Q+A: Nat's Osborne denies he's running scared to debate Peters
Q+A: National’s Mark Osborne denied claims that he's too scared to debate his main rival Winston Peters in person.
Speaking from Mangawhai Mr Osborne told TV One’s Q+A programme, “Oh, not at all. Not scared at all. Not one bit. We’re out here talking to voters in the electorate.”
Both the leading candidates of the Northland by-election were invited to a face to face debate in our studio however, Winston Peters was the only one to accept. He told the programme the North has been forgotten.
“I’ve got a track record for making things happen. The second thing is no one can better voice the years of neglect and forgetfulness that this electorate has suffered from,”
Winston Peters also indicated he would talk to National about its RMA reforms… but Mr Osborne said, “He’ll say anything a week out from the elections to get the votes. He’s not going to do that. He doesn’t care. You know, that’s the reality. This is a very very important by-election. He only cares about himself..”
Mr Osborne told the programme promised roading investments would go ahead even if he didn’t win the by-election.
“Absolutely, they will. The bridges? Absolutely. And they will because they’re a vital part of the infrastructure up here.”
Q+A, 9-10am Sundays on TV ONE and one hour later on TV ONE plus 1. Repeated Sunday evening at 11:35pm. Streamed live at www.tvnz.co.nz
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WINSTON PETERS + MARK OSBORNE
Interviewed by MICHAEL PARKIN
MICHAEL As Q + A’s Colmar-Brunton poll made clear two weeks ago, it’s been a two-horse race between these two men— New Zealand First’s Winston Peters, who joins me in the studio, and National Party candidate Mark Osborne, who’s opted to stay in the sunny north. He’s in Mangawhai. Mark, if I could start with you, why have you stayed up there today, little over an hour away from Auckland, being here in the studio, toe to toe with Winston Peters?
look, we’re up here today because it’s a beautiful part
of the Northland, and we’re out talking to people and
asking for their votes.
MICHAEL But are you scared to take on the man you are going head to head with in this contest?
MARK Oh, not at all. Not scared at all. Not one bit. We’re out here talking to voters in the electorate.
MICHAEL Can I just ask you? Steven Joyce, I understand, is in the room there. Could you just point out for me where he’s standing at the moment?
MARK Uh, just back there.
MICHAEL Just behind the camera? Is he giving you a bit of information, a few tips, is he?
MARK Not at all. Not—Not at all.
MICHAEL Righty-oh. Righty-oh. Just wanted to clear that up. In terms of this actual contest itself, why is it a two-horse race in what should’ve been a safe National seat?
MARK Well, look, we are out there campaigning on the issues that are important to Northlanders. It’s a very vital election here.
MICHAEL But why aren’t you streaks ahead, Mark, in what should be your seat?
MARK Look, we’re out there, you know. By-elections are always challenging. And we’re not taking anything for granted. So we are out there talking about things that are important and listening to the people of Northland.
MICHAEL And they’re wonderfully rehearsed lines, Mark, but I’m asking you the question. Why aren’t you comfortably ahead in this race? Why haven’t you let Winston Peters into this contest?
MARK Look, you’d have to ask the voters that. But the reality is we’re focusing on this campaign. We’re out there, and by-elections are inevitably tough and tight, and we’re not taking anything for granted.
MICHAEL Where do you think the campaign has gone wrong for you?
MARK Oh, it hasn’t gone wrong. We’re out there; we’re getting a really positive response from the people of Northland. And being a local here, I get around all the communities. I’m a pair and a half shoes worn out through this process so far, and I’m looking forward to wearing out at least another couple of pairs over the next few days, talking to people about the things that are important to them. So we’re out there talking on the issues that matter to Northlanders, and if I have the privilege of being elected, I’ll be in a government that can actually make a real change and make a real difference for the people of Northland, not sitting in the cross-benches—
MICHAEL If I could bring in Mr Peters here. If you win this election, will Northland be your primary residence?
MICHAEL And you will spend how much time up there?
WINSTON All the time I possibly can. Otherwise, I’ll be in Wellington, making sure that for the first time in a long, long time, the political establishment of this country does not forget these people.
MICHAEL To win this contest, you are going to need some National voters to switch their allegiance and get behind you. Why should they do that? What are you offering them that the National party isn’t at the moment?
WINSTON Well, first of all, your sound system’s gone off. Maybe we should put investment to that. It’s coming off and on. But the reality is we started from way behind. We were 17,434 votes behind at the start of this campaign. Why should Northland voters put their trust in me? Well, I’ve got a track record for making things happen. The second thing is no one can better voice the years of neglect and forgetfulness that this electorate has suffered from, and I’ve been touched by the number of people from right across the political spectrum – way on the left and way on the right, in fact, -- who know that the North has been forgotten, and they want a change.
MICHAEL So what’s your message to those National voters?
WINSTON My message is very simple to the National party voters – if you want an export-plus province, which you are, in the top of this country’s export wealth creators list to get a fair go, then you need someone who understands how the second-tier economy has happened and how you need a fairer go for farming, for fishing, and all those industries that used to provide full employment up there. In short, the farming community knows that if the dollar was far better set – now, I don’t want to get complicated here – but if it was set to be sympathetic to exporters, then the north would be going so much better. And farming, for example, as the classic example of National party support, would not see one in four or five being seriously concerned about the bank that they are owing so much debt to now.
MICHAEL Ok, we’ll get to some of those Northland-specific issues after the break. But I want to ask you – obviously, you mentioned your track record there. Obviously, one of the big attack lines from National has been that if you win this seat, if you gain that extra MP, you will cause chaos. What are your priorities, should you take out this race and gain that extra bit of power? Do you want to see the RMA scrapped, the Sky City deal? Where are you going to focus your attention?
WINSTON Oh, I love the way you go about outlining their shock attack. It’s Crosby Textor to a T – throw in the dirt, make all sorts of false allegations. Take the RMA – the National party has never ever spoken to me or my party about the RMA. We haven’t seen their so-called reforms. And only a fool would sign up to something they’d never seen. It’s like the TPPA. They want us to sign a blank document on the basis of—
MARK Oh, Mr Peters, don’t you want more jobs in the north?
WINSTON Can I just finish off by saying, yeah, and I don’t want your 750 ghost jobs, which we—
MARK Oh, come on!
MICHAEL And we will get to the jobs, but, obviously, as Mr Peters is saying—
WINSTON I want to finish off though. Can I finish off?
MICHAEL OK, finish it.
WINSTON Mr Osborne, I know that you’ve been primed to think you’re going to interrupt here, but I’ll hear you out if you have the courtesy to hear me out. Now, the fact is that up north, every industry that should be up is down, and everyone that should be down is up. In fact, it’s upside down there, and I’m committed to turning it the right way up.
MICHAEL Does that sound like chaos to you? Winston’s prepared to talk to National, Mark, about RMA reform. I mean, that’s not a guy who’s looking to run amok here.
WINSTON Mr Osborne, have you seen the RMA reforms?
MICHAEL I think we said we’d let Mark finish.
MARK He’ll say anything a week out from the elections to get the votes. He’s not going to do that. He doesn’t care. You know, that’s the reality. This is a very very important by-election. He only cares about himself. I care about Northlanders. I live here. I have family here. My kids are in school here. I have a business, and I’ve worked here in the last 10 years. So I care and I understand and I know about Northland; he doesn’t. He’s been everywhere but here.
MICHAEL I think, to be fair to Mr Peters, he’s spent plenty of time up there.
WINSTON Can I respond? I grew up north; he flew up north. He’s only been there for 15 years.
MICHAEL I don’t think you want to be talking about flying up north.
MARK Yeah, yeah. Helicopter – that’s how you flew.
MICHAEL Mr Osborne, if I can ask you about these roading investments. Will they go ahead as scheduled if you don’t win this race?
MARK Absolutely, they will. The bridges? Absolutely. And they will because they’re a vital part of the infrastructure up here. I’ve met many people out on this campaign—
MICHAEL If they’re going to go ahead regardless of you winning this contest, why would the people of Northland not take the bridges, take the goodies and vote for Winston Peters – have an incredibly high-profile MP out there?
MARK Oh, look, no, that’s not true.
MICHAEL But I think it’s quite true that he’s a high-profile MP.
MARK Winston’s been an MP for, what, decades? And what’s he done for Northland? I’ll tell you what he’s done. He’s done nothing. And that’s the reality of the situation.
WINSTON Can I answer that?
MARK I will be on the ground; I will be living here, waking up every day in the north, doing my utmost for the people of Northland.
WINSTON My advice to Mr Osborne is – for a start, if your shoes are wearing out that fast, don’t buy cardboard shoes. The second thing I want to say is he couldn’t even name the bridges he claimed to be responsible for.
MICHAEL Look, he got majority of those bridges. I’m not prepared to go into the 10 bridges. What can you do for those people?
WINSTON I’m going to finish off by telling you that there are 778 one-laned bridges in the Northland electorate. You see, that’s what neglect breeds. And when you look at it – public transport in Auckland -- $200 per person per year; up north -- $5.50. That tells everything about how the north’s been forgotten.
MICHAEL We’re going to come back after the break and talk a lot more about roading with both of you, and a lot of other issues from the social media feedback we’ve been getting. We’ll be right back after the break.
MICHAEL Welcome back to our Northland debate with both our frontrunner candidates. I want to go through some quick local issues that are being sent into us through social media. Dianne Khan on Facebook has asked both of you, ‘What will you do to help families living in poverty in the north?’ Winston Peters, very quickly, if I go to you first.
WINSTON We’ll ensure they have a job with first-world wages, and we’ll make sure the employers get the tax concessions to keep them profitable. That’s the problem up north. You’ve got all sorts of education on social problems but desperately low income – the second lowest income in the whole country. And with the lowest proportion of salary and wage earners in the whole country, it means that they’re desperate.
MICHAEL Mark Osborne, what would your response be to those families in poverty? Obviously, National’s had a long time to do something up there.
MARK Oh, look, and we have. There’s a number of things that we’ve brought in. But the most important way out of poverty is through jobs and job growth and investment, and that’s what we’re working on. 7500 new jobs across Northland last year. You know, that’s a great— That’s almost 10% of the—
MICHAEL OK. Yeah, we’ve heard that. We’ll move on from those numbers, because we are getting a bit tight here. On Twitter, we’ve got Elisabeth. She’s asked, ‘What—?’
MARK Well, you shouldn’t be tired of hearing them.
WINSTON Well, they’re false.
MICHAEL ‘What will you do to help Whangarei become a suburb of Auckland?’ Are you prepared, either of you, to promote a fast train service to the north?
WINSTON That’s my policy.
MICHAEL Mr Osborne, are you prepared to back that one?
MARK Oh, well, look, all transport networks are worth looking at. The reality is 100% of people currently travel on the roading system, and that’s where we’re investing initially, and 99% in the freight. So, obviously, $1.75 billion investment, Puhoi to Wellsford, that’s a major investment in opening up to our biggest market.
MICHAEL OK. You’re focusing on the roads. All right. Well, let’s talk about the roads. Let’s talk about the dusty roads, because we had—
WINSTON No, stop right there.
MICHAEL We had a lot of comments—
WINSTON No, stop right there. There is
no plan, engineering report or anything going from Warkworth
MICHAEL We are going to talk about dust—
WINSTON I can’t let them and you get away with this nonsense.
MICHAEL I think you’re getting away with plenty.
WINSTON Oh, come on.
MICHAEL We’re going to talk about dusty roads now. The other thing that viewer feedback has been very very hot on – sorting out those dusty roads. What can you do? You’re not going to be in government if you win this.
WINSTON Let me tell you—
MICHAEL You’re not going to be in government if you win this.
WINSTON Can I finish?
MICHAEL Of course you can.
WINSTON You’re putting all the objections before I even get there. Let me tell you, I got them 10 bridges in 10 days. I got broadband rolled out—
MARK Oh, you did not.
WINSTON …by day 12, and by day 13, they’re going to have cell towers all around the north.
MARK Oh, Winston, you’re dreaming.
WINSTON And just to finish it off, they’re going to have a motorway, a highway, all the way to Wellsford, even though they haven’t got any plans for it, any costings for it.
MARK Oh, Winston. Come on.
WINSTON Can I just say one thing?
MICHAEL Very quickly.
WINSTON When Pipiwai was protesting about those dusty roads, one MP turned up, not once, but three times – me. Not Mr Osborne or any of his colleagues.
MICHAEL Mr Osborne, can you tackle the dusty roads?
MARK Oh, absolutely. Look, I sympathise totally. I travel 1000km a week around the district right now or in my previous job.
WINSTON No, he doesn’t. He goes from Taipa down to Kaikohe and then back again.
MARK Oh, come on, Winston, give me a break. Look, I travel around. I know these issues. I see them first-hand every day.
MICHAEL What are you going to
do to seal them, Mark? Not whether you know them. We all
know the problem.
MARK Well, if I’m privileged enough to become the member of parliament, the reality is that I’ll be in there in a government that can actually make a change and work with the local councils and the communities and make sure we improve those issues.
MICHAEL OK. Let’s move on to another hot-button issue up there – amalgamation of the councils. Mr Osborne, do you support amalgamation and why? Very quickly.
MARK Well, ultimately, that’s a choice for the people of Northland. They need to make that choice. But my position is that whatever the outcome, be it unitary, modified status quo or status quo, that the local government’s four agencies work closer together for better outcomes for all Northlanders. That’s the most important thing to me, whatever the structure is.
MICHAEL OK. Winston Peters, do you support amalgamation?
WINSTON Let me tell you, the local government commissioner’s ramming it down their throats, just like the Hawke’s Bay.
MICHAEL So no?
WINSTON Just like Wairarapa, just like the Upper Hutt.
WINSTON Let me say, no, I support the local people having a capital L in local government. They by referendum will decide this and not rammed down their throat by central government. Now, look, you don’t stop there. Mangawhai had a ratification of an absolute corrupt blowout—
MICHAEL And I do want to talk about Mangawhai.
WINSTON His party supported it. I oppose it.
MICHAEL That’s a very good point. Mangawhai, obviously, where you are today, Mr Osborne. Winston Peters wants the taxpayer to swallow that—
WINSTON I can’t believe he’s there.
MICHAEL Will you support that? Should taxpayers be picking up that bill for the Mangawhai ratepayers?
MARK Well, this is what I support. I support ensuring that it doesn’t happen again; some processes and procedures put in place that it doesn’t happen here or anywhere else.
MICHAEL But should taxpayers pick up that existing debt?
MARK Look, just let me finish. I support accountability.
WINSTON No, you don’t.
MARK Accountability for those who are culpable. Yes, I do.
WINSTON Well, why did you party pass a legislation—?
MICHAEL Mr Peters, if we can let him finish.
MARK I support
WINSTON Can I just add—?
MICHAEL No, no, no.
WINSTON Why did his party ratify the bill that said ‘no accountability’? It said, ‘You people who are innocent in every respect are now going to pay so higher rates that many will have to give up their homes.’
MICHAEL But are you happy to see the ratepayers pick up that debt?
MARK No. What I’m saying it accountability. If Audit New Zealand are found culpable, they should be held accountable, and I expect that will relate to financial recompense as well.
WINSTON Can I answer that?
MICHAEL Let’s talk about jobs. Let’s move on to jobs.
WINSTON Don’t slide past this.
MICHAEL No, look, we’re trying to get through a lot of important issues to New Zealanders.
WINSTON Well, we’ll get on to the jobs.
MICHAEL Let’s talk about the jobs. What do you do to create jobs in Northland? Obviously, the unemployment rate has been stagnant for a very long time.
WINSTON Let me tell you, I grew up there when employment was full-time up there.
MICHAEL I’m not interested. What are you going to do now?
WINSTON Mr Parkin, I’m going to ensure that the wealth that Northland has – and it is serious – whether it be tourism, whether it be in forestry, whether it be in farming, whether it be in all sorts of horticulture and agriculture – which should be possible – is going to be freed up, but they are going to get the benefits of it.
MICHAEL Mr Osborne, we’ve got a stagnant umemployment rate there. It hasn’t moved, despite the 7500 jobs that we hear about. What do you do to tackle it?
MARK That’s not true. Umemployment’s dropped from 9.5% to 8%, and that’s too high.
MICHAEL So it’s still a pretty significant problem there, Mark?
MARK Yeah. Look, any unemployment is not good. And the reality is 7500 new jobs last year. I mean, that’s a start. We need to carry on—
WINSTON Totally false.
MARK …and we need to make sure that those jobs— It’s not false, Winston.
MICHAEL They didn’t include Whangarei, those jobs, did they? Not part of your electorate.
WINSTON Look, your campaign director admitted it.
MARK They’re across Northland.
MICHAEL Look, I want to finish off.
MARK They’re across Northland. So what we’re doing—
WINSTON Your campaign director admitted that, so please stop telling—
MARK Can I speak, Winston, please?
MICHAEL Please, Mr Peters. He let you finish.
MARK Winston, please, can I speak? Thank you.
WINSTON You go ahead.
MARK Look, we’re focusing on a range of opportunities across all of Northland so that all Northlanders get opportunities. And they’re from tourism, forestry, forestry further processing, agriculture, horticulture.
MICHAEL OK, brilliant. Tourism, forestry, agriculture. We’re singing from the same song sheet. I want to finish off with one very quick question.
WINSTON Oh, no, we’re not.
MICHAEL Mark Osborne, the Northland team in the ITM Championship last year. Who captained that side?
MARK Who captained that side? Dan Pryor, wasn’t it?
MICHAEL Cameron Eyre, I’m afraid. Winston Peters, who knocked Northland out of the semi-finals last year in the ITM Championship?
MICHAEL Sorry. Hawke’s Bay, boys. A bit to work on there. Winston Peters and Mark Osborne, thank you very much for your time.
MARK Cheers. Thank you. Have a good day.