Preliminary coalition talks to begin

by Chris Bramwell / 05 October, 2017

Jacinda Ardern, centre, will get a meeting with New Zealand First in the afternoon, following preliminary talks between National and New Zealand First in the morning. Photo / Getty Images

Preliminary talks to form a new government get under way today.

New Zealand First will be meeting with the National Party in the morning and the Labour Party in the afternoon. Both meetings will be held in Wellington.

Speaking at a celebration for the World Champion Black Ferns in Wellington yesterday, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said she was not worried that National was going first.

"I'm not particularly worried about the logistics, the more important thing is that we're meeting and getting on with the negotiations to form a stable, durable government."

The result of the special votes remained important, Ms Ardern said.

"But having this preliminary discussion means that we'll be able to move quickly once those special votes come in."

The various parties have been forming their negotiating teams.

National leader Bill English has previously said the party would finalise the line-up after meeting with Mr Peters, who has said there would be seven or eight people available to negotiate for New Zealand First.

Ms Ardern and her deputy Kelvin Davis would head Labour's team. She said there was a "handful of people" working for Labour, including a few senior MPs. It's understood former MP Annette King could also be brought in if needed.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters in his last press conference last week where he harangued journalists about the election coverage. Photo / Chris Bramwell

All parties involved in the coalition talks have been doing policy comparisons since the election.

One New Zealand First policy that differs from Labour's is the rate of the minimum wage. In government Labour would increase the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour but New Zealand First's policy is to increase it to $20 per hour over three years starting from 2018, and with tax assistance for employers.

Ms Ardern said both policies pushed it up further than the National government has flagged.

"Our focus of course was $16.50 immediately, we have to make sure whilst we're lifting wages we're keeping those employment opportunities available so making sure we get that balance."

"If you're making a reference to some of the priorities of other parties, we certainly share a common view that we need to lift the wages of those on the lowest wages in New Zealand.

"But again, all of that I'll be leaving to coalition talks."

National Party leader Bill English with the Black Ferns at Parliament. Photo / Chris Bramwell

Talks will begin in earnest once the result of the special votes has been announced on Saturday afternoon. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said he would make his decision by Thursday 12 October.

Ms Ardern said Labour was being "ambitious" and trying to work through the issues as quickly as possible.

"But of course making sure that at the end point we've formed a stable, durable coalition government."

She said she thought it was "absolutely possible" to do it within that timeframe.

"But it does mean those preliminary negotiations are very important."

Mr English, who also met the Black Ferns at Parliament, made no comment about coalition talks, except to joke while standing alongside eight of the players that was about the number National would need to form a government.

New MPs also continued their induction, running through a mock a question time.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

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