New Zealand minister switches sides before election
A minister in New Zealand's Labour-led coalition government announced on Sunday that he is switching sides and will only serve in a conservative administration after next month's general election.
Peter Dunne, minister of revenue and leader of the United Future party, said he would only support a government formed by the opposition National Party if it wins the election on November 8.
Dunne, who has supported Prime Minister Helen Clark's Labour-led government for the last six years, said, "We have looked at the policies the two major parties are offering the country and it is our view that the National Party's proposals more closely align with United Future's policies at this critical time, dpa reported.
"It is also our view that New Zealand is looking for a change in direction and United Future wants to be a part of, and make a constructive contribution to, that change," Dunne, who had only one other member in the last parliament, said.
Dunne's party has not been formally part of Labour's minority coalition government but agreed to support it on critical votes to ensure stability and he served as a minister outside the cabinet.
He rejected a call by Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton, whose Progressive Party is part of the coalition, to resign his post before the election.
"He doesn't have to constitutionally, but sticking with this government until the election, and then saying he wants to change horses makes it look like Mr Dunne is saying he doesn't care who the government is, as long as there's a place for him," Anderton said
National Party leader John Key said he would also welcome the free market ACT party as a coalition partner.
He has ruled out working with the New Zealand First party, led by Winston Peters, who was foreign minister in Clark's government until he stepped down recently over investigations into secret political donations. Although the Nationals are well ahead of Labour in opinion polls, the gap is narrowing, according to the latest survey released on Sunday, which showed that the conservatives would not be able to govern alone and would need coalition partners.
The TV One poll showed the Nationals supported by 47 per cent of decided voters against 35 per cent for Labour, but this would give them only 59 members in the parliament of at least 120 seats.
Labour would have 44 seats but support for the Greens, who have ruled out working with the Nationals, is growing and they would have 10 members, potentially leaving the shape of the next government to be decided by the indigenous Maori Party who could win seven seats and hold the balance of power.
The TV One poll of 1,000 voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 per cent.