Em­pha­sis on ‘coali­tion’

The Southland Times - - National News - Tracy Watkins tracy.watkins@stuff.co.nz

Af­ter her worst week in govern­ment, Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern has used a ma­jor speech to set out her pri­or­i­ties and out­line a ‘‘coali­tion’’ blueprint for the years ahead.

As the first an­niver­sary since the elec­tion nears, Ardern out­lined 12 pri­or­i­ties in a long-term plan to drive the Govern­ment’s on­go­ing work pro­gramme.

She said the plan rep­re­sented the shared vi­sion and pri­or­i­ties of Labour, NZ First and the Greens, and had the sup­port of all of them.

‘‘We are a govern­ment of change, and this plan shows our new think­ing on how we’ll tackle the big chal­lenges fac­ing our coun­try and the world, such as poverty and in­equal­ity and cli­mate change.’’ Her speech was no­table for fo­cus­ing on the blueprint as be­ing a ‘‘coali­tion’’ doc­u­ment rather than that of a Labour-led govern­ment.

Win­ston Peters has been en­gaged in a power strug­gle with Labour over its flag­ship poli­cies in­clud­ing rais­ing the refugee quota, in­dus­trial re­la­tions re­forms and es­tab­lish­ing a Crown Maori re­la­tions agency.

De­spite the dis­agree­ments, Ardern re­ferred to change in those ar­eas as be­ing among her Govern­ment’s high-level pri­or­i­ties. The speech was short on de­tail, how­ever, and there was no in­di­ca­tion that Labour and NZ First had reached agree­ment yet on their big dif­fer­ences over refugee num­bers and in­dus­trial re­la­tions. Peters also scut­tled plans to abol­ish the three-strikes law in re­la­tion to crim­i­nal sen­tences and last week re­fused to ac­knowl­edge it was a Labourled Govern­ment. In a show of unity, Peters was the sur­prise first speaker at the Auck­land event at­tended by about 400 peo­ple. Peters re­jected me­dia spec­u­la­tion of splits in the coali­tion and said the Govern­ment was uni­fied and strong be­cause it rep­re­sented the ‘‘ma­jor­ity will’’ of the coun­try.

NZ First was as ‘‘com­mit­ted as ever to mak­ing this govern­ment and coali­tion work’’.

Green Party co-lead­ers James Shaw and Marama David­son were also at the event.

But de­spite the show of unity, when Ardern was joined by her Fi­nance Min­is­ter Grant Robert­son and Shaw for a ques­tion-an­dan­swer ses­sion, Peters was ab­sent from the stage.

In­stead, NZ First min­is­ter Tracey Martin took a seat. It was un­clear why Peters did not join the ses­sion but he was be­lieved to still be in the au­di­ence.

Ardern de­scribed the Govern­ment’s long-term plan as a ‘‘blueprint which sets out our pri­or­i­ties and the steps we are tak­ing to build a more mod­ern and fairer New Zealand that we can all be proud of’’.

‘‘Our Govern­ment has a firm eye on the fu­ture. That’s why our plan is look­ing 30 years ahead, not just three.

‘‘We are a govern­ment of change and this plan shows our new think­ing on how we’ll tackle the big chal­lenges fac­ing our coun­try and the world.’’

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