A Week of It: Winston Peters IV Transcript
A Week of It: Winston Peters IV Transcript
Just before the election A Week of It thought it worthwhile to leave the funny stuff (or at least attempts at funny stuff) and furnish the public with a transcript of an interview with Winston Peters – conducted earlier this week. Mr Peters appeals to the gambler in voters – the sorta person that likes a loaded .357 magnum pointed at their head – the question is – 'do you feel lucky punk – well do ya'?
Scoop: This is a Scoop interview, pre-election, and it's with the Rt. Hon. Winston Peters. Now, I just wanted to start off with a couple of recent policies. You wanted the price of petrol lowered, and National have suggested lowering it. Does that please you?
Peters:: Well, no. I want the GST off petrol, because it's mainly a tax on a tax and it doesn't go to roads. It goes to the general fund, the Consolidated Fund, and therefore it would have no impact on infrastructure developments. And it would bring down certain prices, consumer prices, groceries and things like that. With the price going through the roof, it's the least the Government should do.
Scoop: The other thing, I was at Business New Zealand, and you were very insistent on bringing minimum wages up. You thought that was a better way to solve the problems of people on low pay than tax cuts. Which party do you think would be better for you there?
Peters:: Well, let's really get it clear. What I said was--and that came out of the Business Forum--that the reason why people were leaving New Zealand--and they agreed--was because of low wages and working conditions. That's why they're going to Australia. For higher wages and more meaningful jobs. So to address that, we need to increase business profitability by cutting business taxation to 30 percent and begin to raise the minimum wage so that we keep our best and brightest here.
Scoop: Okay, well, just--
Peters:: On that score, you have to look at what happens at the end of either Labour or National's regime if it's put in place. Well, the tragedy is we'll still be a low-wage economy, we'll still lose our best and our brightest and we'll still lose a whole lot of skilled people. That's why we've got the huge skills deficit that we, as an economy, suffer from.
Scoop: When you were in coalition with National, the minimum wage was raised slightly wasn't it, but not very much?
Peters:: It was. In that first year, we raised the minimum, yes.
Scoop: But I was chatting to Wayne Mapp, and he says National have no intention whatsoever of raising the minimum wage in the next term.
Peters:: That's tragic, and that's tragic because they're not addressing the underlying conditions of our loss and exodus of trained, skilled tradespeople and bright graduates. One in four is leaving for that reason.
Scoop: Okay. Labour have actually raised the minimum wage, so is that more in keeping with your policy of raising the minimum wage, but they're more union-friendly. What is your position with unions? Are you going to roll back union legislation or--?
Peters:: Well, all industrial legislation should be impartial and neutral as between employer and employee. It shouldn't favour either side. That's the key to durable industrial relations legislation. And that's what New Zealand needs. It doesn't need cataclysmic shifts every three years or every time the government changes.
But to come back to my point: Labour has raised the minimum wage, it's true, but they have not raised it nearly far enough to compete with other economies such as Australia. And the only way they can do that is make business far more profitable. Cut business taxes. Neither of the old parties offer that.
Scoop: Still, when you were last in coalition, the minimum wage didn't rise that much, so how would you be able to achieve that particular policy with National, when--
Peters:: Actually, it did rise significantly if you have a look at it. As a percentage, it was a significant rise.
Scoop: Most of the time, the entire time of the '90s, it rose 80 cents, so it must've been the 80 cents rise.
Peters:: That's right.
Scoop: Okay. Just getting on to Labour, though. You seem to have something against their social engineering. Do you mean the Civil Union Bill? What specifically social--?
Peters:: Prostitution Bill, Civil [Engineering] Bill, what I'd call anti-family legislation. Legislation which they have not got a mandate for, they have never been to the public on, and it's really part and parcel of a very narrow focus of a minority in their caucus, in my view. It's a minority in the Labour Party itself.
Scoop: A lot of your voters or constituents are retired. How does this social engineering affect their wallets or their actual quality of life?
Peters:: Well, they have a view about New Zealand, the Kiwi way, how society should be structured. It's an important view and they should be listened to like every other section of society. They shouldn't just be ignored.
Scoop: I'm not saying that, but I'm just wondering how it actually affects their life. Wouldn't their life be better off under some of Labour's policies than National?
Peters:: Yes, but if your policies are perceived and are actually anti-family--and we're talking about families now in which the grandparents are a key component--that's how it affects those families. And they don't see themselves just in one group--a Mum and Dad. They see themselves as Mum, Dad and grandchildren, and that has been the human way for a long, long time. I don't think we should corrode that.
Scoop: A couple more policies. Market rents for state house tenants. What do you think of National's latest moves to sort of even out the rents?
Peters:: The problem with that is that significant numbers of people will not get able to afford a rental house, particularly when you're competing with a huge immigration market of 48-50,000 per year coming in and most going to Auckland. It will be extraordinarily difficult in Auckland for a number of New Zealanders to compete with that.
Scoop: That's going to affect a lot of people that probably are going to be voting for you. How are you going to stop that happening?
Peters:: Well, you've got to have a far more sympathetic New Home Start programme for families. That's what we as a country built a great reputation on, a reputation that's been corroded during the last 15 years. But it remains a fact. We used to pride ourselves on being a property-owning democracy, and we've got to restore our wealth as an export nation to enable us to afford to fund people into their first home to give them a start.
Scoop: So, the KiwiSave. Do you support the KiwiSaver, or you don't support the KiwiSaver?
Peters:: Yes, I do support the KiwiSaver. I support every savings initiative that has been put in place because, whilst it's not a comprehensive and adequate enough savings programme, nevertheless, it's better than nothing.
Scoop: Okay. What about withdrawing from Kyoto? What's NZ First's position there?
Peters:: I think the Government has been totally premature with respect to Kyoto. Their analysts have got it wrong. I don't see, and we don't see, why we should be paying out half a billion dollars a year--$500 million to other economies like Russia--when we could actually plant hundreds of thousands of trees in the targeted decades tree-planting programme that would be economically sound for this country, be employment sound, and would be environmentally sound.
We could meet any international obligation doing that first, and keeping the money ourselves.
Scoop: Back to Labour. You've described the Working for Families as welfarism. That scheme does work in a number of other countries like Australia, so why exactly is it welfarism?
Peters:: When you see politicians with five kids on a welfare top-up, you've got to realise that something's gone wrong with this programme.
Scoop: So what would be your suggestion? And why isn't it welfarism in other countries where it's similarly targeted?
Peters:: You see it in Australia, it is targeted to the more lower incomes, and they have a much more higher wage bracket, salary bracket, so people can be independent of the State. That's important.
Scoop: Well, which do you think then is the best--across the board tax cuts, or would you like to see Working for Families targeted to lower-income families more?
Peters:: It's not that - Look, it's not that choice because no-one's against tax cuts. New Zealand First is for tax cuts. I want to know, though, that we can deliver tax cuts as we did in the Budget of 1998.
At one point, 1 billion dollars of tax cuts in that Budget. We can deliver tax cuts and ensure we don't have 180,000 people climbing on our hospital waiting-lists. So there's a lot of problems with some of the proposals I see out there now because, whilst we're for tax cuts, I want to know that they can be delivered without a massive deficit.
Scoop: You're dead set against State-owned enterprise sales, aren't you? I noticed that United Future seem quite keen on selling part of State-owned enterprises and they look like a very likely coalition partner with National. How would you prevent that?
Peters:: Well, their policy is to sell 40 percent of State-owned enterprises. That's not the total number, but of an individual State-owned enterprise, sell 40 percent of it. The problem with that, they don't seem to understand that anything beyond 25-26 percent, and the company can get--an outside minority can gain significant control. That's been the record capitalism, and most people in commercial law know that.
Scoop: They seem to think it's going to be mum and dad Kiwi shareholders. Do you think that's rather naive?
Peters:: Well, it is naive, and I don't know of any country in the world that follows that policy.
Scoop: National, say they had United Future as a coalition partner, what's to stop United Future twisting National's arm and saying, "If we're going into coalition, what about selling 40 percent of State-owned enterprises." How would you work with 'Confidence and Supply' to that sort of arrangement?
Peters:: We have made it clear that the governing party can govern by itself without needing those sorts of cling-on coalition partners.
Scoop: They might need United Future, actually, if you looked at the latest poll today: United Future-National with your support would get National in.
Peters:: Well, that doesn't make them the governing party with United Future because those votes aren't enough. We've made it very clear that they don't have to--the government of Labour or government of National--to take on board extremists.
Scoop: When you said "extremists" though, you mentioned the Greens on the left and ACT on the right and you never mentioned United Future, so this is why I'm asking that question.
Peters:: Well, I just believe that they weren't going to get enough votes to be a big--to be in the equation.
Scoop: Can I just pick that up? Do you mean, say Greens and Labour had slightly more than just National, do you mean blocks or do you mean parties?
Peters:: No, I made it very clear I did not mean blocs. I'm sorry that the media just cannot seem to read clear English--I'm not criticising you, but I'm saying I made it very clear it wasn't blocks, it wasn't organised the kind of combination. It was election parties. Labour-National, National-Labour who got the most votes--got the most seats, rather.
Scoop: In that case, would you agree that National's running a better campaign to get your support, considering they're seem to be trying to crush the minor parties, whereas the Greens are being assisted by Labour?
Peters:: I'm not commenting on that.
Scoop: Okay, just to wrap it up,: removing the Maori seats.
Peters:: This could go horribly wrong if one doesn't understand that for a lot of Maori--particularly older Maori--the Maori seats have been their stake in democracy since 1867. They have not sort of cottoned on to how much it's been transformed by MMP since 1996. They don't realise just how much the forecast or predictions of the Electoral Commission, pre-MMP, about the ability of MMP to deliver far fairer and better representation, has in fact occurred.
We need to begin a dialogue after this election to demonstrate to Maori that there's no need for a separate franchise. But no one has begun that dialogue at all, and the sooner it starts, the better. That's the way to handle it. Because right now, I predict about 42 percent of those people entitled to be on the Maori roll are not. They're on the General roll. That's not too far from 50 percent. But the dialogue has never happened. It should happen. Rather than to go about it in a blunderbuss way, which some in politics suggest.
Scoop: Peter Dunne's kicked up a bit of a stink, but he told me a week or so ago that it definitely wasn't a United Future bottom line. I just want to be absolutely clear. Is it a New Zealand First bottom line, or will you just try to engage in dialogue?
Peters:: Well, the question on Maori seats has been our line and no-one else's until after 2002. We didn't run in the Maori seats in 2002. National and the other parties did.
My point is that we believe in a single franchise, a single electoral system, and we've strongly advocated for it. I believe we can achieve it by demonstrating that MMP works for Maori and demonstrating that there's no need for a separate guaranteed Maori seat franchise.
Scoop: But do you agree with a largely Pakeha party, which is National, just legislating to get rid of them, and would that be a bottom line to stop that?
Peters:: Our approach on that issue is to say, "Well, you're the ones who've taken our place on this issue. Perhaps you should listen to people who might know more about how this policy would be received than yourselves. People in New Zealand First, MPs who've got some Maori in them, and take up some wise counsel." That's what I'd recommend they do, rather than try and use this as a ploy to getting votes now on which they might regret their approach in the future.
Scoop: Finally, Ron Mark works quite well with Marc Alexander, but Marc Alexander last week sort of slammed your approach as making you a poodle party. How would you feel being the poodle party's poodle party?
Peters:: I'm afraid Mr Alexander is just trying to repeat a comment that I have made about United over the last few years, where they've allowed, as a family party, prostitution--so-called prostitution reform, civil union, and everything else to happen. Now that's a big difference. And he's making the comment but he's not serious.
Scoop: What if there was Deputy Prime Minister Peter Dunne advocating selling State-Owned Enterprises and you were assisting them with Confidence and Supply--would that not be the same?
Peters:: Well, that's not going to happen.- that's not going to be happening. I don't want to deal with hypotheticals.
Scoop: Who do you enjoy drinking with more, then? Or, you know, going out and partying?
Peters:: I'm not answering that sort of question.
Scoop: Okay, well you know parties, you have parties around Parliament.
Peters:: No, I don't have parties around Parliament.
Scoop: No, no, no. I mean National parties. The National Party has a party at the end of the parliamentary year.
Peters:: Well, we don't go. I haven't been to them.
Scoop:Lots of your staff go.
Peters:: No, they don't. Maybe the odd member of my staff does, but I'm not aware that lots of my staff do.
Scoop: Oh well, I won't be able to judge coalition negotiations on parties around Parliament, then.
Peters:: No, you won't.
Scoop:Thanks very much Winston.
Peters: Thank you. Cheers.