Simon Bridges open to New Zealand First alliance despite call to resign

National leader Simon Bridges isn't ruling out an alliance with New Zealand First, despite leader Winston Peters calling for his resignation. 

Bridges said Peters - who formed the current Government through a coalition agreement with Labour in 2017, with support from the Greens - has "always viewed politics as a sport". 

"That's actually my criticism of him, fundamentally. It's more fun and games than reality for what New Zealanders need," Bridges told Magic Talk on Monday. 

"As a great contrarian for what Winston is, you and I just cannot predict what he may or may not do. If he is still in a position of being kingmaker at the next election, let's see what happens."

Peters has worked with National before, forming a coalition with the party in 1996, when he first held the position of Deputy Prime Minister under former leader Jim Bolger. 

Winston Peters in 1997 when he was Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer.
Winston Peters in 1997 when he was Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer. Photo credit: Getty

Bridges brushed off criticism from Peters on Sunday, who called for his resignation over wanting to withdraw New Zealand's support for the United Nations (UN) Global Migration Compact.  

The international agreement's aim is to coordinate migration policy worldwide, but it's non-binding and has no effect in law. Peters, as Foreign Minister, signed New Zealand up in December, along with 164 other countries.

Peters told Newshub far-right groups believe the UN pact is binding, and suggested the National Party provoked anti-immigrant rhetoric by promising to withdraw New Zealand from the pact if elected in 2020. 

National's opposition to the pact came back to haunt Bridges after the March 15 Christchurch terror attack. In the hours that followed, a petition against the pact was removed from the party's website.

But Bridges maintains that National is not anti-immigration, and that he simply wants New Zealand to decide its own migration laws, not the UN. 

Simon Bridges won't rule out forming an alliance with New Zealand First.
Simon Bridges won't rule out forming an alliance with New Zealand First. Photo credit: Getty

"I don't take this stuff personally, and I know [Peters] actually doesn't," Bridges told Magic Talk. "I come back to this: I am pro-immigration, but let it be set in New Zealand, not by the UN."

Bridges said he was surprised by Peters' stance on the pact. He said he thought Peters "would actually agree with - but clearly doesn't - that New Zealand should decide its immigration policies". 

"What you've got with the Government under Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters is they seem to want to impress the UN more than they want to impress New Zealanders."

Bridges questioned whether the UN pact is non-binding: "Even if it is non-binding, the reality of these things is they always over time become part of what you have to do, and the pressure accumulates."

The National Party isn't alone in its rejection of the pact, he added, pointing to the governments of Australia and the United States who haven't signed up. 

"There is nothing far-right about [Australia's] government - they are a centre-right government, they agree with the National Party," Bridges said. 

"It's just a silly, wrong and extreme position from Winston Peters."