A clearer picture of what the new Labour-led Government will look like and what its ‘change agenda’ might mean is now emerging following the signing of a coalition agreement between Labour and NZ First and a confidence and supply agreement between Labour and the Greens. Ministers have been assigned portfolios today. They will be sworn in on Thursday and cabinet will meet briefly on that day. The Ministry is detailed below.
The agreements detail the policy concessions Labour made to secure the support of NZ First and the Greens to form a Government. The agreements do not cover all Government policy – only the policies they specifically agreed and which depart from Labour policy. With very few exceptions (the controversial water tax being one), the first 100 day plan which Labour campaigned on is now Government policy.
Under this coalition there will be significant funding flowing into the regions, infrastructure and essential services. And while the negotiators have been mindful of business concerns about the impact of any cut to immigration on their businesses (and ultimately economic growth) the new Government is still committed to a reduction in migrant numbers.
The detail of the governing arrangements shows NZ First’s emphasis on regional economic development and the Green Party’s focus on climate change. Neither NZ First nor the Greens got all they wanted in these deals, but both still made substantial gains nonetheless. NZ First has four Ministers inside Cabinet, including Rt Hon Winston Peters as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and one Parliamentary Under-Secretary. The Greens have three Ministers outside Cabinet and one Under-Secretary.
Prime Minister-designate Jacinda Ardern said the agreements were incorporated within Labour’s existing fiscal framework that envisages budget surpluses and debt repayment.
Following the formal signing and release of the Labour-NZ First and Labour-Green agreement the soon-to-be-sworn-in Finance Minister Grant Robertson confirmed via Twitter, ‘All our policies stand unless they have been changed in agreements.’
Key Labour party policies
Amongst Labour’s policies not mentioned in the NZ First and Green agreements will proceed. Among these are:
- increasing the minimum wage (see below)
- increasing paid parental leave to 26 weeks per year from 1 July 2018
- strengthening union protections, including introducing industry pay agreements (the extent and shape of this election promise is not yet clear)
- amending the 90 day trial period so dismissed workers can seek ‘referee service’
- amending the Equal Pay Act to provide all women in female dominated workforces access to collective bargaining and the courts to settle claims. Labour will also take measures to ensure NZ employment law applies to foreign workers in NZ.
Labour-NZ First agreement highlights
Labour-Green agreement highlights
And then ...
The Labour-NZ First coalition Government with Green Party support on confidence and supply will also see:
Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister, National Security and Intelligence, Child Poverty Reduction, Arts Culture and Heritage
Rt Hon Winston Peters, Deputy Prime Minister, State Owned Enterprises, Racing
Kelvin Davis, Crown/Maori Relations, Corrections, Tourism, Associate Education (Maori Education)
Grant Robertson, Finance, Sport and Recreation, Associate Arts Culture and Heritage
Phil Twyford, Housing and Urban Development, Transport
Dr Megan Woods, Energy and Resources, Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Research, Science and Innovation, Earthquake Commission
Chris Hipkins, Education, State Services, Leader of the House, Ministerial Services
Andrew Little, Justice, Courts, GSCB, NZSIS, Pike River Reentry, Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations
Carmel Sepuloni, Social Development, Disability Issues, Associate Arts Culture and Heritage, Associate Minister, Pacific Peoples
Dr David Clark, Health, Associate Finance
Hon David Parker, Attorney-General, Economic Development, Environment, Trade and Export Growth, Associate Finance
Hon Nanaia Mahuta, Maori Development, Local Government Associate Environment
Stuart Nash, Police, Fisheries, Revenue, Small Business
Iain Lees-Galloway, Workplace Relations and Safety, Immigration, ACC, Deputy Leader of the House
Jenny Salesa, Building and Construction, Ethnic Communities, Associate Education, Associate Health, Associate Housing and Urban Development
Hon Damien O’Connor, Agriculture, Biosecurity, Food Safety, Rural Communities, Associate Trade and Export Growth
Clare Curran, Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, Government Digital Services, Associate ACC, Associate State Services (Open Government)
Ron Mark, Defence, Veterans
Tracey Martin, Children, Internal Affairs, Seniors, Associate Education
Hon Shane Jones, Forestry, Infrastructure, Regional Economic Development, Associate Finance, Associate Transport
Kris Faafoi, Civil Defence, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Associate Immigration
Peeni Henare, Community and Voluntary Sector, Whanau Ora, Youth, Associate Social Development
Willie Jackson, Employment, Associate Maori Development
Aupito William Sio, Pacific Peoples, Associate Courts, Associate Justice
Meka Whaitiri, Customs, Associate Agriculture, Associate Crown/Maori Relations, Associate Local Government
Support Party Ministers
James Shaw, Climate Change, Statistics, Associate Finance
Julie Anne Genter, Women, Associate Health, Associate Transport
Eugenie Sage, Conservation, Land Information, Associate Environment
Michael Wood, Ethnic Communities
Fletcher Tabuteau, Foreign Affairs, Regional Economic Development
Jan Logie, Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues)
When Winston Peters announced his decision to join the Labour Party in coalition to form a Government he observed, ‘Far too many New Zealanders have come to view today's capitalism not as their friend but as their foe. Capitalism must regain its human face.’
This has long been the view of many senior Labour figures, though they prefer to couch it in kinder terms, referring to the symptoms of economic imbalance such as homelessness and regional drift.
Labour’s intention was to recalibrate the New Zealand economy to focus on a more equitable sharing of the benefits of economic growth. In NZ First and the Greens it has found two willing partners.
While the negotiation period was characterised as being all about the power of NZ First to be king or queen maker, the final agreements show that both NZ First and the Greens have achieved much. The Greens may be outside Cabinet, but they have influence in key environmental portfolios and they retain a degree of independence which they should be expected to exercise from time to time.
The final arrangements also reflect that, whatever the push and pull of tribal politics, a broad agreement exists on policy between the three parties.
But it is a Labour-led Government and Labour holds key portfolios including Finance, Health, Education, Housing, Immigration, Transport, Justice and Labour and Social Development.
Jacinda Ardern is the first NZ PM who has only known MMP Parliaments. She brings to this governing arrangement not just her comparative youth, but also a different mindset about how Governments can and should work under the MMP system. From the outset she is signalling her Government will be looking to be a ‘partnership’ leader. Before she was sworn in she was already offering to work with small and medium businesses to look at tax relief as a quid pro quo for the proposed increases in minimum wage payouts. As the policies roll out, look for more of this.
As for Mr Peters, he was well regarded previously in the Foreign Affairs portfolio. This coalition arrangement was and is about his legacy on the body politic. He can be expected to be conscientious and highly incentivised to ensure this Government, supported by him, lasts the full three year term.
Ministers will take some time to settle in. They will be receiving hefty briefing papers from their ministries and departments and hundreds of approaches from sectoral interest groups and representatives.
What we do know is that this Labour Government will trend very carefully with business. When Rt Hon Helen Clark was elected in 1999 there was a stand off with business that lasted a year. NZ business leaders have already signalled that won’t happen in 2017 and Prime Minister designate Jacinda Ardern and her Finance Minister Grant Robertson will work to ensure it doesn’t.