Incoming NZ PM owes a debt to her kingmaker, and he won't let her forget it

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October 19, 2017 22:06:52

Jacinda Ardern has pulled off an amazing feat with the help of one of New Zealand’s most unpredictable political warhorses.

In just three months, the 37-year-old has taken Labour from an unwinnable election position to the throne of government, in the process, becoming the country’s youngest prime minister since the 1800s.

For that, she owes a debt to kingmaker Winston Peters — a debt, he won’t let her forget, which could make life interesting when the going gets tough.

And it always does.

The founder and leader of New Zealand First held the nation in his thrall today as he announced his decision to form a coalition with Labour, rather than the National Party, which won the lion’s share of September’s election vote.

Together with the Greens’ pledge to support Labour in budget and confidence motions, that’s enough to return Labour to power after nine years in the wilderness.

So why did Mr Peters choose to back Labour and not the outgoing National Party that gave him his political start four decades ago?

The answer: policies and power.

Labour will give him more of what he wants on both those fronts, though the exact details of any agreement are still to come:

  • four cabinet posts, with Mr Peters likely to become deputy PM
  • a crackdown on foreign ownership of residential and farm land (NZ First wants a ban)
  • deep cuts to migration, particularly of low-skilled temporary workers
  • ensuring people can retire at 65 and access publicly funded superannuation
  • a better deal for tertiary students (Labour’s promising 3-years free tuition)
  • more affordable housing
  • a huge boost in police numbers

But there’s more to it than that. He wants change. And, at 72 years of age, he’s thinking of a legacy.

The man who can tear shreds off political opponents and questioning journalists, says he wants a kinder capitalism.

“Far too many New Zealanders have come to view today’s capitalism not as their friend but as their foe, and they are not all wrong,” he said.

“Capitalism must resume a human face.”

And humanity is what Jacinda Ardern brings in spades, as she demonstrated so clearly on the campaign trail, with her ready smile and warm embrace.

But realising humanity requires a big budget, and it’s often the first victim in the political process.

Luckily for the Australian Government, however, NZ’s PM-in-waiting has told the ABC she’s a forgiving person.

In August, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop attacked NZ Labour for raising questions about the Kiwi citizenship of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce — a citizenship which could cost him office, depending on what our High Court decides.

“I would find it very hard to build trust with those involved in allegations designed to undermine the government of Australia,” Ms Bishop said at the time.

Will she now succumb to Jacinda’s much-vaunted charm?

That’ll be one to watch.

Topics:

world-politics,

government-and-politics,

elections,

new-zealand,

australia



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