Finally, the mainstream media work out that NZ First could sit on the cross benches

I’ve been telling people for months that there is a good likelihood that Winston Peters would take his party onto the cross benches and make who ever can form a government beg for every single piece of legislation and supply.

Vernon Small has finally worked it out.

As coalition talks gear up there are fears Winston Peters may favour a more independent option, supporting neither party, that would leave National’s programme up in the air.

The NZ First leader has never ruled out “sitting on the cross benches”, and his comment that there are nine scenarios open to him suggest that is still a live option.

But he has also emphasised stability, which argues against him abstaining and in favour of a support deal.

He struck a support deal with Labour in 2005 that included ministerial posts, with foreign affairs for himself, despite eschewing the “baubles of office” on the campaign trail.

In the British context crossbench MPs are those who do not vote regularly with the Government or the Opposition.

But Otago law and political studies professor Andrew Geddis does not believe there has ever been an example of a party choosing to do that here.

“The closest would maybe be the Greens in that one parliamentary term (2002-2005) where they abstained. But of course they didn’t have to do that to allow a government to form. It was simply their way of showing a bit of pique at being left out of everything”.

Geddis agrees the best definition in New Zealand would be a party that said it would abstain on key confidence and supply issues, rather than vote for or against the Government.

The other option – of voting with the government on confidence issues but issue-by-issue on all other laws – would essentially be a support deal similar to the ones we have seen here, although there are options with and without ministerial posts for the smaller party.

As the parties wait for special votes to be returned on October 7 from the September 23 election, after which Peters has pledged to reveal his intentions by writ day on October 12, a “cross benches” arrangement by Peters would likely have only one outcome.

That would be a National minority government, since it has 58 seats to the Labour-Greens 52 in the 120 seat Parliament. While the 380,000 special votes may narrow the gap they are seen as unlikely to close it entirely.

The option is seen as “live” because Peters has left himself only four to five days between October 7 and October 12 to negotiate a deal with the other parties. That is seen as a very tight timetable for Peters to negotiate with at least two parties especially if he wants to nail down specific policy concessions.

However an abstention would leave National hostage to a change of mind by Peters and unable to confidently put into effect a coherent programme.

NZ First could easily do that, and is likely to do that should National pick up one more seat on the specials. He would give National confidence, but not supply, and make Bill English beg for every single dollar.

I told back bench MPs and some Ministers that if they thought going into coalition with Winston Peters was a bad option, I could think of a worse one. Where Winston Peters sits on the cross benches.

With the vote count as it is right now I would suggest that is a better than even chance of that occurring.

The word coming out of Labour and it is making Winston Peters nervous, is that the undermining of Jacinda Ardern has already started and there is a belief amongst senior Labour MPs that she won’t last. Winston Peters wants stability and a flaky PM won’t be high on his list. At the moment a one seat majority would be unappealing.

Likewise, if National picks one up on specials, and this is a better chance than Labour picking one up, then Winston’s coalition negotiating position diminishes substantially.

The only way he can then leverage anything is by sitting on the cross benches. He would enjoy watching Bill English on his knees every time he wants legislation passed.

Watching the left unhinge as Winston betrays them with a cross bench solution would be delicious.

 

-Fairfax

 


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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