The Nation: Patrick Gower interviews Winston Peters
On The Nation: Patrick Gower interviews Winston
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says a rail link to Northport, near Whangarei, will be one of the first things he will do in Government. “This is going to happen” he says.
Mr Peters also disputes the cost estimates for the rail link from Kiwirail, saying he’d fire the Kiwirail board for incompetence.
Peters says Labour leader Andrew Little should not be referred to as the leader of the opposition, because if Labour drops three or four percentage points in the polls, Little may not be returned to Parliament.
Lisa Owen: Welcome back. Well, before the
break, we asked Greens co-leader Metiria Turei how she’s
feeling about the prospect of working with New Zealand First
after the election.
Paddy Gower: Now, for his take on that, Winston Peters joins me from his annual conference venue in South Auckland. Winston Peters, we have Metiria Turei admitting that her attack on you was highly premeditated two or three weeks in advance, with the Green Party, with the Caucus. And in fact, they also informed the Labour Party a week before, and indeed provided the Labour Party with a copy of the speech the day before. What we have here is your two potential coalition partners teaming up, conspiring, essentially, to bring down your vote. What do you make of that?
Winston Peters: Well, they’ve got form. I mean, at the last election, 2014, in the closing five weeks, the Greens attacked the Labour Party three times – on the double deputy leadership and on the finance portfolio and also on David Parker’s calculations as to their fiscals. I thought that was dramatically bad news, and I said so back then, and so this doesn’t surprise me at all, but it does put to lie the theory that the media— and they have run, without any consultation with anybody else, that the alternative government is Labour–Greens. And we all know that, now, today, that is not a fact, and we should start leading with the details, not by way of speculation, but await the public outcome come 23rd of September.
What do you mean by that, that Labour–Greens as an opposition or an alternative government isn’t an option?
Well, you’ve been banging on, month in, month out, year in, year out, the Labour–Green government as the alternative. And I’ve told you for all this time that that is not a fact. There’s a three-way fight going on here, between Labour and a combination with Greens and the National Party and New Zealand First. And that’s the way the polls will start going, and they’re going there as we speak. Out there in the public of New Zealand, there is so much angst and disquiet. People are sick and tired of just treading water and going nowhere, at the huge bills— seemingly, that all these shiny bums in Wellington are not listening. Well, one party is, and that’s why the polls will change.
Yes, well, Labour’s internal polling, which has been leaked, does show actually New Zealand First heading above the Greens, and in fact, eating into Labour’s vote big time. Is this what’s causing these attacks on you, in your mind – the fact that they’re panicked, both Labour and the Greens, that they are scared of how much vote of theirs you’re taking?
Well, what you’re hearing is a failure to accept that this is a democracy, that we’re going into an election. It’s what the people say that actually matters come the 23rd of September, not what they say, what I say – what the people say. And yet you’ve run these alternative— the leader of the opposition. You’ve run, for example, Andrew Little as being the leader of the opposition. Now, just three more points down – and this is dramatic – and Mr Little doesn’t get in. So why are you saying those sorts of statements? And why are you persisting with this sort of first-past-the-post mentality? Let me tell you, there’s a huge change in the air. Not just here, but in other countries. But it’s in New Zealand as well. And politicians are going to have to respond to it. People out there are sick and tired of being told, ‘Look, all this is fantastic. The economy’s going great,’ when out there they know it’s not for them going great. And they know we can do far better.
What polling are you talking about where if Andrew Little drops by four points, he’s not the leader of the opposition any more? Is that your own polling? Where is this coming from?
That’s the poll you had last night.
So you’re saying if the Labour Party drops a little bit more and New Zealand First goes past them, you are, what, effectively the leader of the opposition in this country?
No. Well, no, I’m just saying to you— Look, this is a political show. And I’d expect you to understand – and without being critical of you, personally – but if you go from 26 down to 22, that’s it. Andrew is not in Parliament. So why would you make these statements that he’s the next leader of the country? Or the leader of the opposition?
Well, who should be, in that situation, if Andrew Little doesn’t get back to Parliament, if they poll that badly? You know, are you saying that you could potentially be prime minister, leading the Labour and the Greens?
Paddy, I have never, ever said or made those sorts of statements. So, you know, I don’t want to be difficult here, but I’ve never made statements like that. And I wish people wouldn’t impute them to me when I’ve never made those statements.
Yeah, I’m not saying that. I’m asking you, if New Zealand First leads Labour in the polling, which you’re obviously aiming for now, would you expect to be prime minister? Would you expect to be prime minister if you had the numbers to govern?
Look, you know, one thing is very important in life, and that’s this – don’t count your chickens before they hatch. We, and all these people behind me, and tens of thousands around this country working for New Zealand First, are totally focused on the 23rd of September.
Yeah, I know that.
And not the day after.
We all know that.
No, no. No, you don’t. Paddy, you don’t know that.
I’m asking you if you—
Paddy, if you pause for a moment, I want you to— Paddy, don’t over-talk me. Alright, here comes the facts – if any of these members behind me, including the MPs and candidates, start worrying about where they’ll be come Monday after the 23rd of September, they’ll have let everybody in this country down. Out there, there are hundreds – no, millions – of people now who need New Zealand First to do dramatically well in this election, to see an economic change, a real one. Not the economy that Greens and Labour and the National Party all accept, but something new and that is sustainable.
And I’m sorry to interrupt you, because that was a great team talk for your supporters, but it didn’t actually get us anywhere into how you sort of aim to sort of share power after this. Now, you have previously called the Greens extremists. You said Labour lost the last election because the prospects of the Greens in government put the fear of God – the fear of God – into voters. Do the Greens put the fear of God into you?
Well, not me, because I do not intend for them to determine the outcome and the destiny of either New Zealand First or the next government or the hopes and aspirations of the New Zealand people. It’s that simple. They don’t put the fear of God into me, no.
You aim to block them from being in government?
No, see— What’s positive about these sorts of statements that you ask me to respond to, and the answer is — nothing. Joe Bloggs out there this morning has been working— paying all these bills and going nowhere, treading water. He’s not interested in this debate.
Why should Joe Bloggs be scared of the Greens, then? Why should Joe Bloggs be scared of the Greens?
Well, Joe Bloggs is not concerned about the Greens. He knows that they’ve never made it. No, no. Since they first were a party—
You’re the one who said Joe Bloggs should be scared of the Greens.
No, I didn’t. You said that. Just go back on that later on. But let’s not waste the time now. But if you check the record on that later, let me tell you this – the Greens turned up in the form of values in 1972, and in all that time, they’ve never made it. What you saw are people tossing their toys out of the cot last week. And I was never going to accept that sort of statement. When you stand for one law for all; when you want New Zealanders to be paramount in this world as we used to be, we’re not going to take statements like being racist.
So what you’re saying here is— What Metiria Turei is saying is all just plain politics; it’s all meaningless, and actually, you would be prepared to work with them and they would be prepared to work with you as well.
No. I’ve never considered that the Labour-Greens so-called combination was ever going to happen, because it’s not mathematically feasible. But what’s happened here, Paddy, and it’s great, you know, that you’ve gone along with it, is that they’ve made statements day in, day out – ‘We’re going to be the next government,’ and none of you have had the common sense to say, ‘Well, mathematically, that’s impossible.’ And then they say, ‘Oh yeah, because Winston and New Zealand First will support us.’ Did they ever speak to us about that? No. And she told you a little while ago on your interview that she’d been speaking with me. She has never, ever spoken to me on this matter.
Now, turning to immigration. You’ve previously said you want to cut non-Kiwi immigration down to about 10,000 a year. Is that still your position or will you go lower than that?
No, if you look at the latest stats from Immigration New Zealand, less than 9000 of the skilled people they sought came to this country. So that’s even lower than the target we’ve got. But our position is this – we’re going to dramatically change young New Zealanders, which we’ve neglected all these years, that 92,000 of them, and the other 130,000 in which we’ve got people who’ve got no job, not one hour’s work a week, we’re going to use them to replace this myopically, idiotic mass immigration policy from abroad. I want New Zealanders to be what they once were – the first and principal workers and business people in my country.
Yeah, well, let’s take, then, an example, somewhere where you’ve been recently, Southland. Now, farmers down there are screaming to keep their immigrant workers— their Filipino workers. Actually, they want to bring more in. Now, are you supportive of Filipino workers being used, for instance, in Southland’s dairy industry?
Look, I’ve been speaking to those Southland farmers, and I’ve said to them, ‘I understand the economic condition you’re in.’ The National Party is so bad on training young farmers that they’re virtually choking Telford, our great agricultural college or university, to death, right under our nose. Now, my point is I’m going to train young people. I want to use the resources we’ve got to get our young people back into farming because when we change the tax regime for farming, they’ll be able to pay them a first-world wage, not a Mumbai or a Manila wage, which is what’s going on. This is not difficult science.
So, you don’t like Filipino workers. Can they stay? What’s your position on them?
I’ve got nothing against Filipino workers; I think they’re fine people. I want to remind you that we are just this week celebrating 10 years of the seasonal employment scheme. Who started that? It was the Minister of Overseas Aid that did that, and you keep on padding me as a racist.
Yeah, now, I’ve never called you a racist.
Don’t you feel sad about that, Paddy?
Turning to Northland and the rail link to Northport, a link, essentially, to the port in Whangarei from Auckland. How much credence will you give to that in coalition negotiations? How big a deal will that be for you?
I can say for the people of Northland and Whangarei, this is going to happen. We’ve got the corridor; it’s been designated. The only thing it lacks is the commitment from central government and we are going to give this promise, as I did in the Northland by-election – we are 69 days away from winning Whangarei as well – and that’s one of the first things we’re going to be doing straight after the election.
So, is that part of coalition negotiations? Is it a bottom line of your support, that rail link up to Whangarei there?
Paddy, it’s so good that everybody that’s watching this programme from every other party knows that that’s the first thing they’re going to concede.
That’s the first thing on your list? That rail link that could be up to a billion dollars on some estimates?
Well, that’s balderdash. Whoever told you that is an incompetent scaremonger from KiwiRail, and the first thing we’ll do with that board is fire them because they’re incompetent. And I can prove it in case after case after case.
Okay. Now, turning to succession, and you mentioned Whangarei before – is Shane Jones, for all intents and purposes, your successor as leader of New Zealand First?
You know, you’re talking to the most democratic party in New Zealand, and behind me, I’ve got a whole lot of MPs, and I’m soon to have twice as many MPs and more coming into parliament, all of whom will decide the next leader of the New Zealand First Party, as they decided the present leader. It’s their decision, Paddy, not mine.
Okay. Looking to the future, reports out that you’ve given up smoking to help improve your performance on the campaign trail. Is this true? Have you given up smoking?
Well, one of those statements is true; the other one’s crap.
There’s only one statement – have you given up smoking?
Well, you know, I never thought I was coming on for a ‘Dear Susan’ column. But I’ve given up smoking. I gave up smoking a long time ago.
Oh, you gave up smoking a long time ago. So you’re feeling great. That’s good to know. It’s always good to get some facts out of you. Thank you very much.
Paddy, I’ve got news for all those people who have been putting me down on the question of age – and it’s all bad.
Thank you very much.
Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz