Seymour jockeys for position but coalition deal could be struck today and inked tomorrow
David Seymour's bid for deputy PM reportedly slows final talks and final cabinet positions are yet to be worked out but the end of talks is nigh
Mōrena, and welcome to The Bulletin for Wednesday, November 22, by Anna Rawhiti-Connell. Presented in partnership with Z Energy.
In today’s edition: deal between Hamas and Israel to pause conflict close; staff involved in Scott Base redevelopment resign; Hutt City councillors agree to correct spelling, changing Petone to Pito-one; but first, the latest on forming a government
A deal is close
Luke Malpass is reporting this morning that “MPs and leaders involved in coalition negotiations are all but ready to decamp to Wellington to ink a coalition deal.” As Malpass writes in The Post, it’s understood David Seymour’s public bid for the deputy prime minister role yesterday slowed down the final talks but coalition partners are hopeful a deal can be struck in Auckland on Wednesday, with the aim of signing an agreement in Wellington on Thursday. There is the small matter of potential days of delays to flights in and out of the capital caused by yesterday’s fog.
Luxon goes hundies on weet-bix while he can
In a bit getting close to resembling the old All Blacks versus kids “how many can you do” ads, incoming prime minister Christopher Luxon expressed his displeasure at Seymour’s public touting by suggesting that it was Seymour who had eaten too many weet-bix that morning. Luxon went on to deliver a rousing endorsement of the breakfast cereal, forcing me to clarify that as he is not yet sworn in as prime minister, he does not yet have to adhere to the cabinet manual rules that require all ministers to refrain from endorsing specific products. He will have to refrain from saying the Sanitarium-owned brand “powers this nation” and is “a great product” once he is.
Nothing to say we need a deputy PM, or that there can only be one
Luxon described the role of deputy prime minister as “largely a ceremonial role”. It is sometimes described as such. It is also the second-highest paid role out of all covered by the parliamentary salaries and allowances determination, after the role of prime minister, and pays $334,734 per annum. As Toby Manhire writes, “when called upon it carries, by definition, enormous responsibility.” Winston Peters was acting PM for six weeks in 2018. Manhire also explains that Luxon has options. Electoral law expert Andrew Geddis says there’s nothing to say there must be a deputy PM appointed or that there can only be one deputy PM (despite the two bits of legislation quoted referring to ‘the’ Deputy PM). “And I guess you can make a system with more than one Deputy PM work,” he said, pointing out that Fiji has three.
24 days to produce a mini-budget
As Thomas Coughlan writes in The Herald this morning, the timing of Nicola Willis’ planned mini-budget has always been aligned the release of Treasury’s Half-Year Economic and Fiscal Update (Hyefu). These are the fiscal forecasts the finance minister has to ask Treasury to produce by the end of December under the Public Finance Act. While there’s an out for finance ministers in election years, Willis has confirmed she will be delivering the Hyefu and will release her mini-budget alongside it. If the new Government was sworn in next Monday, Coughlan notes it would have just 24 days to produce a mini-budget if that timing is to be retained. As BusinessDesk’s Jem Traylen notes (paywalled), this interregnum “is always brutal for public servants in the policy area” as the issue of what to do with policy work already underway rears its head. Traylen cites the Ministry for the Environment’s extensive work programme to put in place Resource Management Act reform, which the incoming government has said it will repeal. As BusinessDesk’s Ian Llewellyn writes (paywalled), the change of government has also put paid to work being done by a panel on policy priorities and actions to alleviate energy hardship. The recommendations of the Energy Hardship Expert Panel are no longer under active consideration because of the change of government, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says.
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Deal between Hamas and Israel close
Multiple outlets including Reuters, the BBC and Al Jazeera are reporting that a deal between Hamas and Israel is close. Reuters reports that it would allow for the release of 50 Hamas-held hostages, in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and a pause in fighting of four or five days. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told Reuters on Tuesday that the parties are “close to reaching a truce agreement”. The BBC reports that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with his war cabinet, and will meet with his security council and government cabinet later this evening (today, our time). US President Joe Biden has said a deal was “very close” but “nothing is done until it's done.” As Zoran Kusovac writes for Al Jazeera, talk of a deal has been ongoing for a few days now but “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” and “one must hope for the small step to a temporary respite.”
Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Palestine, spoke in Auckland on Monday night. The Spinoff’s Gabi Lardies was there.
Staff involved in Scott Base redevelopment resign
In early October, The Post’s Andrea Vance reported that a major project to rebuild Scott Base, New Zealand's only Antarctic research station, was “temporarily on ice”. Antarctica NZ’s chief executive Sarah Williamson confirmed then that it had not been able to reach a commercially acceptable agreement with Leighs Construction and the project was under review. That was followed in early November with a report from Vance on the economist who was hired to make an assessment of the project in 2017 saying it was “fraught with risk” and cabinet giving the project the go-ahead, despite that. As BusinessDesk’s Oliver Lewis reports (paywalled), the commercial manager charged with securing contracts to progress the project has resigned, along with at least three others working on the stalled project. A review is underway and Antarctica NZ’s expects a recommendation in early December. The incoming foreign minister will liase between Antarctica NZ and the new cabinet on the $503m project.
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Click and Collect
Lower Hutt’s council has voted to support correcting the spelling of Petone back to the original Pito-one. It now goes to the New Zealand Geographic Board who have the authority to make the change.
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