We have a Government

Written By: - Date published: 9:37 pm, October 19th, 2017 - 25 comments
Categories: election 2017, First Past the Post, greens, labour, MMP, nz first - Tags: ,

This post by Matthew Whitehead is cross posted from lemattjuste.wordpress.com


So, we now have a government in principle1, with New Zealand First choosing to enter minority coalition with Labour, supported by the Greens. Peters has said he understands that the deal offered to the Greens is a confidence and supply agreement, and the numbers I’ve heard are 4 ministers inside cabinet for NZ First, a parliamentary under-secretary2, and at least 2 ministers outside cabinet for the Greens. If they have been proportional, which Jacinda has promised to be, that would suggest about 3 or 4 ministers for the Greens to New Zealand First’s 4 and a half. The leadership team will likely be Jacinda Ardern as Prime Minister and Winston Peters as Deputy Prime Minister, although he hasn’t yet confirmed that role.

The TV news is making a big deal that National was the plurality winner, and for the first time isn’t part of the governing arrangement despite that. Our government has always had a constitutional requirement that only needed a majority of seats in the House to secure the treasury benches and the premiership, and that’s what the new Labour-New Zealand First coalition looks to have secured. This is really no big deal, and given that we have recently re-endorsed MMP, people will simply have to get used to the idea that any group of parties that gets over 50% gets to be the government, as it’s not going to change any time soon. I do expect there are some that will take some time to get used to the idea, but it might as well be now, because I expect it to happen again a few times before FPP thinking dies off.

New Zealand First are likely to be looking at areas like regional development, housing, primary industries, immigration, and education in terms of their policy areas of interest.

The Greens are currently holding a Special General Meeting online (better for the environment, more convenient for delegates) to vote on whether they will accept the deal negotiated with Labour, (the various branches having already had discussions on what sorts of agreements we favour, and then instructed their delegates) however the worst likely option is that they might ask for some adjustments before approving the deal3, if they don’t simply approve it outright. The party will seek a full consensus if possible, rather than resorting to the 75% vote that is the minimum requirement to pass a deal, because that’s an important part of party culture. They have officially confirmed to members via email that they are discussing the deal right now, and Jacinda has committed to not interrupting that process.

The offer from Labour, according to Winston, is likely to be a confidence and supply agreement, but this hasn’t yet been officially confirmed by either Ardern or the Greens. What does that arrangement mean for the Greens?

Well, firstly, it’s approve confidence and supply, or let National govern. Abstaining would give National a majority of one in terms of the remaining votes and thus afford them the support of the house, and Winston appears to have made locking the Greens out of coalition part of its deal, so it’s the only realistic option. There is a valid option to walk away from an agreement and just let National govern if the Greens feel that Labour is abusing their position, so the commentary by some in the media that the Greens have “nowhere else to go” is just wrong, they simply don’t want to go with their other option if they can avoid it. Besides, Labour will want to have the Greens on-side in case there is an option to ditch New Zealand First in three years time.

Secondly, it means more flexibility to criticize and question the government, exempting them from collective responsibility for cabinet decisions, which New Zealand First won’t have, while still giving them access to ministerial positions that can be left out of cabinet, which might include responsibilities like Minister for the Environment, for Climate Change, for Social Development, or for Transport. The ministers appointed outside cabinet would still have ministerial responsibility, so the Greens will need to be careful about which areas they accept ministerial portfolios in, as they will technically be responsible for not just all government policy in that area, but also the operation of those ministries, so they will ideally want any ministers be appointed in areas where they’ve achieved siginificant policy gains or policy alignment with Labour in terms of which ministries they take up.

It’s likely to also include policy concessions, although perhaps not as much as going into full coalition, as that extra independence from the new government will have to come at a price.

This arrangement is not the same thing as the previous arrangements that the Greens have had in the last term of the Clark government or after they crossed the floor over the GE issue, as they will actively be supporting the new government, and in that case they were actually completely on the cross benches. It will be more akin to the relationship between the National Party and the Māori Party last term, but with a stronger junior partner who will be needed to pass any legislation that National doesn’t agree with Labour on. (This also means that Green ministers would be in a similar position to what the previous Māori Party minister was, where they would be asked questions in the House during Question Time, but they would be in a more powerful position where Labour couldn’t sideline them by going to other parties for votes very often, as their only option is getting National onside)

It’s worth noting that although technically parties with a Confidence and Supply agreement are not part of the government proper, even though their ministers are considered part, so if one of the co-leaders is not given a Ministry, they’d be in a position to be openly critical of government policy, and the other could still hold the government to account on areas not related to their portfolio. Of course, reporters or the public never made that distinction in the past, so it’s relevant to see whether they can be convinced that there is a difference between C&S and coalition this time.

A lot of party members have argued that staying at arms-length of a government that needs New Zealand First’s support to sideline the National Party and ACT is probably a good idea, and to be honest I can’t quite disagree. The Greens will likely be transparent about whose idea confidence and supply was is that is indeed the nature of the offer they got, and will be careful not to ruffle feathers while doing so.

While this may not be the ideal government all of us wanted, it will also prevent an almost-unprecedented four-term National government and relieve the pressure on people who are reliant on the state for support, or medical care, or education, and who have been suffering under an under-funded public sector.

1 It’s an agreement in principle at this stage, and Jacinda is not formally Prime Minister yet as the Greens haven’t approved a confidence and supply agreement, so Bill English is still caretaker Prime Minister.

2 A Parliamentary under-secretary is an extra tier of parliamentary responsibility that falls below being an associate minister, with the main difference being that they’re not authorized to act on behalf of the primary minister, but are expected to assist the minister in specific duties. Last term, David Seymour was an under-secretary for Education so he could assist in ministerial work regarding his charter schools policy. Effectively, it’s a more limited form of associate minister that comes with its own budget and a specific policy area, but doesn’t lock out the actual associate position for that portfolio, usually because there is a specific policy area the support partner wishes to assist in. As an example, you might have an under-secretary for child poverty working under the Minister for Social Development, or an under-secretary for immigration working under the Minister for Internal Affairs.

3 An SGM can’t itself propose an amended deal as far as I understand the process, but if they feel confident that tweaks might be accepted, they could decide to vote down the offer and instruct the negotiation team to continue talks. I expect that the Greens will likely accept the offer they’ve been given as all the talk from the party has indicated that they feel they have been negotiated with in good faith by their Labour counterparts.

_________________________________________________________

Post footnotes updated. 

25 comments on “We have a Government”

  1. Carolyn_Nth 1

    I do think it is the best for the GP to not be in the cabinet. It gives them more independence, and the opportunity to rebuild.

    RNZ reports:

    The Green Party’s confidence and supply agreement would give it three ministers outside Cabinet and one undersecretary, its leader James Shaw says.

    “We are very excited about this opportunity and it does include ministers for the first time in the Green Party’s history,” he said.

    “So it is an historic moment for the Green Party and our movement.”

    …said the party should be in a position tomorrow to say that the conditions have been met for a new government.

    However, he stuck by the party’s three main goals from its election campaign.

    “First, that we would make New Zealand a global leader in the fight against climate change. We now have the opportunity to do that.”

    “We also said that we wanted to restore and replenish our forests and our birds and our rivers and we now have the opportunity to do that.”

    “The third thing we said was that we wanted to have a real crack at ending child poverty in this country once and for all. And we are now in an opportunity to do that.”

    The last bit suggests some of the positions the GP has been offered: something to do with climate change; something to do with the NZ environment; something to do with child poverty.

    • weka 1.1

      I’ll be relieved and feeling much better about this if they get something substantial on welfare. Might just be child poverty though.

      I took heart from Ardern said too that they tried to take into account proportionality in assigning Ministerial rolls.

      • Macro 1.1.1

        I think there may be an Associate Minister in the offing; and NZFirst’s policy on a living wage is actually a better deal than Labour or Greens, so there could be a significant win here.

        • weka 1.1.1.1

          NZF policy on WINZ is stink though. I hope they let it go.

          • Macro 1.1.1.1.1

            Yep – the NZF spokesperson on this on the negotiation team is quite naive tho. (She was the NZF candidate in our electorate so we got to hear her quite a lot.) Has a good heart.. so I expect to see if the Greens get some influence through Jan or Marama that there may be some good progress here. It all flows from the top in this area.

            • weka 1.1.1.1.1.1

              “It all flows from the top in this area.”

              How do you mean?

              • Macro

                Shipley, Bennett et al imposed their personality onto the Ministry at the time – the way they call the shots flows down to the case workers. If it’s mean spirited at the top its going to be even more so at the bottom.
                There seems that there is likely to be more money flowing towards welfare health and education and that can only be good. We shall just have to await the details.

                • weka

                  ah, yes, sorry I thought you meant something in the deal making.

                  Matt posted some the policy stuff below (from a member email). Look forward to the detail.

      • As per below, welfare policy is indeed included in the agreement. 🙂

  2. Robert Guyton 2

    So, National, Opposition, right?
    (All I need to hear) 🙂

  3. Mr Magoo 3

    “While this may not be the ideal government all of us wanted”

    It may end up being better than that.

    Hearing Winston talk was almost inspiring – was that seriously an implied hat tip to Mickey Savage?! I thought he was going to take his jacket off and we would find him wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt. (ok…maybe not)
    If he follows through on the sentiment of his speech he will have my respect not just as a political animal (he had that already) but as a human being.
    We all wondered what he wanted his legacy to be and I guess we now know.

    But time will tell if there is follow through from him and especially the rest of his party with eyes on 2020.

    But this COULD end up being much better for the left.

    A labour/green government would have been constantly at odds with 3 parties (well, 2 + 1 pretend party) for 3 years. Any significant reforms would have resulted in “reds under the bed”, “fiscal hole” and other ridiculous slander that a large number of NZers would fall for as per usual.
    Scaremongering will be a BIG feature over the next term if they really do intend to be a coalition of anti-neo-liberal reformists. (Christ I hope so!)

    Anyone on the left who thinks it would have great to force through such reforms with a L/G majority while dancing on the graves of the status quo are being very naïve and short sighted. (moronic even)
    This sort of change needs to carry a majority with it (and not scare away their current support!) or this will be a 1 term coalition if its lucky. And that will require cohesion and tangible results within the term.

    But it means there will only be National and its dingleberry, Act, to deal with. And they will have the “centrist”/”conservative” (not really) NZF party backing them up and apparently even leading the charge as per Winston’s speech.

    And while I am sure the right wing journalists will go to bat for their team as hard as they can, National could end up looking like a sick and twisted lonely island of losers regardless.
    Especially if there is a nasty leadership war during this term. Could I hear the sharpening of knives during the concession speech?

    But I also realize it is almost too early to say anything substantial yet since the policy docs are not public yet.
    But this is a damned good start…

    • I am a pretty staunch opponent of Winston, although I will say in his favour that he is right that we need a more compassionate society than our recent capitalism-obsessed neoliberal governments have provided. There is room to work with NZF, but I would have preferred it not be necessary.

      You may be right that a softly-softly three-way government may reassure more conservative parts of NZ that we’re not actually entering a brave new era of communism (not that that would be a bad thing) and prevent such a large backlash, but I would have honestly have welcome a bit of backlash if it gave us a chance to really take a bite out of some of the damage the Nats have done over the last nine years quite aggressively.

      I do expect National to scaremonger, but frankly, even if the things they tried to agitate people about weren’t good ideas in the first place, it would be hard to screw things up worse than they’ve managed to.

      If the Nats are smart, they will keep on English for at least six months and see how he does. There is no viable second alternative yet. Bridges is an incompetent who failed upwards, Bennett and Collins are lightning rods of hate, and Joyce is that and has damaged his own credibility with his outright lies on tax. There is nobody who can credibly take English’s role if they stab him in the back. Kaye doesn’t have the profile yet and isn’t conservative enough, but she’d be their next best bet IMO.

      • Mr Magoo 3.1.1

        While I agree in spirit, my post was about the practicality of implementing generation change.
        You say their ideas were “not good”? Actually they were “brilliant” because they got the public to swallow them regardless and sadly in politics that is ALL THAT MATTERS in terms of votes counted.
        As Bill pointed out (while looking like the captain of the Titanic) nearly 1/2 the votes went to them. The left should not be smug about this – they need to double their efforts to win as many over as possible with results in the next term.

        As I said, if you are seen to be radical your support will quickly dry up as it has done in the past. Remember it is SEEN to be radical – it matters not one shit if you are or not. If the Spin sticks, it might as well have been true.

        Power perceived is power achieved.

        3 terms of Key did more damage than most people realise: the worst it did was make around half the (voting) country pro-National and susceptible to swallowing their PR like it was caviar.

        In the current environment scaring even a small fraction away would mean, and I cannot stress this enough, a single party National government able to do whatever the fuck they want.

        The left need to make this work for everyone and not make this look like a revolution of radicals sticking it to the status quo. (not that I think the current coalition is that stupid) It will be hard but the addition of NZF will make the PR on this MUCH easier to write…3 vs 1 (+1 dingleberry) is a much easier fight.

        I know radicals will be “radicals” but they are dead wrong on this.

  4. Macro 4

    Yay! We have a change of Govt!

  5. BTW, Greens have now finished their SGM call online, and have confirmed the C&S agreement, and sent an email blast out to members. Here are the policy gains they highlight:

    Significant climate action, with a shift towards a net zero carbon emissions economy by 2050. The specific focuses will be on: transport, energy, primary industries. The establishment of an Independent Climate Commission. Support for a shift in farming to more sustainable land use.

    Overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working For Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity

    Significant increase in the Conservation budget

    Improve water quality and prioritise achieving healthy rivers, lakes and aquifers with stronger regulatory instruments, funding for freshwater enhancement and winding down Government support for irrigation

    Free counselling for under-25s and access to mental health services and support for everyone

    Access to education for children with special needs and learning difficulties

    Substantial progress in this parliamentary term to eliminating the gender pay gap in the public service

    Reduction in the number of students living in hardship

    Review, and adequately fund and support, the family re-unification scheme for refugees.

    Increase funding for alcohol and drug addiction services and ensure drug use is treated as a health issue, and have a referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis at, or by, the 2020 general election.

    • Mr Magoo 5.1

      That is a pretty vague list but a step in the right direction overall on the face of it.

      If you take away the items that Labour/NZF were already behind (and you should) that still leaves some good concessions.

      Devil is in the details of course. Will be interesting to see what those devils are before declaring it a win.
      Some of the key points there have a lot of scope.

  6. piper 6

    Pike River,its our time to drift down.

  7. When truth speaks to power,… the arrogance of those who deem themselves ‘ born to rule’ becomes ,… arrogant …. slighted ,… and defensive.

    Its judgement day on the elite who sought to prolong their oppression in NZ.

    A new , fairer govt has emerged.

    JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Jesus and Pilate 7B – YouTube
    Video for we all have truths – are mine the same as yours ? jesus christ superstar▶ 2:49

  8. And this ; this is what the shadowy elites ( NZ Initiative and their ilk ) have been attempting to do with any individual , body of people or social movement that have arisen to challenge them in this country… but now ,… their reign is over.

    We now have a bold patriarch much maligned by them and their bought media , and a bright vivacious young leader backed up by a sage and genteel visionary in the form of James Shaw opposing them… there is no stopping this social / economic movement now…

    And scenes like this ,… will no longer be happening to those that seek justice and truth for the common people ,… we do not have to put up with this sort of barbarity any longer … we are free.

    Here’s to you , Metiria.

    Jesus Christ Superstar Crucify – YouTube
    you tube▶ 1:40

  9. Eco maori 9

    Congratulations to the Labour party and OUR new QUEEN Jacinta Arden we no you will rule in a fair and just manor . And we no you have the skills to make this new coalition government a successful and bountiful partnership for all of US . P.S watch our for road spikes national leave in your path.
    Kia Kaha

  10. Cinny 10

    By crikey it’s the gift that keeps on giving 🙂

    “Prime Minister-elect Jacinda Ardern has announced the 16 Labour MPs that will make up the bulk of the new Cabinet.

    Those MPs are David Clark, Clare Curran, Kelvin Davis, Chris Hipkins, Iain Lees-Galloway, Andrew Little, Nanaia Mahuta, Stuart Nash, Damien O’Connor, David Parker, Grant Robertson, Jenny Salesa, Carmel Sepuloni, Phil Twyford and Megan Woods.”

    Damien O’Connor is our local MP one of the hardest working, supportive, clued up MP’s in NZ. Am thrilled for him, he will give it his all.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/98096834/victorious-labour-caucus-gathers-to-elect-ministers

    • Carolyn_Nth 10.1

      Pablo on Kiwipolitical has expressed concern that there is no one in NZF, Labour or the Greens with the right kind of experience to be responsible for the intelligence community.

      He has identified Ron Mark as a likely Minister of defense.

      So, will Andrew Little have some responsibility for intelligence – must have gained some experience with it in his time as leader?

      Or will it be someone like David Parker?

  11. Cinny 11

    Miss Twelve is correct it is like Christmas, nahhh it’s better than Christmas 🙂

    “The long battle may be over to save Salisbury School, near Nelson.

    A change in Government to a Labour-NZ First coalition, with the Green Party holding a confidence and supply agreement with Labour, has given hope to the team at the only national single-sex residential school for girls with intellectual disabilities.

    Each of those parties has backed the Richmond-based school’s long-running fight to keep its doors open.”

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/98081278/underthreat-salisbury-school-takes-heart-from-change-of-government

    Crikey, getting a bit emotional, this school saves lives, so much goodness happening from a change in government, so happy.

    Tracey Martin… thank you for being, Thank You.

    One of the strongest supporters of the school, NZ First MP Tracey Martin, was part of the NZ First team that negotiated the coalition deal.
    Martin on Friday said she could not reveal if Salisbury School was part of those discussions because the details of the negotiations were still confidential.”

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