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Q + A: Winston Peters

Q + A
Episode 20
Winston Peters
Interviewed by MICHAEL PARKIN

SUSAN New Zealand First is holding its annual conference this weekend, it's just about to get underway again at Alexandra Park Raceway. And celebrating 21 years since the party was formed, will they be celebrating another three years on election night, and will Winston Peters be playing kingmaker yet again. Michael's with New Zealand First Leader.

MICHAEL Good morning Mr Peters. Congratulations on making it to 21 years. But when of you hand over the reins of New Zealand First?

WINSTON Well there is always a leadership succession in any political party and we have one as well. We've got a lot of talented people and sometime in the future that will happen, and happily everybody will see us progress into the future as strong as ever before.

MICHAEL Is Shane Jones one of those talented people you’ve got your eye on?

WINSTON Why don’t you ask Shane?

MICHAEL I'm asking you. Who would you like to see in the spot? Is it one of those MPs you’ve got.

WINSTON You say ‘got your eye on’. We make democratic decisions chosen by the party right round the country, from Invercargill to Kaitaia. It's not a thing that a leader decides. So that’s why I find it rather comedic.

MICHAEL Do you think the next leader of New Zealand First will come from within the group of MPs you’ve got in parliament at the moment, because almost all of them have found themselves in the midst of some sort of controversy in this term.

WINSTON Well that’s wrong for a start. We've disposed of most of those self-serving controversies that didn’t last five seconds. But we've got some strong MPs inside parliament, we've got very talented people outside of parliament. We've got some very talented candidates, and you never know because democratic decisions are chosen by the people, confronted with the question at the time it's put.

MICHAEL Without sort of laying out that succession plan, are you not forcing people to take another look at Colin Craig, because isn't he really just a younger version of you. You’ve acknowledged you’ve got a lot of similar policies now?

WINSTON Will you’ve just proven what a great sense of humour you’ve got, I mean that’s ridiculous.

MICHAEL Why is it ridiculous?

WINSTON Well I'll tell you why it's ridiculous because we've got the record, everybody that’s ever voted for New Zealand First know what we stand for, know what we deliver, know what our commitment is. We've got a long record and it's a very proud one, I'm going to lay out some of those achievements today. And so to make such a comparison is simply ridiculous.

MICHAEL But they know that he's a younger man, sort of 20 years your junior, would he not have the energy that you may be don’t now to fight this campaign?

WINSTON Why don’t you go and ask somebody else, because frankly I'm here to talk about a great party, the strongest, longest surviving new party in this country's history. So you know let's concentrate on that rather than a mere bagatelle that’s of no concern to anybody, and who the National Party has to prop up if they’ve got any chance of surviving. This party survived for 21 years all by ourselves with some serious commitment from tens of thousands of people and hundreds of thousands of voters all around the country.

MICHAEL Let's talk about that propping up. You’ve suggested that you might stand in East Coast Bays, taking on Colin Craig in some sort of protest.

WINSTON No I didn’t.

MICHAEL When do you make that decision?

WINSTON No I didn’t.

MICHAEL You haven't ruled it out, so it's still on the table isn't it?

WINSTON Sorry, look I didn’t at all. Your colleague suggested that, so let's stick with the facts.

MICHAEL So you won’t stand in East Coast Bays?

WINSTON Now look you see, we're now talking about whether we're going to do something or not do something when the origin of that story was never New Zealand First, was never me, it was a media person and you all know. Let's get back to the fact. We have eight weeks to go in a serious campaign and our job in New Zealand First is to turn your polls upside down, so on election night people do get a say.

MICHAEL Will you stand in an electorate?

WINSTON We're going to make that decision very soon.

MICHAEL And where are you looking at?

WINSTON Well we'll make that decision very soon.

MICHAEL If we move on to some of your policies. You’ve announced this railways of national significance this week, 300 million dollar spend up. Don’t roads matter more to people than rail?

WINSTON No what you’ve got here is an imbalance of transport policy which is obsessed with roading at the enormous expense of something which every modern economy understands and our geographic position is critical. And we believe in railways of national significance as much as Vogel did way back two centuries ago, and all those great leaders on the way through who built this magnificent infrastructure up. Rail has got an important future for this country. And if they're going to lower our carbon footprint, we need to be using far more insightful policies on that score, like in Christchurch, like in Auckland, like in Wellington, and we currently have.

MICHAEL You want to pay for that out of the roads of national significance programme, National's pet projects, you're going to take 300 million dollars out of that. If you're the kingmaker in September, are those roads of national significance, are they history?

WINSTON You don’t remember the history of railways in this country…

MICHAEL It's not the history of the railways, it's what do you want to do with the roads of national significance project, should you have influence with the National Party?

WINSTON With respect, you said if you want to take 300 million dollars out, and I'm saying to you, when the National Party flog Railways off to its mates, it was said to make a serious profit, and ever since that time it's been absolutely the victim of massive mismanagement, of micro-interference…

MICHAEL There must be some roads in there that you believe don’t need to be funded under that programme to pay for your rail policy.

WINSTON Well look, you’ve gotta look around the provincial New Zealand situation and go to province after province where they haven't built 10 metres of new road. As a result all the money has gone because of their preoccupation just to the roads of national significance, and the provinces can go to Hades. That’s what the National Party's plan is. We want balance.

MICHAEL Your policy this afternoon you're looking at some form of capital gains tax, what more can you tell us about what you're going to outlay there?

WINSTON Now, we've made it very clear that we don’t support the extension of a capital gains tax, because we've already got capital gains taxes in this country now, but you wouldn’t think so from the debate.

MICHAEL You're extending it into foreign capital though aren't you?

WINSTON We are not going to go for an extension of capital gains tax when there's no compensation for capital losses. That’s the fair thing that we stand for. But we will support one, and I will announce it this afternoon.

MICHAEL If we can look ahead to post September and coalitions. Our latest Colmar Brunton poll showed 75% of people wanted parties to state who they would and would not work with before the election. Can you say who you prefer to work with out of Labour and National given that result?

WINSTON With respect your same poll came out three and a half months ago saying that New Zealanders did not like the machinations and backroom dealing and coat tailing that’s going on in politics. Make up your mind, what are you saying?

MICHAEL People last month said they want to know who parties are going to work with. Now why won’t you abide by the will of the people when it comes to that and say who you will and won’t work with?

WINSTON Well look with the greatest respect, and look this is a political programme. We've got eight weeks to go in a campaign. I don’t know what Labour's going to say or do. I don’t know what National's going to say or do. We've all got to wait to see what they committed themselves to in that closing time, and then when it's over, a decision has to be made by political parties at the highest level, at the board level, and right around their provincial organisation. That’s how democracy works, and to argue that people need to decide the outcome of the game before the game starts, or what you call match-fixing, is just not right.

MICHAEL If we take the policy that they may or may not announce out of it and look at the personalities, can I ask you, who would you prefer to have a whisky with out of John Key and David Cunliffe?

WINSTON Well you don’t approach politics from the point of view of personalities. The public of this country want a stable government after the election. They want people to put the interests of the country first. So all those personal foibles or are you friends with this guy or don’t you like that woman, this is ridiculous. In the end you’ve got to rise above it, in the national interest, and we always have.

MICHAEL Winston Peters, that’s a good place to leave it, thank you very much for your time this morning, enjoy the conference.

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