Legal action discredits coalition negotiations

NZH editorial: Peters’ suing of ex-ministers discredits negotiations

For two weeks last month, Winston Peters told the public he was negotiating in good faith with National and Labour, and asked the public to believe the country’s interest was uppermost in his concerns as he weighed up whether to support the incumbent Government for a fourth term, or install a Labour-led coalition.

It turns out he had initiated legal proceedings against leading National ministers the day before the election over the disclosure he had been receiving superannuation at the single rate for seven years while living with a partner.

This reignites publicity about the fact that an MP who has long championed superannuation was overpaid for a number of years, apparently without noticing he has geeing more than he was supposed to be getting.

Including journalists in his legal action also raise eyebrows.

It is disturbing that Peters seeks to have journalists reveal their sources through court discovery procedures. He evidently wants the court to order them to hand over phone records, notes and emails relating to his superannuation overpayment.

His attitude to news media going about their job leaves a lot to be desired and may come to pose a threat to press freedom if he now uses his position to try to put his antagonism into law.

This is a concern – and appears highly hypocritical given Winston’s history of making serious accusations against political opponents without evidence.

But the bigger issue – the question of Peters negotiating with party leaders who he had already filed legal action against, and whether Peters was honest about giving both National and Labour a fair shot at forming a coalition.

…it discredits his post-election negotiations and inevitably reflects on the Government he has chosen. It is now obvious there was extremely little possibility he could work with Bill English, Paula Bennett, Steven Joyce and Anne Tolley since he had initiated legal action against them the day before the election.

Why he put them and the public through three weeks of uncertainty only Peters knows. It is hard to avoid the conclusion it was to increase his leverage on Labour.

It appears that the negotiations and leveraging may have been done in bad faith.

National may well have suspected this as they seemed to not push all that hard for a deal with Peters.

Labour were more desperate for power, and may well have been sucked in by Peters. That is not a good basis to form a coalition based on trust.

Peters was criticised for not being open about his intentions before the election, leaving voters guessing about what he might do.

This is poor democracy. Voters should be aware of the risks of believing political ‘promises’ made by Peters, but it appears that some voters were sucked in, given some NZ First campaign policies were quickly dropped in negotiations.

Peters as Foreign Minister is currently overseas. It will be interesting to see how willing journalists will be to hold him to account when he returns.