The three-headed labour, New Zealand First, Green government was always going to be a difficult one.
It would be hard to find any two parties more mutually incompatible than the two smaller ones.
That they sit in parliament on either side of Labour rather than beside each other which was the normal arrangement for parties in government says a lot.
That the government has held together this long has surprised many.
Could it be the Greens have come to like the diet of dead rats they’ve been forced to swallow? Could it be that Labour got so used to having its policies vetoed by NZ First, that it was prepared to accept no progress as business as usual? Could it be that Winston Peters was so determined to last in government for the first time, staying in became more important than accomplishing much?
Whatever the reason that’s kept the parties together, the cracks in the government are turning into crevasses with the end of term in sight.
Last week the antipathy between the Greens and NZ First got vocal:
. . . Green Party co-leader James Shaw has described New Zealand First as a force of chaos, while Winston Peters has warned any future Labour-Greens government would be a nightmare. . .
It was Peters who started the war of words at a breakfast speech in Wellington this morning.
“If you want to take out some insurance in this campaign to ensure you don’t get the nightmare government I know you’re going to get, then I suggest you party vote New Zealand First,” he said. . .
Has he forgotten it was he who gave us this government? To use Andy Thompson’s metaphor, he’s the arsonist who lit the fire, why reward him for helping to put it out?
Shaw was happy to respond.
“Well, I think that the nightmare that he’s got is that he’s not going to be back in Parliament.”
Shaw is known to be quite measured when New Zealand First pulls the pin on policies or puts a spanner in the works, but with the campaign unofficially under way he’s ramping up his own rhetoric.
“My experience of working with New Zealand First as a party in government is that rather than a force of moderation, they’re a force of chaos,” he said. . .
Anyone who has taken even passing note of NZ First’s history would agree with that.
Peters also admitted stopping an announcement of a $100m Southland rescue package:
. . .He did, however, reveal he told Ardern she was travelling to Southland on behalf of the Labour Party, not the coalition government.
“The prime minister was going down with MBIE [Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment] and other ministers to talk about the future of Tiwai Point.
“We had a discussion the night before as to the positions the various parties might take,” he told RNZ.
“The prime minister was very well aware that she could speak on behalf of the Labour Party, but on this matter, not on behalf of the coalition because there was no paper, no agreement, no Treasury analytics to go behind it.” . .
This is another reminder that in spite of being the minor partner, NZ First, has wielded power far beyond that granted by its voter support.
Apropos of misusing power, last week Peters faced questions over pressuring Antarctica New Zealand to take two of his friends to the continent:
. . .Foreign Minister Winston Peters directed Antarctica New Zealand to give two highly-prized spots on a trip to the icy continent to two women closely linked to one of South East Asia’s richest families. . .
While denying any impropriety, Peters followed his usual modus operandi by attempting to deflect attention with a rant in parliament accusing several people of leaking information on his superannuation overpayments as a result of his inability to fill in the application for superannuation properly.
He declined to repeat the accusations outside the protection of parliamentary privilege and all the people named by him denied the accusations.
It is no wonder the other parties in government are showing they neither trust and respect him and his party, feelings that are obviously mutual.
But if they don’t trust and respect each other how can they expect us to?