Greens co-leader James Shaw has indicated just how high the stakes are in the current talks between his party and Labour over the future relationship between the two parties.
Shaw told media last evening that on Friday the Greens would end up either being in Government or Opposition as a consequence of the talks.
He expected that decision would be made by the Greens membership on Friday after what is expected to be a negotiating session each day from now till then.
And a spokesperson for the Prime Minister last night agreed with that timetable and said she intended to wrap the talks up by the end of the week.
Shaw’s revelation that being part of Government was on the table suggests that Ministerial positions may also be in play.
There has been speculation, inspired by comments made by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on the Sunday after the election, that Labour was offering the Greens something less than full participation in Government.
She said she had asked for advice on what she called “consultation agreements’ which presumably referred to a 2005 agreement between the Greens and Labour which saw the Greens not committed to supporting Labour on confidence and supply but consequently without any Ministerial positions.
Ardern leads a small team of her deputy, Kelvin Davis; Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, Labour Party President, Clare Szabo; Chief of Staff, Raj Nahna and senior policy advisor, Holly Donald.
Donald is a daughter of the late Greens co-leader, Rod Donald and was until recently a political advisor to the Greens at Parliament.
In turn, the Greens have their team headed by co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson along with their Chief of Staff, Tory Whanau; senior advisor, Deb Moran; Green Party Co-Convenor, Wiremu Winitana and legal advisor James Every-Palmer.
The talks yesterday — or “conversation” as the prime Minister likes to describe them — went nearly half an hour over their scheduled one hour which may suggest that they are now getting down into some level of detail.
Talks are expected every day this week and then, on Friday, if there is an agreement, the proposal will be put to the Greens membership.
But Greens co-leader James Shaw, told media last week that the leadership was also consulting with a representative group of Greens members as the talks progressed.
The Friday proposal that will be put to the party will be the final proposal. And Shaw indicated last evening that what was at stake was whether the Greens would be in the Government.
Asked if the proposal could be re-negotiated if he failed to get 74 per cent, he said: “No, so we would neither join the Government, nor we would not join the Government.”
Asked if the vote went against joining the Government, that would mean the Greens would be in Opposition; Shaw said: “That’s correct”.
Marama Davidson: “That’s right”.
There are a variety of options facing the Government in how it accommodates the Greens.
Without any need for their votes on matters of supply and confidence, Ardern does not need to bind them in with a coalition agreement which in turn she would have to “pay’ for with positions inside her Cabinet.
Instead, she could offer a reheated version of the last confidence and supply agreement which offered Ministerial positions outside Cabinet in return for the Greens voting on confidence and supply.
But Labour doesn’t need those votes so it can afford to pay a heavy hand during the negotiations.
The 2005 Co-operation Agreement imposed no obligation on the Greens to support the Government on any vote but offered no Ministerial positions.
Its preamble said: “The Government and the Green Party share many similar goals and will co-operate on agreed areas of policy development and legislation to facilitate the implementation of a shared agenda.”
The Government promised to consult with the Green Party on a range of issues including: ”The broad outline of the legislative programme and the priorities within it; key legislative measures; major policy issues.”
Issues were assigned a category according to which there was a different level of consultation.
Category A allowed for the full participation of Green Party spokespeople in the development of policy positions with the expectation of developing joint positions.
Category B was consultation on the broad direction of policy, and the development of related legislation, with the aim of achieving support for legislative measures and policy proposals.
Category C was consultation for the purposes of information sharing without any particular expectation of developing agreed positions.
Before the election, Shaw made it clear he wanted the Greens in Cabinet.
He told Newstalk ZB he would be pushing for co-leader Marama Davidson to be a minister and suggested a Green MP hold the agriculture portfolio.
He said a new Labour-led government would need to be in partnership with the Greens for it to be truly transformational.
“I think, in the next Parliament if Labour and the Greens can form a government together, then you will see a truly progressive government for New Zealand.”
The Greens may want that, but since the election, Jacinda Ardern has given every impression that is not what she wants.
Her talk of the need for sustainable change and to take into account Labour’s new voters who have come across from National hardly sounds like what some of the more radical members of the Greens will want to hear.