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Clark: speech notes and Coalition Agreement


Over the past sixteen months Labour and the Alliance have worked to develop understandings on how a coalition government formed between us would work.

On 27 November New Zealanders voted in sufficient numbers for such a government to be established.

The following day the Labour and Alliance leaders met to confirm the understandings previously reached.

Two further meetings last week were held to finalise the wording of the document being released today.

The document is simple and to the point.

It was not our desire to negotiate a detailed policy manifesto for the new government of the kind New Zealand First insisted on after the last election. Inevitably such a document is a compromise with which neither side is entirely happy.

Rather, the approach our two parties have taken is to acknowledge that we contested the election on policies which differed in some respects and that the form of our coalition will need to accommodate policy differences which are both well signalled and considered.

When Jim Anderton and I spoke publicly last year about our desire to work together to form a new government, we emphasised the great importance of offering a stable government in contrast to the shambles of the National minority government.

This agreement is designed to guarantee that stability, while accommodating difference in an open and transparent way.

The agreement firstly sets out the core objectives of the new government.

• It will work to reduce inequality, to improve the social and economic wellbeing of all New Zealanders, and it will promote environmentally sustainable policies

• The new government will work to restore public confidence in the integrity of Parliament and the electoral process

• We will work to provide stable and effective government without either party losing its distinctive political identity

• We will strive at all times to act in good faith between the two parties

It is our desire to see Cabinet continue to reach agreement by consensus.

In the event that either party leader considers that a distinctive policy matter raises an issue of importance to the party’s political identity, that leader will raise the issue with the coalition management committee which will resolve an appropriate course of action.

The matter could, for example, be identified formally as one of “party distinction”.

In that event, there may be public differentiation between the parties in speech and vote. That will not be regarded as being in breach of the convention of Cabinet collective responsibility.

The new government will review the Cabinet Office Manual within the next six months to bring its guidelines into line with the procedures outlined in this agreement.

A careful reading of the existing rule on collective responsibility makes it clear to me that it is not designed to accommodate the policy differences which are inevitable in coalition governments.

We prefer to have those differences out in the open and well signalled and understood where they arise. Their existence will not in any way undermine our determination to work together to bring a fresh direction to governing New Zealand based on the principles of fairness, opportunity, and security.

The identification of issues as ones of “party distinction” is not expected to be frequent nor to be a surprise when it occurs.

Jim Anderton and I will be keeping in very close contact, as will all Labour and Alliance ministers.

There will be a standing coalition management committee, to be convened as required. The two leaders, their deputies, and the two senior whips will attend. Each leader may also nominate a member of the party outside Parliament to attend.

As has already been announced, there will be twenty ministers: sixteen from Labour and four from the Alliance. The number of ministerial or under-secretary positions outside Cabinet will be agreed between the leaders.

The policy of the government will be determined between the parties on an ongoing basis through the normal processes of government policy development.

That will be assisted by the fact that the fundamental policy direction of the two parties is in many areas very similar. For the most part those differences which do exist relate to the pace at which investments in economic and social development can be made. These issues will be addressed in the budgetary cycle.

The Speech from the Throne to be read by the Governor-General at the state opening of Parliament will set out the direction of the government for the next three years and will elaborate on the many actions to which the new government is committed.

MMP got off to a very bad start three years ago.

This coalition agreement is designed to make the new system work. It is a pioneering document and it requires new ways of working. Of course we are bound to make some mistakes along the way. But each side is committed to providing the stable government necessary for building a better life for the ordinary hard working people and their families who make up this country. We are here to make a difference for the better – and we will.

Coalition Agreement between the Labour and Alliance Parties

The Labour and Alliance parties will form a coalition government with the following objectives:

1. to implement a policy platform which reduces inequality, is environmentally sustainable, and improves the social and economic wellbeing of all New Zealanders,

2. to restore public confidence in the political integrity of Parliament and the electoral process,

3. to provide stable and effective long term government for New Zealand without losing the distinctive political identity of either party, and

4. to act in good faith between the coalition partners.

Processes for coalition management

So far as possible the achievement of the above objectives will be driven by consensus management and the avoidance of surprises.

The coalition government will operate within the convention of collective cabinet responsibility, subject to the provisions of this agreement, and the expectation is that cabinet decisions will be taken by consensus.

There will be a standing coalition management committee comprising the two leaders, their deputies and the two senior whips. Meetings of the committee will be chaired by the Prime Minister. Each party leader may nominate a member of the party outside parliament to attend meetings as required.

The tasks of the management committee will include dispute resolution and strategic political management of the coalition.

Where either party leader considers that a distinctive policy matter raises an issue of importance to the party’s political identity, the leader will raise this with the coalition management committee which will resolve an appropriate course of action, including possibly identifying the matter as one of “party distinction”. In this event there may be public differentiation between the parties in speech and vote which will not be regarded as being in breach of the convention. Such issues are expected to be infrequent and the parties recognise that dealing with them openly and responsibly is critical to the credibility of the coalition. Differentiation on such issues will not detract from the overall acceptance that the two parties are taking joint responsibility for the actions of the government.

The cabinet office manual will be reviewed within the first six months of office to ensure that its procedures effectively facilitate the management of the coalition government.

Policy formation

The parties accept that the executive is responsible to the people through Parliament, and this requires a government policy programme which appropriately balances the electoral platforms of the two parties within overall government policy.

The policy of the government will be determined between the parties on an ongoing basis through the normal processes of government policy development. The key directions for the first term of the coalition will be outlined in the speech from the throne at the opening of Parliament.


The Government will be formed with 20 Ministers inside cabinet of which 16 will be from the Labour party and 4 from the Alliance. The number of ministerial or undersecretary positions outside cabinet will be agreed between the party leaders.

Agreed between the coalition parties on 6 December 1999

Rt Hon Helen Clark Jim Anderton
For the Labour Party For the Alliance

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