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Peters - Who Will New Zealand First Go With?

07 September 2005

Peters - Who Will New Zealand First Go With?

An address by Rt Hon Winston Peters to a public meeting in Rotorua, Wednesday 07 September 2005, at the Rotorua Convention Centre, Concert Chambers, Lake end of Fenton Street, Rotorua, 12:30pm

Who Will New Zealand First Go With?

I intended to give a speech about health policy today.

It is a crucial issue which requires much attention.

We have good policy solutions and a proven track record in health.

But I didn’t – for one very simple reason.

Because whatever I said on health – the media would only have asked me one question: “Who will you go with?”

It is the question which has beset New Zealand First throughout this election campaign.

We launched our campaign with a focus on five key policy objectives.

We have made no secret of them.

Our seniors policy;

Our immigration policy;

Our law and order policy;

Our Treaty policy;

Our economic plan for working New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses.

But all the media would ask us is: “Who will you go with?”

When we said we have worked constructively with others and we will do so again to achieve our policy outcomes – they said: “But who will you go with?”

They have chosen to portray us unfairly as being cynical manipulators because they cannot see the obvious – we don’t have a favourite.

Ask yourselves this – have we tried to hide our policies?

Have there been leaked emails about our secret agenda?

No – we have tried diligently to get our policies out there because they are good policies.

We are proud of them and are confident the voting public will support us based on them.

But we face a seemingly insurmountable dilemma – despite making scores of speeches outlining and promoting these and other policies – all the media wanted to do is play a game of: “Who will you go with?”

And they wonder why we get frustrated with them.

Again I would add that they ignored the blatantly obvious – there was no preferred coalition partner.

We had and could work with either, but we certainly did not favour one over the other.

So the media were searching for an answer that did not exist to a quandary they had created for themselves.

In the meantime there was little or no discussion of our policies.

There has also been little or no genuine assessment of the big spending promises of our opponents.

The media were expecting us to make a judgement call on these extravagant promises – when we, like them, had not seen all the facts or the small print so to speak.

They wanted us to sign up to a package, without all the warranty details spelt out, or a thorough check up of its road worthiness.

You would not do this with a car – so why would you do this with a government?

So when we said caution was needed – they said: “Who will you go with?”

Did you realise that since the election date was announced we have launched our law and order policy?

Guess what the media asked us?

That’s right: “Who will you go with?”

We launched our policy on elder care and direct democracy.

Same response again: “Who will you go with?”

We launched our environment and conservation policies.

Great polices which had concrete solutions to pressing issues such as the Kyoto dilemma and sewerage overflows.

Rather than report these they asked: “Who will you go with?”

We launched our economic plan and tax policies – twice because it was not picked up the first time.

Hardly a single word of reporting on our policy – again the only question was: “Who will you go with?”

This was an important policy – it highlighted several key points of difference between us, Labour and National.

It was clearly a third alternative and yet all we heard was: “Who will you go with?”

It contained a plan to deal with rising petrol prices – taking GST off petrol which will save the average motorist over $10 a week.

In this current petrol price crisis you would have thought this policy would have got at least some coverage – but instead all we got was: “Who will you go with?”

We launched our response on tax cuts – we believe wages must go up while business tax is lowered.

We want to break the low wage economy cycle.

Again little coverage on the policy and lots on: “Who will you go with?”

We launched our foreign ownership policy – same response.

We re-launched our Seniors policy with the Golden Age Card – same response: “Who will you go with?”

Just last Friday we launched our export policy and got the same response again: “Who will you go with?”

We had earlier launched our immigration and Treaty policies.

When these were poorly imitated, were we asked about our policies? No: you guessed it – just “Who will you go with?”

So this brings us to this point in the campaign – we have tried to make it about the policies, but the message is simply not getting out to the public.

It seems until we answer this one question – “Who will you go with?” – we have no chance of getting our policies covered.

These are good policies – and the public of New Zealand deserve to know about them.

We want to focus the remainder of this campaign on our policies.

We have the right policies, programme, and people for this nation’s future.

But for whatever reason, this election is being portrayed as a choice between Labour and National.

While this was always technically wrong – neither would be strong enough – that is nonetheless how the media have driven this campaign.

We have found this difficult because we think there are fundamental failings in both Labour’s and National’s packages.

But we are realists.

If the electorate clearly chooses one of these over the other – we will accept this.

After all – that is what the voters wanted and the power must always reside with the voters.

As is always the case, and as we have said repeatedly, particularly on 12 November 2003 in our “Direct Democracy” speech, the choice of which party holds the most seats in parliament belongs to the people, not to me, not to New Zealand First, not to any other person or party. The choice belongs to the people.

But let me be clear – we have no preference between them, so we will not be endorsing one over the other.

We do not believe that National have been open and honest about having to borrow and cut government services to pay for their tax cuts and Mr Key and Don Brash have contradicted themselves several times on this matter.

But we also do not favour making welfare recipients out of wage earners – even if it is called tax relief.

We do believe higher wages and cuts in business taxes are called for.

We are also dismayed at the depth of dirty tricks, thoughtless spending promises and the general unpleasantness this campaign has engendered.

And we do think in all this discussion of personal incomes many of the fundamentals have been ignored.

We still have over 180,000 people on hospital waiting lists – tax cuts or more welfare will not fix this. One hundred million dollars over three years, or $33 million extra per year, as National has promised, will have little effect on these waiting lists.

Aspects of our education system are failing – tax cuts or more welfare will not fix this.

Our immigration system is in disrepair – tax cuts and more welfare will not fix this.

We need many more police on our streets – tax cuts and more welfare will not fix this.

Now I could go on – but you get my point.

It is clear there are fundamental failings in both packages – and we certainly do not have a favoured option.

So for this reason I am announcing today that New Zealand First will not be going into a formal coalition with either Labour or National.

We do not think there is sufficient common ground to base a formal coalition on – and we are not prepared to compromise our principles simply to pursue the perks of office.

We are not the desperate lonely hearts of New Zealand politics – looking hopefully and forlornly for a suitor.

Now just to be sure there is no misunderstanding of what I am saying let me be clear – no coalition means just that, it is not a play on words.

There are some important questions which follow from this decision.

Where does this leave New Zealand First?

We will be sitting on the cross benches.

Will New Zealand First oppose supply and confidence to either Labour or National?

No – we will ensure that whoever the voters back to form a government, that government will have stability over the next three years.

How will New Zealand First decide which of the two parties to support?

According to constitutional convention – the party which gains the most seats is the party which must first try and form a government. We will support this constitutional convention in the first instance.

Will New Zealand First hold the government to ransom?

No we will not – we did not do this in the past three years and we will not do this going forward.

How will you resolve policy differences?

We will vote on all legislation issue by issue. We have clearly outlined in our manifesto policy positions on almost all issues – these will guide our voting choices. We will also make all our decisions democratically as a caucus – the way we always have.

On some issues – like a China Free Trade Agreement for example – whoever is in office, will have to look elsewhere for support. We would not bring a government down over these types of issues – but we will be fighting them all the way.

How will New Zealand First have any influence over the next government?

We will not allow any potential minority government to be blackmailed or held to ransom by an extreme party of the far Left or the far Right. Or even from within.

At the moment, Labour and National have engaged in a tawdry exercise of deceit. Both are saying the same, but the opposite. Labour says, “Don’t trust Winston Peters or New Zealand First, they’re going with National”.

National are saying the reverse, “Don’t trust Winston Peters or New Zealand First, they’re going with Labour”.

Meanwhile, every party in Parliament is lined up on one side or the other – all except one – New Zealand First.

Meanwhile, New Zealanders are witnessing the sordid courtship of one or the other of the minority parties. First Helen had an outing with Jeanette and then Don had an outing with Peter, having changed venues because Rodney gatecrashed the first one. Have you ever seen such a sorry sight?

No wonder the public have contempt for politicians.

Does this mean that we will stand by and let the Greens blackmail Labour? No. Labour would not need the Greens to govern.

Does this mean we will stand by and let ACT hold National to ransom? No. National would not need ACT to govern.

Rod Donald will not become Energy Minister, nor Jeanette Fitzsimons Transport Minister, or Nandor Tanczos Minister of Police. Rodney Hide will not be Minister of Finance.

There may be circumstances where a group of other parties seek to bring down the minority government by defeating it on a supply and confidence motion.

In this circumstance we will guarantee supply and confidence to ensure stability.

This is not about support for the minority government. This is about stability for the people.

Let me be clear that we will not be lap dogs to secret agendas and there will be no back room deals. No more Labour “We won, you lost, eat that”.

No more National selling the peoples’ assets to their big donor mates or foreigners.

If the public wants tax cuts and it thinks they are wise and affordable, then we will not stop them. If the public wants welfarism, and they think that is wise and affordable, then we will not stop them.

But the real question is are either policies wise, affordable and responsible in the economic climate we now face.

In New Zealand’s great years, many families didn’t pay much tax. But they didn’t get more to take home than they earned. Low wages and welfarism today means they now do.

On the other side of the coin, New Zealanders must ask whether they want tax cuts while grandma languishes, sometimes for 10 years, on a hospital waiting list for a $3,000 cataract operation.

More importantly, in this unseemly lolly scramble, where all semblance of fiscal rectitude and propriety has gone out the window and 21 years of change in government accounting seems all for nought, National and Labour must now demonstrate their policy affordability to the people of New Zealand in the closing days of this campaign.

However, as neither will be forming a government outside of our position – the public deserves to know what we will be bargaining for, in return for our position on supply and confidence. Too many other parties are using the phrase “bottom line”. That is neither cooperative nor positive. But New Zealand First has unwavering principles that are not for sale.

This campaign for us has always been about our policies and achieving certain policy objectives.

It is then for Helen Clark and Don Brash to consider which of these they are prepared to accept.

They of course will need to get a sufficient share of the vote to consider this proposal – but that is their problem, not ours.

Our first policy priority is a dedicated seniors card – our Golden Age Card.

Every senior citizen in New Zealand must know that a party vote for New Zealand First makes this card more of a reality.

It is both affordable and necessary to ensure our seniors can live in dignity.

So Helen Clark and Don Brash will need to decide if they are prepared to ensure our seniors can have a Golden Aged Card in their golden years.

Our second policy priority relates to immigration.

Every New Zealander needs to know that a vote for New Zealand First is a vote for more secure borders and an immigration program in New Zealand ‘s interests.

Even the current Minister says the immigration laws are a “dogs breakfast”.

We want a commitment that the next government will move to tighten our lax immigration laws and take the necessary steps to deal with potential threats.

Our third policy priority relates to police numbers and a commitment to explore de-merging traffic officers from the police.

Now even shopkeepers are left chasing criminals down the street. We simply need far greater police numbers which we have promised.

Every New Zealand household needs to know that a vote for New Zealand First is a vote for more secure homes, streets and communities.

There simply must be more police – many more and the current proposals from both Labour and National are just soft and inadequate.

Our fourth policy priority relates to the Treaty of Waitangi.

Every New Zealander needs to know that New Zealand First is serious about a Treaty policy which unites – not divides – New Zealanders.

It has two aspects to it – whichever party forms the next government, my Private Members Bill to delete the so-called Principles of the Treaty from existing statutes must be able to be debated by the next Parliament and supported at least to the Select Committee stage, where it can be fully explored.

The second aspect, which we believe are the fundamental failings of both Labour and National’s proposals on Treaty settlements, is that the Waitangi Tribunal must be restructured into a genuine Commission of Inquiry, which will shed its politicised agenda and be refocused on resolving legitimate historical grievances.

While there is general consensus on timelines, without adequate resources and a refinement of the process, timelines are meaningless.

Our final policy priority relates to our economic plan, which the media has been so reluctant to report on.

Every New Zealand worker and business needs to know that New Zealand First wants to lift us out of the doldrums of a low wage economy and restore our living standards to what we expect.

We will be fighting for – GST off petrol, cutting business taxes, lifting the minimum wage, addressing energy issues and actually developing a genuine export plan. We will also be fighting for increased New Zealand ownership of our infrastructure and key assets.

So do New Zealanders have a reason to vote for New Zealand First?

Well yes, yes, yes, yes and yes – on all five counts.

In addition to these five policy priorities there are certain policies we will not be supporting.

We will always fight against any attempt to sell off state assets and land into foreign control.

We will oppose reduced spending on health, education, on police and defence services and other essential services – including cutting superannuation.

If either party wants to further loosen our moral laws, undermine family values or make constitutional changes – our position is clear.

These issues ought to be decided by referendum not by temporarily empowered politicians.

We will oppose free trade agreements with low wage economies.

We will not be supporting the legalisation of cannabis – or any softening of our laws on illegal drugs.

So let me be absolutely clear – during this election campaign we will not be endorsing one package or the other in relation to Labour or National.

They may have some difficulties with different aspects of our proposal today – it is for the media to ask them and find out.

But politics is all about negotiation and compromise.

And I would add this thought – now we have made this clear about our policies, the public will know exactly what they are voting for when they vote for us.

They will know what we are for and what we are against.

They know we will provide stable government for whoever the voting public chooses for us to work with post election.

And they know we are in this for our policies – not the perks of office.

MMP can accomplish exactly what it was intended to accomplish – great diversity of ideas in government. For the media to serve the public it needs to assist them in learning the policies of all the parties, large and small, those that will be in parliament and those whose ideas might deserve to be debated in parliament.

Our five policy priorities – our seniors, immigration, law and order, Treaty policies and our economic plan is our pledge to New Zealand voters.

We encourage New Zealanders to vote for us based on them.

We place the voters needs first – that is why it is the policies – not the perks of office, which matter most to us.

That is why we are your insurance policy – your only protection – against the political extremes of others.

Our policies deserve to be debated in this campaign, and now the voters know New Zealand First will not be in government – by our own choice – they also deserve to know that we intend to serve New Zealanders, as we always have, by keeping the next government honest. And to keep it from pandering to the extreme Left or extreme Right, and from within.

It involves for my colleagues a real sacrifice, but we willingly make it. For my part, I never took as deputy Prime Minister ministerial cars or a house, so we genuinely don’t care about the baubles of office.

We in New Zealand First are going to put New Zealanders first.


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