It looks increasingly likely NZ First may be in a deciding position after the next election based on current polls, by a margin.
Winston Peters simply won’t indicate which way he will go, with National or with Labour-Greens, if he sticks to past practice. He claims this is letting the voters decide first but it’s difficult for voters to decide if they don’t know what he might do.
Peters has attacked the Government and National a lot. But NZ First seem happy to also attack Labour – this isn’t entirely surprising as they will compete for votes with Labour.
Audrey Young writes NZ First’s salvoes hit home in war of words.
With every passing week, it becomes more likely that New Zealand First will decide the next Government.
New Zealand First attacks the National Government frequently.Until now, it has largely avoided open attacks on Labour in the 4 years the parties have shared the Opposition benches.
But for a party that will go into the election with no coalition preferences, it has to change that perception.
In that context it was significant when New Zealand First deputy leader Ron Mark publicly rubbished Labour twice this week, in the general debate on Wednesday, then again on Thursday in Question Time.
Winston Peters was away but he apparently has no qualms about it.
Mark’s salvoes represent a new phase for New Zealand First – a “no favourites” phase.
In General Debate on Wednesday:
RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First): It is one of those days, is it not, when you come down to the House, you have got a whole bunch of speech notes and you are ready to deliver something that is prepared, and then someone stands up in the House and says something that rocks you in your shoes. That has just happened with Mr Iain Lees-Galloway’s speech on immigration.
Like one of the previous members said, the adjournment time gives us the chance to get out and take stock and listen to people. We have to say, in New Zealand First, we have to say we have travelled up and down the country. From Invercargill to Auckland, I have been everywhere, and the message we are getting consistently is that the public is actually tired of the type of speech that Mr Iain Lees-Galloway just gave. They are tired of one side of the House claiming that another party in this House, whose immigration policies have always been sane, sensible, and population-focused—is racist and xenophobic.
Now, suddenly, on the back of a poll that Mr Iain Lees-Galloway from Labour has seen, which tells him “Oh my gosh, 60 percent of the country agrees with the Rt Hon Winston Peters in New Zealand First that immigration policy is chaotic, is out of control.”, suddenly everyone should listen to Labour.
Let me tell you what people are saying out there: “Red or blue, there’s nothing new.” National and Labour are just the same. It is like Pepsi and Coke: tell me whether one can tell the difference. One comes in a blue package; the other comes in a red package, but everyone knows 90 percent of the people cannot tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke, and that is exactly what is happening right now.
We do not actually care about the argument that goes on between National and Labour on who put more police here, who has got a stronger focus on law and order, or who wants to get immigration under control—we see them both as exactly the same and so does most of New Zealand right now, who are all coming to that realisation.
We go down to Invercargill, down to Gore, and who is filling in my meeting? It is National Party farmers, who have had a gutsful.
Todd Barclay: Absolutely no one—no one is there.
RON MARK: Todd Barclay can stand up and rant but Todd Barclay should ask the listing committee of the National Party where his committee has gone. Where has his committee gone? People are looking at this Government as being no different from the last Government.
Then we have Mr Grant Robertson on Q+A telling the whole nation the trickle-down economy does not work. Hello! Mr Robertson, if you had not realised it, it was started by the Labour Party. It was called Rogernomics, and then National picked it up and called it “Ruthanasia”. The result was the same: devastation in the provinces and farmers out there being told they should get on and keep their chins up and handle the economic changes, whilst this Government, which trumpets free-trade agreements—which the Labour Party promoted as well—has done nothing to curb the excessive use of subsidies in these countries that they proudly proclaim they have established a free-trade agreement with.
Mr Speaker, you are a farmer from the Banks Peninsula and I know that you were raised like me in rural New Zealand, in the Wairarapa, and we know something that our grandparents told us a long time ago, and farmers down in Gore and down into Invercargill were telling us this as well: nothing is free—nothing. Do not come into this House and trumpet “Ruthanasia” policies or Rogernomics policies and tell us that the poor at the low end of the chain are going to benefit from that, because all the evidence shows, after 30 years of rampant neo-liberal experimentation—started by the Labour Party—that the gap between rich and poor is greater than it has ever been. It has actually reached the level where you may never be able to turn it back—well, looking at the housing situation.
By the way, we are getting to the stage in New Zealand First where we actually think we have got a security problem, because it seems that every second day Labour is picking up one of our policies and trumpeting it as its own. The thing that disappoints us more than anything is that the media print it. We would simply ask them: “If you want the original Rolex, come to New Zealand First—do not go buying a cheap, Singaporean model from the Labour Party.”
In Question time on Thursday:
Ron Mark: Is the Minister surprised that he has so many anti-immigration questions from Labour these days, given that previous Labour leaders have so viciously attacked New Zealand First and Winston Peters on the very same topic?
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will hear from Mr Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins: The Minister is not responsible for questions that the Opposition asks.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I cannot see that there is any ministerial responsibility, anyway. We are moving on.
Ron Mark: Is the Minister confused by reports from political parties that have formed a coalition recently, when we have questions such as this and he is being asked to answer questions such as this, and then the leader of the Green Party, James Shaw, goes on radio and says—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no ministerial responsibility whatsoever. [Interruption] Order!
Mark: “Is the minister surprised that he has so many anti-immigration questions from Labour these days, given that previous Labour leaders have so viciously attacked New Zealand First and Winston Peters on the very same topic?”
The “vicious attacks” haven’t happened for years.
But Mark and Peters have long memories and can quote chapter and verse about who said what when as far back as 2002.
Despite their party supporting Labour in Government from 2005 to 2008, they hold a grudge.
So will the next coalition government be based on which party grovels about grudges the most to NZ First?
It sometimes seems Peters has a blanket grudge against the Greens so that could get interesting.
But for now Peters and Mark will be targeting votes. From ex-National voters who are tired of the current lot. From the big pool of voters who despair about Labour getting themselves sorted and looking capable of leading. And from the sizeable pool of potential voters who use NZ First and Winston as a protest vote.
That’s actually smart politics – votes are what count.
Then after the election Peters will smile at Key, and at Little and Turei and Shaw, and he probably won’t even have to use the word ‘grovel’.