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Winston Peters concludes first preliminary coalition talks with National and Labour

UPDATE: The NZ First leader has ended talks with both parties – giving both similar amounts of time for the first skirmish. 

Jason Walls
Thu, 05 Oct 2017

UPDATE: Talks between Labour and NZ First lasted just over 25 minutes. On her way back from talks, Labour leader Jacinda  Ardern said the talks went "very well" but said nothing beyond that.

UPDATE: NZ First leader Winston Peters is holding preliminary coalition talks with Labour and National today as the nation waits to see who he will choose as the next government.

Preliminary talks between National and NZ First ended after roughly 30 minutes this morning and the NZ First team started talks with Labour at 2pm.

Former Labour finance minister Sir Michael Cullen, Labour veteran and strategic adviser Mike Munro, Grant Robertson and chief of staff Neil Jones joined deputy leader Kelvin Davis and leader Jacinda Ardern in negotiations with NZ First this afternoon.

The team passed media without comment into the meeting room with Mr Peters and his team.

Speaking to media after both meetings had concluded, Mr Peters said he was "between the devil and the deep blue sea" while waiting for the special votes to be counted on Saturday.

"Not in terms of the political parties. But we just can't win – you can't win with the public, you can't win with the media, you can't win with the commentariat.

"You can't win with people who believe it is all about First Past the Post, even though it is an MMP environment. And they just bang on, day in, day out."

He says there is no guarantee that the result of the special votes will even be known on Saturday. This would further delay negotiations, which he said would take place after the special votes have been counted.

He dismissed the idea that he was "holding the country to ransom," saying he belongs to a "very democratic caucus and board."

Earlier while heading back to the NZ First offices after the meeting with National's negotiators, Mr Peters told reporters the meeting went “very well."

When asked by reporters if the meeting was unusually brief, he said it wasn't and that a shorter meeting was "the plan," and it went "as expected."

He added that he was expecting the same thing in his team's meeting with Labour this afternoon. 

He had earlier stormed past media on his way to the meeting without stopping for comment. 

He was accompanied by his deputy leader Ron Mark, senior MP Tracey Martin, and Mr Peters’ trusted aide, Paul Carrad.

National's negotiation team included MPs Todd McClay, Gerry Brownlee and Steven Joyce as well as outgoing chief of staff Wayne Eagleson and key adviser Cameron Burrows and Bill English.

The NZ First leader had previously said official negotiation discussions won’t begin until after the special votes are counted on Saturday.

As he was coming into Parliament this morning, Mr Peters wouldn’t say who was on his negotiation team.

But he did say he wouldn’t have the “wrong people.”

“If you were in a commercial setting, you’d be very careful about who you send. You wouldn’t want somebody’s past behaviour and obnoxiousness to be part of the problem.”

He also said he hoped the other parties bring “positive attitudes” to the negotiating table.

One of NZ First’s bottom lines in coalition talks is the manned re-entry of Pike River Mine, closed after a fatal accident without the retrieval of the victims' bodies.

He met representatives of the victims' families this morning.

“Whatever decision Mr Peters makes over the next few days, we will be fully supportive of what he’s going to do because I know he’s going to support us,” Pike River families spokesman Bernie Monk says.

After meeting Mr Peters, Mr Monk said the NZ First leader reassured them that “he was going to make things happen.”

He says Mr Peters’ comments were reassuring but was disappointed at the lack of action from the government on this issue.

Jason Walls
Thu, 05 Oct 2017
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Winston Peters concludes first preliminary coalition talks with National and Labour