Christopher Luxon may not be able to keep Finance Minister promise, David Seymour says

ACT's David Seymour says Christopher Luxon may not be able to keep his "promise" that Nicola Willis will be the Finance Minister in a future National-led Government as Kiwis may want him in that role instead.

ACT's alternative Budget, released on Monday, has sparked a conversation about what policies the National Party could support in any future governing arrangement. For National to take the Treasury benches again, it's highly likely it will need ACT's seats for support. 

But Luxon, the National leader, has resisted getting into what ACT policies his party could support, saying any discussion about governing arrangements is too far off at the moment. He has repeated National's current position on the likes of increasing the superannuation age and the tax system.

However, when asked by media on Tuesday, Luxon did say Willis, his deputy leader and finance spokesperson, would be the Finance Minister in any future National Government he ran. 

Initially, Luxon simply said Willis would be an "outstanding Finance Minister of New Zealand". But when pushed on the matter, he confirmed "Nicola Willis will be our Finance Minister". 

"I am making a concrete promise. I am having Nicola Willis as our Finance Minister. There is no doubt about that. That is very clear to me," Luxon said.

"But I am telling you, you want to have conversations about election issues now. We are not having those conversations now 18 months out from an election. We have got a lot of work to do to make our case to the New Zealand people, to present our ideas and policies to them. That is what we are working hard to do."

Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis.
Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis. Photo credit: Newshub.

Seymour on Tuesday afternoon said the question of who would be Finance Minister after next year's election was still a "hypothetical".

"What I would say to Chris Luxon is, let's talk about the policies first and then worry about divvying up the baubles. He might find, actually, depending on what the people of New Zealand decide, that David Seymour is the Finance Minister that people want."

He said Luxon had made a "promise that he can't actually keep because he doesn't actually know what the election results are".

Luxon wouldn't elaborate on his comments when asked again on Tuesday afternoon.

"I have been really clear this morning. Nicola Willis will be an outstanding Minister of Finance in a National-led Government. Any conversations about the election and what happens at that point around coalition arrangements, it is way too premature to be discussing it." 

The Finance Minister is traditionally of the same party as the Prime Minister, while the deputy Prime Minister role has sometimes gone to support partner's leaders in the past. For example, when Winston Peters was deputy Prime Minister in the first term of the current Labour Government. 

Grant Robertson, who is both the current deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, was asked on Tuesday whether he could ever see a situation where the finance role was taken away from Labour and given to a support party.

"No. I think we were pretty clear when we went into the 2017 arrangement that the major party would hold the finance portfolio. However, every party, when they put together a coalition, has to be aware of what other parties are promising. That is the issue for the National Party, what of ACT's plan they would take on board."

There's currently no certainty that National and ACT will even be able to form a Government after the next election. 

The latest Newshub Reid Research showed the two right-wing parties could reach 59 seats between them, two down on the 61 needed to form a Government. Meanwhile, Labour and the Greens could get to 58. That puts the Māori Party in the kingmaker role - but they won't work with ACT.