Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8: Eagleson goes; Labour and National set up negotiating teams

Wayne Eagleson. Photo: Getty Images

In today's email we check out the latest on the post-election machinations and negotiations.

1. Eagleson goes

Wayne Eagleson, the long-serving chief of staff to John Key and (since December) Bill English, will resign after the formation of a Government.

The Prime Minister's office confirmed the resignation yesterday.

He will stay in the position for the next few weeks, allowing him to be on the fringes of coalition negotiations with Winston Peters.

Eagleson holds huge power in Government and became an integral part of John Key's term as Prime Minister. He had considered resigning when Key resigned, but stayed on after a request from English.

Former National leader Don Brash first hired Eagleson and the close relationship he later formed with Key was compared to that shared between Helen Clark and her chief of staff Heather Simpson.

Before taking on the role Eagleson was a former researcher and private secretary to Jim Bolger and worked for companies including DB Breweries and grid operator Transpower.

2. Negotiation teams assembling

Labour and National are assembling their negotiating teams and preparing their positions ahead of substantive talks with Winston Peters and New Zealand First once the special votes are counted and the results declared on October 7.

Neither Jacinda Ardern or English have spoken to Peters yet, but chiefs of staff have been in touch.

Ardern said yesterday, when introducing her new MPs in Parliament, that she would be building a small negotiating team over the coming days.

"My intention is to try and make sure we are absolutely prepared so we will be using the next two days in particular to set the groundwork for our negotiating teams, set the groundwork around policy, and from there be ready for talks to take place," she said.

David Parker and Grant Robertson are expected to be key players in her team, with Parker's views on the Reserve Bank and economic development seen as particularly sympatico with Peters. There are suggestions Sir Michael Cullen and Annette King will act as advisers, given their experience with previous negotiations with Peters in 2005.

There is speculation Steven Joyce may not take such an active role in English's team, given Peters blames Joyce and National for leaking details about his New Zealand Superannuation to the media. That has never been proved and Joyce has denied it. Paula Bennett, who was also told of Peters' superannuation details and has denied leaking them, is also seen as on the outer.

Todd McClay is thought to be likely to be in English's team, given his father Roger was a former close colleague of Peters in both the National Party and in New Zealand First as an adviser.

3. Three way discussions?

One topic of discussion is whether the Greens would be formally involved in any discussions on the Labour side of the bargaining.

Ardern told Susie Ferguson on RNZ's Morning Report this morning that "it may not need to" become a three way discussion and she said she would "seek guidance on what other party leaders would like to do."

Peters did not want the Greens involved when he negotiated his 2005 arrangement with Labour.

Ardern also indicated yesterday that one-on-one meetings were most likely.

"My expectation is we'll have a team that will speak one-on-one as a team to team, and that's how things have been conducted in the past," she said.

4. 'That wasn't very smart'

The early positioning hasn't gone well for National.

Bill English told Guyon Espiner on Morning Report yesterday that Peters had always performed a "maverick role" in Parliament.

"That's always been a bit of his brand," English said.

Peters didn't take kindly to the assessment in an interview with TVNZ broadcast last night.

"That wasn't a very smart thing to say," he said from Auckland, where he was reported to be meeting colleagues.

Peters played his cards close to his chest in yesterday's only comments, suggesting he could go either way and was not driven by historic events or personality clashes.

"The problem with politics is you have to deal with reality," he said.

"Though some things may be total anathema to you in terms of history, you've got to do what the country needs you to do."

Peters was also in no hurry to begin face-to-face negotiations, given the special votes have yet to be counted. He said he expected only preliminary discussions in the coming days.

"What we'll be saying is possibly we need to get some preliminary things out of the way with both sides, I'd imagine," he said.

5. The polls were right

Newsroom Co-Editor Mark Jennings has written a piece over at Newsroom about the accuracy of the polls and finds TV3's Reid Research was the winner on the night.

TV3 copped it after the 2014 election when it had one of the least accurate final polls, Mark reports.

The winner in 2014 was the rival 1 News Colmar Brunton poll. This time, Colmar was off the pace and in sporting terms “had a shocker” with its second-to-last poll before the election.

The Colmar poll had Labour on 43 percent and National on 41.

At the time, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern commented that she was “surprised”, a clear indication that it didn’t match the party’s internal polling.

Former pollster, Dr Andrew Robertson, says the poll was almost definitely a rogue result.

“Looking back at it, I suspect the Colmar Brunton poll was an outlier, it is what happens when you are dealing with statistics – it is the random nature of sampling. It was bad luck for Colmar and 1 News that it happened so close to the election.”

However, the strong criticism international polling companies got after failing to pick up trends in the US and British elections is unlikely to be echoed here.

According to Robertson there is no “polling crisis” in New Zealand and “the established polls have done well, once again”

Here's Mark's full piece in Newsroom.

6. While you were sleeping

Tensions escalated in North Asia overnight as North Korea's Foreign Minister said Donald Trump's comments were an effective "declaration of war" and the communist regime had the right to shoot down American planes even if they weren't in North Korean airspace. (NYT)

The devastation of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria may yet turn into Donald Trump's 'Katrina moment.' That was the moment when George W Bush failed to provide the empathy and support for victims in New Orleans as he flew over in a helicopter, and effectively lost the support of the nation. Trump has yet to even mention that 3.4 million Puerto Rican Americans are living without power on a devastated island. But he tweeted 10 times about black athletes 'taking the knee' during NFL games. (WaPo)

Fonterra has confirmed it had launched a takeover bid for Australia's Murray Goulburn dairy cooperative. It may pay towards the bottom end of a A$1-2 billion range. (The Australian - paywalled)

7. Coming up...

National will hold its first caucus meeting at Parliament after the election later this morning.

Labour is also expected to hold a leadership meeting in Wellington later today.

The 32 new MPs coming into Parliament begin their induction courses this afternoon.

Later in the week, the Reserve Bank is scheduled to make its first interest rate decision under new interim Governor Grant Spencer. It will be announced on Thursday morning at 9 am. Economists expect no change in the Official Cash Rate from its current 1.75 percent, with little prospect in a change of rhetoric around flat interest rates well into next year.

The Newsroom Pro team are back in Wellington today after being in Auckland for the election result and its aftermath since Friday. We're thrilled to be back for Wellington's weather...

8. One fun thing

Rod Emmerson's cartoon of the seedier side of MMP is worth a click.