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AGENDA: Henry Interviews Peters (Transcript)


AGENDA

RT HON WINSTON PETERS

Leader, New Zealand First

Interviewed by PAUL HENRY

Note this is an unchecked uncorrected transcript.

PAUL

This morning WINSTON Peters faces polling which suggests his parliamentary career may be about to end. Last night's One News Colmar Brunton poll shows that National's Bob Clarkson is ahead of Mr Peters in the Tauranga electorate by 12 percentage points, and late yesterday ACT asked its handful of voters, perhaps eight or nine in the seat to also back Mr Clarkson so that they might help unseat Mr Peters. This morning the Fairfax poll shows that Mr Peters' party New Zealand First is also running below 5%, so without a seat and not reaching the 5% threshold WINSTON Peters and his party would be out of parliament. WINSTON Peters joins me now, WINSTON good morning to you.

WINSTON

Good morning.

PAUL

A double whammy, two lots of bad news. Let's talk about your electorate first, why do you think you personally are trailing in the polls in Tauranga.

WINSTON

Well we've been down further than that in the past and I want to remind you of that, and it's a long way to go to the election, so there's a number of explanations for it, my opponent has thrown every bit of money that you can throw at a campaign into the Tauranga electorate and he's got some, and a range of other things as well, the sort of allegation that WINSTON Peters has done nothing for Tauranga, despite the fact that Tauranga's the most explosive most exciting city in this country with every capital development for education and health and more roading than any other – per capita – than any other part of the country.

PAUL

So he is effectively suggesting complacency on your part.

WINSTON

Oh well it's been the same old strategy ever since the National Party contested the seat against me in 1993. Nothing new here.

PAUL

Has there been complacency in Tauranga on your part?

WINSTON

Quite the contrary, look we've done nine electorate organisational meetings every week for the last 21 years.

PAUL

You attended all of those?

WINSTON

The office has been open for 29 weeks of the last 21 years.

PAUL

But how many times have you been in it?

WINSTON

Well we're always in it that’s why we do clinics.

PAUL

So how many clinics do you personally do?

WINSTON

Well something like 75 a year, those are ones where you can make sure you see your constituents, so I'm pretty relaxed about that and I think the record in the end will count.

PAUL

I suppose one of the issues is how much time you spend there and as you say your opponent there Bob Clarkson is suggesting that there is complacency.

WINSTON

Oh no with respect, I have attended all the candidates' meetings but one and that’s the one where we had the finance spokesmen's meeting on TV the other night. My opponent hasn’t attended one.

PAUL

And he's made quite a point of that it's a different style of campaigning for him. In fact isn’t he saying he won't debate with you?

WINSTON

Well with respect it's not a different style of campaigning it's something utterly unique – don’t turn up just throw money at the problem and think …

PAUL

And shake some hands. Can I go back four weeks, on Agenda four weeks ago we were talking with Craig Nicholson, do you know who Craig Nicholson is?

WINSTON

Yes I do.

PAUL

He is the Editor of the Bay of Plenty Times. Simon said to him you're the major newspaper in the area how often do you see WINSTON how visual is WINSTONand he responded this way, Craig said we have a very slim relationship with WINSTON I have been in this job almost three years and I met him two weeks ago for the first time.

WINSTON

With respect this is someone who has got an agenda of his own, that was as clear as daylight.

PAUL

But he is the editor of the major …

WINSTON

Well when you’ve got an agenda that’s something else, and with respect you expect in this country to have neutrality in reporting and you need to understand that as a democracy we have gotta have both sides of the issue being put out there. They're running whole page advertisements for my opponent, might look good now but it won't look good on election day.

PAUL

So did you decide as a result of that not to discuss things with him not to talk to him.

WINSTON

Quite the contrary I've talked to all sorts of reporters in the Bay of Plenty Times, I've had a relationship with everybody there for 21 years, we have profiled issues beyond Tauranga as you well know, so I'm relaxed about that, but I'm not unaware of what's going on.

PAUL

Well what are you suggesting though when you say your aware of what's going on?

WINSTON

Well what you’ve got in politics today is a corporate takeover of the National Party by ACT, ACT was never gonna work and so you’ve got everybody flinging their money in for various reasons behind the National candidate on a desire to get rid of WINSTON Peters, they're prepared to do a deal which they will do with the National Party in Epsom, they’ve even got the United Party seeking to pull out, they’ve got the ACT Party in there campaigning outside my office, it's got a certain look about it, and we all remember why.

PAUL

We'll talk about ACT and United Future in your electorate in just a moment but let's go back to Bob Clarkson, is there a certain irony that Clarkson is in fact a builder and his name is in fact Bob?

WINSTON

There is a certain irony in that yes there is.

PAUL

And this is shades of your previous campaign the difference is this is now against you.

WINSTON

Oh the difference is I have sought to build things in my country, I sought to spend my money on things like the Wine Box and exposing other corruption in our country and changing the tax laws which I've done. I've sought to change the Foreshore and Seabed which was a most divisive issue this country faced in the last three years, that’s what those posters are about, that’s the day after. People went into Christmas, last Christmas, knowing that they could be on the beach without any problem and sharing it as a nation. Building something like that is important, that was the most divisive issue facing New Zealand and we solved it.

PAUL

Alright, you're suggesting a conspiracy aren’t you?

WINSTON

No no a conspiracy is when two or more people meet to commit a crime that’s what a conspiracy is.

PAUL

Are you suggesting that that’s happening?

WINSTON

Well you explain why all these people are in there ganging up against one guy.

PAUL

Because they want you out, that’s the answer to that question isn’t it?

WINSTON

Well if they get me out on the right then they get to govern this country as they please and I can recall the days of Douglas and Ruth Richardson and how the vulnerable and the elderly and the sick were dealt to and how they changed this country without any mandate whatsoever, that’s why they want WINSTON Peters out.

PAUL

Very quickly are you worried about your constituency seat?

WINSTON

Look we have never taken it for granted, these polls move up and down they're but a snapshot. I have seen polls much worse than this.

PAUL

Okay are you worried about your constituency seat?

WINSTON

Well I am not worried about it…

PAUL

Okay that’s fine let's talk about the party in general, right now one time, we're going back probably only a month when you were basically saying this is a three horse race, since then your support has halved.

WINSTON

Well let me ask you this question. How many times have you seen me giving speeches and never seen what I've said just the question you're gonna go with. Now look, we are aware of the fact that…

PAUL

I'm about to ask you that question…

WINSTON

… well people want to know that and let me tell you we have listened, we are going to be making an announcement this week after a meeting of the key operatives of New Zealand First and we've got confidence in what the outcome will be.

PAUL

Why do you need to talk to the key operatives of New Zealand First? You are the operative of New Zealand First.

WINSTON

No see that’s the problem with the presentation of New Zealand First, we're a democratic party with democratic institutions.

PAUL

But in a sense you have to take responsibility for that problem, you are the sole face of New Zealand First.

WINSTON

No Ron Mark and a host of other guys are the face, campaigning all over the country, speaking at forums with other party spokespeople, making sure that people remember what we are. Just one thing, just one thing, you see a democratic party does not make a decision with one man making it. We announce this week…

PAUL

People would argue that your party is a party that makes decisions based on what you think.

WINSTON

No that’s the presentation that you might present, it is not in any way remotely true.

PAUL

Well I would argue that that – many people would argue that that’s the presentation that you present WINSTON. Coalitions, you will announce who you will go with in one week's time.

WINSTON

We're gonna make an announcement this week, not one week's time this week.

PAUL

Why don’t you make it now, this is a great opportunity for you …

WINSTON

Well simple because I'm trying to tell you I belong to a democratic organisation that makes those sorts of decisions, we don’t have people working their butt off around the country to have those sorts of decisions made by one person.

PAUL

Who decided that you would make this announcement before the election, because of course originally you had said no we're going to wait and see what the voters say?

WINSTON

Oh no, what I said was, that we were gonna wait and see what was on offer. What the other parties are talking about, I'm seeing a lolly scramble of unparalleled dimensions, there's gonna be tears after this election, we're facing a bad year on the economy. I can see all sorts of betrayal coming, I want to know just exactly what it means as close up to the day when I can make a decision with my colleagues.

PAUL

Alright what are those factors, what are the factors you're gonna take into account, are you telling me that right now you don’t know which party you'll go with.

WINSTON

The factors we're going to take into account are primarily which party's prepared to live with the fundamental things that are important to us.

PAUL

Which are?

WINSTON

Well we have a substantially mature voting audience by proportion. Why? Because they can remember the Douglas and Ruth Richrardson years and the tragedy of their policies for the elderly and the sick and then we have the vulnerable people, the people on ten dollars an hour which after this election no matter who wins will still be on ten dollars an hour despite all the handouts, and that’s why people are leaving in their droves.

PAUL

What are your bottom line policies, what are the things about which you wouldn’t compromise?

WINSTON

These five things. The seniors and their welfare. The question of the Treaty of Waitangi, not just talk but what they will do about it. The third thing is the question of law and order, not just talk but are they going to have thousands more men and women ensuring that we've got safety and security on our streets and in our homes. The fourth is a real question of economic nationalism, whether or not we're gonna run this country get our asset base back, or are we gonna go on having so much of our wealth taken off overseas and that’s the fundamental important thing for a party like New Zealand First, and the last one is the question of immigration, should we change the whole character shape of our society without any consultation with New Zealanders. They're pretty fundamental those five things and they’ll be very important.

PAUL

Let me just pick up on one of them finally. Your Treaty policy. It seems to me that your policy is entirely at odds with Labour. I would not imagine you would be able to form a coalition with Labour given the differences you have on that one policy alone, if indeed that is fundamental policy to you.

WINSTON

I began my campaign against the myth of the Treaty of Waitangi principles way back in 1988, I've been doing it year in year out seeking to change the political face of this country and you know what I've succeeded, there's a stack of people like National like ACT and all the rest, all of whom signed up to all of that stuff in the past who now say WINSTON we agree with you. Well you know imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

PAUL

Yes indeed. WINSTON will you still be the MP for Tauranga in three weeks time?

WINSTON

At the end of three weeks time we'll still be the MP for Tauranga and New Zealand First will still have a very strong presence in parliament, that’s the good news for you and those who have been left out in the past, the forgotten, hundreds of thousands of forgotten New Zealanders that we've always fought for and we're the only party with the only leader that’s got a record of having fought for them.

PAUL

WINSTON Peters thank you very much for joining on Agenda.


GUEST COMMENTATORS

PAUL

Joining us are our guest commentators Bob Harvey, Michelle Boag and in Wellington Jon Johansson. Michelle what did you make of WINSTON Peters, it was quite a calm WINSTON Peters this morning.

MICHELLE BOAG – Former National Party President

Great interview I thought, great pace. What was interesting, I don’t think I've seen WINSTON on the defensive quite so much as he was. A couple of things that I thought were really interesting though is the whole thing's all about WINSTON whatever ACT and National are doing it's all about WINSTON you know he sees himself right in the middle. The other thing is I think in his mind he sort of gave away although not intentionally I believe the feeling that he sees himself as a brake on National, it was very much the feeling I got that he was positioning himself as a bit like United Future were last time you know we could be a brake on either party and brake in the sense of a hand brake. I felt that was where his mind was I wasn’t sure whether he was aware he was giving us that impression.

PAUL

Jon let me come to you, I mean it wasn’t a bullish WINSTON Peters this morning, he was suggesting conspiracy and let's talk about the conspiracy he suggested that people are perhaps ganging up to destroy New Zealand First, do you think there's some truth in that?

JON Oh well it seems to me that New Zealand First and WINSTON have taken quite a while to click on to what National's strategy is for this campaign and I think there's a realisation now that National are basically going for 45% plus and then they’ll try and forge a government on the dregs of whatever ACT you know subject to Epsom and United Future can bring, cos let's be real here where National is going up in support is precisely from the elderly blue collar coalition that previously had maintained fidelity to WINSTON, so also coded in WINSTON's interview with you PAUL was the reminder to those elderly voters about what happened in the past last time National was there, so Michelle's line is quite compelling but not quite.

PAUL

Alright Bob do you think this could backfire on people like Rodney Hide I mean is it possible that people will hunker down for the little guy who's now WINSTON Peters in the electorate?

BOB No I think he's on the ropes, he's like an old prize fighter that’s had his last fight. You know politics is about charisma and I don’t think there's anyone in New Zealand politics that had that charisma thing.

PAUL

Does he still have that charisma?

BOB No, it's a fatal drug actually, you have it for a while it's like aftershave you know put it on in the morning by ten o'clock it's gone. Well I think it's gone, he's never had luck I don’t think, if he'd had luck he'd be the leader of the National Party right now and he's had that terrific smile, he's a beach boy really from the Mount.

PAUL

Is it that he hasn’t had luck or has he just not made the right decisions?

BOB He's not made the right decisions, it's the same kind of thing, but he did have that charm and that charm has gone and that’s it, prior to the gods he'll be teaching old ladies how to tango after this election.

PAUL

It's hard to ask for predictions but what do you predict, is he going to be able to hold Tauranga Michelle?

MICHELLE I wouldn’t write him off I think he may well still hold Tauranga, I was very disappointed in the interview though you didn’t ask him about the posters and what the posters meant.

PAUL

What do they mean – I know – because we've been working this out and there's some very funny lines about it too isn’t there.

BOB But his fingers, I mean that kinda stuff where's it going. I never liked his policies, why would we buy into that anti Asian – he's been anti everything really.

PAUL

I wondered Jon if that’s one of the issues here, has WINSTON just run out of ideas, has it done its course?

JON Well it's just I believe that Dr Brash and the National Party are doing a far more effective job of advocating those ideas than what used to be WINSTON's shtick on these things, that’s where the charisma seems to be lacking, although I certainly wouldn’t join the ranks of those that would write him off either because you know a week is a long time in politics and who knows what WINSTON can pull out of the hat in the next two weeks.


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