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Peters again denies holding up Govt announcement

Newshub logoNewshub 12/09/2018 Anna Bracewell-Worrall
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New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has spent the second day at Parliament playing down questions about the power he wields in the Government.

He continued to face questions over whether New Zealand First has developed a case of icy toes over the Employment Relations Amendment Act, which would end the 90-day trial period for big business and would enforce multi-employer collective agreements.

New Zealand First gave the legislation its support at Cabinet, which means it should back it though to law, but Mr Peters has since been cagey, describing the legislation as a "work in progress".

On Wednesday Mr Peters also faced questions about whether New Zealand First prevented the Government from making a Crown- Māori relations announcement on Monday, and whether the announcement was held up after "disagreement" over the detail.

"Something turns up, it requires a lot of work yet, and all of a sudden you think it's a fait accompli," Mr Peters said on Wednesday afternoon.

Again, Mr Peters insisted the Crown- Māori relations portfolio is a "work-in-progress".

New Zealand First also held up the planned repeal of three strikes legislation and appears to be holding up an increase to the refugee quota. The Budget laid out $14 million in funds for expanding the Māngere Refugee Processing Centre to create infrastructure to increase the refugee quota to 1500.

Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the refugee quota increase hadn't been through Cabinet yet, despite repeatedly announcing it in his capacity as a minister.

The coalition Government's agenda is decided by three important documents - the Prime Minister's Speech from the Throne, the coalition deal with New Zealand First and the confidence-and-supply agreement with the Greens. Anything outside those three documents isn't a given.

Watch: Unions are concerned by NZ First's 'dominance' in the Government. © Newshub. Watch: Unions are concerned by NZ First's 'dominance' in the Government.

On Wednesday morning on The AM Show, First Union General Secretary Robert Reid was complimentary of Jacinda Ardern's leadership but raised concerns Labour didn't tie down enough of its own policies in those fundamental documents.

"It seems to be that everything that got tied down that New Zealand First wanted in the coalition agreement Labour is going along with, but if it wasn't in that agreement the major party is being dictated to by the minor party simply because it requires those numbers to put things through."

It's not all doomsday for policies outside those documents. There are still areas in which the Greens, Labour and New Zealand First broadly agree - all believe there is too much inequality in New Zealand and want to see more infrastructure, like state housing and trains.

But there remain fundamental differences in ideology, including when it comes to positions on immigrants and justice. There are also fundamental differences in positions on welfare, treaty settlements and Whānau Ora.

Those are the areas that will require careful navigation if the Government is going to continue updating legislation and passing new laws. Otherwise, the Government risks creating distraction, drama and stagnation as all three parties struggle to find a path.

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