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The Nation - Peters: A transcipt

Interviewed by SEAN PLUNKET

Sean We're one week out from the election and the big question is will Winston Peters decide the election again. If his party makes the 5% threshold and two new polls are pushing him very close to that, he could hold the balance of power, and perhaps choose who gets to be Prime Minister, for the third time out of six MMP elections. In 1996 he chose Jim Bolger over Helen Clark, in 2005 he chose Helen Clark over Don Brash. This time he says he will sit on the cross benches and keep the other parties honest. But what does that mean? And do we trust him to keep his word? Winston Peters joins me in the studio now. Good morning Mr Peters. Alright explain for us this cross bench strategy. Does that mean you can tell us definitively as of today, John Key's not gonna come knocking at your door if you get in and get over the 5% threshold. Phil Goff has indicated he will. Are you gonna tell him to go away?

Winston Peters – NZ First Leader
Well I made it very clear in Kelston recently why we were doing it and what we would do as a result of that decision. Just quickly, we're against asset sales, and we're against separatism, and those parties that tolerate and condone and encourage that, we could not work with, and we're going to the cross benches which means that voters will sort out the government before the election on election day and we'll live with that result. I don’t want to spec, I want to say very clearly if someone wants to ring me like the National Party I'd say read my Kelston speech, that’s where we're standing. I'd say the same to the Labour Party.

Sean So would you abstain on confidence and supply if either the left or right formed a minority government?

Winston Well that’s an alternative for the caucus after the election to decide. I just don’t make these decisions off the top of my head.

Sean But if you're not going to say I'm going to abstain no matter who forms a minority government, if that’s the scenario…

Winston Well they might write a good budget and we support it.

Sean … you can't say you're sitting on the cross benches because if you're going to….

Winston No I didn’t say that cross the cross benches that’s your word. I said we're going into opposition. That’s very clear, we're going into opposition, because we want to hold the next government whoever it is on those critical issues, accountable to the people of New Zealand.

Sean So you'll never vote for a budget then?

Winston Well the fact is. No, no, if you're in opposition and you see a decent budget then you vote for it. But you know that’s very unlikely, but I've seen a broad opposition party support a sound budget.

Sean Yeah but the very definition of a Westminster democracy is that the government has support or can get support on confidence and supply.

Winston I understand Westminster democracy and its various permutations, but the fact is that you're saying that the prime ministry of parliament means nothing. It means something and if the government came up with a sound budget in an economic crisis, which we're in, then yes New Zealand First would support it.

Sean Okay I'm just trying to figure out Mr Peters if you are going to sit on the cross benches and how you sit there.

Winston I say again we're not going to the cross benches, we're going into opposition because we think there are two disastrous things happening in this campaign, and most parties support it and we're going to hold the government accountable about it. They come up with wise policies we'll certainly support them…

Sean Out of this scenario it is possible that you might end up being responsible for another election, if neither the left nor the right feel comfortable governing with you not saying – with you in opposition.

Winston No look I'm not being cute here, I'm just stating the fact very very clearly and I'm glad that you’ve asked me because whilst I've given my reasons no one's published them, and today I've told you what they are. Now, we are saying we want to hold the government accountable, we're prepared to make a sacrifice as a political party to ensure that these things do stop in this country's …

Sean Alright I'm gonna take it from what you’ve said then that no one who forms the next government if Winston Peters and New Zealand First are in the parliament are going to regard your vote as a blank cheque right? How then do you negotiate for the policies you are promoting on the hustings? And I want to talk about a couple of them. I want to talk about your no concurrent sentences for rapists and murderers which is part of your platform and also this idea that rest homes which currently do not get a rates rebate, as elderly people can if they meet the means test, you’ve said that that has to change because it's not fair. Let's take those two policies. If you're not promising any consistency on confidence and supply for whoever might form the government, how can you possibly ever hope to advance those. What have you got to negotiate with?

Winston Very very easily, you know what happened to the Foreshore and Seabed controversy before 2004. New Zealand First wrote the law that the Maori tribes all on the coasts of this country accepted and John Key has tipped it over. But we wrote that law from opposition and there's no Labour Party person would say otherwise. The Cullen Fund would never be there if it wasn't for New Zealand First vote from opposition. The KiwiSaver would never be there were it not for New Zealand First vote from opposition, and nor would the Kiwi Bank. Now there's three things we've done, but I say if you’ve got experience and you know what you're doing you can negotiate these things. Now let me tell you what we're gonna do. We're not gonna have rapists then murder someone and have the …

Sean Well you say that’s what you're gonna do, but how are you gonna get that into parliament?

Winston Because when a government comes along with a policy on justice we say to them, well we think that that policy has got some sound issues….

Sean Mr Peters, no one is going to give you the legislative time to implement or introduce those policies in the House unless you give them something.

Winston Well exactly.

Sean And what you're gonna have to give them is some certainty on confidence and supply, because that’s the only card you’ve got to play?

Winston No no no, with respect, we never gave Labour that between 2002 and 2005, and yet some devastatingly effective things that are meeting this present crisis, and that’s the only thing that they did do, were passed by New Zealand First, and you're saying that this cannot be done. I'm saying experience tells me and a long experience that if you’ve got sound policies you can get them through from opposition, and also parliament will be far more important in 2011 to 2014. It won’t be a rubber stamp anymore.

Sean Let's look at your track record though Mr Peters. There is a perception abroad, and I can tell you a perception confirmed by the latest TV3 research poll which ran up till Wednesday, and showed that 66% of New Zealanders do not believe you will do what you say. Maybe 33% do.

Winston That’s because people like you and your colleagues have gone out and misled them. For example Mr Key's running around saying that I've never cooperated with any Prime Minister. That is demonstrably untrue. I showed one of our colleagues yesterday a letter from a former Prime Minister that demonstrably makes that a lie, but you keep saying it.

Sean Okay, but are you disappointed that 66% of New Zealanders don’t trust you?

Winston Well I'm disappointed that people who have been misinformed so high when this is a party, and myself personally have made some significant sacrifices on issues that matter. We would not sell Wellington Airport and therefore we left Cabinet. I was Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister. The second thing you know when others wouldn’t raise a finger about these business crooks from New Zealand, the Wine Box, I raised the roof. That’s my bona fides.

Sean I don’t want to get into ancient history. Let's talk about something that arose this week, and I don’t want to discuss what in or not in tape. This week you were on Morning Report talking to Simon Mercep and you said quite clearly that as far as the tapes and the gathering of that information was concerned that it was clearly illegal, end of story, it was news of the world stuff. And that morning on the radio you were saying no this information's been illegally gathered, end of story, news of the world, you were completely on side with the Prime Minister.

Winston That’s all true.

Sean By Thursday you'd turned a 180 degrees.

Winston No sorry. I'm sorry now, if I can get some help to your researchers I will, but here's what happened. I was on Morning Report totally different subject. Out of left field comes Simon with this question and I should have as a lawyer said look I'm gonna answer that question for you, but then you'll be accused of being evasive, so I thought of the telephone hacking and saw it on all force of that. I got off the phone and said no it isn't that there's a gap in our law and I'm aware of this now. So I went back on Radio New Zealand that morning to put the record straight. That’s not true what you just said.

Sean Are you saying you didn’t say this is news of the world stuff, it's clearly an end of story?

Winston Oh no I did. When I realised that I'd misinformed the listeners on Morning Report, I went back on Radio New Zealand that morning and corrected it, and that was recorded as well. So that’s my evidence that you know, if you make a mistake then you’ve gotta correct it.

Sean Okay you have made a few. I want to ask you specifically, is the Spencer Trust still involved in the finances of New Zealand First and who is running the finances of New Zealand First this campaign Mr Peters.

Winston Well let me just say no the Spencer Trust is not. I am a leader of a party that bought a law proposal to parliament that trusts should be outlawed where parties are concerned. I got voted down. So there's nothing illegal about that at all.

Sean Who's handling the campaign finances of New Zealand First this year.

Winston Well the Treasurer is.

Sean Okay and is your lawyer involved in that, or is it being run through the Spencer Trust?

Winston Well of course we've got lawyers involved in New Zealand First, we've got all sorts of people involved in New Zealand First, but that’s what you expect in a part of this broad brush. But I knew that as the polls were raised people were gonna throw dirt and that’s why I put out a press release saying that.

Sean Well it's not dirt it's a question Mr Peters.

Winston Well you're raising the question. Have you asked anybody about Waitemata Trust, National Party's got millions in that?

Sean No I'm not. I'm asking you about New Zealand First.

Winston Let's have the same deal for everybody and that would be very good.

Sean I want to come back to that poll result. 66% of New Zealanders say they don’t trust you to do what you say. Could that be because just before the last election the Parliamentary Privileges Committee essentially decided that you had misled the House.

Winston No sorry, that’s not true either. Let me tell you what happened here. You had a Member of Parliament called Banks, you had a Member of Parliament called Nick Smith, both of whom had trust on defamation matters, never ever told anybody, didn’t have to, the law didn’t say so, and along comes Winston Peters with something far less egregious and self serving that is want to fight electoral petition that he was contributing to himself, and all of a sudden, this is what that does and the report's all there. They wrote a law a new law then they applied it against me retrospectively.

Sean None of this is gonna get us closer to the answer. Do you think that maybe a reason why people don’t trust you.

Winston Now that’s a kangaroo court I said so at the time didn’t I?

Sean We're outa time unfortunately, but my last question to you, you’ve got one week to go, you’ve had a very good week this week, do you really reckon you can get there?

Winston Look New Zealand First has been you know as you know black listed by the most of the media for a long time, still don’t have our policy published by a lot of media artists, but look hard work and true grit, the kind of quality that made this country great is what my people have got and we're going to make it and we're gonna make it well.

Sean Winston Peters nice talking to you, thank you very much indeed, thanks for your time.

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