Nobody can pretend the Government's last week wasn't dysfunctional.

"Humiliating backdown for Andrew Little!" will scream a headline. "Greens internal revolt" says another. "Winston Peters goes crazy with bloodlust, devours crowd of people" another might say.

There was the embarrassing 3-strikes backdown, Shane Jones and Winston Peters attacking Fonterra's performance, and the country's brilliant leader went on parental leave.

And while the management and the organisation of it all hasn't been strong, right now that doesn't really matter. Because what matters is the result. What's going to be the outcome of this government?


If we think about lasting legacies of Helen Clark's government, we think of the establishment of Kiwibank and Kiwisaver, Working for Families, the legalisation of sex work, and civil unions. These were all good things.

The Key/English Government brought us marriage equality (though through a Labour MP's member's bill), tax cuts that benefitted the wealthy, GST hikes that disadvantaged the less wealthy and doing nothing about climate change or getting us a new flag. Also a "rockstar economy" that never really felt like it was a "rockstar" for most of us who occupy the middle or lower class, or for the growing number who slept in cars.

This Government has big ambitions. Winston Peters talks a lot about the failure of neoliberalism, will he do anything about it? They've started at least tinkering around the edges with the review of the Reserve Bank Act – I'm told this policy was a major reason for NZ First siding with Labour. Jacinda Ardern talked about how there was clearly a group who were not benefitting from capitalism. So what?

Their first action was to cancel the tax cuts that National had promised that would disproportionately benefit the wealthy, while boosting up lower-income earners through increased social spending.

James Shaw was part of the delegation that signed the Paris Accord on climate change, and now in Government, the Greens are pushing for a Carbon Zero by 2050 policy. They've started that process by giving the oil and gas industry 30 years notice that fossil fuels will no longer play a part in our economy.

They want to make it easier for you to take public transport in Auckland, makes houses that people can afford to try and redress the horrific housing situation, and actually do something about climate change so that y'know, we don't all die in a weathery apocalypse.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters speaks to media at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters speaks to media at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

If they achieve these things they will have been one of the most transformative and positive Governments in a long time. We will look back on the Ardern-led Government as having been a positive force for good.

But that's if they can get their act together. Because while last week may have been "terrible optics" for the Government, those optics can spill over into outcomes.

So when NZ First gives the Labour Party no warning that they're about to attack Fonterra with all guns blazing they need a short wrap across the knuckles. When the Greens start having to compromise their internal values because they're part of the Government now, then they need help working through that process. When Labour Ministers find themselves out of their depth they need support from some of the more experienced partners.

It's a new kind of Government. It's one where there are three reasonably-sized parties who all get to make noise. We're going to see more disfunction play out publicly, but that's ok, disagreement means more voices are being heard and better representation is happening.

It's democracy played out live. We should embrace it. After all, it's easy to be well oiled when the extent of your ambition is a flag referendum and a round of tax cuts.

David Cormack is the co-founder of communications and PR firm, Draper Cormack Group. He has worked for the Labour Party, the Green Party and for National.