THE POWER OF 1ST
WINSTON PETERS PITCHES FOR A JIMINY CRICKET ROLE IN THE NEXT PARLIAMENT
QUESTIONS BY IAN WISHART
ANSWERS BY WINSTON PETERS
From the June 2011 issue
Q: How are the preparations for the election going?
Winston: On election night 2008 we decided that we were going to carry on and never accept that as our fate and destiny, and the people have remained loyal, worked hard. We’re in a very significant position now as a platform for the next six months.
Q: That election night, did you sit down with a whiskey or whatever afterwards and think to yourself, never again?
Winston: No I didn’t. I decided I would get up, thank my supporters, I would never give my opponents any chance to know how I really felt and I would accept our result the way one has to. You’ve got to significantly take the blame yourself because no matter what is against you, you’ve got to be good enough to triumph over it and we just didn’t quite make it.
Q: Did you have a feeling about how it was going to go on election night or did it take you by surprise?
Winston: I believed that we would get over 5% and that would be enough to decide the election as we did in 2005. We’d been through the most vicious campaign in this country’s history over five months of three totally baseless investigations conducted by the police, the Serious Fraud Office and the Electoral Commission, all of which found nothing but no one ever thought about that. The police clearance only came two weeks from the election. As for the Privileges committee – everyone understands a kangaroo court and it was disgrace frankly, but I’ve made that clear. We thought nevertheless that we’d make it home. The thing that tipped it in my view was the totally false polls that were coming out saying that it would be a wasted vote for NZ First which were on one percent according to these polls – which is still happening on TV3 and TV1 – that a vote for NZ First is a wasted vote. Otherwise we’d have gotten over the top easily.
As it was they were 450% wrong with their final result. We got 4.7%. They said we were going to get one. They were that far out but they will never apologise, never change their strategy, and this time I’m warning all my supporters and our team just to ignore those sorts of baseless polls. We’ve got significant polls which tell us we’re doing well and we’ll carry on and put the hard yards in.
Q: In terms of the flow on effect of 2008 election night, it must have been incredibly difficult to tell your supporters the next day: this is how it is. What were they saying to you?
Winston: The wonderful thing was that the people I expected to stay with the concepts and beliefs and principles of NZ First stuck with them and that’s what mattered. They were all for going on, so was I, and we set our mind to slowly, outside of the radar screen, rebuild the party after our severe defeat and to take us back to what we’ve always been, a number three party in this country.
Q: Do you think that any of the Helen Clark brand tarnished you guys in terms of being too closely associated after nine years of Labour with the backwash from that?
Winston: You always take a risk when you’re with a party that’s in its third term, that you get some carryover. But that’s the nature and character of politics, you can’t avoid that. Particularly in an environment where so few in the media have been prepared to support MMP as the changed electoral system of this country. So if you’ve got that, you’ve got this obsession with writing the script as though it’s first past the post, and it’s not.
Q: I guess there’s the range of views, I mean, I look at the New Zealand situation and I think you look at a spectrum that slides between the Greens at one end or Act at the other, and the influence that they could bring to bear – or even the Maori party – by holding the balance of power. What would you tweak about MMP to deal with that?
Winston: Well not the threshold. Despite us getting 4.7% and losing, I still argue for 5%. I did at the time, I still do because it eliminates the lunatic fringe as much as possible. There’s always been a lunatic fringe in parliament, even under first past the post. We don’t need more than a hundred MPs, I’d go with the Robertson petition, I always have, except I believe we’d only need 80 given that we’ve sold so many state assets and so many positions of authority have been eliminated by the fact that the assets the minister and the group were supposed to be looking after is gone from this country.
Q: If we don’t significantly tweak MMP, is there room then or a necessity even for perhaps some sort of constitutional reform, I mean Amy Brooke’s been talking about the Swiss model of the hundred day referendum if legislation is passed that the public disagree with. Is there room for some sort of constitutional control on government legislation?
Winston: I’ve always believed in a citizen’s initiated referenda, but I also believe that wise governments would use referenda themselves, to initiate it themselves at election time. There’s no greater cost to having it at election time but for that to happen there’s got to be a significant mind change in parliament. There are some strictures around that, I wrote a speech about it seven or eight years ago and I still stand by that speech, that we will not be like Switzerland and there are a number of reasons for it. I’ll give you one: Switzerland wouldn’t confront Hitler, but the rest of us had to. You know, if the system throws up that result then I don’t think it’s the ideal system. But I am a strong believer in referenda, citizen’s initiated and government initiated, to better determine the public’s view on things.
Q: I agree with you on the Hitler example. But I wonder if that isn’t an example of democracy at work and the reality is you have to live with your choices. I mean, Switzerland, if the war had gone the other way would have been overrun and the people would have had to live with that.
Winston: Well yes but we had to shed blood so they didn’t have to live with it. There’s something acutely unfair and historically wrong about that.
Q: In terms of the things that have been thrown at you, I mean, the SFO, the police enquiry and so forth, do you think there was any political aspect to their length of time it took them to investigate and clear or was it just routine?
Winston: There was no doubt about it, the SFO had a malignant attitude towards NZ First. We after all had, well I had, gotten rid of one of its former directors, Chas Sturt, over the Winebox when he was blown out of the water in the enquiry. We’d also called for the abolition of the Serious Fraud Office and that was coming. The government had decided that we were right. So they had every reason to try and do us, they went into three months detail and miniscule investigation to try and get us, and had nothing.
What was being investigated was the party funding, which I might tell you was a tissue of lies, and I tell you for this reason: we moved to get rid of trusts running party support, but we were voted down in parliament. Now I’ve been told by members of the media: ‘well how come you’ve got a trust fund?’ And the answer is, well, if I go for a taxation at 55% and I get voted down and the taxation’s 30, are you suggesting I should voluntarily pay 55% after that? That’s how unfair it was and base it was, but here’s the difference. We got members of parliament in for $16,000 a member. Other parties, and Act was the worst, were paying $149,000 a member. Who’s getting financial backing here? Not us. And it showed.
Q: In terms of the choice of financial backer, the Owen Glenn affair, I mean, he’d already come to prominence with Labour and caused them some grief, when those first bombshells went off did that cause you any concern when he was being exposed regarding Labour and did that give you any worries about what might come out?
Winston: Well I didn’t understand and I still don’t that he was being exposed by Labour, I understood he’d gone public and said “I’m supporting Labour.” And he’d said that publicly. But in our case, when the telephone accounts were pulled out, the one compelling series of telephone records demonstrated that he called us, not us him, and Brian Henry in particular, my lawyer, where the matter remained.
Here comes the point, I’m running an electoral petition on the basis that this electorate has not had a fair election. You don’t self-enrich yourself when you do that, you only pay money yourself to do it, so we’ve all been paying money. And under a trust arrangement with the lawyer, this very same one, that Nick Smith had, but Nick Smith’s one was different. His was about his own personal wealth, because he was being sued. He had a fund, and he claimed to parliament that he had checked the matter with the parliamentary commissioner. Margaret Bazley wrote to me to say, “that is not true, no check was ever made at my office”. Nothing happened. So one fellow is put in front of the Privileges committee and one guy is not, headed by and run by the National party. They can’t find a ruling against me, so they make a ruling up and then they apply it against me retrospectively. That’s why I told them to go to Hell.
And that’s the thing, that’s life sometimes and, you know, sadly sometimes in these circumstances, the truth gets lost. But I have the evidence on that and I’m not worried about it anyway of course, here comes the point, we rebuilt this party, we have been packing halls around the country, the old fashioned way, we’re not scared to have public meetings and that’s starting to tell. And this last week of meteoric rise and fall of certain personalities is a temporary thing. Things will stabilise when they come towards the end of the year.
Q: In terms of, I guess, moving forward for NZ First, you guys have had a fair run of coalitions with various governments –
Winston: Only one. We were in coalition with National, we had a confidence and supply agreement with, but weren’t in coalition with, Labour.
Q: Yeah. But in sense of, I guess, you’re right, but in the sense of the public perspective you were aligned in the public eye because of the confidence and supply agreement. Do you think it was delineated enough or did you lose your brand in there?
Winston: No we didn’t lose our brand, here’s the real point. I mean, if you go to the April polls up to May, the May polls of 2008, NZ First was on the rise. It’s happened to us twice you know. In 2005, the party hit 12% in the polls, in May of 2005, which was the same week that the Herald launched a front page allegation that we were in secret talks with National. Totally baseless, never even gave one shred of evidence, but they ran it front page, left hand side, as the number one heading. That was designed to tip NZ First over and it almost did. One point, there’s only one party not in negotiations with any other party in this country and it’s NZ First.
Q: Coming back to Owen Glenn, did he make the first approach to you guys out of the blue?
Winston: Yeah he did. And that’s the point. When it came to the phone records, that’s what it proved. Unfortunately at the later part of that contact with Owen Glenn, those phone records were not nearly as accurate as they could have been. The problem is that my lawyer was moving houses at the time and we were in a real bind trying to nail that down because of two things: a)he’d moved house and into a temporary accommodation into a third house over a period of time of three or four weeks. And second, his mother was sick in Australia and he was seeing her, so he was doing it from abroad.
I had a real difficulty then trying to synchronise the investigation, and although we put an enormous amount of effort into the motels where he was staying on his legal business as a barrister, I just couldn’t put it together. When you’re not given any time to do it, that is, the moment the hearing started, those allegations were made, we had only hours to get ready for the next day, not weeks like you do in a court case. We were just being rail-roaded, but you know, that’s the way the system works.
Q: That’s why I asked the question. I mean, in your view, was there anything strange about the whole Owen Glenn affair that you’ve wondered about late at night and sort of thought, what really went on?
Winston: Yeah. Well, there is obviously, and you can only come to conclusions when you can get things to add up. But I have this deep suspicion as to how this ever happened.
Q: In terms of NZ First, in this election, one of the things you’ve come out this time and said, pretty clearly, although I want to see just how definitive this is – this is an election that gives you the opportunity to sit on the cross benches and look at legislation on a case by case basis. Is that something that NZ First is now committed to – that you’re not going to go into coalition with anybody, that you’re just going to be an opposition party and sit and watch?
Winston: Well what we’ve said is we’re looking at all our options because we proved in 2002 to 2005, on Kiwibank, on Kiwisaver and on some fundamental issues, that Labour couldn’t get there without us, that we happened to agree with the policy on savings. And I do not think the Cullen fund went nearly far enough. But at least we’re a step in the right direction for a country that has neglected the savings option for decades. And here we are now, in the total crap as a consequence. Now I ran a referenda, as you’ll recall, in 1997 as a treasurer. No one else ever gave them the choice but I thought I would. They voted me down, but they didn’t vote away the problem and now, you know, fourteen years later, this country is in a very, very parlous state, compared to Australia that went down that option.
Q: Yeah, well, I guess what I’m saying is, Hers magazine conducted a poll at the start of the year, over fourteen hundred readers and we took a subsample of that, randomly, and produced the poll, and what was fascinating about that poll is that 37% of those polled wanted NZ First back in parliament in some way, shape or form, 37%. I mean, you could govern with popularity support of that much in times gone by. Admittedly, 5.6% said they’d vote for NZ First on the day, but clearly beyond the NZ First grass roots voters, you have a large segment of the population and a lot of National voters that feel the need for you to be in parliament, why do you think that is?
Winston [guffaws of laughter]: It’s because the system has to be kept accountable. And our record over many, many years on the BNZ, Maori loans affair, the Winebox affair, and a stack of other things, has been to expose what’s never been accountable often because of an inconvenience for a political party and their friends to actually own up to what’s going on, and we’ve had no fear or favour in that respect.
A large number of National people still remember the party they once joined, or they thought they belonged to. They have a terrible job reconciling what they’ve got now with say the Holyoake era, the Marshall era or even the Muldoon era – where the party sorts out with the referee above the ruck – whereas they see so much of their party captured now. That’s what I put it down to. They remember the party, the National party, the way I remember the party I once joined.
But I realised that by 1989, in opposition to Labour which was then in government, and I realised that we were having these secret meetings with the business round table, the front bench were, with one guy who wouldn’t turn up. And that’s me. I refused to go to any of those meetings because I could see what I believed to be the organised capture of a political party and at that point in time of course they had put two key guys in to write the party’s policy. And I remember one time Bolger, in a a fit of pique, said to me, ‘but they don’t buy policy,’ I said, ‘buy it? They’re writing the damn stuff! They’re writing our industrial policy!’ I know that. I was a front bencher.
Q: In terms of, just again, to get this clear, is your NZ First position that you are going to the public this election to say ‘look, vote for us, we’ll keep them honest, we’ll stay on the side benches,’ or are you still holding out the possibility of coalition or supporting one of the major parties, in which case is that not a risky position to take?
Winston: Look, I know what some would recommend and say if they were in our circumstance, save for one thing: you have to face the fact that you might be sitting on election night where there’s no capacity because of your stance to form a government. Because you’ve ruled it out. Now that, in my view is, constitutionally wrong, I think it’s politically wrong, and I think in terms of democracy it’s wrong. Because the people have just spent millions to hold an election to determine their government, and you’re saying ‘you can’t have one.’ Or you might be saying something worse: ‘we’re going to force you back to a new election with in a matter of months because you haven’t been able to decide.’ Either option I think is the consequence of making a decision beforehand. But I’m saying that we’ll rule no option out including, if that is a NZ First choice for the MPs and the board and the party, going to the cross benches and keeping the system honest and accountable.
Q: What’s your preferred option? Would you prefer to be in a confidence and supply or a coalition arrangement or would you prefer to be jousting from the sidelines and supporting on a case by case basis?
Winston: A party’s always got a preference, but the problem with the preference is, it may not match the reality you’re facing. And the reality you’re facing, I’ll give you an example, it’s interesting, because Don Brash walks in post-election 2005 with Tariana Turia in tow and Rodney Hide, asking me to form a government with them. You see what I mean? Now I’m looking at a totally impossible circumstance, I’m looking at a party that is race based, that has got people who stand on the issue of race, racial preference – that’s the Maori party – and I’m being asked to form a government with them, and me and my party don’t believe in it, we believe in a single franchise. Because MMP promised that in time we would prove it and I believe that NZ First had proven more than any other party at the time that there was no need for a separate franchise. Crikey, I had eight members of parliament who were Maori in the one caucus of 17. We’d proven it.
So here I was being confronted with a giant leap back in history, to the past, by, of all people, Don Brash who you may have noticed now is on TV saying he doesn’t believe in the Maori seats. And there he is with the Maori party wanting me to form a government. And I said no. This is an impossible option, it’s against our beliefs and principles, and we will not do it.
Q: But how much punishment a small party can take in the backwash of two big parties. And that’s why I keep asking, what’s your preference?
Winston: Well, yes, but all I’m saying to you is that if you’re given a set of circumstances post-election, knowing that there’s no government without you, what do you then do? That’s why if you’ve said it beforehand and ruled it out, I think you’ve short changed the public who may not have the expectation, but if they were being properly prepared by the media in particular and commentators as well, would know that expectation.
Q: Are you not worried that with the position that you’re taking for all the right intellectual reasons, doesn’t it leave a chink through which the media or the politicians or anyone else can drive a Mack truck and say ‘well, he hasn’t ruled it out so maybe he’s going to jump with National or maybe he’s going to jump with Labour’ and you end up with both sides demonising you?
Winston: Well that’s the risk you take. But the fact is that we took a long time to come to that decision a long long time ago, and looked at it from every angle and in terms of the responsibility to the wider electorate post election, that’s the position we’ve come to and we’re not going to shift. My hope is, when those sorts of arguments are run, as they have been run by Labour against us, and by National against us, people will see them for the lie they are. That’s my only hope. I still think there’s enough people in the public who understand that. And that’s the point.
Q: I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but if it’s that much of a knife edge and it just needs someone to take it over the limit and say we can spare the country an election, what would your preference be?
Winston: I’m jumping my colleagues on this but, I imagine their preference would be, because forming a government is the critical matter here, would be confidence and supply, in circumstances where you had to hold your nose the least tightest, whilst you did it.
Q: What do you think of John Key as a leader?
Winston: Well, of course I’m not there inside his caucus to know, but externally this country is in significant economic crisis and despite what the polls say, I believe that he has failed to take action in the critical areas and that he won’t take action because of his own financial and economic background, in one of our most critical areas of our economy. We’ve got two things in trouble in this country. The abandonment of responsible capitalism on the one hand. And the lack of integrity for the welfare state on the other. Both are equally enormous threats to this country’s economic and social future, and neither of them have been explained properly.
Q: Can you perhaps explain for the readers a bit more about what you mean by that?
Winston: I’ll give you two examples. We have enormous financial collapse in this country bred off the same greed that emerged in America and corruption in the market and the absolute fraud that was the derivatives industry. You have 39 franchises going down owing six billion dollars to mainly old people who will never recover from that and there’s barely a guy in jail. Bernie Madoff’s been in prison in America for nearly, what, a year? And in this country, barely a person in prison.
You’ve got Huljich Investments is a classic. There’s a company that falsified the brochures and presentation to the public making investments in that Huljich Kiwisaver programme, and one of the guys that was heading the operation is a guy called Don Brash. What’s happened here? Another guy on the board was John Banks. What’s happened here?
We’ve got, now, people calling for a capital gains tax. Why, they say? Because people are obsessed with housing. Well why wouldn’t they be obsessed with housing, having been burnt year after year, decade after decade in the share industry?
You know, that’s all they’ve got to go on. People have said to me about the capital gains tax, and my response is, you fix the jungle up first, protecting investors instead of protecting directors, and you’ll correct it. But that will not happen. We’ve got New Zealanders awash with money, who won’t invest in their own country. Because they have got the experience of being victimised by a non responsive political system to significant corrupt financial institutions. It’s as clean as a whistle.
I’m looking at Australia right now and they’re doing a report on their banking system. That’s the political system in Australia doing a report on their banking system as to whether it’s rorting Australians, and these are Australian owned banks. These banks are operating in New Zealand. Just producing massive 60% profit, as one company posted the other day. This is the middle of the credit crunch and no one will have an investigation in this country. Now that’s what I mean on the capitalist side.
I’ll give you an example on the other side, the welfare state and where it has gone wrong. To have a child in this country, you have to have filled two requirements. You have to be 16 years of age, both of you, or older, and to have consented. Those are the only rules. Now to own two or more dogs in most city councils and boroughs in this country, there are sixteen rules you’ve got to comply with. Including care, financial ability to look after the animal, feed it properly, shelter it properly, and all the things that are critical to a dog’s life. That shows just how far we’ve gone wrong. When society used to have a welfare state that had integrity, it cost us far less than it costs us now. You can almost put a template on our welfare system, and that template you can shift it over to what’s going wrong in crime and domestic violence and everything else, and those templates will fit perfectly. So out go the benefits, here come the results, and we’re going nowhere. I want to see both fixed up, that’s one of the reasons why we’re staying in the game.
Q: How would you tackle the welfare dependency issue?
Winston: Well I’ve found a number one principle, the welfare state is there for the genuine deserving and needy, that’s your number one principle. And when you don’t see those two things, why are we paying welfare? There’s also a contract here. If I’m paying money to a parent to look after a child, I want the child looked after. I want the deal kept. The old Labour party of 1935 and the National party of the 50’s would turn in their graves at what’s gone wrong. Back when it worked, contrary to what Hone Harawira and all these people say, there wasn’t one Maori unemployed. Not one. That’s how far we’ve lost the plot. That’s what’s required now, a clarity of understanding to fix it. Both sides.
Q: Of course, cynics would say it did take six weeks to shift your household goods via NZ Rail from Christchurch to Dunedin and all that sort of thing because of the inefficiencies in the rail system but presumably we can move past those.
Winston [chuckles]: You know what it’s costing us now, not having a rail system? It’s costing a packet in roading while we have put these leviathans down the road trying to make up for something that Vogel actually dreamt up as being a great, critical component of this country’s development.
Q: Do you see Don Brash and John Banks as a threat to NZ First, I mean, you guys have some appeal to National voters, well obviously a resurgent Act does as well, what do you make of Brash and Banks?
Winston: I don’t think they’re a threat to us at all. I think they’re a threat to themselves and the National party. I’ll run through a few things. Take on the thing about the irresponsible capitalism I’m talking about, have we ever heard Don Brash say a thing about the banks? Ever heard him say anything about the finance houses? Ever heard him say a thing about the need for savings? No. No, he can bang on about the Maori world because that’s what Crosby Textor told him to do way back in 2005. I was told by a National party key operative, ‘Winston, we’re trawling through your speeches and we’re going to grab most of it.’ [chuckles] So Don, he goes out and gives the Orewa speech, but how does that speech stand against the facts I’ve just given you, that he walks in with Tariana Turia, very happy to have Maori seats. See what I mean?
Q: What about Phil Goff as a leader, how do you rate him?
Winston: Look, I don’t want to be rating other leaders frankly, but I will tell you one thing, this guy has, despite his mannerly, courteous behaviour, has a serious media conspiracy against him now. And I’m looking from the outside here, looking at the headlines thinking, there’s something going on and I’ve seen it before.
My reaction would be to confront them head on. His is to be a gentleman. And there’s no mileage in that. If you’ve got a deliberate conspiracy against you, manufacturing headlines of the type we’ve seen in past campaigns, designed to belittle someone, then I think you’ve got to respond. I saw it in 1993, Moore was the leader of the Labour party and Lange makes the speech about the need for progressive taxation. It’s all over the headlines. I happened to see Mike Moore and said to him, ‘look, you’ve got to hit back here.’ And he said to me ‘why?’ and I said ‘well, progressive taxation is the system we’ve got, he’s saying nothing, it’s been manufactured up as something huge as the difference between you and him. But it’s not’. Don’t forget how close that election was, but by the time Mike woke up he’d lost.
But who organised it? Well, funnily enough it was Granny Herald. The same people that organised that total lie in 2005 when we had polls – I was on 18% as preferred prime minister mid 2005 – and they launched a story saying I was in secret talks with National. Why? Anybody from any other angle in politics who was thinking of voting for me, was no longer going to if they thought I’d already signed away my future. So it’s pretty patently obvious. I know the people who were involved but you know, we’re setting our sights to ignore them and get on with what matters. We had a meeting in Levin the other day and they couldn’t get any more people in the hall and I realised that this media conspiracy won’t win this time.
Q: Now tell me about that because obviously in the last three years you’ve had your wilderness period, so how’s it rebuilt for you?
Winston: Yeah, we got 700 at North Shore late last year and yet not one reporter was there. But they are back. That’s my point. I’ve given countless speeches, more public speeches than nearly every politician. I’m not talking about tied audiences, like Chambers of Commerce and what have you, but public speeches, but yet there’s barely a reporter there. That doesn’t worry me because frankly, it’s a whole range of things. It’s great for your party’s communication techniques, its systems of establishing its local branches, its organisation, and an interchange of views with the public. And also, it means we will be seriously match fit come campaign time cause we’ve had so many of these meetings.
Q: John Key, of course has ruled out working with NZ First, or with NZ First with Winston Peters as leader. On the strength of that are you prepared to say that even if the position presented itself, that you will not work with National, or are you keeping that door open and he may regret saying it?
Winston: I’ve been around long enough and watching politicians and watching him in particular of late, to know that what he says and does are two different things. He wasn’t going to put up taxes, you remember? Well GST’s 15%. He wasn’t going to have asset sales, but now he’s going to have asset sales. He wasn’t going to interfere with the savings regime set up by Cullen, but he just has. Just yesterday. So he’s probably got 20 things he’s broken his word on, so why would I rely on something he said about me and NZ First?
Q: The Christchurch crisis, the Pike River crisis, what’s your overall feeling on both of those things?
Winston: Were there systems for safety that were not complied with? That’s the fundamental issue, I mean, mining’s a difficult business, I used to work 11 miles underground, as a second class miner, so I’ve got some idea of what I’m talking about. But it’s a dangerous business and I don’t want to rush to judgement down there, other than I think that progress toward getting the bodies out has been slow, it seems to reside with people like the receivers, this cannot be. The Government made a commitment. Nothing to do with the receivers at the time – the Government made it. And I think those people need closure.
On Christchurch it’s two things. Number one thing is, what will be the response of the insurance industry to rebuilding in any given place? Because you can’t get past that if you can’t get reinsurance. That is, new insurance for a new house. The second thing about the Christchurch thing though, which I think is disastrous, is capitalism and commerce is about the issue of risk. We paid premiums for decades on the issue of risk, so why now have we got a government allowing the insurance companies to threaten to put up premiums everywhere? We paid for that risk in our premiums. If they miscalculated, they have to wear it. Because that’s the essence of capitalism. That’s the essence of the free market, you don’t get a bonus for getting it wrong. And they’re about to.
What’s John Key going to do about that? Absolutely nothing. And every New Zealand homeowner is going to be paying extra because of the government’s failure to act in the defence of its own people. Now they say, “well hang on, what the insurance companies say is ‘we won’t front up’,” and the answer is ‘well you won’t be doing any insurance in this country at all. This market will be lost to you if that is your attitude. And there’ll be enough insurance companies to say ‘hang on, we’re going to get all the benefits here, we’ll stay and play the game.’ But Key won’t do that.
Q: What are the key issues for this election for NZ First, what are the points that you want to make to people?
Winston: Well, I know it might sound boring but the economy is the key issue for this election, and the fundamentals of so much of which are so wrong, there are many examples I could give you but here’s one: We’ve had record commodity prices, and for the last eight months in particular there’s been record upon record upon record. All of which have been eaten up by a totally overinflated dollar. So all of those things have been lost to the export community, and at the very same time as this is happening, with dairy prices at a record, products at a record international price, we’ve got hundreds of dairy farms in trouble. How could this possibly be?
Alongside that, we’ve got milk costing more than coke. It’s not Fonterra’s fault, it isn’t the farmers’ fault, but it sure is at one end of the market, the retail end of the market, their fault. Nothing’s been done about it. There’s a whole stack of things. Telecommunications has seen 21 years of price gouging of the New Zealand customer, an announcement was made yesterday by Steven Joyce and yet none of that found any way to lower pricing for the consumer. And they’re already saying so. So the 21 years for the system to respond tells me how wrong and bad parts of our political system are. And then alongside that as we speak, the dollar and the price of oil going up and down, right now, New Zealanders are paying between 47 and 50 cents more than Australia for their fuel. Why? I mean, it’s a key component of this country’s operations. Why are we paying 47 and 50 cents more in real terms, 50 cents more than Australians. That should be a matter of government investigation, surely.
Q: Especially when Aussies earn 30% more than us.
Winston: Well, see, here’s a classic: You’ve got a prime minister who says that he believes that we should head out to catch Australia by 2025. The man in charge of economy is telling Australian businesses ‘Look, we’re located in New Zealand, our wages are so much cheaper.’ Now there’s an unspoken statement there: ‘and they will be forever.’ Otherwise why relocate if the position is going to be changed next year?
So they’ve given up. And to say, ‘well I’m aspirational, I’m optimistic.’ Well wonderful, but out there in New Zealand there’s a fair bit of despair. We’ve got to convert that into hope.
Q: So, in terms of election, who do you think is going to be the main party that comes out of this one?
Winston: Well first of all, come back to these polls. TV1 and TV3 polls are just rubbish. You go and talk to a thousand people, ok? 250 say, ‘I won’t tell you.’ So they take them out of their system, out of the equation, round it up to 100% and give you the results. That’s why, I’ll tell you now, 2008, NZ First result against the poll was almost 475% out. 475. 2005, over 500% out. 2002, they told the public we were getting 1%, four weeks later we got 10.8. Now this is a damn disgrace.
Q: What you’re really saying is when media and polling companies remove the ‘don’t knows’ from a sample in election year, they’re skewing the figures.
Winston: they’re totally skewing the figures, and those polls that drill on and drill on to try and eliminate down to some sort of analytical, scientific answer, are doing justice by the electorate. The second evidence is, where in the democratic world do you get pollsters with a spread of 14%? Australia, Canada, USA, United States, they’d be spreading at three to two and a half percent maximum, if they go beyond that they all have a meeting to say, ‘what’s wrong with our methodology?’ But not in New Zealand. Just carry on as though we’re a banana republic.
Q: Is there a poll that you regard as more credible than the others?
Winston: Horizon, I do because they do extrapolate their ‘don’t knows’ down to about 8%. And that one puts us on 7.4%. It’s had us above five for a long time. And we haven’t really started yet. So we’ve got a lot of confidence in that. It’s also, the Horizon poll, borne out by the internal polls of Labour and National. That’s the key part I want to tell you, and National full well knows it. That’s why John Key was prepared to do a deal with Rodney Hide in Epsom in 2008. If they believed in TV1 and TV3 polls why would they have bothered to do a deal with Rodney Hide in Epsom? They do it because they know; their internal polling is not what TV1 and TV3’s polls are telling them.
Q: Obviously with Act and Rodney Hide going from Epsom, they’re looking at putting John Banks in as the candidate. That’s going to be interesting isn’t it?
Winston: Well, first of all, my question to you is this: Huljich Investments, what’s happening there? Why is the man that advanced money to the company facing court charges? And the people that sat there in the boardroom looking at the books with the advance in it not facing court charges? How can this be? You saw Fortex? That was a loan declared as income. Down goes the director. You saw Waipareira Trust. A home that wasn’t sold, was declared as income on the books. That was ajudged to be fraudulent. Go to Hujlich. What’s the difference here? And how can this man, Brash, be sitting there, who’s meant to be this economic genius, who was the critical man on the board in my view, not have seen it?
Q: Is there anything else you are hoping I don’t ask you about?
Winston [laughs]: I was thinking when you called me, of that interview you had with John Tamihere where he talked about – what was it – ‘frontbums and tossers’. I thought, well I will not be getting caught out like that!