Labour might revisit MMP's 'coat-tail' provisions if elected — Cunliffe
David Cunliffe says Labour may revisit MMP’s “coat-tail” provisions if elected
The Labour leader told TV1’s Q+A programme that his party would “quite possibly” look at getting rid of the MMP rule, "Because of course we proposed to the current government that the coat-tails provisions be removed in exchange for lowering the bar from 5% to 4%.
"That’s I think a very popular mix of policies. National did not do that.," he said.
In May last year, the government declined to adopt the recommendations of an MMP review.
"One might suggest because they wanted to keep ACT and the Conservatives and United Future in play," Mr Cunliffe said.
"And it's just possible that that might go down in history as one of the worst decisions that my opponent has made.”
Internet Mana's strategy hinges on Hone Harawira holding his Te Tai Tokerau seat and bringing other MPs in on his coat-tails.
Watch the full interview here.
RAW DATA: Q+A/TVNZ transcript: David Cunliffe interviewed by Corin Dann
SUSAN WOOD Labour Leader David Cunliffe is refusing to be pinned down on which parties he might favour for coalition talks, if he has a successful election. Corin caught up with him earlier and asked now that Laila Harre is Internet Party Leader, how many parties on the left was he prepared to work with?
DAVID CUNLIFFE – Labour Party Leader
I'm not gonna name a number, Corin, because I'm going to be true to the process, which is number one – I'm passionate about changing the government, giving New Zealanders a fairer more prosperous, more inclusive future. That means a strong Labour led government, with a strong Labour Party. After the voters have cast their votes then we'll sit down and we'll talk to whoever else wants to change the government. That’s the right way round. If I start putting numbers on those around the table now that would be inappropriate.
CORIN Okay, but voters need to know that you can deal with this range of parties, and not just parties, we're talking some big personalities here. Laila Harre, Hone Harawira, Winston Peters, Russel Norman. How are you going to manage all of those balls essentially and juggle them and make them work? Voters want to know you can do that.
DAVID Well of course we can. I have good and close relationships with pretty much all of those people, and I talk to all of them when I need to, and they know that they can also contact me when they need to.
CORIN Well you may have good relationships with them, but can you make their relationships work, with themselves? Can you make it all work together?
DAVID I'm confident that we can. I think that there is a lot of policy overlap between a lot of those parties. To be fair the new kid on the block we just don’t know what their policies are going to be in large part because they haven't told the public yet. So I mean we're also in watch and wait mode about that like the rest of New Zealanders, and let's not get too too excited about it.
CORIN Going back to that deal that the Greens put up to you on this about having more of a Labour Green coalition focus. Why not give voters more clarity in that sense. At least then they would know they're getting that bloc, you’ve spurned that as well.
DAVID What I'm doing is being consistent to the principle that we won’t organise a coalition document, or a coalition deal before voters have had their say. I think that’s what New Zealanders expect of us, that we listen to their voices.
CORIN But it's looking pretty messy for voters isn't it?
DAVID I don’t think so at all, I think if you look around you will see that all of the groups that you’ve mentioned have a great deal in common. They all know each other. Most of them have worked with each other in the past. It is frankly a heck of a lot more coherent than John Key with John Banks - who may or may not be in prison - with other parties who think the earth is flat, and others who want to make it safe for incest. I mean goodness me, what a ragtag bunch on the right.
CORIN Just one last question on Laila Harre. Is she someone that could be a Cabinet Minister around a Labour led government?
DAVID Look I don’t think you should assume that in post-election negotiations, every party that might want to be part of that, would necessarily be sitting around the cabinet table. That is a matter for after the election. Of course Laila Harre, if she's in parliament, has experience and ability which New Zealanders will recognise, but that is a separate matter.
CORIN Is that also the case in Te Tai Tokerau? Can you give voters an assurance that there's gonna be no cup of tea deal to ensure that Hone Harawira has a clear run at that seat?
DAVID I can assure voters that Labour is contesting vigorously all seven Maori seats, and we think we have the opportunity to win all seven. Kelvin Davis is a terrific candidate as you have no doubt heard. He is passionate about representing the people of Te Tai Tokerau and we're backing him to do that.
CORIN Is this a dodgy deal itself, this situation we've seen with Mana and the Internet Party? Are you comfortable with what is happening here?
DAVID Well that’s a matter for New Zealanders to decide. It's not a matter for me to decide, and they’ve made whatever arrangements that they see fit, and they take that to voters and Kiwis have their say.
CORIN Is it undermining democracy?
DAVID It's no more undermining democracy than parties on the right who as I say have a particularly shabby track record, or else particularly interesting ideas.
CORIN Alright, just one final question on this issue. The coat-tails issue itself, would you if you get in government, would you revisit that and get rid of that from MMP?
DAVID Quite possibly because of course we proposed to the current government that the coat-tails provisions be removed in exchange for lowering the bar from 5% to 4%. That’s I think a very popular mix of policies. National did not do that. One might suggest because they wanted to keep ACT and the Conservatives and United Future in play. And it's just possible that that might go down in history as one of the worst decisions that my opponent has made.
CORIN So you're saying if you got into government you could well consider getting rid of that?
DAVID We could well consider it, it's been our position in the past.
CORIN Okay, if we could move to the issue of immigration. What has happened with Labour's position on immigration here? Do you accept that it's got a bit out of control, that you’ve had a backlash from your own supporters on the left, who are feeling angry that for some reason Labour seems to have been anti-migrant?
DAVID Yeah well that’s ridiculous. We've never been anti-migrant in our history for goodness sake, we've opened our migration programme up. Many of the migrant communities now in New Zealand have Labour to thank for that. We opened up relations with China for example. We have long-standing relations with our Pacific communities and with India, and that’s just simply a ridiculous strawman argument that was put up by the Prime Minister and another TV channel.
CORIN Well no no, let's pick that up, because you did put the policy in your monetary policy statement. You know you put that there, you said we want to make immigration one of the tools we can use to tackle housing. There's no question then that you're saying migration is a factor in the housing market. You said it yourself.
DAVID Well that’s undeniably true. The Treasury has said so, the Reserve Bank has said so. But what we are saying and what I have – look Corin I've consistently said the same thing every day for the last two weeks, which is – Labour supports a well-managed positive steady, positive migration flow that is right through our communities.
CORIN You are saying you might need to make cuts.
DAVID No, I'm saying that with the high level of returning New Zealanders that sustainable flow will have to be set at higher levels than previous rules of thumb, and I have refused at all points to put a number or a target on it. What we're saying though is yo-yoing migration flows all over the map, and Treasury says as soon as you get above 40,000 net, you start having a discernable interest rate impact. That isn't good for the migrant communities that are all living here, and it's not good for New Zealanders who are paying mortgages.
CORIN Okay but let's just work through this. So in terms of the Australians and New Zealanders going back across the Tasman, well they're out of bounds. The family reunification migrants, they're presumably out of bounds are they? I mean you wouldn’t cut those. You're going to have to cut those workers wanting to come here, skilled workers, which a lot of businesses are crying out for. If you're going to manage it, you're going to have to have less of them coming in.
DAVID So the balance that always has to be struck in migration planning, is the need to satisfy the skills needs of our economy and the legitimate humanitarian concerns of family reunion, and our refugee commitments, which will not change, which will not change. Then getting that right in respect of the overall impact of the flow, and that is a balancing act, that’s quite right.
CORIN You must have known as a party and as a politician, that once you put that issue of immigration into that document in your monetary policy announcement, that that was a potentially explosive issue in election year. No major party has tackled that issue in this way for a very long time. It has been the domain of New Zealand First. You knew there was a risk and that needed to be managed well. It's got away on you.
DAVID Corin, I believe New Zealanders are mature enough to hear the words that are actually being said, not what the Prime Minister is making up and not what others might have chosen to misinterpret. Labour supports our migrant communities. We support a positive steady net inflow of migrants to reunify families, contributing to skills shortage is being addressed, and to help build a vibrant economy. What we do not support is a random approach where the current government leaves it to the market and you end up destabilising a lot of things including migrant communities themselves.
CORIN That’s not true. They have a points system. They're not randomly taking people in. Many people find it very difficult to get in here.
DAVID I think you will find that even the current government starts getting very uncomfortable if the numbers keep climbing, and I would challenge you and others to challenge the Prime Minister about whether there is a number beyond which he believes constraints should be brought to bear.
CORIN To be clear you're saying there is a limit, what 50-60,000 net?
DAVID I'm not putting a number on it, I'm just saying you’ve gotta balance off the need for skills, the need for building strong and positive communities.
CORIN Alright David Cunliffe, I will leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us on Q + A.