Prime Minister and Labour Leader Chris Hipkins has ruled-out working with NZ First and Winston Peters after the election, describing him as “force of instability and chaos”.
Hipkins slammed a hypothetical National-NZ First-Act government “a government of cuts, chaos and confusion”.
“Labour’s message this election will not be fighting imported culture wars, but fighting economic wars against inflation,” Hipkins said.
Peters quickly shot back, pointing to the fact he had already ruled-out Labour.
Speaking in New Plymouth, Peters said Hipkins had finally reckoned with his decision to rule-out Labour, which he announced in an interview with the Herald last November.
“It seems that Mr Hipkins is in some form of time warp,” Peters said.
“It has taken him a year and a half to read my speeches back to me,” he said.
“NZ First has already ruled-out going into any form of government with Labour because of their racist separatist policies,” he said.
National leader Christopher Luxon would not be drawn into ruling Peters out, as his predecessor John Key did during the 2008 and 2011 elections, saying Peters was not above the threshold for entering Parliament.
However several polls, including one conducted by Curia, who also poll for National, have Peters above the 5 per cent threshold necessary to win seats in Parliament.
Hipkins said he would not work with National and Act either. Prior to the announcement, few believed Labour would go into a governing arrangement with any of the three parties Hipkins ruled-out.
Hipkins said National, Act, and NZ First were more interested in culture wars issues than every day issues, citing National MP Simon O’Connor’s social media post celebrating the US Supreme Court overturning the constitutional right to abortion, Act leader David Seymour’s comparing Labour’s co-governance agenda to apartheid, and NZ First’s desire to regulate bathroom use in a way that discriminates against transgender people.
“Members of [National’s] caucus celebrated the US Supreme Court decision to roll back a women’s right to choose,” Hipkins said.
“It’s no surprise, given they have people in their party who intimidate and threaten other MPs and who think it’s funny to place a women MP’s face onto a toilet seat.
“I voted to legalise abortion in our first term, and I’ll continue to defend a women’s right to choose,” he said.
Hipkins said Peters sought to “make trans people the enemy in this campaign”.
Hipkins said Labour would look to work with the Greens and Te Pāti Māori.
“Kiwis deserve to know who they are voting for, what their bottom lines are,” Hipkins said.
The announcement came as Parliament begins its final sitting week, clearing the legislative deck for the campaign to begin in earnest next weekend, when the major parties formally launch their bids for power.
This has not stopped the parties from getting in some early campaigning.
Hipkins began his Sunday with a walkabout through Wellington’s Harbourside Market with Wellington candidates Ibrahim Omer and Fleur Fitzsimons. Incumbent Wellington Central MP, Grant Robertson, who is moving on to the list this election, was also there.
It was a typically chilly Wellington morning, and candidates were buffeted by a crisp wind.
Hipkins was handed a Coke Zero and a paper bag containing a sausage roll. It must have been a large sausage roll, based on the size of the bag. Hipkins would not open it in front of media, saying they had enough footage of him devouring sausage rolls already.
National was also out campaigning, with the party’s campaign chairman Chris Bishop issuing a press release saying the party would target voters abroad with a new website.
About a million voters live overseas. A Regulatory Impact Statement on overseas voting rights said just 62,787 overseas votes were cast in the 2020 election, up 2 per cent on the 2017 election.
The document said 510,600 citizens were eligible to vote as overseas voters in the 2020 General Election down from 586,200 in 2017.
However, turnout figures show that only a small number of these voters actually turn out to vote. That low turnout has often seen them abandoned for domestic voters who parties have a better time turning out.
“Kiwis living or travelling overseas during the voting period have been flooding National MPs’ and candidates’ inboxes asking for more information on how they can help elect a National Government to get our country back on track,” Bishop said.
“The past few years have shown the governing parties took overseas Kiwis’ support for granted, particularly through Labour’s obsession with the MIQ lottery and the misery it caused Kiwis overseas,” he said.
Bishop said it was also crucial that people travelling to the Rugby World Cup in France remembered to vote.
Thomas Coughlan is Deputy Political Editor and covers politics from Parliament. He has worked for the Herald since 2021 and has worked in the press gallery since 2018.