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The Nation: Minor Party Leaders Debate Transcript

The leaders of the Maori Party, Green Party, New Zealand First, Mana, United Future, Conservative Party and ACT face off for the first time in an election campaign debate, hosted by Lisa Owen.


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Lisa Owen: As you may be aware, this is the debate that almost wasn't after Conservative leader Colin Craig got an 11th hour court order prohibiting us proceeding without him. So after a frankly heroic effort by our crew last night, he's with us. The judge ruled that his prospects of being elected would be diminished if he did not appear. So given we're such hot property, let's crack into it, and I'd like to welcome all my guests. Today Mr Craig, ACT's Jamie Whyte, Hone Harawira from Mana, Greens co-leader Metiria Turei, Winston Peters from New Zealand First, the Maori Party's Te Ururoa Flavell, and United Future's Peter Dunne. If I can come to you first, Metiria Turei, John Key says only 1% to 2% of our farmland has been sold in the last nine years. That's not much, is it? It's not a problem.

Metiria Turei: I think that number is disputed, but the Green Party has led on this issue now for well over a decade. We should not be selling off our land into foreign ownership. We have had a bill in Parliament to restrict land sales just to New Zealand residents— New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. And if that bill had been passed in 2012, the Lochinver Station would not have been sold. So National has deliberately allowed New Zealand land to be sold into foreign ownership, which is not good for our economy.

Mr Peters, you would like to ban foreign buyers from taking New Zealand land and houses. Do you mean all land, all property?

Winston Peters: First of all, when it comes to farmland, we're not making any more of it, or land itself, and this idea that somehow we advantage our economy by selling off farmland to foreigners and housing to offshore foreign interests is just silly; it does not make sense. Now, on the question of how much has been sold, Mr Key doesn't know, because he refuses and the Government refuses to keep a register as they do offshore in other countries of home ownership and house ownership. Now, it's one million hectares since he's been the Prime Minister. That's six times the size of Stewart Island. It is not a small matter, and I welcome the debate, because we have to make a stand on this matter, and New Zealand First intends to.

Mr Whyte, what's wrong with restrictions on foreigners buying our productive land? Britain has it, Argentina, China, the States and Canada.

Jamie Whyte: It's not our productive land. It's privately owned land. The Lochinver Station is the private property of the Stevenson Family, and it's not for the Government, it's not for politicians to tell them who they can and can't sell their land to. The ACT Party believes in private property and liberty. And I'm astonished, frankly, by the communistic form of thinking of my opponents, who seem to believe that land is collectively owned in New Zealand.

Mr Flavell, communistic is what you're being told you are. The Maori Party opposes foreign land ownership sales too. But you're at the table, so have you got the power to influence National on this policy, to get them to change?

Te Ururoa Flavell: Well, that depends on whether we're going to get asked after the next election, but our role in the past has always been to advance bills and legislation that we believe in. Sometimes we won some of those; sometimes we haven't. But in this particular case, the Maori economy is said to be at around $37 billion of huge untapped potential. I think our people are of the view that, no, we don't get rid of our land that's here, but allow foreign investors to come in. If they contribute and are able to form partnerships, let's say, with Maori corporations, Maori trusts, Maori iwi, iwi groups and others who might be able to take advantage of that, cos there is potential to do that, but under no circumstances allow that land to go. Leasing arrangements, which happen in other countries, are fine.

Mr Harawira, far enough?

Hone Harawira: Look, it's a simple thing, and it's not just about the land. It's also about the electricity companies. It's about our airlines. It's about our other infrastructure — our rail, our roads. Stop the sale of New Zealand assets to overseas interests, regardless of what they are — whether they're electricity, farms—

But they're privately owned, Mr Harawira, as Mr Whyte says; they are privately owned assets.

Harawira: Unless we take control of our own future and the destiny of our own children and our grandchildren, they will grow up in a land owned by somebody else. That's the way— No, no, to waha. That's the way of the global marketplace. It's not a future I want for my children. It's not even a future I want for his grandchildren. I want a future where New Zealand land is owned by New Zealand citizens and available for the benefit of all New Zealanders forever.

Mr Dunne, you're part of this current government, and when the Overseas Investment Office changed the rules in 2010, since then, no single sale of farmland has been stopped. Is the Government you're supporting on the wrong side of the tracks?

Peter Dunne: Firstly, I think there's a lot of xenophobia creeping into this debate. This country's been built on foreign investment, and we need that to create jobs and to create opportunities. The problem we have at the moment, though, is that the Overseas Investment Office isn't actually enforcing its legislation thoroughly enough. For instance, the legislation brings in very strict protections for environmental interests, for access to public land, for access across land, etc. There has never been any consultation by the Overseas Investment Office with groups like Fish & Game, for instance, on how that can occur. So I think the problem is enforcing the law as it was passed, making sure that they stick by the rules set; and ensuring that access is preserved; that environmental standards are maintained; that where freshwater fisheries are involved, that they are also protected and enhanced.

OK, Mr Craig, accusations of xenophobia for all you who want to stop foreign land ownership.

Colin Craig: Oh look. We're here to represent what New Zealanders want, and, frankly, New Zealanders don't want to sell out. That's why we broke the Lochinver story. We think every election has key issues, and we think this election, whether—

You're supposed to be pro-business, Mr Craig, and this is capital coming into New Zealand. As Mr Joyce would say, your policies are leading us to a dead end in terms of jobs and investment.

Craig: I am pro-business. Not at all. You can do business with somebody without selling the land, and I think joint ventures, long-term leasing are other options that we should explore, as they do in other nations quite successfully. I have to say that I don't think we do have the right settings for the Overseas Investment Office. We're wide open for those with big dollars from overseas to buy up our land, and that's what's happening. And New Zealanders don't want that.

I'll bring Mr Peters in here. Mr Peters, in 2006, there was a record sale of freehold land. You were supporting the Labour Government at the time. So your record is not that good, as good as you would like people to think it is.

Peters: Hang on a second, we were not in the Labour Cabinet; you all know that.

Supply and confidence, Mr Peters.

Peters: My record is to give up the job as the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer on the matter of an asset sale offshore. So, there's nobody here with that record. Now, let me tell you this. Mr Whyte, the Stevenson Family bought on a New Zealand-buyer only market; they got millions of dollars of assistance by the taxpayer, and all sorts of expense concessions via taxation; and we didn't put that investment into Lochinver. For them to flog it off to some country—

Whyte: So, are you saying that they don't really own it?

Peters: Don't accuse us of being communist, when basically, you are advocating—

Whyte: Do you want me to answer?

Peters: No, I don't want you to answer.

Whyte: Of course you don't.

Peters: What I'm saying to you is is it's not a national commodity. It's New Zealand land, and it should be for New Zealand families.

Whyte: It's not New Zealand land.

Give Mr Whyte a right of reply.

Whyte: When Colin said that New Zealanders don't want to sell off their land, he was completely wrong. New Zealanders who own that land do want to sell it. It's not for third-party New Zealanders to tell them what to do with their privately owned land.

Turei: It is the role of government, however, to manage the natural resources that we have and the limited resources we have, of which land is a core part. It is a limited resource; we aren't making any more; we need to make sure we manage it effectively. And that means having regulations on who owns it, foreign ownership.

Dunne: Every job that is created by the sale to an overseas interest or a domestic interest is an opportunity created.

Peters: No New Zealand jobs here.

Dunne: ...pays tax in New Zealand. Every company established as a part of such an arrangement...

Peters: There's no new jobs on this sale.

That's right, Mr Peters.

Dunne: ...pays tax in New Zealand. This is about opportunity. It's about investment. It's about growth. It's about jobs, and it's about our future.

Turei: New Zealanders can do that too, and there are no additional jobs from foreign ownership. There are no additional jobs from foreign ownership.

Peters: No new jobs, no new exports, no new nothing. It's a corporate raid from offshore...

Dunne: Oh, this is just xenophobic.

Peters: ...by an outfit that knows so little about farming that they had to get Farm Corp—

Dunne: Landcorp.

Peters: Landcorp in this country, taxpayer owned—

Dunne: That's good. It's a New Zealand government entity.

Peters: And he says that's good.

All right. You are all talking about the creation of jobs here. Mr Flavell, I want to bring you in. Previously you've said that immigrants are taking jobs from Maori. But the Government you are propping up is happy with the level of immigration, and John Key says that this country is stronger because of it. Is he wrong?

Flavell: Well, in two parts, can I just say that we are not propping up the Government. We are a strong independent Maori voice in Parliament that moves to influence the government where we can. Second point is that there are various examples throughout the country, where on one side of the coin, we have been arguing about the need to employ more of our own people. We scream about unemployment, and yet we bring in those from overseas to fill some of the holes. That's why we've been looking at things such as trade training. Christchurch is a classic example. Huge number of jobs down there. Where do the jobs go to? Those who come in from overseas, which is why we've promoted the notion of trade training to allow people to move into those jobs.

Is high immigration numbers causing Maori problems?

Flavell: No. No, not at all. But on the one hand, we're happy for and should allow those from overseas to come to this country. They can contribute. As long as it does not move away from our responsibility to Aotearoa, the tangata whenua, and the people of this land.

Mr Harawira, is this xenophobic, as Mr Dunne would say?

Harawira: Oh, I don't wanna get into terms like that. What I'd like to say is this. In terms of the fact that we are a Pacific nation, one of the things we should do is stop using Pacific people as slave labour through the New Zealand seasonal worker assistance programme. We should be providing an amnesty to all of those Pacific overstayers who are already here. And there's tens of thousands of them in this country right now. We should give them the opportunity to participate in the economy we already have. Te Ururoa's actually wrong. Yes, all of those work immigrants are taking jobs that other people should be having, and there should be a quota on the amount of New Zealand citizens, Maori in particular, if Te Ururoa wants to raise it, that can get employed here to ensure that our economy is lifting without providing support to immigrants coming in from overseas. It's not to knock the whole process of immigration, but if we were to provide free tertiary education, then we should generate the skilled workforce that we need without having to source it from overseas.

All right, I want to talk about housing now. Mr Craig, coming to you. How many houses do you own?

Craig: I own one house.

OK, what about in trust or in your business? How many?

Craig: No, one house and a commercial property and a section. That's all the land I own.

Your wealth comes from property speculation. So it's people like you who are— who are keeping the next generation out of homes.

Craig: No, it comes— Actually, I've never been a property speculator. My wealth comes from managing property — business, parks, high-rise buildings and the like. And we do that very well, and we manage an enormous portfolio with thousands of clients. When it comes to housing, I think the government have got it horribly wrong. And that's why it's a priority this election to get that sorted out. We've made too many rules.


Craig: Too much red tape, too much green tape. Look, if you look back in the 1970s, we were able to build nearly 35,000 homes a year. Now we can't even build 20,000. And it's because we've created all these barriers, and frankly, it's in the way.

I see Metiria Turei shaking her head here.

Turei: That is not why we're not building 35,000 homes. It's because Government has chosen not to invest in housing as core infrastructure, leaving thousands of New Zealand families without the opportunity for warm, dry homes, secure rentals or a home for life, as they are entitled. Excuse me—

Mr Dunne, what would United Future do, in a third-term National government, to stop housing getting more unaffordable?

Dunne: I think the first thing we need to do is actually look about creating opportunities for young people to get into their first homes. We'd introduce home-ownership accounts. We'd allow families to capitalise on an annual basis their Working For Families entitlement so that would help them bridge the deposit gap. And we'd also stop the— what is a neo-racist debate that's going on about who's buying homes in Auckland. Frankly, that is not helpful. It's a very small percentage of the market, and I think it demeans all those politicians who try and sort of swirl around in that trough.

Winston Peters, neo-racist debate?

Peters: Well, when I see somebody from Beijing owning 55 houses in Auckland, I don't think it's neo-racist at all. I think it is treachery to sell out this country's interests and to stop young families accessing housing in Auckland in particular. Look, it's gone through the roof. We're paying higher interest rates, four times this year, as consequence of the Auckland housing bubble affecting inflation. But here's the—

Let's take a break there, Mr Peters. We can come back after the break. It's time to take a quick breather, but plenty more coming up. Later we'll talk about the things these parties want to get rid of. But after the break, generating jobs and coalition prospects. Do stay with us.

Welcome back. You’re with The Nation support partners debate. We’ve had new unemployment figures this week, the lowest in five years. Mr Harawira, Maori employment was up 3%. Doesn’t that show that this government’s policies are working and that the Maori Party’s support of that government is working?

Harawira: And the Maori flight to Australia is about 60%. Look, the reality is, unemployment in this country is at epidemic levels. For young Maori, it’s at 24.6%. Now, that’s about four, five, six times higher than it is for non-Maori. That’s an absolute disgrace. We believe in full employment. We’d build it off the back of a robust housing program building 10,000 state houses every single year. We’d back it up with community work programs for the unemployed and free tertiary education so that we could generate the school work force we need in this country to transform our economy without having to source those kind of employment for outside.

Mr Flavell, Hone Harawira’s they’re basically saying that Maori unemployment is disgraceful. You’re part of that government.

Flavell: You keep saying that for some reason. I don’t know why.

You’re supporting that government. You’re at the table. You can use whatever phrase you like. We’re at the table.

Flavell: If we’re talking about results then, and you nailed it right from the very start, but the results tell us that the unemployment is coming down. Obviously not where we want it to be, absolutely not. And the gap between Maori and non-Maori in this country is absolutely getting wider. Absolutely.

So what are you gonna do about it?

Flavell: Well, we’ve already moved in that direction by in the introduction of, firstly the strategy that’s having a good overview about where we wanna head. That was kohanga reo introduced by Minister Sharples. Secondly, the trade training places have been expanded out to over 3000 places in order to allow people to move into those employment opportunities that come out of both Christchurch and across the country. That has been piggybacked off the opportunities through the various providers, Maori and non-Maori throughout the country, so it’s moving in the right direction.

I wanna bring Peter Dunne in, who is also supporting this government. Wages are still low, Mr Dunne, 42% of workers only got a pay increase in the last year, barely kept pace with inflation. So what are you gonna do about that if you’re part of the next government?

Dunne: Well, it’s about promoting economic growth policies that will lead to both an expansion in jobs opportunity and as a consequence of that, earnings that can be reflected in payments to people through wages and salaries. You can’t artificially bump these things up or down. You’ve got to have a fundamentally sustainable policy that’s going to lead to that growth occurring. We’re on the cusp at the moment. I think it’s good that unemployment figures are down, but they are just one set of figures. What we have to do is make sure that we don’t waver from the direction and that we start to continue now and get the gains which will lead to growth in wages and opportunities.

Metiria Turei, can you artificially bump things up?

Turei: Well, you can increase the minimum wage. That is job of governments to do, and we, the Green Party, would do that when we are in government. But families need assistance right now. They can’t wait for some magical economic growth from National. National’s pollution economy is jobs poor, which is why the Greens have said we will invest in public transport, which for every dollar spent, creates two more jobs than investing in motorways. Why we will have the warm-up New Zealand programme to put insulation into our homes. That, again, is a hugely job-rich opportunity. And why we’re investing in R and D, a billion dollars over four years in order to again increase jobs. This is how you do it in a smarter economy.

I wanna bring Jamie Whyte in here. Mr Whyte, you believe in a free market. So 57% of people in Northland are making $12,200 or less. Are you happy to let the market dictate that?

Whyte: Well, we don’t have a free market economy in New Zealand actually, but the best way you could increase youth unemployment in New Zealand is to put up the minimum wage. Nothing could increase youth unemployment faster. The way to help people is to have economic growth. And the right way to get economic growth is to follow the market system. We recommend cutting the company tax rate from 28% today, which is one of the highest in the region, down to 12.5% by 2020, to 20% by next year. That policy would do more than any of this nonsense being talked about here to stimulate economic growth in New Zealand.

Right, I wanna talk about relationships in MMP, and I’m coming to Mr Dunne. I want to know that if you get into a confidence-in-supply agreement with the next government, what would be the one thing you would be pushing for in return?

Dunne: I think probably top of our list would be to make progress on our flexi-super proposal, which would see people being able to take a reduced rate of super from the earlier age of 60 or an enhanced rate if they deferred to 70, and with the standard age remaining 65. I think that would be the one thing we’d wanna push most strongly.

Te Ururoa, you say that you could go with either Labour or National, so what would be your top priority as a policy to get?

Flavell: Well, our relationship with National or Labour was always about a relationship accord which allows us to vote for the budget and yet disagree on all pieces of legislation if we wish. In the past term, we’ve had 43 pieces of legislation that we’ve been able to disagree to. But the major platform that the Maori party has always been on about is final order. We say that if we’re able to consolidate, not only just social—the MSD-

So you would be pushing that if you were with the next government, you’d be pushing to keep--?

Flavell: It’s an absolute must from our perspective that final order will be at the centre of our platform, our policy. It is right now, and it will be.

Ok, personally, then, I need to ask you this question. Personally, what other party do you think then would be best able to deliver for Maori?

Flavell: Well, I mean, there’s two choices that we go with. One is National or Labour.

I’m asking you, which one do you think would be best able to deliver for Maori?

Flavell: The first one is that those who agree with the final order policy, if they’re not willing to advance that policy, then it’s gonna be very difficult to work with them.

All right. Mr Harawira, Mr Cunliffe says that you’re not gonna be part of his government. But you say he’ll pick up the phone if he needs you. So if he rings and says, ‘Hone, I’m offering you confidence in supply, that’s it, no ministers’, what do you want from him?

Harawira: I think first of all I’d say to him, I’d remind him, that this National government has been responsible for generating more inequality and more poverty for more New Zealanders over a shorter period of time than any other government since World War Two. I’d remind him that the people who voted for him and voted for Internet Mana did so because they wanted to change the government. I’d remind him he was in a position now to provide the kind of leadership for a positive change for millions of New Zealanders. And then I’d say to him, ‘The question isn’t about me, David, it’s about you. Do you really have the vision to be the prime minister to lead that change, or do you want to be remembered forever as the guy who didn’t have the courage to close the deal?

Does he? Does he have the vision to lead that change?

Harawira: That’s the question that he has to answer, not me so much.

Do you think he has the vision to lead this country?

Harawira: What I know is this – if the polls keep trending the way that John Armstrong of the NZ Herald says and hit 5% even before the campaign starts for Internet Mana, I’m guaranteed to get a call on the night of September the 20th. And if he asks us, is there one policy, if there’s one thing that we would want to see changed, it would be this – the elimination of child poverty within the first five years.

Jamie Whyte, if you had a confidence and supply agreement, what would you be after as your top priority policy?

Whyte: Well, almost all problems, practical problems, are remedied by becoming wealthier. And so economic growth is by far our priority. And so the policies that we’ve been promoting on – cutting taxes and reducing the regulatory burden, which would promote economic growth, those would be our priorities in a negotiation with the National party.

Mr Craig, your policies are almost the same as NZ First. You’re the doppelganger in this room, so why would people vote for you when we’ve got the real thing right here?

Craig: Well…

Harawira: That’s a very good question.

Craig: I have to say, Winston’s looking pretty spritely, but I think New Zealand is ready for a change. I also think we’d been very clear, we’re not talking a double speak. We would support the highest-polling party. We think they have a mandate to lead. And I think we’d find more common ground there than perhaps my opponent over the room would. But we’re gaining support. I guess Winston was aware I was in Tauranga, and I had double the turnout to my meeting in Tauranga, which I understand is his home hunting ground. So we’re thrilled about the fact that we’re gaining that support.

What would be your top policy that you’d be after?

Craig: We’ve said publicly that we think governments should not be able to ignore overwhelming vote in referenda. The anti-smacking law, tough on law and order, reducing the MPs, all right quite rightly should have been implemented by government, because there is a point at which people need to know they control this nation. It’s their country.

Mr Peters, your bottom lines or things that you really don’t wanna budge on are no foreign land sales, no race-based parties, buy-back assets and keep the super age at 65. You’re gonna be on the cross-benches, aren’t you, with that list?

Peters: First of all, imitation’s the most sincere form of flattery. And with respect, the people know what NZ First and Winston Peters has delivered. And Mr Craig, you got twice the number of what? I didn’t hold a public meeting in Tauranga the same day that you were there. Twice the number of what? That sort of fictional—

Craig: Excuse me, I have a photo of you down the road.

Peters: I’m not concerned about that. Here’s the real point—

Craig: I bet you are.

Peters: Here’s the real point – we’re against the sell-out of this country’s assets. We’re against racism. We’re against separatism. And we make it very clear, we’ve stood here for 21 years making it very clear, one law for all, and that’s what we stand for.

So will you be on the cross-benches, Mr Peters?

Peters: Here comes the point. But out there, what’s affecting the people is the economy. It does in every country 24/7. We are a country that has struggled for 30 years, Mr Whyte, with this right wing experiment, and we are sliding down the OCED and none of your talk is gonna change that. So NZ First wants a sound economy based on our export growth. We’ve gotta triple our GDP, like the size of Norway, and we’ll start to recover the great country we once were when we housed people, where we gave people—this is so important. It’s what the election’s about now.

Mr Peters, I want to know, do you get on with the Greens?

Peters: What do you mean? I get on with everybody. You know that. It’s a family story.

So could you work in a government with the Greens?

Peters: No, look, I get on with everybody that’s got a reasonable view on a reasonable thing, and I’ve said a long time before, there was MMP, there’s a place for sound environmentalism, cos it’s good economics. I’ve always believed that.

So you could be in a government with the Greens or support a government that has the Greens in it?

Peters: Your assumption is that at six weeks out from the election, we’re gonna make decisions now and tell the public, ‘Forget about you, doesn’t matter what happens in six weeks’. Behind close room deals. Now, I’m gonna leave it to the public to decide who’s gonna be standing there at the election, and it won’t include some parties standing here right now.

All right, let’s go to Metiria Turei there. We don’t know if Mr Peters would work in a government with you. Are you concerned that you could be left outside a government that has Labour and Winston Peters?

Turei: No, we’ve worked really well with Winston Peters on the manufacturing enquiry, which is a blueprint for jobs in manufacturing in New Zealand, and we have, you know, so I think time has moved on since 10 years ago. The Green party in government will be a very large part of that government, and we will have significant influence. We will expect to have a very comprehensive coalition agreement that meets a whole range of objectives – a cleaner environment, a fairer society and a smarter economy. And we will have—we won’t settle like other parties might for a single achievement. We want to see our whole plan, our whole agenda being rolled out.

Ok, but with Labour’s current performance, do you go home to your castle and weep?

Turei: (LAUGHS) I am not worried about Labour. I am here to get party vote for the Green party. The Green party is the political voice of a growing political movement.

You need them to be in government.

Turei: Well, their fortunes are their own business. Our – my – our fortunes are mine, and with the party vote for the Green party, part of a growing political movement, I know that we can maximise our vote and get the best possible influence.

We’re going to a break now. Time for a wee break. And for you to send us your opinion on all these issues, tweet us, text us or flick us an email and don’t forget to include your name. Still to come, Bryce Edwards and Brook Sabin with their analysis. But next, law and order and the race debate take centre stage.

We want to look now at some of the things they want to get rid of. Coming to Winston Peters first, you would like to ban gangs. That's 4000 people. Is that actually possible?

Winston Peters: Well, look, it's happening overseas. In Australia, there are four states that are doing that — outlawing their activities. The question about the gangs is why they exist at all. Now, we're going to give them a job, but we're going to ban their activities, because they're involved in serious things like drugs and prostitution, a whole range of activities which are bad for the country, bad for Maoridom, and it's the very worst possible image for young Maori youth as well. We are not going to accept that we can compromise on this matter. We're going to do what other countries are doing. We're going to ban their existence. That's the real issue.

Mr Whyte, you would like to send more people to prison — three strikes for burglars, with a minimum of three years. How many people is that going to mean extra in jail and how much is that going to cost us?

Whyte: Well, of course, you've completely misstated. We don't want to send people to prison; we want to deter people from committing crimes, and those—

But you're going to send them to prison in order to do that?

Whyte: Well, you're going to threaten to send them to prison, and you will end up sending some to prison. We expect it'll increase the prison population by about 200. But the benefit of that, of course, is that it will massively reduce the amount of burglary going on. I mean, why should we be worried about the welfare of the burglars when it's the welfare of those burgled that matters?

Mr Flavell, would you like to respond to the third strikes policy? Your views on that?

Flavell: Obviously, get rid of it — the whole lot of it. Get rid of it and if Mr Whyte believes that there's 200 burglars in the country, that's all they do, then I'm afraid he's seriously misled.

Whyte: Hang on. Increase in the prison population would be about 200. There are a lot—

Peters: The ACT Party talking about law and order, isn't it? How many strikes before you're out?

Whyte: Is that really a relevant point of policy?

Peters: It's seriously relevant, because it enters what your party stands for. You say one thing in a statement, but you privately behave in a different way. It's a bit rich.

Craig: Let's be fair. Reducing burglary is something that New Zealanders want. They are tired of burglaries.

Dunne: It's a silly policy, and you should dump it.

Whyte: It's proven to work around the world.

Dunne: It hasn't worked in New Zealand.

Whyte: It's worked here for violent crime.

Dunne: No, it hasn't.

Whyte: Yes, it has.

Flavell: If we get the chance, Lisa, we'll get rid of it.

Dunne: It's just knee-jerk justice.

Peter Dunne. Sorry, I'm wanting to hear your point.

Dunne: I'm just saying this 'three strikes and you're out' stuff is all this populist rubbish from hard-line states in the US. We need to be serious about the causes of crime, and we need to be serious about dealing with the consequences, not just chanting cheap slogans.

Whyte: It's not a cheap slogan; it's a Labour party policy from Great Britain.

Dunne: Well, I wouldn't hold the Labour party up in Britain as a great example.

Peters: Crime in this country is not down. They've changed the way they record it. In South Auckland, you saw them get caught out there. And then they're charging— They're warning young people—

On that point, Mr Peters, I want to quickly ask — the statement is that crime stats is falling and it's at the lowest rate since the mid 1970s. I want to go around the room. Who believes that? Do you believe that, Mr Dunne?

Dunne: I think it comes down to how you record it. In some cases, yes; in other cases, no.

Mr Flavell?

Flavell: A little bit of that too. I think we need more research on it.

Clearly not. Mr Peters, you don't believe that, do you?

Peters: You ask any criminal lawyer, and they'll tell you that they're changing the way they're putting the figures together.

Metiria Turei, do you believe the figures?

Turei: No, not those figures.

Hone Harawira?

Harawira: The prison muster has actually doubled in the last 10 years.

Do you believe those figures, Mr Whyte?

Whyte: Well, that's one of the reasons the figures are going down. The crime is going down because of that factor.

Do you believe those figures, Mr Whyte?

Whyte: I believe that crime is declining, yes.

Harawira: More people in jail. Build more jails.

Craig: Some crime has declined. Only some.

All right. Hone Harawira, you actually would like to get rid of prisons altogether. How's that going to work?

Harawira: It's very simple, and I have to say, I'm picking up a bit on what Winston was talking about about being positive about life. Now, I've just come from the national kapa haka down in Gisborne. I saw thousands of thousands of young Maori people, a lot like the kids at my kura. They don't get involved in gangs. They don't get involved in drugs. They don't get involved in anything like that, because they have more positive things in their life to get on with. They have opportunities. They see a future based on their Kaupapa Maori, and they want to live that life, and they want to build on that life.

How do you get rid of prisons for people who don't have that positivity, who are committing crimes?

Harawira: Well, that's very simple, Lisa. That's very simple. You back Kaupapa Maori to lift Maori out of that situation. It absolutely works in Kura Kaupapa. It absolutely works through kapa haka. It absolutely works as a positive contribution to the whole of our society.

If you back Kaupapa Maori, Mr Whyte, you can get rid of prisons.

Whyte: Well, if it works and they don't commit crimes, they won't go to prison, but there's no reason to get rid of the prisons in advance.

Flavell: Lisa, are we four—? If it is that four to five times it is more likely that Maori will be apprehended, prosecuted and convicted, then we'd say, actually you've gotta review the whole of the justice system, because those figures are just not right for this country. We have to look at the system itself.

Harawira: They're an expression of racism in the law.

Flavell: Well, absolutely. So I think that there's an element— I certainly support what Hone said about having a look at the positives and don't necessarily believe that all gangs, actually, are Maori, as intimated by some.

Mr Flavell, you want to get rid of GST on food. That's going to be an expensive policy.

Peters: No, that's our policy.

GST altogether. No, he wants to get rid of GST altogether. You want to get rid of it on house—

Flavell: We introduced it when Winston was having a holiday.

Peters: I've never heard of this.

So how are you going to pay for that?

Flavell: Well, I mean, what we've said is that— We used the example that if it is possible for millions of dollars to be allocated out for this, for the recovery of that, that it is possible, by way of the increase of taxes, in one sense, and for those certainly at the top end of the scale, to be able to—

To what? What would you increase?

Flavell: Sorry?

What would you increase tax to?

Harawira: A financial transaction tax, a capital gains tax.

Flavell: I wouldn't necessarily do it like that.

Harawira: A capital gains tax.

Flavell: There's a number of ways.

Harawira: An inheritance tax and a luxury tax and drop GST altogether.

Flavell: The bottom line is, though, that people at the low end of the scale—

You're not prepared to put a number on it?

Flavell: No, I can't, but I do say this, that there's a lot of people at the lower end of the scale who are suffering because of the high cost of food and that a GST off those foods, healthy foods, would save us in the health system a hell of a lot of money.

Peter Dunne, the former revenue minister, is shaking his head in the corner.

Dunne: Well, they just don't work. The fact is we have a very simple, clean, neat GST system. Anyone who has, over the years, talked about exemptions to it or changed to it, it's simply failed. Look, Labour last time was going to take the GST off healthy food. It couldn't run away from the policy quickly enough after the election.

Mr Peters?

Peters: Look, it does work. Take GST off food. That's 95% of what you see in the supermarket. Take GST off rates because it's a tax on a tax. It's going to cost probably about $2.5 billion, $2.7 billion, which is half of the $5.2 billion Mr Dunne and these people here gave their mates in tax cuts every year since 2010. That's the reality.

Dunne: A simple question — where does the $2.7 billion—? And I think it's probably a bigger figure than that, but we'll take your figure.

Peters: We've done the calculations. I was a former treasurer. I know how to run the economy.

Dunne: That was a long time ago.

Peters: I know. It's called experience.

Dunne: Let's just take your figure, $2.7 billion you're going to give away.

Peters: We're not giving it away. What you're trying to do is you're breaking the poverty, the cycle of poverty—

Dunne: You're going to do all these other things. How are you going to pay for it? Who's going to pay the $2.7 billion?

Peters: Repeating the same old mindless question doesn't help your argument.

Dunne: It deserves an answer, Winston.

Peters: I will answer the question.

Dunne: You're putting up a proposition. How are you actually going to pay for it?

Peters: Am I allowed to answer, Lisa?

Yeah, how are you going to pay for it, Mr Peters?

Peters: I don't think Peter's going to be there after the election negotiations anyway, so...

How are you going to pay for it?

Dunne: Just answer the question.

Peters: He can't get his words in now. The reality of all this, I put the figure at about $2.7 billion. I know what the surpluses are that are coming, even though they're going to be much lower than these people say, and we can phase this in and keep these commitments up.

Dunne: He's got no idea.

Peters: I've got plenty idea.

Dunne: Tell us.

Peters: Unlike Mr Dunne, I was never the treasurer that ran massive deficits and borrowed $150 billion as a nation.

Dunne: Just tell us the answer. How are you going to do it?

So, talking about paying for things, let's go to Metiria Turei, who's promising $10 billion worth of transport initiatives this week. How are you going to pay for that?

Turei: Well, this is about reallocating the transport funding towards the priorities that the public have said that they want. Every bit of polling has said people want more investment in public transport, so that is what the Green party will do. We'll invest $10 billion into better public transport around the country, particularly in Auckland, where there's such a desperate need. We'll invest in the safety of the existing roading network, which is a desperate need as well. And there will still be some motorway development, because there is going to be some need for that, but certainly not the $12 billion that National is intending to invest in new motorways — the new roads of national significance.

OK, let's bring Colin Craig in to reply.

Craig: $10 billion. I mean, Winston will have problems differentiating on GST, cos most New Zealanders don't like complex tax systems. But, look, $10 billion, I mean, where's that lying around in this country to suddenly come up with? I mean, that's a big tax increase to pick up that.

Turei: It is already budgeted by National through their pollution economy to invest in the roads of national significance and motorways.

Craig: Oh, look.

Turei: Excuse me. So the question is—

Craig: Spending to reduce pollution costs. It will not produce money.

Turei: Excuse me, Mr Craig. I'm speaking. Excuse me, Mr Craig. So let's make sure, if we have money available for transport—

Craig: Where does the $10 billion come from?

Turei: Excuse me, Mr Craig.

Peters: That judge has a lot to answer for, hasn't he?

Turei: If we have money available for transport spending, let's invest it where the public want it to be invested, which is public transport.

Right, Colin Craig, you want to end the Treaty process right now. So do you think that every injustice done to Maori in the past has been resolved, has it? So we can end it now?

Craig: No, not necessarily, but I think we should tidy it all up and put the thing to bed. Most New Zealanders are tired of it as an ongoing process. Look, coming up 40 years. That's a good length of time to be sitting there, naval gazing, and I think it will be what most New Zealanders would like to see done.

Naval gazing, Hone Harawira?

Harawira: You know, after 174 years, he might be naval gazing, but the race-based laws that he refers to in this country are seeing Maori and Pacific Islanders more unemployed than anybody else, more homeless than anybody else, with a greater gap in educational achievement than anybody else, more homeless than anybody else, more arrested than anybody else and caught more often than anybody else, in jail for longer than anybody else.

Whyte: That's why we need to change laws.

Harawira: No, no, no, no. What we need to do is actually reaffirm the partnership that was envisioned originally by the Treaty, give respect to the language and give respect to the tikanga of all parties in this country.

I want to bring Mr Whyte in here.

Whyte: The original proposition—

You raised the issue of the—

Harawira: So we can move forward together as a positive country.

Excuse me, gentlemen. Can I speak? You raised the issue of the legal system. Mr Whyte, you said that Maori are privileged before law; we should all be equal. So can you guarantee that a burglar on a third strike going into court is going to have the privilege of the same defence that your former leader, Mr Banks, did when he went to court?

Harawira: Absolutely not.

Whyte: Our position is that the law—

Equality before the law.

Whyte: ...should not pay any attention to race. And so of course we're in favour of people being treated equally in the judicial system, whatever their race. Of course. Who's not in favour of that?

But wealth influences that. Wealth influences whether people have equal access.

Whyte: That's an entirely different issue. There are no wealth-based laws either. You're muddying the issue. I must say that I disagree with Colin about settlements.

I want to bring Mr Flavell in here. Do you think that Maori are treated equally in court and should be treated equally in court?

Flavell: Well, they should be treated equally in court, but the facts of the matter that I just talked about not long ago tell you that it doesn't happen like that. That's based on solid research. It comes up time and time again. The unfortunate part about our debate when we get to elections is, time in, time out, that there are groups that will raise the issue about race as being the, sort of, dominant feature of an election, and that's wrong as we try to move forward as a country. That's what we've been attempting to do, in the political environment, at least, to take the country forward, and it's a seriously flawed approach, I think, for this country to allow those to carry a race-based agenda into this election—

Whyte: I'm trying to get rid of race.

Flavell: ...and say that it's going to take our people forward—

Whyte: I'm arguing to treat New Zealanders equally.

Flavell: ...and take the country forward. Seriously flawed.

Whyte: Treating New Zealanders equally.

Flavell: That's right. That's what we all want, treating everybody equally, and it doesn't happen. I just gave you the figures.

Craig: So why write laws that differentiate?

Peters: Can we get back to the Waitangi industry here? You know what the problem with the Waitangi industry is? There's a bro-aucracy getting all the benefits, and it's not getting down to ordinary Maori. That was forecast a long time ago. We predicted it a long time ago, and it's still going on. Go and ask the ordinary Maori at Moerewa what they're getting out of it.

Metiria Turei, a bro-aucracy? That's what Mr Peters calls it. Is he right?

Peters: That's what it is.

Turei: Well, I don't agree with Mr Peters on this matter. I do understand, however, that both Jamie and Colin are scraping the bottom of the barrel. They are trying to attract votes, and they will fail because this country is better than they set out.

Whyte: The principles of liberal democracy are not at the bottom of the barrel.

And that is a good place to leave it.

Turei: We have a positive vision for a country that is cleaner, fairer and smarter and recognises Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Thank you very much to everyone for joining us this morning.

Craig: I just want equality.

Winston Peters, Te Ururoa Flavell, Peter Dunne, Hone Harawira, Colin Craig, Metiria Turei and Jamie Whyte, thank you for all coming in to The Nation this morning. Full analysis of the debate will be on our panel next, but first a little bit of light relief.

Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz

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