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Mr Peters still don't be drawn on which political party he would support after the election, but he told TVNZ's Q+A that addressing the issue of foreign ownership of farms and residential property has always been a bottom line for New Zealand First.
“The reality is that’s always been a bottom line for New Zealand First," he said (a statement that presumably only applies to the time since his previous coalition deals with National and Labour).
A two-way trade process has seen Chinese companies invest in the Crafar Farms, and recently gain approval for a milk processing plant in Pokeno, while Fonterra and other NZ companies have ploughed hundreds of millions into companies that control milk production in China. A free trade agreement with China has helped NZ achieve its first November trade surplus since 1991 as the country became our largest trading partner. In February, NZ racked up a record trade surplus as China bought our milk, meat and logs.
Mr Peters is having none of it.
"We are making it very clear where we stand in this election. People out there don’t want wiffle waffle they want certainty. We want Auckland housing, New Zealand housing, to be for New Zealand people. We want New Zealand farms for young farmers in New Zealand in particular, not to be owned by everybody around the world, and absentee owned at that.
“I have the same view the Chinese have. You cannot buy a house, a flat, or land in China. You can lease it for 70 years but you can't buy it. The Chinese are not stupid, they're one of the world's most clever economies and clever people. It's for that reason and other reasons that I take the view that they know more about how to run certain things than we do."
Polls underplay NZ First support
The NZ First leader also said support for his party was higher than polls indicated (read an analysis of 2011 election results vs various polls here).
“The polls have been overly kind for National election after election, and against a real night result they’ve been far too high. For Labour they’ve been about right up and down but about right. For the Greens they have been excessively favourable to the Greens, always way above what they find they get. And for one party we're always below what we really get, so your so-called 7% polls are nonsense. We're doing far better than that.”
Mr Peters has also made buying back power companies a coalition bottom line - but has left himself the wiggle room that he could still support a National-led or Labour-led government on confidence and supply, even if they don't adopt that policy.
What do you think? Do you support Winston Peters' policy to halt sales of farms and residential property to foreigners? Click here to vote in our subscriber-only business pulse poll.
RAW DATA: Q+A transcript: WINSTON PETERS Interviewed by CORIN DANN
SUSAN Well one very clear winner in the latest One New Colmar Brunton political poll, New Zealand First has more than doubled its support to 7% at the expense of both Labour and National. Once again Winston Peters is positioning himself to be a powerful player after September's election. He's with Corin.
CORIN Thank you very much Susan. Mr Peters thank you very much for joining us on Q + A this morning. You're just back from China, it's the second time you’ve been there this year. What were your impressions there, because there's been a lot of focus on the relationship between New Zealand and China lately? Are you comfortable with where that is going?
WINSTON PETERS – NZ First Leader
Look understanding what's going on on the ground in China is very very important for New Zealanders and for New Zealand politicians, and it's an explosive economy with serious problems and we should not over understand or over appreciate or misunderstand any part of it in terms of our own long term economic interests. And that’s why we went. It's a seriously important market, but it has problems.
CORIN You of course famously opposed the Free Trade Agreement involving China, do you still oppose that deal?
WINSTON Look exponentially the trade with Australia and China grew higher than ours without a free trade agreement before the mineral extraction crisis. So you know what I'm saying, said back then, and I'm saying it now, quality always sells, and you need to protect your own and defend your own interests.
CORIN But our deal's gone from about 2 billion dollars at the start now to 10 billion dollars exports.
WINSTON Oh no doubt about that, that’s was great, but who says it wouldn’t have gone there anyway, because if you sell best quality product worldwide you get best quality results.
CORIN But would we have got the benefit from lower tariffs?
WINSTON Well the fact is that the tariffs are still there. You see they had no barrier against their product coming to our country. And we gave way everything and it's even stalled the tariff against a low wage economy. There's always a cost for that.
CORIN Your manifesto at the last election said you would review that deal. Are you standing by that? Would you seek a review of the Free Trade Agreement with China?
WINSTON Well it's always the case where you should be reviewing what you’ve done to ensure that …
CORIN But a formal review in the sense that could see it changed?
WINSTON Well again, it's always a sound practise in business or in anything you engage in to review the progress that you're making. This idea that we sign an FTA and put it away forever against any scrutiny is nonsense. The people are entitled to know well, how has it gone? Have the promises been fulfilled? Are the conditions being kept by all parties? Of course a formal review is still justified.
CORIN So just to get this clear. So this deal is – they're now talking about a 30 billion dollar two-way trade.
WINSTON No no, no no, that’s what their speculating, not talking about.
CORIN I mean it's been a huge success hasn’t it?
WINSTON Well no one's denying that. But I tell you why it's a success, because we sell the world's premium product, and in fact if we'd have set ourselves for the infant formula business we could have trebled what we're doing. That’s what international experts are saying, and getting near the 30 billion already. But we didn’t do that, and we're selling lots of our milk in this most lowest common denominator of value. So don’t get carried away with this.
CORIN Okay, you’ve obviously being concerned in the past about the investment side of it, the coming from China into New Zealand. Are you still concerned? For example when it comes to farm sales in New Zealand would you block farm sales to China or anywhere else for that matter?
WINSTON I have the same view the Chinese have. You cannot buy a house, a flat, or land in China. You can lease it for 70 years but you can't buy it. The Chinese are not stupid, they're one of the world's most clever economies and clever people. It's for that reason and other reasons that I take the view that they know more about how to run certain things than we do.
CORIN Okay so let's be clear about this. Could you support a government that doesn’t block that type of sale?
WINSTON We have no intention supporting any political movement that doesn’t understand our national interests and their duty to New Zealand people to ensure that these products, which were given to us because we happen to be the forming countries and populations of New Zealand, that these things are in our hands to be handed in trust on to our people. You compromise that we've got no desire to …..
CORIN I've got to be really clear about this, because there is a lot of concern in places like the Auckland housing market, the people feel like they're being outbid by foreigners buying up housing.
WINSTON Well they are dramatically being outbid.
CORIN Would you make that – I know you don’t like the term bottom line – but would you make that an explicit requirement of your potential support for a government?
WINSTON Every commentator and every politician who's watching this election very carefully should read our manifesto very carefully. We are making it very clear where we stand in this election. People out there don’t want wiffle waffle they want certainty. We want Auckland housing, New Zealand housing, to be for New Zealand people. We want New Zealand farms for young farmers in New Zealand in particular, not to be owned by everybody around the world, and absentee owned at that.
CORIN Can you give us certainty because we know Labour of course has a similar policy to you, they would bloc.
WINSTON They do now, they didn’t used to.
CORIN So can you give us certainty by saying you couldn’t support a National government unless they did the same thing?
WINSTON Well look I'm not going to get caught into a trading deal on what happens post-election. After all I'm here to talk about what New Zealand First stands for, not what National Party or the Labour Party or some other party who's belatedly come to their commonsenses stands for now. On all these matters for 21 years there's been one party with certainty as to our ownership, as to what constitutes overseas investment, as against overseas raid, we've made it clear time after time. So let's not get on to that.
CORIN Yes and I know a number of voters are presumably voting for you because they believe that and they know you have that policy, so surely you can give those voters certainty by saying we're not going to support a new government unless they do it.
WINSTON But those voters do know what New Zealand First and Winston Peters stands for, that’s why they pack halls around this country, and why we're on the ascendancy. And all around New Zealand, particularly in country place, people are coming up because they want to hear the message again upon which they can rely post- election 2014.
CORIN Okay just one more. So can we assume that if you were to go into negotiation with a potential National Party or something like that, at the very least the idea of non-resident housing and that issue of foreigners buying will be at the top of the pile.
WINSTON Every National Party person knows that now. Every ACT Party person knows that now, every Maori Party person knows where we stand now. Why don’t you?
CORIN Well I do, but I want you to give voters – surely your voters deserve to know that that’s something that you're not prepared to compromise on.
WINSTON But my voters know that now, that’s why they're joining en masse.
CORIN So it is a bottom line?
WINSTON Well you know you say bottom line as though it's some sort of just tick this box and move on. The reality is that’s always been a bottom line for New Zealand First.
CORIN Okay, let's move on then. You have emerged now into a position of kingmaker, not just as something that people ….
WINSTON Look I belong to a political party that going to be 21 years old in two months' time. Why do you paint it as a personality thing when in fact we've lasted longer than any other new party, and one of the reasons why we have is because we're democratic. We get to all make the decision not just me.
CORIN Yeah sure, but your support has surged to a point where we haven't seen it since 2005 when you were last a Minister effectively, when you came in under the Helen Clark government. Are you in a position now with 7% where you're feeling a bit more confident that you might look to be a Minister in a future government?
WINSTON Look I hope that our Political Scientists are watching this programme, but they know full well the following things. The polls have been overly kind for National election after election, and against a real night result they’ve been far too high. For Labour they’ve been about right up and down but about right. For the Greens they have been excessively favourable to the Greens, always way above what they find they get.
And for one party we're always below what we really get, so your so-called 7% polls are nonsense. We're doing far better than that.
CORIN Okay, so maybe you're up to 10%.
WINSTON Well if we are, I think the public are entitled to know, if these polls that we are paying for, because this is TV One, if these polls are being commissioned by taxpayers' money, why not the best poll possible.
CORIN These polls are being run by excellent pollsters and I'm not going to have a debate about our polls right now on TV.
WINSTON They're dribble actually.
CORIN No they're not dribble, they're very good polls.
WINSTON Okay, how can you have a 10% spread between leading pollsters and not meet to see what's wrong? They're not responsible.
CORIN I'll give you that. Let me go with our theory. Say you are at 10%, but that’s all the more reason why we want to know now, because your role in the next election has got even bigger, and therefore done we need – there is more pressure on you now to be more explicit about your position, and whether or not you would be prepared to be a Minister.
WINSTON Look with the greatest respect New Zealand First makes countless speeches in the biggest meetings around this country. You all know that, you don’t turn up. Now you want me to be explicit what we stand for. Read the darn things, read the manifesto.
CORIN But I know you want to be on the cross benches.
WINSTON Tell the people out there what they need to know and not turn it into a two horse race…
CORIN You have said you will sit on the cross benches.
WINSTON I said of all the options we have, that is one we also have.
CORIN What I want to know is if you sit on the cross benches which presumably you support issue by issue a future government, not necessarily in a coalition formal arrangement, could you also be a Minister?
WINSTON I don’t know why you'd make that assumption, that’s issue by issue. Who made that assumption? You could sit on the cross benches with a clear set of agreed positions that have already been decided on shortly after the election. There are all these alternatives. What New Zealand First objects to is being put into a pigeon hole over there which is not democracy, which is not politics and told that that’s what we should or should not be doing. We wish to see stable government. We wish to see sound government that lasts for not 34 months like it's happening now, but for 36 months as it should be happening. We wish to see sound economic and social programmes, and whatever gets us to do that in the national interests we will do.
CORIN Do you have a worry then about – you talk about stable government, is there a scenario that where there's too many parties where it starts to get unstable, where you couldn’t support that?
WINSTON Well the great thing about now is the decks are being cleared as we speak and there are parties that won’t survive this election. There’ll be fewer contenders in 2014.
CORIN Would you prefer though to have a smaller number of parties to support?
WINSTON Well it's always better to have a smaller marketplace as you know.
CORIN What about the Mana Party and Dotcom, I mean we've heard talk of an alliance. Could you, for example, support a government with Mana Party and Dotcom in alliance?
WINSTON Well I can't conceive of the Mana Party going with Dotcom, and if they do I can't conceive of them surviving.
CORIN Would you support them though? Would you be comfortable being in an arrangement though?
WINSTON Now look my party, New Zealand First is – I've given 21 years to this party. Why are you asking me to support them?
CORIN I'm not asking you to support them, I'm asking you whether you could support them if they were in a position where they were propping up presumably a Labour government?
WINSTON But they won’t be, I mean this is ridiculous. All these speculations that I'm hearing demonstrates enormous – not for me of course – but enormous naïveté and inexperience on the part of people. Where do they get off in the morning guessing that this might happen, that might happen? What's very clear in 2014, when the election's over one party will have the balance of political responsibility. That party's called New Zealand First. What we do we know we have great responsibility for, and that’s why we're not going to make off the cuff decisions without full discussion with the party.
CORIN Mr Peters thank you very much for your time.