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Andrew Little builds post-election bridges

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 2/03/2017 Peter Wilson, Political Writer

Andrew Little © Getty Andrew Little Unless there's a dramatic shift between now and September 23, Labour will need more than one partner to form a coalition government.

Andrew Little knows this.

He has the Greens nailed down, and now he has his eye on NZ First.

Little this week nominated Winston Peters for a position on parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee.

He did it to score points with Peters and to demonstrate that there's trust and closeness between Labour and NZ First.

He's hoping to forge ties strong enough to last through the campaign and into the post-election negotiations to form a government.

The Intelligence and Security Committee is a real deal. It oversees the SIS and the GCSB, and is privy to highly classified information.

It's chaired by the prime minister, who appoints two members - currently cabinet ministers Chris Finlayson and Amy Adams.

The leader of the opposition is an automatic member and has the right to appoint one other member.

Labour has previously nominated one of the Greens' co-leaders, but that changed in February last year when Little chose his colleague David Shearer.

The Greens were seriously offended, and Metiria Turei accused Labour of breaching the Intelligence and Security Committee Act by failing to consult opposition parties on the nomination.

She talked about having to "repair the relationship, if Labour is willing".

At the time, Little's comments showed that even then he was thinking about post-election negotiations.

"The risk, of course, is if I chose someone from the Greens then NZ First might be affronted," he said.

Far from taking offence this time, the Greens are supporting Peters' nomination.

James Shaw knows what time of day it is.

"There's just six months to go until the election, we've got other things on our mind right now," he said.

As with Little, the "other things" on his mind include putting together a coalition government with a majority in parliament.

After announcing Peters' nomination, Little quickly gave assurances that Labour's special relationship with the Greens was alive and well.

"After September 23, if the numbers go our way and I am in the privileged position of putting together a government, they are the first phone call I will make, no question about that," he said.

Little is also supporting the Greens' demand for the committee to be expanded so it can take in more opposition party leaders.

It really doesn't matter who Little calls first after the election.

The Greens don't have a choice.

They couldn't conceivably be part of a National-led government and their only chance of getting their hands on the levers of power, or some of them, lies with Labour.

Negotiating a coalition agreement with them will be a formality.

It's the second phone call Little has to worry about, as well as the first call that Bill English will be making if Peters holds the balance of power.

Unlike the Greens, Peters does have a choice.

He's been in government with Labour and National in the past, but never as the third and weakest member of a coalition.

At present the Greens are stronger because they have 14 seats and NZ First 12.

If a similar situation exists after the election, National will be in a strong position to offer Peters an attractive deal.

Should NZ First win more seats than the Greens, then Peters would be in a position to dictate terms to Labour and Little could have some entirely different problems.

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