Is a list leaning Government an issue?

Does it matter that the Government has more list MPs that electorate MPs?

asked:

Interesting, but does it matter?

NZ Govt consists of 34 List MP’s & 29 electorate MPs.

Opposition consists 15 List MP’s & 42 electorate MPs.

All MPs have equal voting status within the parliament.

I don’t think that in general that proportion – more list MPS in government than electorate MPs – should matter.

Many people, I think, look upon electorate MPs as real MPs representing an electorate and List MPs as second class. But in honesty, with whips/party discipline, all MPs put their Party first.

I think of more interest is Government has two list only parties. There is potentially a democratic issue with them, if each of NZ First and Green MPs tend to engage within their party bubbles, dealing with a narrow range of political views and preferences.

Electorate MPs,  having to deal with constituents from across the political spectrum through electorate office inquiries and public engagements, are more likely to be in touch with a more diverse range of people.

I don’t know if this is an issue of concern or not. It depends on how the list MPs work and engage.

A nine year Government?

Some people seem confident that we have the beginnings of another nine year Government. I presume this is based on the MMP record of two nine year Governments, one led by Helen Clark and Labour, the other led by John Key and Bill English and National.

That doesn’t automatically mean the pattern will be repeated. Many factors, some we know and many we don’t, will come into play with the current government.

It should be remembered that while Labour ‘won’ a second term easily in 2002 (National under English collapsed), but  Labour came very close to losing in 2005 after a controversial campaign.

And National got a second term reasonably comfortably they only just had the numbers to form a third term government. After the loss of the Northland by-election in the third term they relied on the support of all of ACT, NZ First and the Maori Party to complete the term.

What are the chances that Labour will lead Government until 2026? Of course it’s possible, but there will be many challenges.

Partner parties

It is generally accepted that governments lose elections. So much will depend on how Labour performs, and importantly, how NZ First and the Greens perform.

There’s a real chance that NZ First could miss the threshold, they are currently polling under it. There’s also the big question about whether Winston Peters will keep leadingh the party or not, and if he doesn’t who will replace him.

The Greens have their own challenges. They just survived a threshold scare in last year’s election. They have already annoyed some voters for u-turning in some policies to prop up Labour-NZ First. And they have a leadership contest to deal with over the next few months.

While Labour might still be prominent at the next two elections there are big question marks over their partner parties.

The economy

It is also accepted that a sound or booming economy makes it less likely a governing part will be replaced. The economy is currently in very good shape after a solid recovery from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. This means the current government has money available to fulfil some of their promises at least – for now.

The odds are that in the five or so years before the next two elections the world economy will turn to custard, as periodically happens. This will impact on New Zealand and the Government.

Labour last governed for nine years through boom times, apart from the Dot Com crash early on, with the GFC right at the end of their third term. National started with major financial challenges but gradually improved things throughout their term.

The odds must be that the economy will hiccup some time within the next eight and a half years.

Jacinda Ardern

Ardern is the Government’s biggest asset, along with the adulating media. The challenges of leading the country will be enough on their own to put pressure on Ardern continuing at the top, but this is complicated somewhat by her pregnancy.

Ardern may well deal with giving birth and becoming a mother with the aplomb she has shown since becoming leader. Many women transition to motherhood with ease and  manage to continue in their careers.

But having a first child is life changing for mothers, to varying degrees. Ardern my manage fine for a while, but at some stage may choose to put family first.

She will be under huge pressure due to the media and public attention being given to her pregnancy, and that is likely to increase once she has a baby.

If Ardern steps down at some stage Labour may continue leading the government seamlessly under a new leader, but that could also break a bubble of positive support.

National

National not only have to rebuild, they also need to choose a new leader. It will be some time before we see how this pans out.

If the economy goes well and Ardern does well and Labour doesn’t stuff up too much and the coalition and support party partners hold together, then National may have to twiddle their fingers waiting for their turn.

If the current Government hiccups then National will need to look ready to step in again.

How National manages the transition to a new generation leadership will matter. It’s obviously too soon to tell.

The unpredictable

There is a lot that’s unpredictable, as well as Ardern’s situation.

Will Peters resign? Will his health hold out? He will be 75 years old in 2020 when the second term election is due, and 78 years old when the 2023 third term election is due.

Any number of current MPs could resign – or lose their seats in 2020.  There are new MPs this term that may become leadership contenders next term.

There is far too much that’s unpredictable to have any idea whether Labour will lead a one term, two term, three term or four term government. And it’s even more unpredictable whether NZ First or Greens will last the distance with them.

How long the current government will last is purely guesswork, and a stab in the dark at that.

Those who assume a three term government with the same party composition are wishful thinkers. There is nothing of substance to support or guarantee a nine year claim.

Labour spin 100 day achievements

Slight irony here, but journalist Lloyd Burr (Newshub) is annoyed about Labour’s 100-day embellishment

It’s not a revelation that politicians embellish their achievements. It’s less usual to see journalists criticising rather than repeating their PR.

An email arrived into my inbox a few days ago with the subject line “We did this!”. It was from Labour, about its 100-day plan.

 

The email claimed the plan had been completed. And it mostly has. Mostly.

But the subject line didn’t read ‘We mostly did this!’. It shouted from the rooftop how Labour had proven itself in government.

It talked about how it had done what it had promised to do. It used words like “delivered”, “achieved” and “commitment”.

That’s called spin. It has massaged the truth. Massaged its promises. Embellished what has really happened in 100 days.

Burr details What Labour Has Not Achieved:

1. “Ban overseas speculators from buying existing houses”

It hasn’t banned them yet. It has just introduced a Bill that will ban them, but that Bill is months off from becoming law.

2. “Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain”

It has introduced changes to the law regarding medicinal cannabis, but those changes are minor and conservative. It won’t make products available to terminally ill and chronically ill patients. It will just prevent them from being prosecuted. The Prime Minister admits she would’ve liked more changes – but New Zealand First’s conservatism meant she couldn’t change the law properly.

3. “Hold a Clean Waters Summit on cleaning up our rivers and lakes”

This never happened. Winston Peters vetoed it.

4. “Set the zero carbon emissions goal and begin setting up the independent Climate Commission”

The target has not been set and it hasn’t begun setting up the independent Climate Commission. All that’s been announced is a period of public consultation on what the target should be and how the commission would be structured.

Other claimed ‘achievements’ are also debatable – the Government has set up inquiries and commissions as listed in  Taking action in our 100 day plan:

  • Begin work to establish the Affordable Housing Authority and begin the KiwiBuild programme
  • Set up a Ministerial Inquiry in order to fix our mental health crisis
  • Establish the Tax Working Group
  • Establish the Pike River Recovery Agency and assign a responsible Minister
  • Set up an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care

The Government has done what they said what they would do, but these are only starting points and there is no guarantee they will achieve much if anything in this term of government.

Some of those issues were promoted as needing urgent attention when Labour was in opposition. Now they have to wait until the Authority/Inquiry/Working Group/Agency report back to the Government, then the Government needs to decide what they will do, then they have to do it (if they can get it through Parliament).

Nine of the seventeen pledges are either not achieved or far from being achieved.

 

Treasury admits ‘child poverty’ forecast error

Quantifying the number of children in poverty has always been contentious, with a variety of measures being made. There have been political claims of both overstating and trying to ignore the problem.

Now Treasury admits blunder over child poverty

The number of children to be lifted out of poverty by the Government’s Families Package is likely to be less than previously forecast because of an embarrassing blunder by Treasury.

The Treasury had projected that 88,000 fewer children would be in poverty by 2021 using the a particular poverty measure (defined as living in a household with an income less than 50 per cent of median equivalised household income before deducting housing costs).

But owing to a coding error, it no longer stands by that projection.

However it will not have a new projection until the second half of February, Treasury secretary Gabriel Makhlouf said.

“This is a deeply regrettable mistake and I apologise for it on behalf of the Treasury,” he said.

“The Treasury holds itself to high standards and I’m disappointed to have not me those standards here.”

He also said that the error applied equally to comparisons with the previous Government’s Family Incomes Package and so the estimated relative impact of the two packages was essentially the same.

The Treasury had projected that National’s package would have lifted 49,000 children out of poverty by the same measure by the same time.

“The error likely led to an overstatement of the projected impact both packages would have on the reduction of child poverty, Makhlouf said.

The Government was told about the error on Monday.

The revelation comes just two weeks before the introduction of child poverty reduction legislation, the flagship bill of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction.

It won’t affect the bill itself which will require Governments to set and monitor poverty measures – but it will almost certainly affect debate around it.

I doubt this will change much if anything of Government aims and intentions, but it shows how difficult it can be to measure real levels of hardship.

Interim budget – families package

The Government released it’s interim budget today, which mostly confirmed what was already known, with a few numbers thrown in.

Budget update – fairness and prosperity

The Government is delivering on its commitment to manage New Zealand’s finances responsibly while ensuring the dividends of economic growth are more fairly shared.

We promised we would be a Government of change. The Government has made a clear choice to put the wellbeing of all New Zealanders firmly at the heart of what we do.

The Budget Policy Statement and our 100-Day Plan announcements are proof that this Government will be different, one that will lead the country in a new, positive and inclusive direction.

 

Budget update press releases:

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern  – Prime Minister

The Government is delivering on its commitment to manage New Zealand’s finances responsibly while ensuring the dividends of economic growth are more fairly shared, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“We promised we would be a Government of change. Together with our coalition partner, New Zealand First and our confidence and supply partner, the Green Party, we have made a clear choice to put the wellbeing of all New Zealanders firmly at the heart of what we do.

“Today’s Budget Policy Statement and our 100-Day Plan announcements are proof that the Government I lead will be different, one that will lead the country in a new, positive and inclusive direction.

“It will be a Government that makes reducing child poverty and inequality a priority. That is why we are moving with urgency to introduce legislation for the Families Package. This delivers on one of the key promises of our 100-Day Plan, alongside running balanced Budgets and paying down debt.

“We can pay for the Families Package and our fees-free policy for post-secondary education by cancelling National’s tax cuts.

“The Families Package will provide a significant boost to the incomes of low- and middle-income families. No family will be worse off than they are today, and most families with children will be better off.

When fully rolled out in 2020/21, 384,000 families with children will be better off by an average of $75 a week, with many lower-income families receiving more.

“We know working families struggle at times to provide the very best for their children. The early years of a child’s life are critically important to their long-term wellbeing and development.

“The Families Package is projected to lift 88,000 children out of poverty by 2020/21* – a 48 per cent reduction in the number of children living in poverty compared to the status quo. That’s 39,000 more children lifted out of poverty than under the previous National Government’s package.

“The Families Package includes a targeted boost to Working for Families, giving more money to low- and middle-income families with children, and increasing the number of families who will be eligible for support.

“The money saved from reversing National’s tax cuts also allows us to invest in Best Start as part of the Families Package. Every child deserves the best start in life; our policy will provide an income boost for all families with newborns.

“The Families Package includes the Winter Energy Payment, providing a welcome support to one million superannuitants and beneficiaries who face big heating bills in winter.

“This will provide long-term gains for the country and is fiscally responsible. We can do this while meeting all the targets we have set ourselves under the Budget Responsibility Rules, and without raising anyone’s personal income tax.

“The steps we are taking today show this Government’s determination to make a difference to the lives of many New Zealanders so more can share in the gains of economic growth. It’s about priorities and choices,” says Jacinda Ardern.

*   Defined as living in a household with an income less than 50 per cent of median equivalised household income before deducting housing costs

Hon Grant Robertson – Finance

“We can meet all of our commitments within our Budget Responsibility Rules. These commitments include our 100-Day Plan; Labour’s other policies in the pre-election Fiscal Plan; the Coalition Agreement between Labour and New Zealand First; and the Confidence and Supply Agreement between Labour and the Green Party.

“The Treasury’s Half Year Update incorporates the costs of our 100-Day Plan. The BPS indicates how policies outside this will be afforded within the capital and operating expenditures allowed in future Budgets. Over the next four years, allowances for policies outside of the 100-Day Plan provide $21.7 billion in new operating expenditure, and capital allowances provide for $12.6 billion of new investments.

“Today we are announcing the full details of the Government’s Families Package. This is paid for by rejecting National’s tax cuts and instead targeting spending at those who need it most. It will lift 88,000 children out of poverty by 2021.*

“Boosts to Working for Families, the introduction of Best Start and the Winter Energy Payment, reinstating the Independent Earner Tax Credit and continuing with the recent Accommodation Supplement changes will greatly help struggling families to access the basics which all New Zealanders should have.

“Within our 100-Day Plan we have kept our promise to begin fees-free post-secondary school education and training, kicked off the work on KiwiBuild, legislated for 26 weeks Paid Parental Leave and Healthy Homes, and much more.

“We will measure our progress as a Government differently – by focussing on improving wellbeing and lifting living standards. The first steps towards this are in our 100-Day Plan, with legislation to develop child poverty indicators that must be reported against at Budget time.

“Over the next four years, economic growth is set to remain strong, averaging 3 per cent. Unemployment is forecast to fall to the Government’s 4 per cent target, and wages are forecast to rise on average by more than 3 per cent annually.

“The Treasury forecasts we will keep government spending within its recent historical range, and that net core Crown debt will fall to 19.3 per cent of GDP within five years of us taking office – as promised.

Hon Carmel Sepuloni & Hon Tracey Martin – Social Development & Children

Hon Kelvin Davis – Crown/Māori Relations

Hon Auptio William Sio – Pacific Peoples

Hon Phil Twyford – Housing and Urban Development

Hon Chris Hipkins – Education

Hon James Shaw – Climate Change, Statistics, Associate Finance

Hon Megan Woods & Hon Carmel Sepuloni – Energy and Resources & Social Development

Greens concede on benefit sanctions

The Greens have conceded their policy on abolishing sanctions and obligations on beneficiaries won’t be supported by Labour or NZ First so have backed off.

The Green Party has scrapped one of its core election promises championed by former co-leader Metiria Turei.

The party no longer believes in immediately abolishing all financial sanctions and obligations on beneficiaries.

I suspect some Greens at least still believe in no sanctions.

The original policy was announced at the Green Party’s AGM earlier this year, during a keynote speech by Ms Turei.

Right up until her resignation, Turei advocated for the rights of those on welfare, saying on July 16 that “no beneficiary should have to live with the threat of losing the money they need for the rent” – which is exactly the kind of threat Jones wants to make to those who refuse to plant trees.

Jan Logie said on July 20 that her party in Government will “immediately end benefit sanctions”.

Marama Davidson said on September 6 that benefit sanctions are “expensive to administer and push people further into poverty”.

But they are learning the pragmatism necessary for negotiating to be a part of a multi-party government.

It was forced to back down on the policy during coalition negotiations with Labour, which adjusted the wording so only “excessive” sanctions will be removed.

“Our policy is what the Government’s policy is. So now we’re in Government, we need to do what Government policy says,” says co-leader James Shaw.

“We only want to get rid of the most excessive sanctions,” he added.

I suspect that stance will dismay quite a few supporters. It’s an odd way to put it.

I’d have thought it would be better to say something like ‘we will work to reduce sanctions as much as possible but accept conmpromise may be necessary during this term’.

The policy u-turn means the Greens will be able to support Shane Jones’ plan to sanction beneficiaries who refuse to work on the Government’s ‘Plant a Billion Trees’ project.

There’s been a lot of pragmatism necessary in forming and being a part of this government, and this is just the beginning.

Given the number of policy compromises, back tracks and ditching there is something to remember for next election – there are no promises and no bottom lines, only wish lists.

Parker and Peters split on water tax

The Minister of Trade and the Minister of Foreign Affairs are split over whether a tax on exported water can be imposed without breaching trade agreements.

NZH:  Winston Peters and David Parker at odds over whether export tax breaches trade deals

Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Trade Minister David Parker appear at odds over the legal position of the planned royalty on water exports.

Peters plans to ignore the advice of top officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and will introduce the royalty which was promised in the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement.

He said the view of Mfat deputy secretary and chief TPP negotiator that it breaches New Zealand’s trade deals was “an opinion.”

“We are a sovereign nation and you are seeing a restoration of our sovereignty.”

Peters said it was not a foreign policy matter: “It is to do with our domestic economy and who runs our economy and who has propriety over our resources.”

Vangelis Vitalis, Foreign Affairs deputy secretary for the trade and economic group, said today that such payments would breach existing trade agreement.

But Parker backed Vitalis. He told reporters export taxes were prohibited by all of New Zealand’s trade agreements “so we have got to find a remedy that is consistent with those obligations.”

He said he had always known that discriminatory measures that impose tax only on exports would be in breach of virtually every trade agreement we’ve got.”

Labour had campaigned on a non-distortionary price on water including on exports.

“There is more than one way for us to meet our ambition. If we were to have a distortionary tax on the export of water, that would breach our trade agreements.”

The Labour-NZ First coalition agreement simply said:

Introduce royalty on exports of bottled water.

Some interesting differences here, between an election promise and coalition agreement and what is actually allowed under existing international agreements – making promises without doing basic checks first – and also between Parker and Peters.

The 100 day reckless mistake

Any new Government will need time to find their feet, get their offices organised, and get adequately staffed. Likewise incoming Ministers, who will need time to get properly informed about their portfolios. The Government and especially the Minister of Finance needs to take proper stock of the books and properly evaluate the costs of any proposed policy changes.

This is especially the case when the Prime Minister was recently and suddenly elevated to leadership of their party, has never been an MP in Government before, most of her Cabinet has never been in Government before and one of the Government parties has never been in Government before.

It may have seemed like a good campaign trick, but promising a very ambitious policy programme to be implemented within the first 100 days in office, with many of those days being a holiday shut down period in Parliament, has put a lot of pressure on an already hard pressed administration.

Labour’s commitment: Taking action in our first 100 days

Labour will hit the ground running in government, with a programme of work across housing, health, education, families, the environment and other priority areas.

  • Make the first year of tertiary education or training fees free from January 1, 2018.
  • Increase student allowances and living cost loans by $50 a week from January 1, 2018.
  • Pass the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill, requiring all rentals to be warm and dry
  • Ban overseas speculators from buying existing houses
  • Issue an instruction to Housing New Zealand to stop the state house sell-off
  • Begin work to establish the Affordable Housing Authority and begin the KiwiBuild programme
  • Legislate to pass the Families Package, including the Winter Fuel Payment, Best Start and increases to Paid Parental Leave, to take effect from 1 July 2018
  • Set up a Ministerial Inquiry in order to fix our mental health crisis
  • Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain
  • Resume contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to help safeguard the provision of universal superannuation at age 65
  • Introduce legislation to set a child poverty reduction target and to change the Public Finance Act so the Budget reports progress on reducing child poverty
  • Increase the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour, to take effect from 1 April 2018, and introduce legislation to improve fairness in the workplace.
  • Establish the Tax Working Group
  • Establish the Pike River Recovery Agency and assign a responsible Minister
  • Set up an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care
  • Hold a Clean Waters Summit on cleaning up our rivers and lakes
  • Set the zero carbon emissions goal and begin setting up the independent Climate Commission

This 100 day plan was released as part of Labour’s policy during the 2017 election campaign.

On top of that a number of enthusiastic Ministers have been trying to push their own pet projects.

It isn’t surprising that the Government is showing increasing signs of struggling to cope.

And there’s a real risk of stuffing things up in the rush. Gezza posted this yesterday:

I don’t conveniently forget anything. I’ve worked in departments thru complete Administration between National & Labour numerous times. Every seismic shift between right & left brings in a bunch of newbie Ministers & those who don’t know how the normal, legitimate processes of government work quickly learn from the BIM onwards with their departments that policies signalled by Opposition parties during campaigning which require significant resource use or change to systems & legislative can rarely be rushed into effect without being first worked through thoroughly – for practical reasons – to identify & minimise risks of adverse consequences (fuck ups that will hit the media & embarrass) the Minister & government) not apparent in Opposition because they don’t know the operational details, exactly what work is required, how long it takes to develop and operationalise the policy (contractors did all our IT system changes – that requires design, testing, debugging, sorting out inevitable conflicts within complex IT structures etc).

I’ll just ignore the rest. It’s irrelevant to my point. I don’t give a toss which administration is in power. They all run the risk of screw ups if they pressure departments to rush things. These matters are drawn to their attention. They have to be. The convention of Ministers taking responsibility when their departments gets something wrong (especially when they disregarded advice) disappeared with the Douglas administration & so it is necessary for these matters to be raised & recorded more than ever as Ministers nowadays default to blaming their departments.

Labour is bound to have no hopers in their Cabinet lineup. Every government does. For me it’s a test of how good the PM is at the job how quickly they move them out & replace them with a good Minister.

That’s a big enough challenge with any new administration, but it has been made more difficult with the self imposed 100 day rush.

On a number of policies not in the 100 day list Ministers have been fobbing off, saying details would be sorted out and advised ‘in due course’. That’s ok for some things, but keeping a handle on the policy costs and their implications for overall finances is a real concern.

What may have sounded decisive during the election campaign looks like a mistake, and is at real risk of being reckless.

The secret coalition document

The Labour is taking another hit on it’s promise for more transparency in Government after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has refused to release a coalition document.

Newsroom: Kiwis left in dark over secret document

The Government is refusing to release a secret document with directives for new ministers, despite Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters promising it would be made public.

The existence of the 38-page document was first revealed by Peters the day after Labour and New Zealand First signed a more slender eight-page public coalition agreement.

Speaking to media after the allocation of ministerial portfolios, he described it as “a document of precision on various areas of policy commitment and development”.

“These are directives to ministers with accountability and media strategies to ensure that the coalition works, not in a jealous, envious way, ‘We got this and they got that’, but as a government successively, cohesively working.

“We’ve put a lot of thought into it, in fact day one of our negotiations that was the first subject we raised, how are we going to handle a cohesive coalition arrangement?”

At the time, he said the document was still being finalised, but would cover the appointment process for diplomats.

Peters said then the document would be made public, saying it was “for the province of the Prime Minister to release”.

However, in response to an Official Information Act request from Newsroom seeking the document’s release, Jacinda Ardern’s adviser Heather Simpson claimed “the Prime Minister does not hold any such official information”.

Simpson’s letter referred to Section 2 of the Act, saying official information covered only information held by “a Minister of the Crown in his official capacity”.

The Ombudsman’s OIA guidelines for ministers state that while official information does not include information held by a minister in their role as a member of a political party, “such information may become official information if it is subsequently used for official ministerial purposes”.

Newsroom has appealed the Government’s decision to the Ombudsman.

Not surprisingly National has picked up on this. Bill English: Secret agreement needs to be made public

The Prime Minister needs to release the Government’s secret agreement with NZ First which the Deputy Prime Minister says outlines the way ministers will behave, deal with the media and be held accountable, National Party Leader Bill English says.

“The document, confirmed by Winston Peters, goes to the very heart of the formation of the New Government.

“It is unacceptable for the Prime Minister to claim it’s not public information. It is and the public deserves to know how the new Coalition, and therefore the country, will be run.

“This is not the openness and accountability promised by Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters and enshrined in the public version of their Coalition agreement.

“It’s certainly not them living up to their promise to ‘strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information’.

“This lack of transparency is becoming a habit for this Government. It is also refusing to answer even the most basic questions in Parliament as well as written questions from Opposition MPs and queries from the media.

“It doesn’t seem to understand that part of running a country is being sufficiently organised to be up front and to justify and explain the decisions it is making which affect the lives of New Zealanders.

“When these decisions continue to be so ill-thought through and rushed then that’s of even more concern. They appear to be both disorganised and secretive.

“New Zealanders deserve to know what Labour has promised NZ First and how this agreement affects them,” Mr English says.

Most opinion seems to be that the document should be made public, either legally or on principles of transparency..

But Ardern is adamant that transparency only applies when it suits. Stuff: Government denies there’s an ‘official’ coalition document still to be made public

On Monday at the Prime Minister’s regular post-Cabinet press conference both her and Peters denied there was an “official” document to be released other than the coalition agreement that has already been made available.

“We did release the coalition agreement and we were very clear, both actually on the ways that we would work together, but also on the agenda items that we as two parties have formally committed to – so in our minds we absolutely have made public those things that we’ve made commitments to,” Ardern said.

Both Ardern and Peters said notes were made during negotiations, which included further work that could be done under the coalition agreement but wasn’t yet finalised.

“Yes, of course we made notes during the course of those discussions including further areas that we may undertake some work…some issues will see the light of day and at that point we’ll make sure that people are absolutely clear that that was part of our conversation with NZ First but others may not.

“There are constraints on us as a government, not least the financial constraints we’ve been left by the last government so there’s still a lot of work to be done,” she said.

“There are other areas we may explore together that may be found to be unworkable, that may be found just to be fiscally irresponsible, that may never be progressed.”

This seems to be the way the Ardern led Government intends to operate – they will be transparent in due course.

As acting Prime Minister while Ardern and Peters were overseas Kelvin Davis appeared to flounder in Parliament when he kept answering questions with non answers, like (9 November).

We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.

And like (14 November):

Decisions on interim targets to achieve these housing policies will be made in due course.

Winston Peters also joined the stonewalling yesterday (something he has a long record of hypocrisy on) with some back flipping thrown in:

Peters drew on Moses and the ten commandments to try and make his point, saying, “Moses came down from the mountain and only had ten commandments right? But there’s a lot in the Old Testament as well.”

Peters said the suggestion this was a “secret agreement” was “demonstrably false”.

“I was talking about how we will compartmentalise work of the type that’s just been discussed, send it off to ministers to do some work and see what the result is.”

He said an example of some of that work was how to find a new way to measure unemployment.

“We’ve agreed to work on those things and when we’ve completed the work we’ll tell you what the outcome is.”

This is providing some easy shots from the Opposition:

However, National’s leader Bill English has demanded the government release the agreement, saying it’s “ridiculous for the government to claim either it doesn’t exist or somehow it’s not official information”.

“I think it’s remarkable the prime minister has decided the public should not know about the detailed negotiations between Labour and NZ First because clearly the public agreement is not one they take seriously.

“It was going to be a billion trees, now it’s going to be half a billion trees, they were going to go into Pike River and now they might go into Pike River – we can go through the list of undertakings that they don’t appear to be able to keep,” English said.

This closely follows other examples of a far from open Government – see yesterday’s Government not walking the transparency talk.

Journalists tend to despise information being held from them. Claire Trevett: PM Jacinda Ardern’s hat trick on ‘secret’ document

What Ardern was trying to say was that the coalition agreement was not a full and final settlement – but could be added to. There was, it seemed, a long wish list by NZ First which Labour had not unequivocally said “no” to.

The public might be entitled to presume that what was in the coalition agreement was the cost of NZ First’s support for Labour.

We don’t need to wait for ‘in due course’ to see whether the Government was bullshitting us over promises of increased transparency, it is becoming obvious already they are no better than something that has deteriorated under the past two governments.

It now seemed that may have been only a down payment – but nobody will know what else might be extracted until it is done.

Ardern justified this by saying she did not believe it met the criteria of “official information” that merited release.

This hovered perilously close to former Prime Minister John Key refusing to release information by claiming it happened when he was acting as party leader or a normal human being rather than as Prime Minister.

Labour railed against Key and his many hats, yet here was Ardern merrily leaping to the hat rack herself.

Anyone thinking Ardern may herald a new era of openness should reconsider. She seems to be reverting to opaque and secretive and fobbing off type, like any politicians who think they can get away with it.

I think it’s quite damaging for Ardern’s credibility. She is accruing quite a negative record already.

Ardern’s first month

A month can be a long time in politics – it seems a long time ago that Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister, it was a month ago, and a lot longer since the election two months ago.

Claire Trevett has a detailed look at how Ardern has been going – One month in: How are Labour and Jacinda Ardern tracking?

Ardern was sworn in as Prime Minister on October 26, a few days after NZ First leader Winston ­Peters stood on a podium in the Beehive Theatrette and announced to the nation he had chosen change — he had picked ­Labour.

In that month, her travels have taken her from meeting US ­President Donald Trump in ­Vietnam to hugging Lorde at the NZ Music Awards.

She has been praised for delivering hope and drawn dire predictions of doomsday for the economy.

There have been brickbats and bouquets — and there will be plenty more with another 72 days to ­deliver her First 100 Days Plan.

There will always be those politics who don’t like the party in power and are brick headed, and there will always be devoted fans who only see flowers. And there will be many in between who recognise successes and criticise stuff ups.

In her first (so far only) speech in Parliament, Ardern promised “a new beginning”. Labour would be “the people’s Government”.

But the first day of Parliament was not quite the day of glory ­Ardern hoped for.

The National Party forced ­Labour into a backdown on the ­issue of places on select committees by threatening to stand a candidate against Trevor Mallard for Speaker.

There has been little time for Labour to assert themselves in Parliament, and less time for Ardern to establish her presence and set her mark.

Soon after Parliament opened, Ardern jetted off to Vietnam on the Air Force Boeing for the Apec ­Summit.

There was also the last flurry of negotiations around the TPP to contend with — and the risk New Zealand would scupper it by re-litigating to suit Labour’s demands.

In the end, Ardern showed that for all the talk of vision and ideals she, too, had a pragmatic streak for matters important to New Zealand.

She announced Labour would sign up for the TransPacific Partnership.

It was the first big shift in Labour’s position she had negotiated — and she copped criticism at home from those groups ­vehemently opposed to the agreement.

But Ardern pleased some of those who had been most sceptical about her leadership — the farmers and ­business.

There seems to be quite a way to go before the CPTPP gets over the line, if it ever does, but if it fails that’s likely to be because of other countries.

The first significant issue Ardern faced was not child poverty, dirty rivers or homelessness but rather New Zealand’s relationship with Australia and the fate of 600 asylum ­seekers and refugees on Manus Island.

That’s been difficult for her, and unsuccessful.

While Trump was this week pardoning a turkey in the White House, Ardern had returned to New ­Zealand to find she, too, had to ­pardon a few turkeys.

They included Stuart Nash, for his over-exuberance on the ­subject of an extra 1800 police and charging GST on international ­purchases and Kelvin Davis, who had ­struggled as her fill-in.

Davis got an immediate pardon — she declared his shortcomings were not so great and simply the result of “judginess” by ­commentators.

Other ministers hit the ground running, forging on with the 100 days pledges. Notable examples were her predecessor Andrew ­Little and David Parker.

As could be expected, a very mixed start from the new Ministers. Some immediately stepped up, while others have struggled with their new responsibilities.

Ardern’s first month has not all been plain sailing.

She campaigned on a promise of hope and change, but it did not take long before she came up against the struggle of adjusting the ­expectations she had seeded during the campaign to suit reality.

There was the newly named Comprehensive and Progressive TransPacific Partnership (CP TPP), which Labour had opposed, and the promise to re-enter the Pike ­River Mine — downgraded to a re-entry only if a further safety ­assessment deemed it safe.

There was dilution of policies such as abolishing national ­standards and repealing the ­Hobbit law — which has now become amending the Hobbit law.

There also emerged the first tricky head-to-head between NZ First and the Greens, in their ­dispute over the Waka Jumping Bill.

Nor did Ardern manage to stick to her vow to be relentlessly ­positive.

She looked very tired at the end of her international trip. It was a very demanding beginning for her. The demands, and difficulties with being positive, will continue.

Commentators who dared ­criticise her and journalists who interviewed her too aggressively were roundly abused on Twitter.

That’s the nature of social media and politics, unfortunately. Some react to criticism, or often only their own over sensitive perception of criticism, with abuse of the messenger. Sometimes this is trying to deliberately divert from the message.

When it comes to those whose opinions count the most — the ­voters — there is no sign that Ardern is not enjoying a happy ­honeymoon.

Both fan reactions and the polls show that Ardern is a star attraction, both as a celebrity and as a politician.

A month is a long time for a new Prime Minister, but three years is a huge challenge.

Not mentioned by Trevett are a number of shifts in policy position as the reality of what can be done takes over from what can be glibly promised in a campaign. This could reflect a settling in period that once done diminishes in importance, or it could be the start of an accumulation of disappointments.

I guess Ardern generally gets a pass mark albeit with a few blemishes on her early record.

The next couple of months will be substantially distracted by Christmas and the holiday period.

However Ardern and her Government will need to keep busy so they hit the ground running a credible and coherent strategy in late January.