Jacinda Ardern admits her 'significantly sized team' will have to familiarise with 'very different workplace'

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has admitted her "significantly sized team" will have to familiarise with a "very different workplace" as 22 new Labour MPs attended their first caucus meeting. 

The Prime Minister-elect said there is "no doubt this is a very significantly sized team", but she said they bring "huge talent" and "real diversity" to Labour's caucus, including the party's first refugee MP Ibrahim Omer. 

"This can be a very different workplace to be in so I'm confident we've got the best measures we've ever had to look after team members and to make sure we make the most of them," Ardern told reporters on Tuesday. 

"We are now going to have a range of new ideas, different talents [and] different backgrounds. Our job is to make the most of that; make sure people can have their voice heard but also demonstrate the same unity that Labour has had over the last three years, for the next three years."

Ardern will be juggling the largest caucus in the history of New Zealand's Parliament, including a bunch of new provincial Labour MPs who flipped blue seats red on Saturday. 

"They have been elected at a time when we've been working through some significant issues, particularly around the environment," Ardern said. "I think it's an endorsement of the fact that we have in the last term worked alongside those interest areas in the primary sector, and I intend to do that."

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern speaking to press ahead of her caucus meeting in Parliament.
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern speaking to press ahead of her caucus meeting in Parliament. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

Labour's 22 new MPs were welcomed to Parliament on Monday with hugs from Grant Robertson but also a warning from Andrew Little that Parliament can be "a pretty intimidating place" to work.

Labour had an historic win on Saturday gaining 64 seats up from 46 after the 2017 election. With 64 seats, Labour can govern alone, but Ardern said she has met with the Greens  who got 10 seats  to discuss how they could work together. 

"Yesterday I had a very preliminary conversation with the co-leaders of the Green Party. That was really just a chance to catch up post-election, not formal discussions, just talking about what timelines we might work to in the coming days," she said. 

"My very clear expectation is that we will conclude those conversations around potential areas of cooperation next week sometime and that we would look to announce an outcome of those discussions around that timeframe as well."

There were cheers coming from Labour's caucus room as Ardern entered, and National's former leader Simon Bridges said he could hear it echoing through Parliament. 

"From my corner ground floor office in Parliament there are very loud congratulatory noises coming from the Labour Party caucus room above," he said on Twitter. "Anyone would think they had things to celebrate or something."

Ardern said her expectation is to announce ministerial allocations and then move to the more formal formation of swearing in the Government. 

"It's very clear obviously to New Zealand and to us we do have a very clear mandate. But as I've said before, I'm interested in areas of cooperation where we can use the strengths that exist in their team for the benefit of the Government and all New Zealand."

Ardern was asked to comment on speculation that some voters strategically went with Labour to stop the Greens from coming into Government. 

"There's a range of reasons why people would have chosen to vote for Labour this election. I maintain exactly what I said on election night - we will be a Government that governs for all of New Zealand and we will make sure that we're very mindful that many people voted us in to make sure that we roll out that plan around COVID recovery and we're very focussed on that."

On portfolio allocations, Ardern said: "My intention is that every single one of our members of Parliament, the ones newly-elected and those existing members, I will be having conversations with over the coming two weeks."

She said she will be "hearing what their areas of interest are, the way we can utilise their strengths. We have some exceptional new talent that have come into the caucus and I want to make sure we're making the most of it". 

Ardern would not confirm if Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis will become Deputy Prime Minister, now that NZ First leader Winston Peters is no longer in Parliament. But she did confirm there are no plans to replace Davis as the party's deputy. 

"When it comes to the deputy leadership within the Labour Party, I have no intent of changing that. However, keep in mind all of the roll allocation I will work through over the next two weeks and those do go to a vote with our caucus."