Cunliffe backs down on coalition comments

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 09:05 12/03/2014
Cunliffe
Fairfax NZ
DAVID CUNLIFFE: "I said the first people we talk to will be the largest of our potential coalition partners which obviously is the Greens."
Fairfax NZ
RUSSEL NORMAN: Labour was obviously dealing with some "internal issues".
Shane Jones
Fairfax NZ
SHANE JONES: Called Green MP Gareth Hughes a "mollyhawk", and an "immature squawking bird".

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Labour leader David Cunliffe has dismissed suggestions of a cooling in relations between his party and the Greens, saying the Greens would be the obvious first choice for Labour to strike a coalition with.

Yesterday, Cunliffe refused to say whether he would negotiate with the Greens before NZ First.

But today he appeared to back down from those statements, dismissing speculation that tension had arisen between the two allies.

The backdown comes after the Greens lodged an official complaint with Labour over outspoken MP Shane Jones' attacks on the party.

Yesterday, Cunliffe said he would work with whatever cards the voters delivered after the September 20 election.

"That may indeed quite likely be with the Greens, it may well be with Winston first ... NZ First."

But he would not say the Greens would be his first choice, saying there was "no preordained order".

This morning, he told Firstline talking with the Greens first was the logical step, if in a position to form a Government.

"What I've said is that we'll be in conversations with all potential coalition partners and obviously that includes the Greens. I went further than that, I said the first people we talk to will be the largest of our potential coalition partners which obviously is the Greens."

But the Greens have already taken exception to the slight, with co-leader Russel Norman saying Labour was obviously dealing with some "internal issues".

'There's clearly some people like Shane Jones within Labour who are uncomfortable about protecting the environment and embracing our clean energy future. But ... the Greens know what we are doing and why we're here."

He was referring to Jones calling Green MP Gareth Hughes a "mollyhawk", and an "immature squawking bird". Jones said Hughes was undermining the Environmental Protection Agency by commenting ahead of a hearing to consider an application by Trans-Tasman Resources to mine iron ore from the seabed off the west coast of the North Island.

Yesterday he received a dressing down from Cunliffe over the comments.

"... A discussion was had with Mr Jones. He understands we need to be mindful of coalition partners and he's given me an undertaking that he will do that," Cunliffe said today. 

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He wasn't concerned Jones was taking the spotlight away from him.

"Not at all, it's been with my blessing that he's been going on the front foot about the supermarkets issue, and of course the fishing-dumping issue this week which is a follow-on.

"As a leader I'm very pleased to see my senior team in particular, scoring hits. We're a Labour team, we'll be a good Government with a strong cabinet. And I have absolutely no problem with that."

- Stuff

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