While we wait, what could’ve been – our coalition priorities
It’s been 19 days since election day and we still do not have a government.
There’s been a lot of commentary about the long wait and that Winston Peter’s is using this opportunity to stay in the spotlight as long as possible. I’m no supporter of Peters but in fairness there has only been four days of negotiation, which in the scheme of things is very short.
The mistakes that have been made (in my view) is the refusal to talk earlier and setting an aggressive timeline without actually putting in place a plan. While I understand the need to wait for special votes to be counted, they were never going to tip the balance of power significantly. Early discussions could’ve been had around priorities and options, to be progressed once the final vote was announced. By announcing that we’d have an answer by 12 October, Winston Peter’s set himself a tough target. It’s also become apparent that NZ First has not planned well, realising today that they need to organise a board meeting to discuss the coalition options. As president of a small party run by volunteers, I fully appreciate the challenges of organising a board meeting at short notice. However, NZ First set the timeline weeks ago and should’ve planned a board meeting in anticipation of the negotiations.
So we wait.
And while we wait, it’s natural to consider what UnitedFuture might’ve done had we been in negotiations to form a government. Obviously this is all theoretical and would depend on the position that we found ourselves in, but regardless an interesting exercise.
Our priorities would always be our top 10 policies that we campaigned on, working with the other parties to deliver what we could. One priority that all parties agreed with was that we need to do more for mental health, especially youth mental health. We want to see more funding but also ensure that it’s getting through to those in need, where and when they need it. Or focus is on a more community orientated approach which is hope all parties would support.
We originally said that the Labour Party was un-electable and were vindicated when their caucus agreed by swapping to a new leader seven weeks from election. Jacinda Ardern revitalised and refocused Labour making them a realistic option. We worked alongside Labour for six years under the Helen Clark government and there are a number of key policy areas where we could work with them. There are a number of polices that align, such as free tertiary education and signing a Zero Carbon Act into law. We’ve been vocal on Labours lack of policy on drug reform although in principle we agree so would look to continue the work that we’ve started. Both us and Labour want royalties for water exports although we would discourage their additional local water taxes.
We’d also working with Labour to ensure better clarity on their tax plan and hold them to promises to not implement prior to next election. We’ve made our opposition to capital gains tax clear and are yet to be convinced it will help housing crisis. We do agree that we need to increase building homes although we were not supporting some of their proposals for more urban sprawl. The Greens have a similar policy to our Rent-To-Own which would make implementing this a higher chance. Also working with the Greens, we’d also like to see a Conservation Levy although there are some differences between our policy and theirs.
On the other side, we spent the last nine years working with National so could do that again. We made some good progress around drug reform (despite National’s reluctance) and would want to see that continue, especially for cannabis (medicinal and recreational). Bill English has signalled that they want to raise the superannuation age, which we disagree with – we’d prefer to see FlexiSuper to allow people choice and make KiwiSaver compulsory. National has been too slow on housing and we’d continue to push them on this, including Rent-To-Own to help with housing affordability.
We’ve also been very vocal that National has not taken enough action on Climate Change and would work with the other parties to convince National to sign a Zero Carbon Act into law. There is a lot of policy that National does not agree with but depending on the situation we might be able to progress them.
The key is identifying where we’re able to work with a government to progress our policy priorities, using our vision and values to guide us on other areas. Recently most support parties have been going into confidence and supply agreements, rather than full coalitions (this is the arrangement we’ve had with National until recently). This means that the support party will support the government’s budget and vote in favour of the government if a vote of no confidence is called. This leaves the support party free to vote in favour or against other government bills as they see fit, allowing some autonomy while providing a stable government.
Will this be the arrangement that NZFirst goes with? We’ll have to wait and see.
UnitedFuture Party Leader