In a deal unthinkable pre-John Key, the Prime Minister has reached across the aisle and signed a memorandum of understanding with the Green Party, and has already started work on some joint initiatives.
The deal proposes a framework around which the two parties can work together to develop policy and legislation in areas of common interest.
John Key signed the document with Green co-leaders Jeanette Fitzsimons and Russel Norman today.
Under the terms of the agreement, both parties will retain their independence, and the right to speak on any issue freely. Both parties claim it is not based on any prerequisite policy agreements.
It is not a supply and confidence agreement, but its stated intent is to establish a “good faith working agreement.”
The deal sees the Greens gaining access to government ministers, appropriate departmental officials for both briefings and advice as well as input in to the ministerial decision making process, including cabinet papers.
In return the Greens will be asked to “consider facilitating government legislation via procedural support on a case by case basis.”
The MOU will ensure that any details of these exchanges remain confidential until negotiations on any working issue are concluded, whether the result ends in agreement or not.
The leadership of both parties will meet at least quarterly to monitor progress, assess the overall relationship and to agree areas where joint work will occur, and the MOU itself will be assessed yearly to determine whether it will continue.
The first three projects will be on the government’s new home insulation programme, energy efficiency measures and regulation surrounding natural health products.
The government has announced it will be looking to determine the design and funding of a home insulation, clean heating and energy efficiency programme to start on July 1, 2009, which will target private homes and private sector rental homes.
Minister of Energy and Resources, Gerry Brownlee, will also work with Ms Fitzsimons on the implementation, timing, and funding of energy efficiency measures that the Government wishes to advance. This will include the development of an updated and revised New Zealand Energy Strategy, and the updated Energy and Efficiency and Conservation Strategy.
Health Minister Tony Ryall and associate minister Jonathan Coleman will work with Sue Kedgley to develop and implement a regulatory system for natural health products.
The last two initiatives will involve the new resource sharing arrangement and the parties will issue joint statements on the progress in implementing the new regulatory system.
The deal, unthinkable under Don Brash’s more right-wing version of the party, effectively leaves Labour standing alone and allows National to stake a solid claim to the centre, arguably reinstalling it to its position as the natural party of government.
It will come as quite a blow to National’s left-wing critics who continue to claim that it is hiding a secret far right “hollow men” agenda.
For the Greens there is a sense of poetic justice, despite years of support for Labour they have little to show for it, and were continually kept at arms length, despite the supposedly more compatible ideologies.
National already has a confidence and supply agreement with the Maori party, which is showing its first strain after the government’s choice yesterday to scrap Maori seats for the new unitary Auckland council.
Coalition partners Act and United Future have historically had antagonistic relationships with the Greens, so National's backroom ability to juggle these personalities will be tested.
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