Fi­nal vote tal­lies makes a dif­fer­ence


We’re at the busi­ness end of coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions - fi­nally. So what do we know that we didn’t know be­fore spe­cial votes came in?

Those spe­cial votes ma­te­ri­ally changed NZ First leader Win­ston Peters’ view of the power bal­ance in the ne­go­ti­a­tions - Peters made that clear when he snapped at re­porters about the votes prov­ing to be worth the wait.

Pick­ing up two ex­tra seats be­tween Labour and the Greens in­creases the size of a cen­tre-left ma­jor­ity if Peters goes that way, ex­tra se­cu­rity that he will see as im­por­tant.

A more level play­ing field also gives him fur­ther lever­age with Na­tional.

We also know that Peters is still call­ing all the shots - Labour and Na­tional couldn’t tip-toe any higher to avoid up­set­ting the NZ First leader.

Se­cu­rity was work­ing over­time at an empty Par­lia­ment on Sun­day to block me­dia from get­ting shots of the ne­go­ti­at­ing teams en­ter­ing and leav­ing the meet­ing room.

What else? Peters is in­tend­ing to drive a hard bar­gain on pol­icy con­ces­sions - he said as much dur­ing an­other fiery ex­change with jour­nal­ists where he barked that pol­icy was ‘‘ev­ery­thing’’.

So what does that mean for the ne­go­ti­a­tions?

If Peters is look­ing ahead to 2020 the con­ces­sions likely to be top of his list are those that shore up his base.

He has a solid and un­wa­ver­ing fol­low­ing among the over 65s who trust in Peters hav­ing their back no mat­ter who is in gov­ern­ment.

So the pen­sion age, su­per­an­nu­a­tion, and Peters’ mega-Gold Card will be im­por­tant.

Peters has also re­cast NZ First as the voice for the re­gions - so poli­cies to stim­u­late and grow jobs and ex­ports in pro­vin­cial New Zealand will be up there as well.

And a curb on for­eign hous­ing spec­u­la­tors and immigration are givens.

But with the ex­cep­tion of for­eign in­vest­ment and immigration - which os­ten­si­bly lean closer to Labour than Na­tional - none of those plat­forms seem to give ei­ther side a par­tic­u­lar edge.

As for port­fo­lios, there will be a num­ber of them on the ta­ble. Deputy prime min­is­ter, for­eign af­fairs, rac­ing, re­gional de­vel­op­ment - pre­sum­ably any of them are his if Peters wants them, and oth­ers for his team, though he says port­fo­lios are not even part of the dis­cus­sions yet.

But again, it’s likely pretty much the same jobs would be on the ta­ble in both sets of ne­go­ti­a­tions.

So Peters will be look­ing at other fac­tors - what as­sur­ances come with the prom­ises, and which of­fers come with caveats. And ul­ti­mately it might just come down to trust - which means that Jacinda Ardern and Bill English likely won’t know much in ad­vance of the rest of us which side he has picked.


New Zealand First party leader Win­ston Peters.

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