Behind the thunder and lightning, the bombast and attacks on the media, we did actually learn something about the way NZ First leader Winston Peters might go about his coalition talks.

We learned one fact: his negotiating team will have seven or eight people on it - but we did not learn who would be on it.

We also learned Peters' decision will not necessarily be a straight National or Labour coalition decision. Peters said there were "nine permutations." He would not list them, but the Herald's assessment shows they range from eschewing the baubles of office and sitting on the cross benches to forcing the Greens into a confidence and supply agreement outside a Labour government, to a full coalition with either side.

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We learned Peters feels aggrieved about being accused of keeping the country hanging for a fortnight before it finds out which way the Caesar of 2017 might turn his thumb to form the next government.

The fault for that, he said, was the Electoral Commission's. He believed he needed to wait for the votes of the 15 per cent of voters who cast special votes to be announced on October 7 before he can get into the meaningful part of discussions with either of the parties involved.

That is fair enough too.

Those results will make no difference as to whether National can form a government with NZ First, although it may have one or two fewer seats by way of majority.

But it may make a difference to whether Labour can offer a government with a bigger buffer than the slim one-seat majority Labour, the Greens and NZ First can muster on provisional results. On the contrary, if special votes do not go as most expect and either Labour, the Greens or NZ First lose a seat, it is game over for Team Left.

Peters cannot flex any muscle until he finds out how strong it is or whether there is a muscle at all.

Peters has applied the adage of marry at haste, repent at leisure when it comes to commencing serious talks. But from the October 7 date it will be a Usain Bolt-paced pelt down the aisle to meet the self-imposed October 12 deadline Peters has said he will make a decision by.

What National and Labour will be wondering is what it means for them - and just how far they can go in their talks prior to October 7. He is not likely to give any further hints - he has also taken a vow of silence until October 7.


The two parties have put out their opening gambits. National's argument was that its higher share of the vote gave it the right to have first go at forming a Government.

Labour's argument was that more than 50 per cent of New Zealanders had voted for change by opting for parties other than National and its previous support partners - so it had the mandate to form a Government.

From Peters' press conference we learned National does not necessarily have an edge simply because it got by far the largest share of the vote of any party.

Peters dismissed National's argument out of hand, saying it was based on First Past the Post thinking, rather than MMP.

NZ First leader Winston Peters leaves his press conference at Parliament this afternoon with members of his caucus. Photo / Mark Mitchell
NZ First leader Winston Peters leaves his press conference at Parliament this afternoon with members of his caucus. Photo / Mark Mitchell

But that did not necessarily mean Labour had the edge either. Asked what he thought about Labour's Jacinda Ardern ruling things out before even talking to Peters - such as NZ First's wish for a referendum on the Maori seats - he said ruling things out in advance was a bad way to go into negotiations.

Then again, in his very next sentence, he said he was not concerned about it.


He said NZ First would canvas members for their views, but did not say that would be a determinant factor.

Nor was Peters giving any hints as to which of NZ First's policy areas were most important to help other parties work out what sweeteners to offer.

Asked the perfectly reasonable question about what his policy priorities would be in negotiations, Peters responded by asking where the journalist was from. Told it was Australia, Peters replied: "it shows."

At least Peters did reject any insinuation he would base a decision as important as the next government on how much he liked or disliked any individual.

He hit back at suggestions he had a deep-seated dislike of National's finance spokesman Steven Joyce, saying he had bumped into Joyce in the queue at the airport and they discussed those reports and both held a similar - not positive - view of the reporter who suggested it.

If he had disliked Joyce, his determination to prove the media wrong may well have cured it.



• National-NZ First majority coalition government
• National minority government - support from NZ First outside Cabinet
• National minority government, support from NZ First on the cross benches (issue by issue other than confidence and supply)
• National minority government, NZ First abstains on confidence and supply
• Labour-NZ First-Greens majority coalition govt
• Labour-NZ First minority govt, support from Greens outside Cabinet
• Labour-NZ First minority govt, support from Green on the cross benches
• Labour-Greens minority govt, supported by NZ First outside cabinet.
• Labour-Greens minority govt, supported by NZ First from the cross benches (issue by issue other than confidence and supply)


• National-Green majority coalition
• National minority with Greens support on confidence and supply
• National minority government, Greens abstain on confidence and supply