NZ First caucus meets over finer points after 2-day meeting with board which canvassed every policy in each of National's and Labour's packages – 'more than just 5 or 10'; Shane Jones says it's ring-sizing day – for his own nuptials

By Alex Tarrant

New Zealand First’s caucus was meeting Wednesday morning to discuss whatever came out of Winston Peters’ meetings with Bill English and Jacinda Ardern last night, and to possibly begin discussions on government structure and desired Ministerial positions.

The party’s MPs filed into Bowen House at different times and through different entrances through the early morning – some stopping to speak to media, although not much was gleaned from them outside of what leader Winston Peters said Tuesday evening.

The caucus has just sat through a joint two-day meeting with the party’s board Monday and Tuesday. Leader Winston Peters said Tuesday evening that the party had reached 95%-98% consensus on what the two policy platforms on the table from National and Labour “both mean”.

Interest.co.nz sought clarification on whether Peters had meant there was consensus on what the party would go back to National and Labour with in terms of any tweaks they would seek to each policy platform, or whether the comment meant there was consensus on what each package – as reviewed over the past two days – would deliver for NZ First policy-wise?

“The latter,” was the response.

I put to another NZ Firster that taking two days to understand the two policy packages that came out of last week’s negotiations seemed quite a long time for just that, while having nothing else come out of the meeting.

The response was that the board and caucus had covered off and clarified what Labour’s and National’s positions were on each policy in each package, and where New Zealand First stood on each one. This required a lot of work, it was said, as a huge amount of policy was reviewed – not just five or ten items.

We’re getting close

Fletcher Tabuteau was the first New Zealand First MP to enter the building where the media pack was waiting Wednesday morning. He is the party’s spokesman on commerce, tourism, trade, energy and revenue, and was consistently part of last week’s negotiating teams with Labour and National.

He said he had “no idea” how things would go through the morning. “I’ve been in negotiations and then caucus and board, and we go from here.” Asked whether we might get an announcement today, he looked skyward for a few seconds before replying, “I’m not sure. I couldn’t say that with any…well we’re getting close, right?”

New MP Mark Patterson was next. “We’re at the business-end. There’s no doubt about that, so we’ll find out,” he said. “It’s probably beyond us, a lot of this stuff now – there’ll be other parties that make, that have to make that call.”
“Winston was pretty candid with you last night. We’re about 98% of the way there, with the stuff, with the policy stuff. So, that’s just about done and it’ll be up to the leadership now.”

It was then Shane Jones’ turn. He wouldn’t comment on whether he expected a decision today. “Our Rangatira Winston, he’ll be handling all that.” Jones said there would be re-engagement this morning. “Come on folks, it’s still a good day, and people are getting paid,” he said before telling the media pack that today was the day he was getting his wedding ring fitted for his upcoming nuptials in Rarotonga. “It’s ring-sizing day.”

“We shouldn’t overlook the hard work that’s already happened. And of the decisions that you’re looking for, Winston will, at the duly appointed time, be making an announcement,” he said. “I’m not sure if I’m going to go for – my ring – whether it will be sapphire or ruby, but I’m getting married and I’ve got ring-sizing today.”

‘I don’t want to lower the 5% threshold’

Meanwhile, Winston Peters issued the following release regarding a comment in the Dominion Post’s editorial Wednesday morning that he’d like the 5% threshold the be reduced. He’s not a fan of the idea, apparently:

LET’S STOP THE LIES

Fairfax claimed before 446,287 votes were even counted in the 2017 General Election that I was holding the country to ransom.

Second, that I had tried to get a deal on an electorate seat.

Today’s editorial is slovenly and deceitful in the extreme and it begins by saying I want to reduce the 5 per cent parliamentary threshold for political parties. What is so bad about that lie is that it is so blatant.

On the review of the electoral system, to which political parties made submissions, New Zealand First submitted that the threshold should remain at 5 per cent. That view was made public by us and was widely broadcast at the time.

That being the case, why have you attempted to deceive readers for the umpteenth time where New Zealand First is concerned?

In 24 years New Zealand First has never tried to do a deal with another political party prior to the election.

Would you please tell your readers where you get your evidence, or is making it up as you go along your professional forte?