By Alex Tarrant
National reportedly leant back against a New Zealand First demand for four Cabinet positions plus one Ministerial role outside Cabinet.
The NBR reported Thursday afternoon that this was the cause for the delay in New Zealand First announcing which way it would go. National was reportedly set to offer three Ministerial positions - not necessarily in Cabinet.
Winston Peters was reported to have then gone to Labour to ask if they would trump National's offer, NBR wrote. Newshub's Patrick Gower earlier tweeted that Peters was twice seen going to meet with Labour through a back entrance into Parliament House.
That it is a continuing cause of delay is unclear - Interest.co.nz has been told this fits into the speculation category with the view that New Zealand First's caucus was in fact having to take all the time it can to fully understand and come to some sort of agreement on which of the two final policy packages they have on the table infront of them they should choose.
Peters was reported at about 5:30pm to be readying speech notes.
Meanwhile, the Herald is reporting that New Zealand First's preference was to go with Labour. But that this hit a wall over Cabinet positions as well. The preferred deal would have seen NZ First given positions within Cabinet, with roles for the Greens outside Cabinet, something Labour baulked at. The Herald reported Labour was offering fewer Ministerial positions than National.
The Greens are reported to have called their delegate meeting for some time tonight. If this was the rationale behind the report that NZ First preferred a Labour deal, then best take a breath - Interest.co.nz's understanding, reported earlier this week, was that the Greens would call a meeting once Labour had told them they'd got sign-off from NZ First on what a Labour-NZF deal would look like if NZF were to go that way.
Interest.co.nz has heard that NZ First had gripes about the amount of power the Greens might get in a Labour-led government - although this would be expected.
That it has come down to Ministerial positions takes the shine of Peters' repeated comments that "policy is everything" to media over the past two weeks.
It has been mentioned to Interest.co.nz that both sides repeatedly struggled to interpret NZ First policy demands - the details and the fiscals - during the negotiation period.
Out to lunch
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said at about 1pm Thursday that a decision should be made in a “few hours” after his caucus had one final chance to review the two “final” offers on the table.
Speaking to media in Bowen House, he reiterated that the decision is one for the party – meaning he wouldn’t talk for what his colleagues were thinking. He said it was an anxious time, individually as well as collectively for the caucus.
He said there were pros and cons relating to the offers from Labour and National, and that the outcome would not be perfect for NZ First – due to the nature of negotiation processes.
Peters was asked whether New Zealand First had been in communication with National and Labour over ongoing negotiations and potentially further concessions: “Not in the nature you put that question, no,” he said.
“But we are not very far away from finality. And we’re just going to have a bite to eat, and then come back and put it all on the table and make a decision.”
There had been communication with the two parties “all the time, all along,” he later said.
Peters said the major focus had been on the decision, not what happened after it, when asked the nature of how the decision would be announced Thursday afternoon. He had not decided whether he’ll inform the leaders of the major parties of his decision before public announcement.
“The decision is everything, and other matters are extraneous, and they’ll sort themselves out once we’ve made a decision.”
He said the process was difficult. There were “pros and cons for every part of this decision we’ve got to make, and we’ll only get one more chance to evaluate what it means, both ways.”
He was asked whether that was because there were two good deals on the table and had been offered a lot? “Depends what your perspective is,” he said.
“Let’s be honest, no negotiation ends up perfectly, the way you’d like it. If it was the way you liked it, there’d never be any negotiation in the first place.”
He said he was out on his way to breakfast (this was just before 1pm). “We’ll go back, we’ve got a few hours to go…we hope to complete it.”
He said New Zealand First had come into the negotiations with a “seriously open mind.” He continued that he couldn’t say what his colleagues were thinking, but that they were all going to matter in what they said, adding it is a party decision.
He said the deals being looked at today were seriously final.
Asked whether there was a chance NZ First didn’t make a decision today: “I hope not.” But he said he still wouldn’t rule it out – “you never know what might blow in the next couple of hours.” In politics, things changed by the hour.
“Policy is everything. Always has been,” was the response to a question of whether his caucus might get sidetracked by any positions on offer.
Asked whether the mood within the party was positive: “When you’re going into discussions with grave uncertainties, that are both personal and as a group of people, it’s a very, very anxious time.”