(UPDATE — Parker was not named as associate Foreign Affairs Minister but is the Trade Minister. Either way, he and Peters will be working closely together.)
The role played in the government formation negotiations between Labour and NZ First by Labour MP David Parker is likely to be acknowledged tomorrow when he becomes Associate Foreign Affairs Minister with NZ First Leader Winston Peters as Minister.
As such he will be at Peters’ side and work closely with him.
POLITIK understands that even during the campaign Parker was acting as an informal go-between linking Labour and NZ First.
He was uniquely placed to fill that role.
He is close to Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern and had also formed a close relationship with Peters when Peters was Foreign Minister in the Clark Government.
Now Parker will effectively assist Peters in the Foreign Affairs role, particularly by taking over some foreign travel so that Peters can maintain NZ First’s political campaign among its party faithful.
Parker is also thought likely to take on the potentially difficult trade portfolio. He acted as the party’s trade spokesperson through the TPP negotiations.
But the Coalition documents released yesterday reveal several policies where during the campaign where Labour and NZ First seemed to have matched each other’s policies.
There was the proposal to re-establish the Forestry Service and another to provide secondary school students with driving instruction — both were in the coalition agreement yesterday.
POLITIK understands that this “policy alignment” may be no accident but rather that Parker through his contacts with Peters during the campaign developed an understanding of where NZ First wanted to go with policy.
Thus Labour was ready for the policy talks and knew where NZ First’s sensitive areas were. Parker was “in and out” of those talks according to one participant.
And it is thought that a private meeting between Peters and Parker resolved one major obstacle to a deal — Labour’s water tax, a policy which had been developed by Parker.
That has now put on hold for the duration of this Parliamentary term according to the coalition agreement.
But it came with a quid pro quo — that NZ First agree to agriculture being included in the ETS if that was recommended by a to-be-established Climate Change Commission.
If that happened then the free allocation (of ETS units) to agriculture would be 95% (of all emissions) but with all revenues from this source recycled back into agriculture to encourage agricultural innovation, mitigation and additional planting of forestry.
The big hits in the coalition document though were predictable.
- The $1 billion regional development fund. (Labour had promised only $200 million for this).
- The commitment to review and “reform” the Reserve Bank Act
- An investigation into the feasibility of shifting Auckland port to Whangarei
- Investigate growing Kiwibank’s capital base and capabilities so that it is positioned to become the Government’s Banker when that contract is next renewed.
- Strengthening the Overseas Investment Act and a comprehensive register of foreign-owned land and housing.
- A commitment to raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour by 2021.
There were some surprises including a watered-down immigration policy which set no numerical targets and would simply ensure work visas issued reflected genuine skills shortages and a cut down on low-quality international education courses.
The agreement also calls for an end to the proposed new Parliamentary building to replace Bowen House which was supported by Labour and the Greens but opposed by NZ First.
And there is a commitment to support a “waka jumping” bill to prevent list MPs abandoning their parties.
The controversial Kermadec Ocean sanctuary is on hold until “work with Māori and other quota holders to resolve outstanding issues in the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill in a way that is satisfactory to both Labour and New Zealand First. (is undertaken)”
What also may be significant is what NZ First did not achieve — there was no agreement to lift the GST on food or to hold a referendum on the Maori seats.
Perhaps surprisingly, there is no reference to the TPP — which NZ First opposes — in the agreement at all.
The agreement calls for a review of the Defence procurement plan but it is not clear how that relates to NZ First policy to work within the fiscal parameters of the Defence Capability Plan to return offensive capabilities to the Royal New Zealand Air Force and enhance offensive capabilities of the Army and Navy and to Establish as a minimum the 1:1 replacement of major defence materiel.
For the Greens, the big hits are
- Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and establish an independent Climate Commission
- All new legislation will have a climate impact assessment analysis
- A new cross-agency climate change board of public sector CEOs will be established.
- National Land Transport Fund spending will be reprioritised to increase the investment in rail infrastructure in cities and regions, and cycling and to walk.
- Auckland’s East-West motorway link will not proceed as currently proposed.
- Work will begin on light rail from the city to the airport in Auckland.
What is notable about all these agreements is that none conflict too much with Labour’s overall policies — to put it colloquially, Labour has not been required to swallow any rats.
Parker’s diplomacy may have been the crucial factor in producing that outcome.