Winston Peters had a typically rambunctious interview with Patrick Gower on The Nation, but he did give some indications about NZ First bottom lines in any coalition negotiations.
- The Super eligibility age must be a bottom line.
- Peters suggested NZ First has strong asset buy backs, foreign property ownership and foreign fishing policies but there was sufficient vagueness to be uncertain what exactly would be bottom lines.
- Peters ruled out working with UnitedFuture or the Maori Party, the two other parties most likely to be in contention for coalition negotiations whether National or Labour form the next government.
- Peters continues to insist that John Key has lied about Kim Dotcom.
Right from the start of the interview Peters made a point about NZ First not being a one person party.
NZ First not a dictatorship
Winston: Well first of all, I’m grateful that you said New Zealand First and not, try to personalize it as everybody else has sort to do. We’re a democratic party and we make decisions as a caucus, and as a board and as party supporters.
And again soon afterwards.
If your party is having its 21st birthday, in July of this year, which means we haven’t been around because one guy’s been running the show by himself like a dictator. We consult, we ensure that everybody signed up, even to these sorts of arrangements and talks…
On buying back power companies
So that means buying Genesis back?
That’s right…at no greater price than they pay for it .
And so does that mean the other power companies as well?
It means exactly that, that’s what our position has been for some time.
So that’s a priority for you in any negotiations?
It is a priority and it also has the best things in terms of economic calculations from treasury. If what they said about selling off 49% is correct then it goes for the whole lot.
So in terms of walking away, we’re not even walking in until we get what we believe New Zealand economically and socially needs.
So that’s a deal breaker essentially if either side doesn’t want to buy back the assets yet?
Well if either side prefers to sell out New Zealand’s long term heritage, then they can line up and find their own support. But if they want to line up with the mass majority of New Zealanders as the latest polls says on this issue of asset sales, then they can perhaps line up with New Zealand First.
So that’s a deal breaker, buying back the assets is a deal breaker?
Hang on; I’m not going to be sitting here like some sort of uh, star chamber, federal case in the United States while you think you’re going to nail me down. I think you need to understand one thing about MMP. And it goes like this. Even the old system went like this. The voters vote first, and then they decide in what numbers that the parties and parliaments are comprising parliament. Then you know what you’re dealing with. Here we are six months out from election. We don’t know whether for example National is going to re-nuclearise New Zealand so to speak. Or whether Labour is going to come up with some policy…
So that seems to imply asset that power companies buybacks are a non-negotiable priority – but we won’t know what NZ First is dealing with until the voters have decided.
It sounds like definitely, maybe. I don’t know how NZ First will determine from the election vote what policies to make non-negotiable.
On raising the National Super eligibility age
Let me tell you what happened in 2011. We saw a Labour party come out and announce an increase in the retirement age, and putting GST on, and taking effect…not GST no…capital gains tax on, and it would take effect in 2017. As for the increase in age…2021. We said straight away then, we can’t go into any arrangement with these people and so we made a statement and said we’re going to the cross benches between 2011 and 2014. And we did.
And that would stand again if Labour tries to change the retirement age, you’d go to the cross benches again?
Look, I think they can be persuaded, if that was the issue, I think they can be persuaded that that fatally cost them the election. All the old people coming near 65 heard was, not 2021, they just heard the age is going up.
Raising the Super age would seem to be a deal breaker, and it would probably be a party breaker of NZ First changed their stance on this.
On foreign ownership
Let’s look at foreign ownership and the restrictions on essentially foreign buyers or non New Zealand citizens. You want an immediate ban on them buying residential property with either government?
Look, the non-New Zealand buyer, if that non-New Zealand buyer is buying into a new business here to create new exports and new work, or to move their family here and put their heart and soul for the rest of their lives into this country, then we don’t have a problem as we didn’t have with the labour…
No ban if there’s business involved or for genuine residency, but that may be difficult to determine in advance and difficult to police. What happens if a foreign buyer says they will live most of the time here but travel overseas a lot?
Yeah, I’m talking about residential property, do you want to an immediate ban on non-New Zealanders?
Well I’m not going to stand around while somebody from off shore with 77 homes, and has now become a major landlord in Auckland and filtering in, and gouging money out of our economy…
That’s a sort of a “no way”.
Who is this person?
Well it’ll come out in time, but we’re a long way from the election and some of the doubters in this country are going to get some facts in this campaign.
With a big “but”.
You want an immediate ban on foreign ownership of property?
Well first of all I want to know why we have not got in place a land and house register so that authorities and bureaucrats, know what they’re dealing with and what numbers they’re talking about, rather than if they go around likening anyone like me to being xenophobic.
A register that determines detailed numbers would take some time (far longer than a coalition negotiation period) so this would have to involve a commitment to set up a register. But it’s very vague about what would allow and what would rule out ownership.
Immediate ban’s your policy, so you’d want that in place. That would drive down property prices. Are you happy with that?
No, with the greatest respect it would not. What it would do, you would see at some ends of the market…
No challenge to “immediate ban’s your policy, so you’d want that in place” but it’s left unclear and vague.
On foreign involvement in fishing
The fishing industry, what do you want to do there? You know a lot about fishing…
Well our policy is for the New Zealandisation of the industry, just like Iceland, just like Norway, who understand something about this. It’s Norway’s number one income earner, its Iceland’s survival. Here’s my point; we want the New Zealandisation of the industry, so our fish is caught by New Zealand boats and New Zealand fishermen and is added value that is packaged here and sold here and sold offshore. I don’t see how we can get any advantage from foreign crews sending the raw product to China, and have it tinned back to our supermarkets.
So how do you enforce this? You ban foreign crews, you’d ban processing offshore?
Well I’m not saying banning processing offshore; they will not take it off shore. But we’ll give them an exit strategy and make sure they’re compensated – but we want this great resource, which is ours and we’re lucky people to have it, to be part of the growth and the employment and wealth creation of this country. For goodness sake, the Maori people have got a sizeable chunk, as you know, of the Maori fishing industry and who’s catching Maori entitlement or Maori quota fish? Foreigners are. Who’s working on…
So would you ban it? Would you ban foreigners if they were taking all the chunks?
Well I make it very clear that our policy was specified that those days will be over.
Very clear that it’s NZ First policy but not clear what they would actually insist on and no indication it would be a bottom line.
The first option for coalition negotiations – the party with the most seats
Okay so in terms of negotiations you’ve said it’s a constitutional convention – your words – to negotiate with the biggest party first. That’s right isn’t it?
Look, as I said – and it’s all on our website, been there for 20 years – that we will negotiate in the first instance with the party with the most votes. That is in the first instance. But if there is no possibility of a sound coalition from them, then you would talk to others.
So that negotiation, does that mean a phone call, the first phone call? Or do you actually enter negotiations in that scenario and start to look at what policy gains you can get?
Well I suppose if we’re talking about logistics then it probably starts with a phone call, because if nobody is phoning each other then there’s no conversation.
Yeah but after that do you negotiate with that biggest party first, do you sit down and talk with them?
Well I think you’d have a preliminary discussion about what do you think your priorities are and what do you think ours might be.
So you would sit down with John Key for instance first before you sat down with David Cunliffe?
Not necessarily would it be a leaders discussion, because frankly, I assume he hires key people with far more experience than him in this matter…like Wayne Eagleson for example. Helen Clark had…
So you’d prefer to sit down with the chief of staff before you had even talked to John Key?
No I didn’t say that, I said the chiefs of staff would go across and map out the talking grounds. And then you might have the discussion.
I think it’s standard for chiefs of staff to set the groundwork for negotiations, and Peters has had a lot of experience in this process, so nothing unusual about this.
How far down this path do you go before you go to the other side?
Well ideally you’d start with one and you’d ensure that the other one is not left out. Because frankly…
So you’re talking to both sides…
If you cannot get reconciliation over here then you need to have some chance of getting reconciliation over there. As distasteful as it is to you, and others, the public is demanding a stable Government, and that is the number one responsibility of anybody in politics.
That sounds very much like NZ First will negotiate with both sides (National and Labour) from early on.
Peters’ relationship with John Key
I want to turn now to John Key and what is essentially your weird relationship with him. You’ve called him arrogant, pretentious, a liar; you’ve said his Government was incompetent; you said he worked in Merrill Lynch, which you called corrupt. You really don’t like him. Now, how on earth are you going to work with this guy, and will you make John Key Prime minister?
I’ve heard you burbling away on TV every night describing this relationship as toxic. You know nothing about it. Now cut it out. I happen to see John Key at the races, I said gidday to him, I see him around the place we say hello. I walked into a coffee bar and shook his hand.
That doesn’t sound like a close relationship, far from it. And it doesn’t give any indication of respect or rapport. Saying hello occasionally is not a political relationship.
You called him an arrogant liar, you think that he’s spied on you…
All right, well I’ll explain this to you. I’ll explain this. When he gave witnesses to that event about which he spoke I knew that person could not have been there, because I checked the persons diary and I thought well who else is the person making the information. But here’s the real point here. Of course he worked for Merrill Lynch. Merrill Lynch is one of the companies that brought the western economies to their knees. The global financial crisis was never a global crisis.
The upshot is how could you make him Prime Minister when you talk about him like this?
No, no I want you to have a debate where we have a chance to have our say. The western financial crisis has cost the world plenty. Now when I say he’s arrogant, he has been arrogant. He comes in and says I want certainty about the election I’m giving you September. This is balderdash.
Let me ask you one last time. Can you make the man you call an arrogant liar Prime Minister?
OK one more point. Do you think he’s telling the truth on the GCSB? Because there’s not one western leader who would believe…
You haven’t answered the question. But you’re saying he’s a liar on what he knew about Kim Dotcom aren’t you?
Insistence that Peters believes Key has lied about Dotcom
Yep. Will you make him PM then? If you’re saying he lied about what he knew about Kim Dotcom will you make him the Prime Minister?
Paddy we’ve got a long way to go until the election, and when it emerges that there’ no way the SIS and GCSB leader of this country’s administration, namely John Key, could not have known, I think you might look with different eyes at that matter.
Peters appears to believe that it will be proven that Key has lied before the election. If that happens then for Peters to be consistent he will demand that Key resigns.
If Key doesn’t resign before the election then Peters would be very hypocritical if he negotiated a coalition agreement with Key.
The only out here is if Key resigns than NZ First may then be able to negotiate with the new National leader.
Rules out working with UnitedFuture and the Maori Party
Can you work with UF in government?
Well, you know, can I tell you the truth? In 2005 I was the one who went to Peter Dunne and said to him, Peter do you want to be a minister. Not Helen Clark.
Will you make him a minister again in the next government? Would you give him the go-ahead?
Well no. Given how he’s behaved…
So he’s out. What about the Maori Party? Can you work with them?
I’m not working with a party that believes in racial separatism.
That rules out NZ First working with them but it doesn’t necessarily rule out a coalition with National or Labour that also involves United Future or the Maori Party. Coalition agreements are between the major party and individual minor parties. The minor parties don’t negotiate with each other, nor do they have to work together.
There’s no indication here a coalition arrangement that involved NZ First would have to rule out United Future or the Maori Party being in the coalition.
About your transparency now. You’re shutting essentially 95 percent, maybe 90 percent, of the New Zealand voters out of the equation with your balance of power. What is fair about that?
How did you possibly extrapolate this conversation to that extraordinary conclusion?
Because you won’t be transparent. You don’t say, you won’t say anything about where you’re going.
You see Paddy you’re back to you again. You’re not listening to anything I’m saying. What I said was that we’re going to see what happens in the next six months we’re going to ensure as a party we make a democratic decision that includes caucus, and the board and our support base.
So no more transparency.
Now the next thing is that the mass majority of New Zealanders, including 35% of National voters, don’t like the sort of deals you advocate. They think they’re odious. They think they’re anathema. And so do I. And one last thing. You must be much smarter than me but I’m not able to play cards I’ve never seen.
Asset sale buy-back and keeping the Super eligibility age at 65 appear to be non-negotiable.
Everything else seems to depend on what happens between now on the election, what the voters say (except they only vote, they don’t say what bottom lines they want) and what the NZ First caucus, board and members democratically decide they want.
The bottom line
The Super age has to be a bottom line. Giving in on that would be like the Greens giving in on deep sea drilling, it’s totally against what NZ First stands for.
Peters working with Key would be very hypocritical. Peters claims that Peter Dunne lied and Judith Collins lied, and because of that he insists they should resign. Peters also insists Key lied.
The rest looks up for negotiation. Even apparent bottom lines could be fudged, like asset sales buybacks – there could be an agreement that buy backs be investigated and take place “when economic conditions allow”. Foreign property purchases and foreign fishing positions appear to be strong but they are vague.
There are only two bottom lines that appear to be certain.
- Leave the Super eligibility age at 65.
- Anything else is possible.
And the voters will decide one thing – whether Peters and NZ First get the opportunity to negotiate. If they give NZ First 5% little else is certain.
Note that this interview did not examine how NZ First might work with Labour, nor whether NZ First would agree to a coalition that involved the Greens.
Source of transcript- Scoop The Nation: Patrick Gower interviews New Zealand First leader Winston Peters