Key keen on full third term as PM

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 11:53 04/02/2014

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John Key says he is committed to seeing out the next term as prime minister if National wins the election, saying the job is "energising" while also leading to "exhaustion".

Appearing on NewstalkZB this morning, Key said he would need to maintain the confidence of his ministers and caucus. Nevertheless, he intended to stay in the role through the entire next term.

"Yes, in so much as you can do that, but the reality is I'm a first among equals," Key said when asked if he personally wanted to be prime minister until 2017.

"If you ask me if I'm committed for three years, yes."

Asked if this meant staying on to contest the 2017 election, Key said his time in the job was going faster than he had expected.

"If you had asked me in 2008" about being prime minister until 2017 I would have said, 'Gosh, that sounds like an awfully long time', but when you're there, I don't know whether there's some seductive thing about the job, or whatever it is, but when you're there it goes really quickly," he said.

"It goes a lot more quickly than I thought.

"The funny thing is you get a combination of exhaustion, you know, you're working all hours that God sent," Key said.

"Sometimes frustration, because as MMP, you can't do everything you want, and even if you can you've got to carry the public with you."

However, at the start of his sixth year as prime minister, Key said he believed the changes the Government had made were now working well, with debt expected to peak below where it had been expected and the economy expanding.

"In my head I sit there and go, 'I think we've done a really good job', and there's something really energising about that."

Key also defended the decision to say National was prepared to work with NZ First leader Winston Peters if needed after the election.

He hinted that he personally might not want to.

In both 2008 and 2011 Key ruled out working with NZ First before the election, because of unanswered questions over a donation from Owen Glenn.

But Key said time had passed, and polls showed the majority of voters would rather see National work with Peters than have a Labour/Green government.

"It's not a one-man party. What I might think or what I might want to do is touching, [but] it's about the million-odd people that want to see a continuation of a Centre-Right government."

However, he dismissed any suggestion that he might be prepared to step aside to allow Peters a period as prime minister to secure a majority after the election.

"To plagiarise a lovely turn of phrase I read in the paper yesterday ... About as much chance as Amanda Knox holidaying in Italy. Zero."

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- Fairfax Media

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