Luxon: Coalition talks in final stages

National Party leader Christopher Luxon arrives for coalition talks in Auckland on Thursday....
National Party leader Christopher Luxon arrives for coalition talks in Auckland on Thursday. Photo: RNZ
National leader Christopher Luxon says negotiations to form a government are in the final stages.

A month on from the October 14 election, and nearly two weeks after the official results were released, Luxon is yet to sign an agreement with ACT and New Zealand First parties. 

Policy disagreements still surround tax and Treaty/co-governance matters, which have become key sticking points.

Luxon spoke to media this morning outside Auckland hotel The Cordis where he was meeting several MPs and the party president. 

"We had a very productive day yesterday, it started with the three leaders coming together, Winston Peters and myself and our chiefs of staff met then for most of the morning, David Seymour and I had lunch yesterday talking about a few issues, and then we met with the full ACT team yesterday afternoon - and then Winston Peters and our chiefs, we carried on again at 6pm.

"We're going through all the detail of our respective manifestos - we are making great progress, we're in the final stages."

Luxon rubbished claims of issues between National and New Zealand First, saying leader Winston Peters’ no-show in Wellington on Tuesday was not unexpected, The New Zealand Herald reported. 

Talks between National, NZ First and Act are continuing in Auckland following odd circumstances on Tuesday when it was expected the three party leaders would travel to Wellington for their first meeting all together.

While Luxon and Act leader David Seymour made it south, Peters remained in Auckland. That led to Luxon and Seymour catching a late flight back to Auckland on Tuesday night.

Recent media reports had claimed Peters was unhappy with the draft deal National had put together, however, Peters hadn’t stated that publicly.

Luxon today said it was never his expectation that the three leaders would meet on Tuesday, saying he went to Wellington to meet with party members based there.

”I wouldn’t over-read too much into the drama.”

Seymour had stated on Tuesday it was his understanding a meeting between the three leaders could occur that day.

Luxon said it was “absolute rubbish” to claim Peters was trying to teach the other leaders a lesson by not travelling to Wellington. However, he didn’t give a direct answer when asked if Peters had indeed been unhappy with a draft deal, saying he wouldn’t publicly discuss conversations between the leaders.

Luxon said yesterday had been “very productive” with the first meeting of all three leaders, followed by lunch with Seymour, meeting with Act’s negotiating team in the afternoon and Peters and his chief of staff Darroch Ball in the evening.

Asked about how negotiations had now taken longer than those led by Jacinda Ardern in 2017, Luxon said “we are making great progress, we’re in the final stages”.

He would spend this morning with National’s team, including deputy leader Nicola Willis, Auckland list MP Paul Goldsmith, Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown, Hutt South MP Chris Bishop and National Party president Sylvia Wood.

Chris Bishop arrives for talks this morning. Photo: RNZ
Chris Bishop arrives for talks this morning. Photo: RNZ
Luxon said it was likely there would be further meetings between National and the other two parties this afternoon, but wasn’t sure whether another three-way leaders meeting would occur today.

He wouldn’t elaborate on what policy issues still remain within negotiations.

It has been widely speculated the parties are still yet to find a compromise on National’s plan to offer tax cuts and Act’s policy to hold a referendum on the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The distribution of ministerial portfolios was expected to be discussed towards the end of negotiations.

Luxon said that was currently being debated but couldn’t give a timeframe on when a deal could be reached.

It’s understood National is reluctant to put a deadline on when it would want coalition talks to conclude as that could give Act and NZ First leverage.

Willis refuses to commit to foreign buyers tax

Arriving earlier at the Cordis Hotel, National finance spokesperson Nicola Willis refused to commit to the party's foreign buyers tax, but said the tax cut package would be "funded responsibly", RNZ reported. 

The deputy leader said her sense was also that they were in the "final stages".

"Because we are really looking at the detail of each part of the written agreement. Obviously this is a distinctive situation because there are three parties that need to come together for us to have the votes to form a government. We are literally going through clause by clause, sentence by sentence, [checking] is everyone happy."

She stood by her commitment to deliver tax cuts for New Zealanders but despite being asked several times refused to say it would be funded by a proposal the party campaigned on, a foreign buyers tax on houses sold for more than $2 million.

"Look, our tax cuts will be funded responsibly, there's really good agreement on that and as you will have seen before the election we went to the election with a manifesto that had a tax policy funded through eight different areas - of reprioritisation, of new revenue measures.

"We are discussing every aspect of that. I'm confident that both Chris Luxon and I can stand here today and yet again commit to New Zealanders: you'll be getting your tax reduction."

During the campaign, Willis had said she would resign as Finance Minister if National was unable to deliver the tax cuts they had promised, but would not make the same commitment about other aspects of the tax plan. 

Act Party leader David Seymour. Photo: NZ Herald
Act Party leader David Seymour. Photo: NZ Herald

Wish it was done: Seymour 

Act Party leader David Seymour said he was confident that a deal to form a government would be made in the next few days.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking Breakfast show today, he acknowledged the country was frustrated by how long coalition talks are taking, saying Kiwis have been waiting a long time.

”We’re not quite at a 5m scrum mark but we’re well within the 22. New Zealand faces enormous challenges and needs a government that gets stuck in, I wish it was already done.”

Seymour said going back to the polls would be “nuclear” and felt like his party had done its best to show up at the table.

He remained coy about what was talked about but said the disagreements had been narrowed down.

NZ First leader Winston Peters, National's Christopher Luxon and Act's David Seymour have...
NZ First leader Winston Peters, National's Christopher Luxon and Act's David Seymour have gathered today for coalition negotiations. Photo / Winston Peters

Sepuloni: Slow negotiations raise questions

Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the difficulty of the new government reaching a coalition deal indicates how difficult it might be for the three parties to work together going forward.

“The time that it has taken that bringing those three parties together is not going to be easy which I think speaks volumes of what might happen going forward,” she told RNZ this morning. 

“It’s very difficult and I don’t think they are even trying too much to pretend that it is not difficult.”

Sepuloni said in the meantime she has been enjoying the Auckland sun whilst engaging with her constituents.

“We’re just waiting, waiting like the rest of the country. As an Auckland MP, I am going to keep getting out to enjoy Auckland and doing the work that I need to.”

- NZ Herald and RNZ