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Labour and Greens agree to work together

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 31/05/2016
Labour leader Andrew Little  © Getty Images Labour leader Andrew Little 

Labour and the Greens have signed an unprecedented agreement to work together to defeat the government in next year's election.

It doesn't go as far as committing the two parties to running a joint campaign, but it's a strong indication that they will and that they will form a coalition government if they can beat National.

Party leaders announced the agreement, a memorandum of understanding, at a joint press conference in parliament on Tuesday.

It's a bid to give voters a clear signal about what an alternative government would look like, and they say it's not an exclusive arrangement - other parties are welcome to join.

On current polling, Labour and the Greens don't have enough support to beat National and would need New Zealand First's support or participation.

NZ First leader Winston Peters says he has no intention of joining them.

"We don't like jack ups or rigged arrangements behind peoples' backs," he told reporters. "None of this is going to have any affect on me or my party whatsoever - we will campaign on our manifesto and on our policies."


Cabinet Minister Steven Joyce is playing it down. "I think we all expect that Labour and the Greens would work together," he said. "There's really nothing new here."

The agreement between Labour and the Greens means they will work together in the lead up to the 2017 election.

They could announce joint policies and they could campaign together, but they haven't got that far.

"We are sending a clear signal to New Zealanders who want a new and better government that Labour and the Greens will work together to deliver that," said Labour leader Andrew Little. "It is our intent to build on this agreement to offer New Zealanders the basis of a stable, credible and progressive alternative government at the 2017 general election."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said New Zealanders wanted a new government, and they wanted it to be stable. "Under MMP voters want to know what they're getting," she said. "This is crystal clear clarity."

Mr Little and Ms Turei both said they had no concerns about working with NZ First, but they wouldn't say what would happen if Mr Peters demanded a post-election deal that cut the Greens out.

"We're not getting ahead of ourselves before the election," Mr Little said. "The voters will speak."

That prompted Mr Joyce to say Labour couldn't decide whether it wanted the Greens or NZ First post-election.

"It's already starting to look like an episode of The Bachelor."

The Greens sought a similar co-operative agreement with Labour before the last election, but Labour ruled it out because it didn't want to burn its bridges with NZ First.

Co-leaders of the Green Party, James Shaw and Metiria Turei © Getty Co-leaders of the Green Party, James Shaw and Metiria Turei HOW WILL LABOUR AND THE GREENS WORKING TOGETHER WORK?

Labour and the Greens have signed a memorandum of understanding to work co-operatively to change the government come 2017.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? The two parties will work more closely together at parliament - they might co-operate in question time and in select committees, or support each other's members' bills and supplementary order papers. Party leaders, chiefs of staff and non-parliamentary party representatives will hold meetings at least once a month. They'll brief each other on major announcements and speeches and they'll invite each other to party events - Andrew Little gets the ball rolling this weekend, speaking at the Greens' annual conference.

THEY'LL STILL BE SEPARATE PARTIES THOUGH, RIGHT?

Yes. In the first paragraph of the MOU it says Labour and the Greens will work co-operatively while respecting they are separate political parties.

WHY ARE THEY DOING IT? Both parties agree that in an MMP environment, it's better to work together to try and change the government. Little says Labour and the Greens intend to build on the agreement and offer voters the basis of a "stable, credible and progressive alternative government". Metiria Turei says when the parties have worked together in the past, Kiwis have perceived them as a credible alternative to National.

WHAT IF THEY DON'T AGREE WITH EACH OTHER? There's an "agree to disagree" protocol in the MOU. It says that while many of their policies are compatible, Labour and the Greens accept that as independent parties, there will be differences in specific policies and strategies. They support each other's right to express alternative views, but they'll discuss this with each other before getting involved the public debate.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER PARTIES? Labour and the Greens say parties are welcome to join them, but the ball is in their court.

WHAT ABOUT THE 2017 ELECTION CAMPAIGN? Labour and the Greens are investigating a joint policy and/or campaign in 2017, but no decisions have been made. In 2014, Labour under then-leader David Cunliffe rejected the idea of a joint campaign with the Greens.

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