'Huge progress' being made with National

11 October 2017 5:56 AM

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Negotiations to form the next government are reaching a crucial stage with two days left for talks between NZ First and the main parties.

NZ First leader Winston Peters wrapped a morning meeting with National on Wednesday - saying "huge progress" was being made.

The veteran MP begins another meeting with Labour's negotiation team this afternoon led by Jacinda Ardern, and said a picture was emerging as to what policies parties' shared, and what they disagreed upon.

"We are making huge progress finding out what we agree on, what we don't agree on, what we can still negotiate on. And where we might take things into the future by co-operation.

"We know what we are doing. We have got a plan. And we are sticking with it."

Mr Peters' team included commerce, energy and trade spokesman Fletcher Tabuteau, while National's included its trade and state owned enterprises spokesman Todd McClay. Both have previously been called into the talks a couple of times but are not constant participants - indicating a policy area they are involved in is up for discussion.

Otherwise NZ First's included Mr Peters, Shane Jones, Ron Mark, Tracey Martin, Paul Carrad and a staff member. National's had Mr English, Steven Joyce, Gerry Brownlee, Paula Bennett and chief of staff Wayne Eagleson. Mr Jones has so far attended three meetings with National but has not been to any Labour meetings.

Mr Peters and his team last met with National's team for just over an hour on Tuesday night and it got the first billing again on Wednesday - putting it two meetings ahead of Labour. That will even out slightly over the course of the day.

If Labour is to lead the next Government, an agreement will need to be worked out with both NZ First and the Green Party.

Mr Peters won't meet with the Greens and has said he doesn't want Labour to update NZ First on what the Greens want.

Green Party leader James Shaw says he trusts Ms Ardern to work out a deal that his party will be happy with. At least 75% of Green party members will need to approve any deal, and this will be done through delegates.

Asked if he was concerned about that process, Mr Peters implied the sign-off process would not be complex because of the number of delegates that would be consulted.

"You should know far more about the Greens than I do. But they don't have to go back to their membership. They have to go back to about 170 members. Even I know that."

He turned on a journalist who asked about how the Greens would fit into any deal.

"For two years you have run a Labour-Greens Government. Now you are asking me why you made that mistake for two years...you got it all wrong. Please don't ask me to explain your gross misrepresentation of the political situation in this country for the last three years."

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Shaw finished his meeting with Ms Ardern and the Labour negotiating team. Asked if he was confident Labour would represent fairly what the Green Party wants out of any deal, he said he was.

"Jacinda made fairness one of her principle values in the campaign. I have known her for a number of years and I said this before the election - I trust her, and she seems to be doing a good job of it.

"It has got to be a stable and responsible Government that is going to go the full distance in the national interest. And Labour are working very hard in ensuring that happens. And that is of paramount concern to all of us. So I am very confident."

Mr Shaw would not say if the Greens were considering or open to the idea of sitting on the cross benches, instead of being part of a Government with Labour and NZ First.

"That is what we campaigned on. We have thrown everything at it. That is what we are working on - is securing that deal to change the Government. It has got to be worth it for everybody."

Mr Peters had said he would make his decision public on Thursday but on Wednesday night ruled that out, saying he expected decisions to go through until Thursday night, and an announcement made as soon as possible after that.

Source: odt.co.nz

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