he said in Parliament.

But Ardern had no choice; to maintain the coalition, she had to keep Winston Peters and NZ First on side.

What is clear from experiences like that is a coalition has much less political room to move than a single-party government.

Hipkins was at the Ardern Cabinet table and saw the 2017 – 20 coalition close up.

“ I think a National ACT  New Zealand First coalition would be unstable,” he said yesterday.

“They’d be unable to agree on anything.

“And in fact, the idea of a national coalition now seems to be in complete turmoil as well, with David Seymour saying that unless Christopher Luxon agrees with everything that he wants, then  he’s actually not going to form a coalition with them.”

Questioned yesterday on RNZ’s “Morning Report” about Seymour’s Saturday statement, Luxon said it would not be happening.

“The National ACT coalition government will be very strong, will act in the best interests of all New Zealanders, and we will make it work, and I have very much confidence about that.

“We are aligned on the outcomes.

“We may have some differences on how to deliver those outcomes, but we will work that way in a very mature, responsible, and constructive way for Kiwis.”

Luxon also told Morning Report that he was opposed to a referendum on the Treaty, which would seem to suggest that he is not as aligned with ACT as he might imagine, and what he did not concede was that NZ First might be part of the coalition also.