That was then, what now? The 1996 NZ First - National deal

A blast from the past: Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters pose at the start of a Cabinet ...
STUFF

A blast from the past: Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters pose at the start of a Cabinet meeting in 1997.

With NZ First poised to decide whether National or Labour should lead the next government there are echoes of 1996 as the parties hammer out a deal.

Word has it NZ First is heading down the track of detailed policy wish lists, rather than the less prescriptive 2005 deal struck with Labour.

So just what did that 1996 deal look like? And what could we learn about the shape of the 2017-2020 government from the 1996 agreement between NZ First leader Winston Peters and National prime minister Jim Bolger?

In all the 1996 document was 73 pages long plus a one-page supplementary agreement covering off some outstanding matters.

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It started with 10 pages of background, interpretations, definitions, disputes resolution procedures and "fundamental principles" that include promises not to vote for any members' bills the Opposition may wheel out.

If you are interested in reading all the detail, here is the 1996 agreement in full above.

As far as ministerial jobs were concerned, it set down 20 Cabinet ministers and six posts outside Cabinet.

NZ First was to have initially five of the Cabinet slots and four of those outside. But it was agreed that from 1998 NZ First's Cabinet posts would step up to eight while the number of jobs it controlled outside Cabinet would drop by one to three.

Famously, Winston Peters was appointed deputy prime minister and a new "senior finance" role of Treasurer was created just for him.

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The deal was also highly prescriptive, perhaps reflecting the role of Peters' friend and adviser lawyer Brian Henry, down to the timing and chairing of Cabinet meetings and what would constitute a quorum (half of each party's members).

But the bulk of the document is given over to the detailed policy, with almost every page carrying the proviso put in by National's finance minister Bill Birch that Peters has since railed against, because it made every policy agreement provisional: "All funding proposals subject to being considered within the agreed spending policy parameters."

Those range from the significant to the very small - such as $10 million for possum control research, with a note that this is $3.75m more than National's policy, and $100,000 for "recreational input to fisheries management".

Each includes a cost and an assessment of any implications for law changes and are listed under subject headings: ACC, Agriculture, Broadcasting, Child Support, and so on.

The policy on asset sales - which eventually blew up the coalition over the sale of Wellington Airport - ruled out the sale of strategic assets listed as Electricorp, Contact Energy, Transpower, NZ Post, TV1 and Radio NZ.

But the airports, power and gas utilities and ports "presently owned by local bodies or consumer trusts" would require "prior approval of ratepayers or consumers" if more than 24.9 per cent was sold.

The "agreed spending parameters" are covered off in Schedule B of the deal which set out the abolition of the superannuation surcharge ($2.1 billion in 1999/2000) and $1b for tax cuts in 1999.

The provision for extra spending was set at $5b over three years and there were also revenue, tax and debt "parameters" that the parties agreed spending would have to stay within.

 - Stuff

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