WATCH: Jacinda Ardern refuses to answer questions about potential coalition partners

The AM Show 27/07/2020

By Newshub's Dan Satherley

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is refusing to say whether she'd prefer to team up with NZ First or the Greens, should Labour only need one minor partner to form the next Government.

Based on the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll, she wouldn't need either. Labour topped 60 percent for the first time in Sunday's poll, conducted during the first week of Judith Collins' rein as National Party leader. That would give them 77 MPs - an enormous majority by MMP standards. 

The Greens - currently a confidence and supply partner outside of Cabinet - remain a borderline prospect for getting back into Parliament, polling 5.7 percent; and NZ First - Labour's coalition partner with ministers inside Cabinet - are looking gone, on only 2 percent. 

NZ First and the Greens don't get along very well - the former's conservative views and anti-immigration rhetoric annoy the latter, and NZ First has acted as a "handbrake" on legislation it sees as too liberal or progressive.

Asked on The AM Show which she'd prefer to work with after the election, Ardern refused to offer any opinion whatsoever.

"I'd like to think we've demonstrated we could work with both. Obviously they've had different roles in the Government - NZ First have been in Cabinet, the Green Party have had ministerial posts but they've been a confidence and supply partner outside of Cabinet. 

"I've worked with both parties, and I'd like to think we've worked with both parties well. None of the decisions we've made, could we have made without getting consensus from all three. 

"That does take time, it takes energy, effort, it takes a lot of relationship management. But again, I think I've built up pretty constructive relationships on both sides." 

Green Party co-leader James Shaw at the weekend said having NZ First back in Government was a "risk that I don't think is worth taking", while NZ First leader Peters said having the Greens team up with Labour without them would be a "nightmare". 

"It's election year - I'm not going to be stuck in the middle of those debates," said Ardern, who became Prime Minister when Peters chose to side with Labour and the Greens after the 2017 election, despite National getting more votes. 

Asked by The AM Show host Duncan Garner who was easier to work with, Ardern also refused to answer.

"I want to be respectful of the relationships that I have with party leaders... Regardless, I've made it work."

She also refused to say whether Labour would govern alone, given the chance.

"It's just not something I think it would be wise for any party to ever bank on. This is MMP, and we have had consistent results on election day that produce MMP Governments. 

"As I say, I'm not complacent - I think complacency would be sitting there and planning that kind of income, and that's not where my head is at... [Single-party Government] isn't what New Zealanders have produced in the past. Only time will tell if that's what they produce in the future, and I'll consider it then. But sitting there contemplating that would mean that I wouldn't be focused on earning that mandate." 

Prior to MMP, single-party Government was the norm. More than once it was formed by a party that didn't even receive the most votes, contributing to New Zealand's decision to move to a more proportional system in the 1990s.