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Coalition discussions heat up

Published: 6:57AM Wednesday August 31, 2005 Source: RNZ/TVNZ Interactive

With a little over two weeks to go before the general election the discussion around possible coalition partners is heating up.

An Auckland business group is hoping for a New Zealand First-National coalition after the election, despite differences between the two parties over tax policy.

New Zealand First has attacked National over both its tax cut policy and its ties to the Business Roundtable.

"National has no costings on it's health, it has no police and transport policies yet will be borrowing to pay for tax cuts. That's total nuts," New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said.

National's leader Don Brash dismissed Peters' attack saying New Zealand First remains one of the three parties, with the others being Act and United Future, they would consider going into coalition with.

However, Brash did declare his tax cuts non-negotiable as part of any deal.

Peters said on Tuesday that New Zealand First is still costing National's tax tax cut plan and the party may not support it. On Wednesday he said he's prepared to be optimistic about getting an answer from the National Party on how it can afford its tax package.

He says he has a problem with National's tax strategy because the cuts it proposes are so huge and says it is legitimate to ask how National's plan can be affordable at the same time the party is making promises to improve services in health and education.

But the Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association says despite criticisms over tax, New Zealand First is pro-business.

It says a New Zealand First-National coalition would be preferable to a Labour-Green one, which it describes as frightening for business.

But the Council of Trade Unions has hit back at claims a Labour-Green coalition would be bad for business.

CTU president Ross Wilson says a Labour-Green coalition would be good for workers.

He says the CTU has worked with the Greens over the past six years and Labour has governed effectively with their help in the last three years.

Labour seized on the New Zealand First attack on National to portray itself as the party in the best position to form a government.

Labour is citing Peters' move as evidence that National is short of willing coalition partners and would struggle to form a government.

Political experts say Peters' claims overshadowed a National Party attack on the implications for New Zealand if a Labour-Green coalition government came to power.

Brash told a Tauranga audience if a Labour-Green government came to power, it would lead the country further down the path of racial separatism.

He also said he's heard rumours the Greens would want to have the transport and energy portfolios.

Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons called Brash's attack the sincerest form of flattery.

Fitzsimons said the comments show National is gravely concerned about the success Labour and the Greens are having working together.