Peters: General Debate, 7 December
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs): If I were a media tycoon who owned newspapers or other media outlets in this country, I would be wanting to know what on earth my money was being spent on. Journalism is a paid profession. Those people actually receive remuneration for what they do, and that is quite staggering. The question is: are they paid to write fiction or fact? Well, I believe they are supposed to write about facts, but what we are seeing in this country of late is the worst kind of fiction. It is often vindictive, lying, erroneous, deceitful, baseless, and devoid of any fact. One wonders if those people are in fact closet conspiracy-fantasy writers trying to manufacture some sort of pet blockbuster, and if they would like to call their work of fiction The Clowns Who Tried to Bring Peters Down.
Let me say that that is not a new story. Some journalists have been writing those chapters in that book for years. But I have a new story for them to tell, and it is called Telling the Truth. In my view, most of those journalists would not know the truth if it slapped them in the face, and I will give them a few examples today of how they have engaged in deception. I take, as an example, the New Zealand Herald article this morning alleging that I as the Minister of Foreign Affairs was left out of a dinner. It is totally false and the writer knew it, because the paper called my office. My counterpart was not here. That is right—the Foreign Minister for Turkey did not come on that trip. Many other Ministers did, and their counterparts met at the dinner. I had three other appointments; I was not left out. I covered all the issues in the Cabinet meeting that I did attend, and they had a photograph to prove it, but the journalist still wrote it and never seems to think there is anything wrong in that practice.
We have a writer who said I travelled first class. I told him that that was a lie. He has never apologised for it. We had someone—and this someone is sitting up in the press gallery right now, from the Dominion Post—who tried to make out that I was somehow erroneously seeing the Minister of Defence in Britain. Now, for 165 years we have been seeing the Minister of Defence in Britain, and it happened to be that Phil Goff had it organised, all pre-planned, when he was the Minister of Defence to do exactly what I was doing, but that did not catch the journalist by any surprise, at all. He thought there was something erroneous in that, something worth making mention of—when it is total trash.
But, worst of all, we had a person who wrote for the New Zealand Herald named Fran O’Sullivan, who reported a meeting between myself and Condoleezza Rice. She was told that the four witnesses, myself included, thought it was a load of inventive bovine scatology, but she still stands by her words and so do the darned editorial writers for the New Zealand Herald. They are a disgrace to journalism. Fran O’Sullivan was told that none of the things she reported in fact took place. Do members know what she said to me? She said: “I have my sources.” What sort of arrogance is that! “I have my sources.”, she said. Let me just say that what journalists wrote about Phil Goff over in the meeting in Korea was absolutely and totally false. They knew it, they were told it, but nevertheless they kept on writing it. And they go on interviewing each other with one tissue of lies after the other. Let me tell the New Zealand Herald writers and other journalists: “If you think I’m going to go away because of your erroneous lies, you are making one big mistake.”
Hon Tau Henare: Sue them.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yeah, I will sue them. Unlike some members here, I back up what I say. I have already got two defamation writs out. One is against Television New Zealand and one is against Radio New Zealand. Unlike those members over here—all talk—I back up what I say.
I want to make it very clear that one European Green MP in all those Parliaments, having been contacted by the New Zealand brotherhood, asked Helen Clark,—
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member has just referred to the brotherhood. He should know that four out of six of the Green MPs are women. I think that that is an erroneous reference.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, he made no disparaging remark about another party in this House, so that was not a point of order.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: In all those Parliaments throughout all of Europe, one MP asked the question—having been jacked up from back home—and what did the paper say? It said that Peters was in trouble in Europe. That is a disgrace—a total disgrace. When I said it was a matter of treason, I meant that someone was offshore, lying about what was happening in our country and capable of harming our relations with other countries. It is what I saw when a journalist from this country approached the Foreign Minster for Thailand and tried to raise a whole lot of issues about Winston Peters’ past and Asian immigration. The fact is, of course, that Thailand has the same policy as I have—only it is a hundred times more strict. But that journalist was not there to find out about avian flu, pandemics, Third World debt, or matters of development and cooperation. No—journalists went over there purely to make mischief. My invitation to them is this: stay home! I will deal with the foreign media, and I will get a fair chance then.
KEITH LOCKE (Green): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a point of misrepresentation. Mr Peters just said then that there was some jack-up in relation to the Green MP in Europe he referred to. There is no Green MP here who even knew that this discussion was taking place at the European Parliament.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, no—
KEITH LOCKE: Mr Peters should actually read the papers to find out the situation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Mr Locke, you were able to get that point away, but it was not a point of order.