COMMENT:

For most politicians, things get tricky when they are caught in a compromising position.

For Justice Minister Andrew Little, the reverse applies. He is caught in an uncompromising position.

The position in question relates to what is colloquially known as the Waka Jumping Bill. Its formal title is the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill.

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Its critics believe the fantastical part of that is the word 'Integrity.'

It was one of the demands made by NZ First in its coalition agreement with Labour.

As such, both Labour and the Greens have had to suck it up.

Little's job has been to hustle it into law as quickly as possible so people forget about it.

Beyond a small concession to the Greens, which gives the illusion a party leader will not have ultimate power, the government would not allow any changes to the bill for fear NZ First will have a tantrum.

Submissions from electoral law experts, academics and former politicians in select committee were completely ignored and next week the bill is set to pass into law.

Fortunately for Little, the bout of uncompromising behaviour forced by the waka jumping bill will eventually pass.

It is Little more than any other minister who seems to get lumped with sorting out the mechanics of compromise between Labour and NZ First on policy issues.

There are also his plans to overhaul the criminal justice system, in which NZ First has already put the kibosh on a repeal of the three strikes legislation.

Further tough moments await as Little prepares for his criminal justice reforms. Those are supposed to be based on evidence and there are advisory groups and summits planned to ensure that happens.

In the end, it will be raw politics rather than lofty ambitions or evidence that will determine some of them.

His other work also requires the art of compromise and that is starting to bear fruit.

Little tweeted this week about a series of upcoming hui for the Ngapuhi settlement. He, and the previously irreconcilable groups of Tuhoronuku and Te Kotahitanga will travel about and put up a proposal for the model of future negotiations.

Agreement is yet to be found – Te Kotahitanga are understood to be divided over the proposal but it appears something of a breakthrough.

Little also attempted some kind of compromise between himself and Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton after a bout of dyspepsia over Australia's deportations policy.

That met with mixed success but Little has said they have agreed to continue to disagree but would do so using more polite language in future.

All of this is grist to National's mill. National's ultimate goal is to try to drive a schism between the governing parties – NZ First, the Greens and Labour.

It has been rather promiscuous with its attentions in this respect.

It has bestowed them liberally on the Green Party, urging them to join hands with National on matters from the Kermadecs marine sanctuary, an alternative medicinal marijuana regime and the waka jumping bill.

But NZ First has not been spared glances from under lowered eyelashes.

The first was over three strikes legislation, and National was eventually rewarded after NZ First said it would not support a repeal – despite Little earlier saying he believed he had their support.

More recently, the eyes have been made over Labour's planned industrial relations reforms.

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones flexed the NZ First bicep and indicated on Q+A those reforms might be diluted to placate business.

This, he said, would not be a coalition partner throwing its weight around but simply "respecting the select committee process" and the views of submitters.

This was a bit rich of Jones, given this deep regard for the select committee process and submitters was somewhat absent from the waka jumping legislation.

Like Jones' travels around the Pacific as Pacific ambassador, regard for the select committee process appears to be weather-dependent.

Nonetheless, National leader Simon Bridges set about pledging his support for Jones to bring his great strength to bear on the Government agenda for the sake of beleaguered businesses.

It is perhaps fortunate Little is not the minister in charge of those, but he will certainly be in the Cabinet considering them. For he is a former trade unionist and the reforms were forged under his leadership when Labour was in Opposition.

Weakening them could be a compromise too far.