Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Asset sales: we have a mandate - Key

John Key fetches a few celebratory beers from the garage of his Parnell home last night.
Photo / Natalie Slade
John Key fetches a few celebratory beers from the garage of his Parnell home last night. Photo / Natalie Slade

Prime Minister John Key yesterday totally rejected any suggestion that the National Party lacks a mandate to partially sell off state-owned assets.

Labour, the Greens, Mana and New Zealand First will all oppose any asset sales from Opposition despite National increasing its vote to 47.99 per cent - and some commentators have suggested National does not have a mandate.

Many polls before Saturday showed strong public opposition to sales.

"I utterly reject that," Mr Key told the Herald, in a clear indication of his intention to forge ahead.

"An election campaign is all about the contest of ideas. One of the most hotly debated issues was the mixed ownership model and the contrast between that and increasing New Zealand's debt. And in Government we lifted our party vote."

He acknowledged that some New Zealanders were anxious about the mixed ownership model.

"But I think we got a mandate."

Mr Key said he expected to run a Government very similar to that of his first term.

"By that what I mean is I expect it to be a balanced Government. I expect it to be moderate. We will be working with other parties but we will be very focused on those issues that dominated the campaign period."

That included the partial asset sales, welfare reform and returning the Government's books to surplus by 2014-15, if not before.

The National caucus will meet in Wellington tomorrow where it will farewell list MP Paul Quinn. His list place was 55 compared with 48 last election.

"We are disappointed for him," Mr Key said. "It seems a cruel result given that we have gone up to 60 seats [from 58], but that is the quirkiness of MMP."

Mr Key indicated that Mr Quinn had been a victim of the party's list ranking committee which sometimes refreshed the list to get greater ethnic diversity.

"For instance Jian Yang, the new Chinese candidate, came in [at number 36]. By the time you've pretty much ranked the Cabinet and the caucus and things it was always going to be tight."

The caucus will number 60 and with such a large number to manage, Mr Key is considering recommending three whips instead of the current two.

High points for National were Nikki Kaye keeping Auckland Central against Labour's Jacinda Ardern and Nicky Wagner possibly winning Christchurch Central, where the vote is tied.

Mr Key said the Christchurch vote, which saw National outstrip Labour in the party vote in every electorate, was an endorsement of the Government's response to the earthquakes.

"I always thought we had a lot of goodwill in Christchurch. I am constantly stopped in the street and thanked for the support in Christchurch."

While a series of challenges needed to be resolved, from insurance through to EQC, "I think everyone who is living there is quite conscious of the enormity of the challenge".

It also reflected the work that Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee had done, said Mr Key.

"He has copped a lot of flak along the way but that is because people have genuine frustrations ... but for the vast bulk of Cantabrians they can see he is doing everything he can."

Mr Key also said it was also remarkable that National won the party vote in Dunedin South.

- NZ Herald

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