Winston Speech “ Campaign On Coalition Priorities"
An address by Rt Hon Winston Peters at a public meeting at the ASB Netball North Harbour Complex, 44 Northcote Road, Northcote at 2pm Sunday, 10th October 1999.
Theme: “ CAMPAIGN ON COALITION PRIORITIES”
On Friday, one of the most eventful 3 year Parliamentary terms since the War ended with the usual valedictory speeches and cross party hugging that we have become accustomed to on these occasions.
MPs spent hours eulogising people they had slanged for the previous 3 years and everybody parted the best of friends – for an hour or so anyway.
Many people often wonder why MPs cannot behave like this at other times, respecting opposing points of views, and trying to govern New Zealand in the interests of all New Zealanders.
It is not actually hard to get on with some political opponents.
Some previous colleagues and opponents from both National and Labour keep in touch, and the Alliance Leader, Jim Anderton, has been known to share a joke with me.
It was therefore with some regret that the last week ended on a bit of sour note with the Alliance when their campaign strategy agenda was sent to the New Zealand First office by mistake.
The only name on the agenda was Winston Peters – and the only strategy mentioned was printing “Stop Winston Peters” stickers.
Sadly, there was nothing to say that the Alliance was basing its election campaign on any policies, or coalition priorities.
In other words – the sellout to Labour is complete – and the only tactic left for the Left is to attack the people in the middle.
This is what happens when political parties start trying to form coalitions and governments before the people have voted in elections.
There have been all sorts of maneuverings going on in the back rooms of Parliament.
National is not fielding candidates in Ohariu Belmont and Wellington Central to prop up United and ACT.
Labour is frantically trying to do a deal with the Alliance in Wellington Central and the Greens are trying to do a deal with Labour in Coromandel.
New Zealand First is not doing deals with anyone.
We believe that it is up to the voters to decide the next Parliament and the day to start the coalition talks is the Sunday after the General Election – not a year before.
The Alliance and Labour have been holding secret talks since last August and yet they are still not explaining their JOINT coalition position.
We all want to know whether they really have been negotiating, or just fantasizing!
National and ACT are no better. They are not explaining what they would do – except Richard Prebble has publicly stated that he wants to be Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer.
New Zealanders will NOT vote for that worst case scenario.
The Business Round Table and their vested interests would truly run what is left of our country.
If we were asked to explain our biggest disappointments of the past three years, we’d have to say that foremost would be the failure of Parliament to accept that we were in a new era of MMP.
The public voted for it but most of the Parliamentarians thought they were still working under First Past the Post.
Once National did a deal they went straight back into First Past the Post mode and we had to fight tooth and nail to get the coalition agreement honoured.
In retrospect, they did not want to govern, they simply wanted to RULE.
Perhaps we should have been more alert to this from the start, but the problem was that we actually believed that we had to get a stable coalition government established.
We were sucked in by the hype from the commentators, the political scaremongers about financial stability and the need to show the world how stable and calm we were.
We kept all our fights behind closed doors and that gave the appearance that we were in cahoots with National.
The reality is that we had plenty of fights behind closed doors.
Our other major disappointment was the defection of MPs whom party members had sweated blood for to get into Parliament.
The trappings of office, a ministerial salary and car, and a few crumbs from the Shipley table, were more important than principles to these people and thankfully we are rid of them.
The team which remain loyal have fought their way back and we are now regarded rightfully, as the party in the middle, which will make a difference.
We have learned from our experience in a coalition government and the betrayal of the National Party.
And one of the most important lessons we have learnt is that when we are back in coalition talks, we will drive a very hard bargain indeed.
We will negotiate on behalf of thousands of New Zealanders to get more jobs, increased pensions, for a better health system, reduced student loans and for solutions to other problems facing the country.
Remember last time: we ended the super surtax, we got free medical care for the under sixes, 500 extra police, reduced interest rates and the exchange rate, twenty per cent more on education – and we did it with a balanced budget.
The secret coalition arrangements being made now between the tired old parties, and their acolytes, will bring nothing for New Zealanders except more of the failed policies of the past fifteen years.
After all, the same people are making the arrangements.
People say to me – why didn’t you change it?
You were in Government.
The answer is simple – you cant govern with only 13 per cent of the vote and 17 MPs.
We could not go with Labour because they had only 37 MPs.
That makes 54 and there were 120 seats. Simple arithmetic shows that a New Zealand First Labour coalition was not possible last time.
People forget that in 1996 the Alliance stated publicly, before the election that the other parties had to declare themselves otherwise there would be no coalition deal.
What most New Zealanders outside Parliament know is that the job of a centrist party like New Zealand First is not to prop up tired old parties, but to keep them honest.
It is not possible to do that when you are attached before the election, like the Alliance and ACT.
This is why we insisted on a formal coalition agreement last time and this is why we will demand one again.
This is why we are being attacked from all sides by all the other political parties and this is why they are all rightly terrified of New Zealand First holding the balance of responsibility.
They do not want anyone holding them to their word and they do not want to be held accountable for their broken promises.
A coalition agreement is the only way to make them moderate their extremist policies and to share power.
It is the only way to ensure that the elderly are not betrayed again, the only way to ensure that the interest on student loans is reduced, the only way to improve health services, and the only way to keep Heartland New Zealand alive.
Remember 1984 and 1990, when Labour and National in turn, had a manifesto for the election campaign and a hidden agenda for the next three years.
The old parties want to return to this system and the others support them.
During this campaign, there will be more public and media scrutiny of coalition priorities.
These are even more important than the commitments in political manifestos (if there are any) and the policy positions.
We all know that manifestos are the “wish lists” of parties if they had the numbers to govern on their own.
Labour has publicly stated that it wants to govern on its own. It does not want the Alliance.
The last time Labour governed on its own was in 1984. Does any New Zealander want that again?
What New Zealanders really want to know is what the next coalition Government intends to do for the next three years, and how it will affect their lives.
Political partnerships are meaningless unless they put their coalition cards on the table – and explain their JOINT priorities and plans.
This means everyone would know what they are voting for and the time for negotiating a coalition would be reduced considerably.
We accept that it took too long last time but it was the first election under the new system and there was no structure or method in place for the negotiations.
All that happened was that Labour and National called up and said let’s go into coalition and form a government.
They did not even discuss policies or plans, they only want to discuss power – and how to seize it.
We expect that the next coalition talks to take only two to three weeks.
We actually did twice the negotiating that everyone else did last time – and we have more experience.
As well, we will be releasing our coalition priorities so that they are out in the open, for everyone to see, because that is what people will be voting on.
So, today New Zealand First is calling on the coalitions of Labour and the Alliance – National and Act to put out joint statements on their priorities.
We don’t think that this is too much to ask.
After all, they have made their choice of political partner and the electorate want more than just a combined anti Winston Peters campaign.
We are prepared, once again to put ourselves on the line, and to tell everybody what we will be fighting for, on their behalf.
We will not let our supporters down.