COMMENT:

The past few weeks sure haven't looked good for the Government. But that's all really. Looked. The world has continued to spin, in Wellington winter gave way to winter II and children largely remained with shoes on their feet.

But that doesn't mean that political insiders haven't been given anything to hoot on about. I've read plenty of words saying that what we've seen in the past few weeks is Winston Peters waving his Winston around to demonstrate that he's in charge, that there are huge cracks in the coalition, and that Jacinda Ardern is weak.

I'm not convinced on any of these. But there is still time for me to be proven wrong and for all those insiders to be right. Because, while the past few weeks has shown superficial weakness, that appearance can easily give way to something tangible.

Advertisement

The first sign of the supposed Governmental apocalypse was Winston saying that doubling the refugee quota to 1500 was not Government policy. And he's technically right. Which is the worst kind of right. Doubling the refugee quota is Green Party and Labour Party ideals, certainly not NZ First ideals. And if the policy wasn't in the coalition agreement then it's up for negotiation.

The same happened with the industrial reforms the Labour Party wants to make. Again, not in the coalition agreement so up for negotiation.

But while Winston was dangling his Peters in front of everyone, it wasn't clear if he was just posturing or if it was a genuine fissure in the coalition. Because in true Winston fashion he hasn't actually given a clear answer as to where NZ First stands on either of those issues. So we may very well see a doubling of the refugee quota, and we may very well see the pro-worker's reforms that Labour is proposing. And if we do, that doesn't mean that NZ First caved, or that Labour won. That isn't how a coalition works. It means a negotiation was carried out. A deal was made, and a set of policies were enacted.

When multiple parties join up to form a Government, they don't suddenly become one party. They still have their separate ideas and visions for how best to run the country. And the output that results is the compromise that was reached by those parties. This is the whole point of MMP. No one party has unfettered power to do what it wants, so we get better representation. National wasn't able to deliver on the RMA reforms it so desperately wanted to because it forgot to include Peter Dunne.

But while all that may be true, Labour will be very keen to get its industrial relations policy in particular across the line. That's core Labour values right there. Winding back some of the pro business-elite policies that the last National Government put in place so that workers get a fairer go is a large part of why people vote for Labour. It's broadly speaking NZ First policy too, given that Winston has gone on about how neoliberalism has failed huge swathes of people. Well,here's your chance to do something about it, my dude.

On Sunday, the Prime Minister gave a speech that set out this coalition's plan. It was pitched as being like National's Business Growth Agenda but this Government is saying it cares about more than just business. It's about people, society, the environment and the way we govern. The Prime Minister said it as something new and unique, because no coalition Government has had a plan like this before she said. In a show of unity, Winston Peters opened for the PM, saying suitably supportive things about the positive change this Government has made and will continue to do so, and of course had a swipe at the media.

But much like the columnists saying that the coalition was falling apart because of comments from Winston, this new "plan" was words. And words are meaningless until we see the actions that come from them. And while there is a pretty good list of achievements to date from this government, there's still plenty of time for things to go right, or wrong.

David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green Parties and interned for Bill English while studying

Advertisement