Hive News Thursday: English eyes migration settings before Sept 23 election; MFAT reviewing strategy

Prime Minister Bill English in the Beehive Theatrette, announcing the date of the general election. Copyright Lynn Grieveson / Hive News

Circle it in your calendar. Bill English confirmed September 23 as the election date yesterday and set his guidelines for who National might or might not team up with in Government, and which policies were potentially up for negotiation.

English told a news conference in the Beehive Theatrette that National would not form a coalition with the Labour-Green alliance, but was open to discussions with New Zealand First, and would not rule out changing migration settings to ensure a deal with New Zealand First. He reiterated National would be happy to repeat its supply and confidence agreements of the last three terms with United Future, Maori and ACT. See more details in his announcement here.

English also confirmed in the wake of yesterday's jobs data that the Government was considering changes to the migration settings, confirming suggestions by Michael Woodhouse last year that temporary work visas and the work testing regime would be reviewed.

The focus on migration intensified after yesterday's jobs figures showed youth unemployment in particular rose sharply in the last year, despite very strong jobs growth, in part due to record-high net migration, including those on work visas.

Wage inflation also hit a six-year low, raising questions again about whether large numbers of low-skilled migrants were pressing down on wages. English said it was arguable that low skilled migrants were pressing down on wages and substituting for low-skilled or unemployed locals, but he said the migration settings were being reviewed.

Elsewhere, English also confirmed that MFAT was reviewing its strategy in the wake of the Trump election and criticism (by Murray McCully) of MFAT's readiness for Trump. The Government was embarrassed by the uncertainty around whether New Zealand dual citizens were caught up in Trump's travel bans.

English will give his first set-piece speech as Prime Minister in Auckland later today and said yesterday he would spend some time talking about his own background and philosophy. He took a swipe at the Labour-Green alliance, saying the speech would talk about policy, rather than the "vibe."

In other economic and financial news...

Nick Smith and Steven Joyce formally called for detailed proposals from Councils for the Government's Housing Infrastructure Fund, saying they had already received indicative proposals for NZ$1.79 billion worth of infrastructure.

Steven Joyce confirmed to reporters yesterday that Graeme Wheeler was expected to make an announcement on his future shortly. He is widely expected not to apply for a second term when his current five year term expires in September.

Have a great day