Maori Party deal expected
National is today set to seal a new deal with the Maori Party giving Prime Minister John Key the support he's after to embark on a more aggressive second term reform agenda.
The final count from the November 26 election, announced yesterday, dished up a double blow for Key's National, with one of his star cabinet ministers, Paula Bennett, rolled by just 11 votes in the Waitakere electorate.
And for the third successive election, National dropped a seat after special votes were counted, shedding Christchurch-based Aaron Gilmore and falling from an election night tally of 60 down to 59 MPs.
But the silver lining was a surprise 45 vote winning margin for National's Nicky Wagner over the incumbent Labour MP Brendon Burns in Christchurch Central.
Both results will be subject to a judicial review, but with the support of solo MPs John Banks and Peter Dunne already locked in, Key has a one vote majority regardless.
He yesterday formally advised Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae of his intention to form the Government.
A further three votes from the Maori Party are likely to be announced today after late night talks on Friday suggested the party was headed for another term backing a National-led Government.
The last of the Maori Party hui canvassing the views of members on a deal wrapped up yesterday and Key said he was ''very optimistic'' of announcing a deal as early as this afternoon.
"I would be absolutely stunned if they don't do a deal with us,'' Key said.
An announcement of the cabinet line-up would follow tomorrow with ministers sworn in at Government House on Wednesday.
Key is keen to get stuck in to a more larger reform programme in his second term as Prime Minister.
Near the top of the agenda will be legislative changes to:
- Allow private insurers to compete with ACC for work accounts;
- Introduce a six-month time limits on resource consents for ''medium-sized'' projects;
- Slow the phasing-in of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
The two most controversial features are set to be welfare reform and the partial privatisation of four state-owned energy companies - both of which will also require legislative change.
The Maori Party has said it could do a deal with National that excludes support for the partial asset sales plan, which would mean National going ahead with the programme on a single vote majority.
Key yesterday insisted he had "a very rock solid majority" even with just a single vote margin.
"There is less moving parts with only one member of the Act Party and one member of United Future. So I'm very confident we've not only got a mandate but the capability to change the SOE legislation that will be required to allow those partial sales to take place," Key said.
But Green co-leader Russel Norman yesterday said the single vote of Peter Dunne would make partial asset sales a reality, even though Dunne himself had not campaigned on the plan.
''You could argue that National and Act ran on asset sales, but I don't think you could argue Peter Dunne ran on it,'' Norman said.
Dunne had spoken against the privatisation of water resources but was now signed up to support a deal partially privatising hydro dams, Norman said.
''He didn't run on that platform. ... I think the heat has to go on him to say on what possible basis can you vote for privatisation?
''Every other member of Parliament is opposed to it and the public is overwhelmingly opposed to it."
In his confidence and supply deal signed on Monday, Dunne agreed to support the partial asset sales plan on the condition that the legislation includes the guarantee of at least 51 per cent Crown ownership and a 10 per cent cap on individual shareholdings.
Dunne's majority in the Ohariu electorate yesterday settled at 1,646 - an improvement on the 1006 vote margin he secured in 2008.
The Green Party improved its party vote to 11.06 per cent, adding the first-ever profoundly deaf MP Mojo Mathers to its ranks.
AN EXCITING CHALLENGE
Nicky Wagner was delighted with the result yesterday. "It's like a repeat of election night. I never imagined winning, I didn't dare," she said.
"In some ways it's been easier with the earthquake because I've had a lot of direct contact with constituents. We worked hard and everywhere we went people wanted to see us."
Wagner said she would continue to focus on the rebuild. "For me, the rebuild is the most important thing. Certainly, for someone who lives here, it's the most exciting challenge."
With the deadheat on election night, she said she was not surprised Burns was going to seek a recount. "But I think 45 is quite high."
Burns was gutted and feared his decision to concentrate on helping quake-hit constituents rather than campaigning might have cost him dearly.
Boundary changes in the late 1990s had turned the electorate into a marginal seat, and further changes since then, and a "seismic shift" that had seen 3000 people quitting the area, many from Labour's heartland, had added to that.
"This is no longer the safe Labour seat it was."
It would not end his political career. "I love this job, I've given everything to it."
Burns said he and his staff would review their campaign. "I didn't stand on street corners waving signs that said 'vote for me'. I was dealing with constituents with real issues and I just thought that was where I had to put my energy."
The beaten MP was saluted last night by Paul Watson, a member of an Avonside residents group. "It is not like I am a Labour supporter, but he has been incredible. I know many people in the area will be devestated. We could not have asked for a better MP."
He congratulated Wagner but warned her she would have to step up. "She has not been active in the aftermath of the earthquakes. We just haven't seen her."
Meanwhile Carmel Sepuloni, who ousted Bennett, said voters wanted her gone because of "constant beneficiary bashing", a claim Bennett rubbished, saying suggestions the loss was personal didn't stand up.
"If it had been an absolute landslide I'd be shattered."
She said the loss of her seat was nothing personal against her.
''This is a marginal seat, it is really really close. We have a wonderfully diverse bunch of people out here and that's why I love it, " she said.
''They are kind of ferocious and they speak up for what they believe in so at the end of the day with it being that close it can go either way.''
She said she thought the loss was a result of a strong mobilisation by left leaning voters rather than a backlash against National.
Key said the party intended to go for a recount in Waitakere and still hoped Bennett may retain her Waitakere seat.
''It's one of those seats where anything is possible when everything is reviewed. We haven't given up hope,'' Key said.
Bennett said she hoped to have a result before Christmas.
Labour list MP Raymond Huo also loses his spot with Sepuloni winning.
The China-born former lawyer is committed to remaining in politics and was "ready, willing and able" as the highest-ranked member of Labour's list not to be in parliament, should any of his "comrades" step down.
The results of the votiung system referendum showed 57.77 per cent backed MMP. It will now be reviewed.
- Sunday Star Times
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