Peters back to barrel scraping

Winston Peters came across as the most sensible MP when speaking on the Te Tii Marae issues last week. But back in Parliament he has quickly returned to scraping the bottom of an attention seeking barrel.

He has just issued a challenge to John Key:

Challenge To PM – Prove Your Fishing Story Or Pay Up

Author: Rt Hon Winston Peters
Date: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 – 17:45

The Prime Minister today introduced a new element of misinformation when he claimed I spent all my time up in Northland on my fishing boat, fishing, says New Zealand First Leader and Member of Parliament for Northland Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“I challenge the Prime Minister and I will pay to his favourite charity, not himself, $100,000, if he can find one witness that has seen me out on my fishing boat, fishing, since the Northland byelection.

“He won’t, of course, which is why he should apologise, pay $100,000 to a Northland charity of my choosing, and stop wasting Parliament’s Question Time with such blatant untruths.”

I presume that relates to their first clash of the year exchange in Question Time today.

9.Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the Hon Steven Joyce; if so, why?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, I do have confidence in Minister Joyce, who is both hard-working and effective. I would say, after he released the Northland report last week and went up to Northland to do that—not only did it have 58 initiatives in it, but I dare say that Minister Joyce now knows more about Northland than the member does. In actually having been there once this year, he has probably been there more than the member has—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is the very last warning to Dr Megan Woods. If I hear her interject again, I will be asking her to leave.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Seeing as the Prime Minister put it at issue, is it not a fact that I have spent more time in my electorate in the space of just 9 months than he has for the whole time he has been an MP in his electorate?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Not if you count time in your electorate being on a boat, fishing.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How—

Hon Member: Well, that didn’t go anywhere.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Of course it did not go anywhere, because it is not true.

The rest of the exchange only mentions fishing once more:

…the “member for fishing” has come up with zero.

So it seems like a bit of an over-reaction from Peters.

This would probably have passed by virtually unnoticed, but Peters is drawing attention to it which is unlikely to do himself any favours.

The rest of the Q&A transcript:

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Less interjection from my right-hand side, and when the member—I call him for a supplementary question. Could we have the supplementary question?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he have confidence in a Minister who launched the Northland economic plan and is so proud of it, when it catalogues National’s record: the unemployment rate there is 3 percent above the national average, nominal GDP—all in this book—per capita is 32 percent below the national average, and 20 percent of the population is living in deprived areas. Why is that a cause for pride?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Just to give a flavour of the facts that the member has quoted, which are not factually correct: the unemployment rate in Northland fell, actually, in the December quarter from 8.2 percent to 6.2 percent. It is certainly not new that Northland is a deprived part of New Zealand, but this is a Government that has actually been looking to do a number of things to change that position, and if the member wants to support them, including potentially more mining in Northland, reform of the Resource Management Act in Northland, more tourism activity, a whole bunch of other initiatives that were included in the document—58 in total—we look forward to his support. But as per normal, he will—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The answer is long enough.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can this 58-point plan even touch the surface of Northland’s needs, when Mr Joyce confirmed that there are no monetary or fiscal changes to give it effect, or any plans for seven of the 10 two-laned bridges that he talked about or the enhanced taxpayer-funded cellphone tower coverage or the ultra-fast broadband or, for that matter, the Wellsford to Pūhoi motorway? Where is that in his—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question has been asked.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is good to see the member is now supporting the Wellsford to Pūhoi part of the motorway. We look forward to that. The member should know, actually, that the Minister is not responsible for monetary policy in New Zealand, but when it comes to so many other initiatives like ultra-fast broadband and rural broadband and the likes, the Government is involved in that, and in terms of upgrading the infrastructure of roading and bridges. But I would just make this simple point: if we just want to have a point-for-point comparison, it is 58 to zip, because this Minister has come up with 58 initiatives for Northland and the “member for fishing” has come up with zero.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: When he and his colleague Mr Joyce were in Northland, albeit briefly, and promised 10 two-laned bridges, taxpayer-funded ultra-fast broadband, and extra cellphone coverage paid for by the taxpayer, and the Pūhoi to Wellsford highway, did they not plan to give it any funding to make it happen? Because if it was the plan, where is it in his master 58-point plan?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We are good as a Government—I am prepared to accept that—but even we do not think we can build roads, bridges, and ultra-fast broadband without putting in money. So, yes, there will be money following those initiatives, as there already has been. And, actually, that report indicates that we decided to put $4 million into the Hundertwasser project in Whangarei. There are 58 very bold and good initiatives in this plan, and the member should either come up with his own 58 or get on the bus and support it.

 

Chris Trotter versus revolutionary reality

Chris Trotter aslks (in a verbose and round about way): While Evils Are Sufferable: What would it take to rouse New Zealanders to revolt?

Not being natural ideologues, we struggle to make the connections between the neoliberal policies imposed upon this country by successive governments since 1984 (none of which have ever had the courage to seek an explicit electoral mandate for the entirety of the neoliberal programme they intended to pursue) and the appalling social consequences to which those policies have given rise.

Not being natural ideologues and anti-ideologues like Trotter.

Although the cause-and-effect relationship between cuts to mental health services and successful suicide attempts is indisputable, very few New Zealanders would consider it fair or appropriate to lay those deaths at the door of the responsible Cabinet Minister. Similarly, most Kiwis would feel uncomfortable about sheeting home the blame for child abuse and domestic violence to a government’s failure to pursue policies of full-employment and the provision of public housing. Many of us regard such ills as the unavoidable “collateral damage” of responsible public administration.

Where most New Zealanders would draw the line, I suspect, is at the suggestion that their government might be willing to sacrifice the life, or lives, of a New Zealand citizen, or citizens, in the pursuit of purely partisan political objectives.

The protection of its citizens, both at home and abroad, is the first and most fundamental duty of any government. To abrogate that duty, for whatever reason (other than to ward-off an imminent and deadly threat to the whole population) would not be accepted by the vast majority of New Zealanders.

Were it to be proved that the government had been willing to allow one or more of its citizens to be reduced to a mere pawn and then ruthlessly sacrificed in some partisan political chess game, that might just be enough to see Kiwi “prudence” thrust angrily aside.

Such a government would have forfeited all claim to moral and political legitimacy. Channelling the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, many thousands of New Zealanders might even conclude that, in the face of such insufferable evil, it was their right – and their duty – to throw off such a Government, and provide new guards for their future security.

I think I know what Trotter is angling at, but I don’t think he’s on a revolutionary track there.

There are probably not many Kiwis who share Trotters interest in Jeffersonian history.

A handful of ever-hopefuls like Trotter and Redbaiter dream of a grand revolution that fixes everything (but I’m not sure what the outcome would be if Trotter and Redbaiter inspire revolts at the same time).

A comment in response to Trotter’s latest treatise from Ian is far more succinct and closer to real life.

Getting New Zealanders to revolt is easy. Firstly stop broadcasting rugby and Coronation street, stop producing Marmite, and decrease the fishing quota for the average Joe Bloggs. That ought to do it.