What the presence of Tabuteau at the talks tells us
By Richard Harman (author)
NZ First yesterday brought their Rotorua MP, Fletcher Tabuteau into their negotiating team for talks with National and Labour – a clear indication that the Reserve Bank Act and possibly also the TPP was on the table.
Tabuteau, a former economics lecturer, has pushed the party’s campaign to have the objectives of the bank broadened so that there would be more downwards pressure on the exchange rate to assist economic growth in the regions.
In one of his “Regions Tour” speeches this year Winston Peters said that under NZ First the dollar would be much lower than it is now, “and if it were to fall 50 per cent, you'd be better by 10 to 15 per cent overnight."
And Tabuteau has also been a persistent critic of the TPP arguing that it is an “unmitigated disaster” for 99% of New Zealand businesses.
He particularly singles out the Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions for criticism.
Both of these arguments will be relatively easy for Labour to accept, given that they want to broaden the Reserve Bank act themselves and that they oppose the TPP. National might be able to accept some review of the Bank but withdrawing from the TPP would be a step too far.
Peters confirmed that foreign ownership was talked about yesterday.
Speaking of Hamilton, on his regions tour in July he said: "This election is your last chance to have a decision on who owns your country."
Peters said he would change Overseas Investment Office rules regarding foreign investment if elected to power and put a stop to overseas investment in New Zealand real estate.
"Last year, 465,000 hectares of land was sold to foreigners. That's up four times from the year before," he said.
"We, in New Zealand First, are going to stop land sales to foreigners, and house sales to foreigners, who don't come to live here."
In many ways, along with the immigration policy, the Reserve Bank and foreign investment policies are what NZ First is all about.
It is clear this time round that Peters is fighting for policy and these policies would be his bottom lines.
In the past, during his negotiations, he has used close confidantes to leak progress on the talks to test potential reaction.
In 1996, for example, the broadcaster Derek Fox got an early indication that Peters preferred to go with National which he leaked to TVNZ.
There was little reaction, and that was the decision NZ First finally ended up making.
That is not happening this time which suggests that he is playing a different game; that he is serious about his policies and that his final decision will be policy based which makes those bottom lines critical.