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AGENDA Winston Peters IV - June 2008

AGENDA Winston Peters IV - June 2008

Transcript courtesy of TVNZ and Agenda TV

RAWDON Thirty one year old Crown Prosecutor Simon Bridges was announced on Friday as the National Party's candidate for the Tauranga seat in this year's election, and that raises the question as to whether New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters will contest the seat which he held for 21 years till he was defeated by the National Party's Bob Clarkson at the last election. Already Mr Peters is in campaign mode for the election pitching to his loyal Grey Power electorate, the advantages of the Gold Card which brings discounts to pensioners, so what else does he have up his sleeve. He's live with Guyon Espiner now.

GUYON ESPINER
Well Winston Peters let's cut to the chase on that question will you be contesting the Tauranga seat?

WINSTON PETERS – Leader, New Zealand First
Look the New Zealand First Party's about to announce a tranch of candidates right around the country that’s part of our public relations strategy and we'll have to wait until then.

GUYON: Under your constitution someone who's going to be on the list has to stand in an electorate seat so you have to stand…

WINSTON: Every candidate has to stand.

GUYON: So you have to stand in a seat don’t you?

WINSTON: Every candidate has to stand.

GUYON: So why can't you just tell us today that you're gonna stand in Tauranga?

WINSTON: Because the party's announcement is timed for a certain date and they’ve planned it, we're an organisation that’s nationwide and we've come to a decision and I'm bound to stick to that decision.

GUYON: You have the 15th anniversary of your party in mid July.

WINSTON: At our national convention yes.

GUYON: Perhaps you will announce it then?

WINSTON: You'll have to ask the party strategist about that.

GUYON: Alright, another matter of party business, the $158,000 that the Auditor General deemed was unlawful spending on election advertising, you gave that money to Starship, they rejected it.

WINSTON: Oh no they didn’t reject it, the Starship people talked to us about it and we're entirely happy about it, one person the Chairman of the Board …

GUYON: Sure, what's happened to the money now?

WINSTON: … a former National Party at point he rejected it and I was very sad about that for the young children of this country, what's happened now is that it's been paid out to nine charitable donations all of them very worthy and that’s where the matter ends, we have not kept one cent. I want to say one thing, I was never gonna have my staff accused of theft when they were approved for every item of expenditure by Parliamentary Services.

GUYON: Okay will the public get to know who those charities are?

WINSTON: Look I wrote to the Speaker with the full list and the letters of introduction to those charities, if the Speaker wants you to find out that’s fine but I do not think that they should become the victims of snooping prying media interest.

GUYON: Okay parliament resumes next week and the Emissions Trading Scheme comes back, the legislation comes back from the Select Committee, will New Zealand First be supporting the Emissions Trading Scheme legislation.

WINSTON: Look we're working through a lot of very difficult issues at the moment, a very complex situation, the National Party under Simon Upton signed up to it and I want to say as the Foreign Minister of this country that the National Party should come back to the table, we need to get this matter resolved, the idea of us quitting or reneging on an international obligation would make us international lepers, it will cost us seriously economically, you know there are serious issues to work through as to the timing when sectors are introduced, whether or not we can take what is an extraordinarily complex and difficult issue and a negative and turn into a positive which New Zealand First believes can happen, so we are seriously discussing matters with government at this point in time, I can't tell you that we've got a resolution.

GUYON: Is it true that you will support the legislation in return for discounts on power bills for Gold Card?

WINSTON: No, look this issue is far too serious to start trying to play silly petty political bargaining, we have had no relativity on this issue to any other thing in politics as far as we're concerned, this is a serious issue, you’ve got the EU well down the track, you’ve got Australia about to make announcements next month – next month that is with a new government and I think it ill behoves us to find ourselves out in the cold playing silly politics at enormous long term cost to New Zealand businesses, I want to emphasise that, and exporters, and New Zealand citizens. I think if we all put our minds together as parliamentarians across the political divide we can resolve this issue.

GUYON: Okay let's talk about another aspect of the economy, you’ve come out recently and said that you think that GST should be reduced over three years to 10%. How much of a priority will that be in any negotiations you have to form a new government?

WINSTON: Well it's a serious priority for us because you see with all the prices going through the roof the question today is about – the issue is really affordability, can these people afford these things. I see all the promised being made by politicians about tax cuts, we're gonna do this – I know they won't. I was a former Treasurer of this country and I know how difficult it is to put a budget together and they are making commitments they have no inherent belief that they're going to put into place, and in fact the last time the National Party did tax cuts I did them as Treasurer, 1.1 billion dollars in the 1998 budget, those are facts, so what we say is we need for those people who are hard up against it with little or no discretionary income to spare, we need to lower the GST, make things far more affordable, everybody will be better off.

GUYON: Okay, let's talk about another one of the focuses that you’ve had on economic policy and that is increasing our exports, in fact you had an agreement with Labour to prioritise measures to grow our export sector, but then you oppose one of the biggest opportunities for exporters to increase their share and that is the Free Trade Agreement with China?

WINSTON: Oh look just roll that back a bit. We argued for Export Year 2007 we believed that we needed to prioritise export.

GUYON: But this was a real measure Mr Peters to actually increase our share…

WINSTON: I'll get to that shortly, but we said that we needed to prioritise exporting as the critical factor in the New Zealand economic structure, far more than the United States that export's about 8% of the GDP, we export about 38% of ours give or take some percentage, but at the very time that was happening the dollar was rising massively diametrically opposed to the Export Year commitments and idea behind it. The dollar's gone up – it's way out of kilter…

GUYON: The 2007 Export Year that’s a symbolic measure, you had the chance to support the Free Trade Agreement with the largest growing economy in the world and you turned it down?

WINSTON: Excuse me look you said that at the start.

GUYON: Well I'm just waiting for an answer.

WINSTON: No no that’s the fourth time you’ve said it, now please try and understand this that you're not gonna be able to roll past the Export Year and a dollar that went straight through the roof way out about 34% overvalued and thing it's of no matter to exporters. It was dramatically bad for exporters and has seen so many people condemned to relocate. But here's the point – that alone is enough to outstrip the China agreement three or four times – don’t you get it – the China agreement is 180 to 220 million maybe to 380 somewhere in that ballpark – I've just described to you something three or four times more beneficial to New Zealand and you slide by it as though it's of no moment. What is wrong with this country?

GUYON: Okay let's look at one the principles you took on Free Trade Agreements and that is you won't support a Free Trade Agreement with a low wage economy, how do you expect low wage economies to actually develop and get richer if the rich countries don’t open their markets to them?

WINSTON: Oh with the greatest respect I'm here to represent New Zealanders, they vote in our elections not the Chinese, and if I'm here to – going to be somehow responding to the 1.3 billion people of China in this election then I think that’s a mandate that no New Zealander voter or I have ever been told is part and parcel of my responsibility.

GUYON: Okay the agreement allowed for 1800 Chinese workers to come into New Zealand, was that one of your primary concerns?

WINSTON: No it's not one of my primary concerns but why would you allow that to happen when you’ve got unemployment bound to rise to about 6.4% within a very short time from now because of international circumstances, I just want to remind you about this when you're talking about national circumstances all the world's wrestling with the worst energy crisis ever, but alongside that we have people paying power prices in this country massively inflated because of an experiment of 10 years ago that is costing us dearly when it should be a cutting edge advantage for all New Zealand production and all New Zealand families. That’s a disaster of the last reforms in power pricing.

GUYON: Okay, we talked briefly about Chinese workers, when you have made speeches in the past and your Deputy Peter Brown have made speeches about immigration the interpretation that has been taken quite widely is that your party believes there are too many immigrants from Asia coming into New Zealand, is that your belief?

WINSTON: Our belief is that there are far too many coming to this country who don’t qualify under the criteria that was first set in 1994 by the then National Party, one of those criteria was English. You're seeing people in the courts today and all sorts of television programmes today who need interpreters – no please .. me – please .. to me – are we gonna lie to New Zealand people and say the criteria doesn’t matter because every New Zealander watching that television programme knows that those people have got in somehow illegally because it doesn’t fit the criteria.

GUYON: Okay well let me take you to this. You under the confidence and supply agreement with Labour obtained and I quote you 'a full review of immigration legislation and administrative practices within the immigration service'. Now given you’ve still got these concerns presumably you’ve failed?

WINSTON: Well no excuse me. Has the law been passed yet?

GUYON: Well you’ve still got these concerns haven't you?

WINSTON: No no no, excuse me. Has the law been passed yet? And the answer's now, therefore we have not failed. We raise them because having English language capability is the means for employment, all the information all the signs behind immigration says that but I still put it to you – why is it we've got the highest immigration in the world voluntarily, no other country has our level of immigration why is that, other than it's used as a sop to disguise an economic model that has not worked and will not work, it's driven consumption from abroad and trying to replace people actually in our economy because we have not been successful in high wages and better conditions and keeping them here and trying to say that everything's fine because somehow the population's balanced out. Look even Gareth Morgan one of my best supporters said that I was right to this extent that it's possible that New Zealand population could be utterly changed within 60 years. New Zealanders need to know that because it's their country.

GUYON: Okay, let's talk about the role that you or and your party may play in the next government. The position of Foreign Minister is that one you want to continue with after the election?

WINSTON: Let me say this, the Foreign Affairs portfolio is a very very important one and I had certain goals in seeking to do that job which I believe I've been successful in, our relations with Asia, our relations with Australia, our relations with the United States are better than they’ve ever been.

GUYON: Are you perhaps hinting that you’ve done your work in that portfolio and maybe want to move on to something else?

WINSTON: No I'm merely hinting that I found it an exciting challenge and an enormously difficult complex job both in getting the resources for this country to have for the first time for a long time the capacity to properly image sell itself and help our exporters, has been a great victory and I'm pleased about that, but I wouldn’t want to see it challenged because we've barely got back to where we were when Tallboys had the job. What's sad is what happened in between in terms of lack of resourcing.

GUYON: Okay, let's talk about whether you're happy with the structure of the relationship you’ve got with Labour where you are a Minister but not in Cabinet and outside the government, is that the sort of thing that you would like to continue with should you be in a position to form a new government?

WINSTON: I can't say I'm totally happy with it but I'm not unhappy with it. I didn’t want to be part of a government whose economic policy and social policy we could not support. That’s how bad it was back in 2005 but I saw reasons to change the future for elderly people, to change this country's economic image and resources for our team of diplomats abroad, reason to change the racing industry which has been dramatically turned around, and I was lucky to do all those things.

GUYON: Okay in terms of your stance on coalitions I mean you’ve been criticised in the past but when I look back you’ve been relatively consistent, in 1996 …

WINSTON: Thank you very much for saying so.

GUYON: And again – it's a rare compliment – and in 2005 …

WINSTON: It shouldn’t be so rare because it's true.

GUYON: In 2005 it was the same in that you went with the largest party and formed a government which had the fewest number of parties within it, now is that your stance going into this election again?

WINSTON: Well I think that the more parties you have the more problems you're going to have and the real difficulty in New Zealand politics today is that not enough people have learnt that as much as this glamorous romantic talk about doing your own thing and going your own way, the people of this country want a government, they might criticise the government all the time but what distinguishes New Zealand as a first world country is that it has a stability about it, even in this present circumstance and fewer parties makes that easier to happen.

GUYON: I want to get this very clear because there are people, journalists, members of the public, who listen to you in parliament, they listen to you criticise the National Party and think oh he couldn’t work with them, but I just want to get it very clear that your position is based not on personalities but that you again on what you call the constitutional convention with the largest party has the first right to form a government.

WINSTON: Oh look when I hear some of the National Party getting up and going on about energy pricing I just about can't believe my ears. I saw what Max Bradford did, when I get to hear them say, talk about some issue to do with for example New Zealand Railways…

GUYON: I'm not interested in litigation… I'm asking you….

WINSTON: Just because you're reminding people of who did what where and when and making sure the voters don’t forget what might happen in the future because of things in the past doesn’t mean that you are necessarily not going to go into some sort of a governing arrangement with people.

GUYON: Okay just before I leave it, John Key has he got what it takes to become Prime Minister?

WINSTON: Look I don’t know John Key well enough truly, I've not been in a caucus with him or any meetings at all with him, and I don’t think the issue is John Key, it's whether that 1990s bunch he has of neo liberals have got over their ideological baggage, the Maurice Williamsons, the Nick Smiths, the Tony Ryalls, all the ones who want to do all sorts of - who believed in the Upton reforms in Health which were an absolute disaster, the transport reforms of Maurice Williamson, that’s what the big problem for John Key is gonna be, who's he gonna govern with inside his own party.

GUYON: Good place to leave it, thank you, back to your Rawdon.

RAWDON: We're now here with the panel to continue the question line. I just want to start off Minister and ask you that hypothetically come coalition talks what sort of concessions will you be asking for National and will they include the team who's there, you were just talking about the 90s team?

WINSTON: Well look you can't start telling some other party how to organise its internal operations that’s not what the discussion's about, in fact it's an unacceptable way of approaching negotiations, so most certainly I'm not, I'm just making the comment that that is what the difficulty John Key faces as at the moment.

RAWDON: And how would that affect you were you to be talking hypothetically in coalition talks?

WINSTON: Well you would know at that time what roughly their line up would be, a leader such as Helen Clark or John Key or any other leader would say well roughly this is what I want from the opening gambit, but I don’t know what that is.

RAWDON: But if it would happen you would want to see a different line up there than potentially what's sitting there at the moment?

WINSTON: No I'm just reflecting the fact is that the problem John Key's got is the ideological baggage of some of those members who were in the front bench who were massive failures and took the party to its worst defeat in its history of 21%.

JOHN ROUGHAN – New Zealand Herald
You were asked I think about whether you would still talk first to the party that wins the most votes at the election.

WINSTON: I wasn’t but the answer's yes I will.

JOHN: You would. Talk first but not necessarily go into coalition with that winning party if you like?

WINSTON: Well no party says that or we have said any party that is in our position has – and that goes for the other parties as well – has had more than one proviso.

JOHN: What I'm interested in is your view of the New Zealand political culture if you like. When we get to a point as we must sooner or later I spose where the parties that run second and third in the election can outvote the party that actually wins the election, will the New Zealand electorate accept a government do you think made up of two and three against one?

WINSTON: Well a similar thing not too dissimilar to that rather happened in 1932 in this country where the junior party presented the Prime Minister in Forbes, this is not new in this country, it's almost 70, 80 years old.

JOHN: Yeah but in our lifetime it hasn’t happened, I take it …

WINSTON: In your parents' lifetime it has, and in my parents' lifetime it has.

JOHN: You think we could live with it obviously.

WINSTON: No, no I'm just saying that we've often had many journalist and commentators present a circumstance in New Zealand as though they know nothing of history, I'm just giving you some of it.

COLIN ESPINER – Christchurch Press
But they have Mr Peters just listened to you say some fairly negative things about National and it's well known that you have some problems with people on their front bench. Now let's look at the polls…

WINSTON: No no I don’t have problems with people on their front bench, I have problems with their past record and what they believe, I've given you examples.

COLIN: On the polls at the moment though it does look as if National is going to be in a position to talk to you first and I think a number of your voters might be saying well can we really expect that you are going to go with National or talk to them first since you have these problems with them.

WINSTON: Look people in media said I couldn’t get on and form a government with Jim Bolger, I did in the country's interest, I didn’t break that deal, everyone who knows politics knows that, particularly those who are honest about politics, and no one thought I could work with Helen Clark but we've had a constructive arrangement in the interests of this country and I've done some great things in the portfolios in which I represent the people of New Zealand, so I'm asking you to go on my record not what commentators say about me.

COLIN: Can I ask Mr Peters you raised the immigration issue again during the week, you put out a statement in which you said that we really did need to have a debate in this country on the levels of immigration, clearly this is something that you think is still going to be an issue come the election campaign, I mean what are you planning in this area?

WINSTON: Well look when you have a pro immigration conference which did feature in the national papers, a pro immigration conference, only one side of the argument where someone gets up and says the immigrants of this country are four times more beneficial than its citizens where there's no scientific evidence for that at all and the report itself warned against coming to that conclusion, nevertheless that’s what was published in our daily papers. That’s why I think we need to have a debate because there is no country in the world or any political party in New Zealand's past who had ever made that argument out, but here this appears in 2008 as some sort of apologist's dream we have a

COLIN We have a falling economy though at the moment and we have a lot of people going to Australia done we need more people in order to try and kick start economic growth again.

WINSTON: No you need to keep the people here first of all by running a high wage regime and you need to have this country with the level of exports paralleling Singapore, Ireland, Taiwan or Scandinavia, all of which we used achieve, we've lost the plot here and we've got all sorts of apologists putting in all sorts of measures trying to shore up a failing economy but we're not exporting enough, we're not creating enough wealth and that’s why we're losing our young people. To replace them with people from the third world is not an answer.

COLIN Why not?

WINSTON: Why not? Because they're not trained, they're not skilled, they don’t understand the English language and every report on immigration says that some will take 25 years to merge into our economy, this is all in the report to the Labour Party government of 2002, it's so recent.

JOHN Look round the world and the countries that are doing well are countries with big immigration, Britain, Australia, open to immigrants.

WINSTON: Excuse me it's not true. Australia's had a rate of immigration of 80,000 a year when we were doing 60,000 a year, five times the size and look at the comparative difference, it's not true what you say. It's not true of England either and it's no longer true for the United States.

RAWDON: Can I just ask you, in your statement you said recently that – you questioned whether we were an Asian nation, a northern European nation or a Pacific nation, which one do you think we are?

WINSTON: I didn’t make any such speech.

RAWDON: It was in your statement.

WINSTON: Oh there's no doubt in my mind that we're a Pacific nation that’s where we are in the South Pacific, we're a Pacific country, miles away from our trading markets even in Asia. I mean Australia is a Pacific nation as well, we just happen to be in the Pacific.

COLIN Mr Peters can I just pick up on the economy again cos you’ve mentioned how you know things aren’t great. The dollar is something that you have long been interested in and so has the Reserve Bank Act is this something that you would want to make as a bottom line or a coalition negotiation issue to finally change the Reserve Bank Act to get away from this singular interest that we have in this country with the monetary policy the way it is?

WINSTON: Look absolutely most certainly. Mr Roughan's newspaper every now and again runs an article from people who say why don’t we have a single currency with Australia, that is an admission that the Reserve Bank Act is a massive failure in New Zealand, that they run it there without any examination of how did you get to this conclusion.

COLIN So when you change it cos it you had the opportunity when you were in government once before.

WINSTON: I changed the Policy Targets Agreement you know in the November of 1996, the Governor of the Reserve Bank who had been outside of the old band 0 to 2, 22 times is now under the 0 to 3 inside the band all the time, the old band. He ignored directions given to him by government and that will not happen again.

JOHN The idea of currency union with Australia is daft and we don’t advocate it, we run articles from people who do but that’s their point of view. Monetary policy is important for economic independence it give us control over our own exchange rate, our interest rates and our economy in general and …

WINSTON: Now with respect that’s nonsense. You’ve got no control over your interest rates whatsoever, you’ve got one man unelected called the Governor of the Reserve Bank running on a criteria that says anybody in their hundreds of thousands can lose their jobs but he keeps his if he keeps inflation below a certain rate. Now here's the point here, you’ve got massive imported inflation at the moment and he's clobbering New Zealanders trying to defeat it with a domestic response, it is not economically possible.

JOHN How much change would you make to the Act then, would you completely widen the criteria for the Reserve Bank or would you take the Reserve Bank's authority away altogether.?

WINSTON: I'd change the export, I'd change his criteria to ensure that unlike the policy ties agreement that Dr Cullen and I tried to write for him which in my view ignored, he must have regard to economic growth, he must have regard to exports, he must have regard to employment and the general health of the economy as much as inflation, but you're importing – you’ve got massive imported inflation at a time of energy crisis and he's saying via the crude instrument of high interest rates, the highest in the western world that he's gonna get on top of it. Well if you think every New Zealander should pay for that pain for some neo liberal idea I don’t. I make it very clear where New Zealand First stands in this campaign.

COLIN Would you give him any other tools Mr Peters because even if he has regard to other things he's still only got interest rates at the moment I mean are there any other tools that you can put in the tool box that you would advocate that he would do.

WINSTON: Well there are other tools but I'm not about to float them now in this debate, this debate's almost over, I'm going to wait till the campaign proper because frankly I have argued for a long time that this Act was never going to work for this country, it's based on American thinking, America exports about 8% of its GDP we export about 38%, that’s the difference and yet we are living here with imported Chicago School of Economics type theory which has never worked for this country and never will, meanwhile Ireland has taken off with subsidies and incentivisation, so has Singapore, so has Taiwan, so does Scandinavia, why don’t we learn? The other thing I heard that amazed me at a meeting the other day with New Zealand and Australia Leadership Council was well of course we have to go with international money because where would we get the money from, and the answer is well we should have saved it and we had opportunity for the last three decades to have massive savings of the type which Australia in 15 years now has one trillion.

RAWDON: Can I just quickly change gear slightly and just talk about the huge amount of money which your ministry has just received 630 million dollars in extra funding, given the general economic climate how responsible do you think that amount is?

WINSTON: I think anything less than that would have been absolutely irresponsible, we're in a more complex more difficult world, we've got trading partners all round the world, we've got posts all round the world, we have in Madrid for example two people only, we've got in massive countries like Philippines two people, if somebody falls sick and the other one's out of town that’s the end of your office. I think it's massively irresponsible to have done what happened in 1992 to 2002 where in real terms that ministry which is our international footprint offshore was cut by almost 40%. You can see why this economy's gonna fail if you don’t make an investment like that, and I'm trying to ….

RAWDON: Do you think an embassy in Stockholm's a good investment?

WINSTON: Of course it's a great investment it'll pay off hugely in time, and very quickly, here are from Iceland all the way to Finland five of the world's most successful economies in one place, why would we not be part of that market when we've got so many similar values to them. We have not made the investment in the past, I can remember Tallboys trying to advocate to the National Party way back in 1971 that they must do this, I've picked up the message I hope they have.

RAWDON: It's a difficult one to sell to the public though isn't it 630 million, I mean it's – at this time…

WINSTON: I tell you what you can tell the public we're going into the third world if we don’t make these sorts of investments and don’t start running an economy for the New Zealand conditions and circumstances of our production and export.

RAWDON: Okay thanks very much to Minister Winston Peters, thanks for coming in and good luck with the next four or five months.


ENDS

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