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National and Maori Party back in business together

Published: 6:57AM Sunday December 11, 2011 Source: ONE News

The last piece of the Government jigsaw is now in place with National signing a deal with the Maori Party this afternoon.

Prime Minister-elect John Key has announced a confidence and supply agreement with the Maori Party, saying the agreement helps ensure a strong, stable National-led Government over the next three years.

But the Maori Party will not have to support legislation to carry out National's policies such as asset sales. Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said they fought to ensure that partial asset sales did not become part of confidence and supply.

"On everything else besides confidence and supply, the Maori Party will decide support or not on a case-by-case basis," Key said.

National, with the support of Act and United Future, has 61 of the 121 votes in Parliament and Key said while they would still have had the numbers to govern "one can sometimes be a little bit tight for comfort".

Sharples retains the Maori Affairs portfolio and will be Associate Minister of Education and Associate Minister of Corrections.

Co-leader Tariana Turia will be Minister responsible for Whanau Ora, Minister for Disability Issues, Associate Minister of Health and Associate Minister of Housing.

Turia will also continue to have Associate Ministerial responsibilities in Social Development and Employment.

Key said lifting Maori achievement is the major aim of the agreement, which is focused on results and outcomes and "builds on the success of the relationship between the two parties in the previous three years in government".

Turia says the party is pleased to have secured a commitment to extend the reach, coverage and capability of Whanau Ora.

And she said they welcome the Government's agreement to establish a Ministerial Committee on Poverty.

"The initiatives in environment, housing, employment and training and education are significant gains in helping to alleviate poverty."

Sharples said care of the environment was also uppermost in the party's mind.

"We are pleased to have achieved a heightened focus on water quality, engagement with iwi, hapu and whanau over mining, on land and at sea; and the new investment in enviro-schools and kura taiao".

Both leaders say an important aspect of the Relationship Accord is that it retains their capacity to uphold a strong and independent Maori voice through the 'agree to disagree' provisions.

View the full confidence and supply document

Done deal

Key had already officially announced the National Party was in a position to form a government, along with United Future and Act. He had already advised the Governor General and his staff.

The Maori Party has spent the past week in hui, asking supporters how they would like to be represented in the next Government.

Party officials said this week the options on the table ranged from a confidence and supply agreement, similar to the arrangement the Maori Party had with the last Government, to standing in opposition to National.

"They are in the nice position where we don't need them to command a majority in the House, so it takes some pressure off them and I'll be absolutely stunned if they don't do a deal with us," Key said earlier in the week.

The National leader said he understood the reaction at party meetings this week has been positive, with Maori acknowledging the party is getting real gains from being in coalition.

He said he couldn't see the sense of the party joining what he described as a very crowded opposition.

The deal increases National's current coalition majority from 61 to 64 out of 121 seats, but Key said even without the Maori Party seats he would have enough support to get on with the proposed sale of state-owned assets.

Key's Cabinet will be named tomorrow and its members will be sworn in on Wednesday.