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Peters promises to buy back power companies; says it's a coalition bottom-line

NZ First leader Winston Peters promises to buy back Genesis Energy and other power companies - and that he's prepared to stay on the cross-benches on this issue rather than enter a coaltion with National or Labour after the September 20 election.
 
"If either side prefers to sell out New Zealand’s long term heritage, then they can line up and find their own support," Mr Peters said on TV3's The Nation this morning.
 
On superannuation, the NZ First leader was more flexible.
 
He said increasing the super rate from 66% of the average wage to 68% is no longer a coalition bottom line "because under the Gold Card we’ve already got it past there"
 
Mr Peters also used the interview to announce he favours the "New Zealandisation" of the fishing industry - "so our fish is caught by New Zealand boats and New Zealand fishermen" and fish is not taken offshore before it's processed.
 
He would not say whether foreign vessels and fishermen would be banned under this policy, but says foreign companies would be given "an exit strategy" and compensated for their losses.
 
If in coalition negotiations, New Zealand First would talk to the biggest party first, but that would be a "preliminary discussion," Mr Peters said. "Ideally you’d start with one and you’d ensure that the other one is not left out. Because frankly if you cannot get reconciliation over here then you need to have some chance of getting reconciliation over there."
 
Mr Peters said he couldn't work in government with United Future or the Maori Party - two of the parties in coalition wit National today.
 
The NZ First leader said a ban on foreign ownership of residential properties, as promoted by the Greens, would not drive down house prices.
 
Maintaining his unpredicability on foreign investment and immigration, Mr Peters said, "Look, the non-New Zealand buyer, if that non-New Zealand buyer is buying into a new business here to create new exports and new work, or to move their family here and put their heart and soul for the rest of their lives into this country, then we don’t have a problem."
 
Watch the full interview here.
 

RAW DATA: Interview transcript

Winston Peters interview March 15 2014:

Patrick: Well we saw Torben's piece there that you would want something tangible, I want to talk to you today about what New Zealand First would want, whether it’s included in a government on the left or the right. And if we could start with asset sales, Genesis essentially put on the block this week… Would New Zealand first want to buy genesis back?

Winston: Well first of all, I’m grateful that you said New Zealand first and not, try to personalize it as everybody else has sort to do. We’re a democratic party and we make decisions as a caucus, and as a board and as party supporters. So the question on Genesis goes like this, we’re opposed to asset sales, built up by past generations of New Zealanders, in one of the most developed energy systems in the world, that were flogged off, and are being flogged off now for private narrow sectional interests. We’re against that, and we’re going to put back the system into one delivery, of electricity throughout this country, at a price that will give us a ‘cutting edge’ as Porter said many years ago, in terms of development, home costs and production costs.

So that means buying Genesis back?

 That’s right…at no greater price than they pay for it .

And so does that mean the other power companies as well?

It means exactly that, that’s what our position has been for some time.

So that’s a priority for you in any negotiations?

It is a priority and it also has the best things in terms of economic calculations from treasury. If what they said about selling off 49% is correct then it goes for the whole lot.

 Would you walk away from negotiations over that if either side… because remember Labour and the Greens haven’t even committed to that… if either side says they won’t buy back the power companies, will you walk away?

Well look, you say 'you', now straight away…

Well, sorry, will New Zealand first walk away…

If your party is having its 21st birthday, in July of this year, which means we haven’t been around because one guy’s been running the show by himself like a dictator. We consult, we ensure that everybody signed up, even to these sorts of arrangements and talks, and we’re prepared to go to the cross-benches on this if we have to. So in terms of walking away, we’re not even walking in until we get what we believe New Zealand economically and socially needs.

So that’s a deal breaker essentially if either side doesn’t want to buy back the assets yet?

Well if either side prefers to sell out New Zealand’s long term heritage, then they can line up and find their own support. But if they want to line up with the mass majority of New Zealanders as the latest polls says on this issue of asset sales, then they can perhaps line up with New Zealand First.

So that’s a deal breaker, buying back the assets is a deal breaker?

Hang on; I’m not going to be sitting here like some sort of uh, star chamber, federal case in the United States while you think you’re going to nail me down. I think you need to understand one thing about MMP. And it goes like this. Even the old system went like this. The voters vote first, and then they decide in what numbers that the parties and parliaments are comprising parliament. Then you know what you’re dealing with. Here we are six months out from election. We don’t know whether for example National is going to re-nuclearise New Zealand so to speak. Or whether Labour is going to come up with some policy

They’re not, they’re not going to, you know they’re not going to…

Stop for a moment, well look, let me tell you (mumbles audio) … Let me tell you what happened in 2011. We saw a Labour party come out and announce an increase in the retirement age, and putting GST on, and taking effect…not GST no…capital gains tax on, and  it would take effect in 2017. As for the increase in age…2021. We said straight away then, we can’t go into any arrangement with these people and so we made a statement and said we’re going to the cross benches between 2011 and 2014. And we did.

And that would stand again if Labour tries to change the retirement age, you’d go to the cross benches again?

Look, I think they can be persuaded, if that was the issue, I think they can be persuaded that that fatally cost them the election. All the old people coming near 65 heard was, not 2021, they just heard the age is going up.

Sure, so that’s another priority for you. What about foreign ownership?

Well that’s applied to the context that there’s no fiscal reason…When it’s net 4.3% of GDP, to be panicking as Jenny Shipley and the financial services council are trying to get you to do, so they can control the industry and take out billions from savers.

Let’s look at superannuation itself; do you want to go from 66% of the average wage to 68%, is that another priority?

Oh look, we’ve always been for a much higher rate because you recall it started at 80…no, no it started at 80 and then in 1993 they had the super accord, and they said the ceiling is 72, the floor is 65 and it went straight to the floor…

So do you want to go to 68? Is that a priority?

No, we’ve got it back to 66, and what we’re trying to do with the gold card, is to extend its spending power, much closer to 70% and wisely we could get there. So, yes we’re still working on it, but it’s not  a…

But you’ve previously said that 68 was a bottom line…

Paddy it’s not a bottom line in that context, because under the gold card we’ve already got it past there.

Okay sure, let’s look at  foreign ownership and ah, the restrictions on essentially foreign buyers or non New Zealand citizens. You want an immediate ban on them buying residential property with either government?

Look, the non-New Zealand buyer, if that non-New Zealand buyer is buying into a new business here to create new exports and new work, or to move their family here and put their heart and soul for the rest of their lives into this country, then we don’t have a problem as we didn’t have  with the labour…

Yeah, I’m talking about residential property, do you want to an immediate ban on non-New Zealanders?

Well I’m not going to stand around while somebody from off shore with 77 homes, and has now become a major landlord in Auckland and filtering in, and gauging money out of our economy…

Who is this person?

Well it’ll come out in time, but we’re a long way from the election and some of the doubters in this country are going to get some facts in this campaign.

You want an immediate ban on foreign ownership of property?

Well first of all I want to know why we have not got in place a land and house register so that authorities and bureaucrats, know what they’re dealing with and what numbers they’re talking about, rather than if they go around likening anyone like me to being xenophobic.

Immediate ban’s your policy, so you’d want that in place. That would drive down property prices. Are you happy with that?

No, with the greatest respect it would not. What it would do, you would see at some ends of the market…

You’d take demand out of the market. Of course it’s going to drive down prices…

Well certain demand in the market is of no value to New Zealand whatsoever. I live in an area where the house prices have gone up 114%. Now you can’t save that fast Paddy and I can’t… and there’s not many people watching this programme that can save that fast. So where does a young family fit into this country? They haven’t got a hope in this context.

Alright let’s look at other elements of foreign investment, foreign ownership or foreign interests in New Zealand. The fishing industry, what do you want to do there? You know a lot about fishing…

Well our policy is for the New Zealandisation of the industry, just like Iceland, just like Norway, who understand something about this. It’s Norway’s number one income earner, its Iceland’s survival. Here’s my point; we want the New Zealandisation of the industry, so our fish is caught by New Zealand boats and New Zealand fishermen and is added value that is packaged here and sold here and sold offshore. I don’t see how we can get any advantage from foreign crews sending the raw product to China, and have it tinned back to our supermarkets.

So how do you enforce this? You ban foreign crews, you’d ban processing offshore?

Well I’m not saying banning processing offshore; they will not take it off shore. But we’ll give them an exit strategy and make sure they’re compensated - but we want this great resource, which is ours and we’re lucky people to have it, to be part of the growth and the employment and wealth creation of this country. For goodness sake, the Maori people have got a sizeable chunk, as you know, of the Maori fishing industry and who’s catching Maori entitlement or Maori quota fish? Foreigners are. Who’s working on…

So would you ban it? Would you ban foreigners if they were taking all the chunks?

Well I make it very clear that our policy was specified that those days will be over.

Sure. Let’s come back to this election, there’s basically three forms that a Government could take, formal coalition, confidence and supply sitting outside the Government, or sitting on the cross benches.

No there are many more alternatives than that.

But they’re the three main ones. What’s best for New Zealand?

Well, can we go with my experience rather than yours? Well in this case your inexperience. There are many more options than that, and my caucus will have all of those before them.

What’s best for New Zealand out of those though, is it being inside a coalition with the biggest party? Is that the most stable form for New Zealand?

Oh look, we were not inside a coalition between 2005 and 2008. It only took, when we got started, three days I might add, not the lead-up, set-up that you had saying half the time of 1996. And 1996 it was a year where negotiations with two parties very close at that time and we tried to keep the system as we could- honest… But my point on this matter is, ideally you need to be with an arrangement, that delivers as much as possible of the policies you campaigned on and promised to your people, to those voters.

And what arrangement gives that do you think out of those three?

Well neither one is perfect, because in politics you have to make a compromise, and then there Is the option when you say, none of those options, I can with any credibility and my colleagues can recommend to our voters, so we may have to go to the cross-benches.

Sure…

Now don’t laugh about it Paddy, we’ve put some steel into the Opposition since we came back in 2011. Some people may not like it, but Nick Smith went down and Peter Dunne went down and in someone else will be going down on this issue to do with the Oravida issue as well, because we are not giving up on what is a blatant breach of the rules.

Okay so in terms of negotiations you’ve said it’s a constitutional convention - your words - to negotiate with the biggest party first. That’s right isn’t it?

Look, as I said - and it’s all on our website, been there for 20 years - that we will negotiate in the first instance with the party with the most votes. That is in the first instance. But if there is no possibility of a sound coalition from them, then you would talk to others.

So that negotiation, does that mean a phone call, the first phone call? Or do you actually enter negotiations in that scenario and start to look at what policy gains you can get?

Well I suppose if we’re talking about logistics then it probably starts with a phone call, because if nobody is phoning each other then there’s no conversation.

Yeah but after that do you negotiate with that biggest party first, do you sit down and talk with them?

Well I think you’d have a preliminary discussion about what do you think your priorities are and what do you think ours might be.

So you would sit down with John Key for instance first before you sat down with David Cunliffe?

Not necessarily would it be a leaders discussion, because frankly, I assume he hires key people with far more experience than him in this matter…like Wayne Eagleson for example. Helen Clark had…

So you’d prefer to sit down with the chief of staff before you had even talked to John Key?

No I didn’t say that, I said the chiefs of staff would go across and map out the talking grounds. And then you might have the discussion.

How far down this path do you go before you go to the other side?

Well ideally you’d start with one and you’d ensure that the other one is not left out. Because frankly…

So you’re talking to both sides…

 if you cannot get reconciliation over here then you need to have some chance of getting reconciliation over there. As distasteful as it is to you, and others, the public is demanding a stable Government, and that is the number one responsibility of anybody in politics.

I want to turn now to John Key and what is essentially your weird relationship with him. You’ve called him arrogant, pretentious, a liar; you’ve said his Government was incompetent; you said he worked in Merrill Lynch, which you called corrupt. You really don’t like him. Now, how on earth are  you going to work with this guy, and will you make John Key Prime minister?

I’ve heard you burbling away on TV every night describing this relationship as toxic. You know nothing about it. Now cut it out. I happen to see John Key at the races, I said gidday to him, I see him around the place we say hello. I walked into a coffee bar and shook his hand.

You called him an arrogant liar, you think that he’s spied on you…

All right, well I'll explain this to you. I’ll explain this. When he gave witnesses to that event about which he spoke I knew that person could not have been there, because I checked the persons diary and I thought well who else is the person making the information. But here’s the real point here. Of course he worked for Merrill Lynch. Merrill Lynch is one of the companies that brought the western economies to their knees. The global financial crisis was never a global crisis.

Yeah…

No listen Paddy.

The upshot is how could you make him Prime Minister when you talk about him like this?

No, no I want you to have a debate where we have a chance to have our say. The western financial crisis has cost the world plenty. Now when I say he’s arrogant, he has been arrogant. He comes in and says I want certainty about the election I’m giving you September. This is balderdash.

Let me ask you one last time. Can you make the man you call an arrogant liar Prime Minister?

OK one more point. Do you think he’s telling the truth on the GCSB? Because there’s not one western leader who would believe…

You haven’t answered the question. But you’re saying he’s a liar on what he knew about Kim Dotcom aren’t you?

I am.

Yep. Will you make him PM then? If you’re saying he lied about what he knew about Kim Dotcom will you make him the Prime Minister?

Paddy we’ve got a long way to go until the election, and when it emerges that there’ no way the SIS and GCSB leader of this country’s administration, namely John Key, could not have known, I think you might look with different eyes at that matter.

Quick look at the other parties. Can you work with UF in government?

Well, you know, can I tell you the truth? In 2005 I was the one who went to Peter Dunne and said to him, Peter do you want to be a minister. Not Helen Clark.

Will you make him a minister again in the next government? Would you give him the go-ahead?

Well no. Given how he’s behaved…

So he’s out. What about the Maori Party? Can you work with them?

I’m not working with a party that believes in racial separatism.

So they’re out. Sure. Sure. About your transparency now. You’re shutting essentially 95 percent, maybe 90 percent, of the New Zealand voters out of the equation with your balance of power. What is fair about that?

How did you possibly extrapolate this conversation to that extraordinary conclusion?

 

Because you won’t be transparent. You don’t say, you won’t say anything about where you’re going.

You see Paddy you’re back to you again. You’re not listening to anything I’m saying. What I said was that we’re going to see what happens in the next six months we’re going to ensure as a party we make a democratic decision that includes caucus, and the board and our support base

So no more transparency.

Now the next thing is that the mass majority of New Zealanders, including 35% of National voters, don’t like the sort of deals you advocate. They think they’re odious. They think they’re anathema. And so do I. And one last thing. You must be much smarter than me but I’m not able to play cards I’ve never seen.

All right we’ll leave it there Winston Peters. Thanks very much

 

Comments and questions
31

That's a strange position to take on the power companies. If Mr. Peters can't find anything better to buy with such a large sum of money, even on the NZ share-market,, then for our sake, do not let him anywhere near the cheque book.

Winnie's on fire... bring it on!

Winston is just power politiking yet again.

The experience of the power sector in government hands, as those who learn from our history, is far worse than the last few years where there has been a mixed ownership model. After all, haven't power prices risen while nearly three quarters of the sector has been in government hands as SOEs? And when we had an NZED and local body ownership of distribution, didn't we have regular power blackouts?

What will change if you spend scare $billions on buying them back Winston?

Not really. Power prices have risen astronomically since the electricity market was deregulated and the government monopoly was broken up.

We have more power right now to negotiate with power companies than ever before, we are just working two against each other at the moment, we will be the winners.
Re processing fish in NZ, try that at $18.40/hr minimum wage - I don't think it would be viable for a second.
Who needs a bunch of money printing dreamers running the country - not me, I will tell you that for nothing.

AT LONG LAST, a political party that thinks of the needs of the majority (Joe Average) of Kiwis and not their vested interest group (or financial masters !).
BAN ALL foreign speculation-ownership of NZ property (exc perm residents LIVING in NZ and paying all their taxes here).
UNTIL that is done, the average NZ citizen is screwed. We CAN'T compete with foreign money, not to mention the illegal money looking for a home or the 'printed out of thin air' money i.e. Q.E !!.
The (not for average Kiwi) National party just talks about the problem and does 0.1% of a solution, around the edges.
The Labour and Greens have a plan to FAIL (but at least they have a plan !!!).....i.e. build too few houses (for the immigration numbers, let alone the back log for Kiwi citizens) over such a long period (10 yrs) that's it's nearly pointless.
THIS election the number one issue will be housing affordability (renting and buying). The ONLY quick and simple solution is to BAN foreign speculation in our market, by any one of numerous means.
n.b. THEY tax us or ban us in their country !!!!
We're the only MUGS that'll let them play monopoly with our lives FOR THEIR profit and gain !!!
It does beg the question of how much are politicians being compensated for their dereliction of duty ????

We should only allow policies that are reciprocated in the other country.
If we cannot buy houses freehold in China, then don't let Chinese living in China near our houses, same as welfare benefits in Australia.

Not even the Chinese can buy freehold land in China.

Even more reason to regulate demand here - how are resident Kiwis supposed to compete with a population that can't even purchase freehold in their own country?!

There is no freehold land in China. I suggest you increase your general knowledge before you make such an ignorant comment.

Mr Peters is wrong when he says fishing is Norway's biggest earner. Oil & gas is, followed by manufacturing. See http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2013/cr13273.pdf

At least this removes any doubt -

Vote Winston, get Green, Labour, Mana, ...

Look forward to an exchange rate plunge (imported products up), income tax rises (reduced hosehold spending), full carbon tax (petrol and power price rises), return of full on unionism (the union fees wont be that much) and company closures when the owners get tired of the new regulations (you didnt really want that job anyway).

Thanks One Track--you've got it in one.

The only other things I'd like to add are- (a) It is pointless interviewing

Winnie because he is always on attack and cannot give a straight

answer and (b) remember the NO card. His promises and guarantees

mean NOTHING.

Peters makes himself unelectable as far as I am concerned. for all his faults, bluster and nonsense, he does have some good points; although not many. But my problem is I do not know which party he would coalesce with. national and NZ First would work. Labour and NZ first doesn't bear thinking about.

Maybe he should stick with buying back Huka Lodge?

Huuuuuge advantage, Winnie having the Grey Power voting bloc. For all his " faults bluster and nonsense" one day, they are quickly forgotten by the next.

Winnie does rely on the GPs' faulty synapses in their short-memory retention; the cunning devil.

A comment as condescending as it is erroneous. Perhaps he relies not on the elderly's frailty, but their experience.

maybe he will not even get the so called 5%.His rhetoric is just hot air,if he doesn't get over the line.

Here we go again!! the tail trying to wag the Dog!! NZ First will be extremely lucky to get over the line, what use is Peters to NZ?? the only time he pokes his head out of the sand, is when Politics gets into the gutter, then he comes out firing on all cylinders, he is famous for misleading the country an several fronts, the latest being the lodge near Taupo and the Gold Card for Auckland Pensioners, as they are of no use in the rest of the Country.
Ohhh and he probably keeps local sign writer's employed with 2 letter signs.

I think it is good that Peters states his position before the election - on power/ state asset ownership just like National did at the last election.

This allows voters to make a definite decision on how they wish to vote just like they did at the last election.

I won't vote for him - but others may - it is their decision and they will understand - I assume what the consequences are one way or the other.

What a mess Paddy made of that interview. I for one am extremely interested in hearing Winston's thinking on the whole range of issues raised. But Paddy blew it repeatedly. Winston started to get stuck in to the scandal of the Maori being given a huge block of our fishing quota, only to lease them out to foreign fleets employing foreign workers to do all the hard work. Winston was interrupted mid-flow by Paddy who was busy with his next question. A headline missed if ever there was one.

Winston started to explain, in vain, that there were other forms of coalition apart from the usually discussed ones. His thinking on this critical matter would have been absolutely fascinating. WHAT other types of coalition is he cooking up in his head? We didn't learn. Paddy pushed on ignoring the import of the information Winston was trying to serve up.

Then valuable minutes were lost when Paddy got bogged down on worrying about whether Winston would have a meeting with a potential coalition partner or talk on the phone etc etc This was banal.

Then Winston started to explain his personal relationship with Key. How they got on in a perfectly civil manner when they met; he went to elaborate but it was Paddy AGAIN talking over him repeating his list of Winston's anti-Key descriptions of the PM. This was a tragedy of an interview in terms of missed opportunities.

I suspect that Winston was regarded as third off the rank after Key and Mr Cunning and was treated accordingly. As an also ran the programme had to include but didn't really want to.

The purpose of an interview is to get the interviewee to TALK. Sure they have to be kept on the subject. But what we saw this morning was appalling. Maybe Paddy has become too famous for anyone to tell him the interview is not about him trying to be the tough guy. The usual trap for high profile interviewers.

He needs, for all our sakes, to go back and read Lesson One on conducting interviews. He has two ears and one mouth. He needs to use them in that proportion.

I'm still a Paddy fan but......

This is pretty much a normal Gower interview its about him being heard not the interviewee. A suggestion is Gower stops reading and listening to his TV3’s ad’s about him. If I see Gower on 3 at any time I either tune out or turn off. He thinks he is a clever attack dog, when in effect he is ignorant. As you mentioned he missed many a change to get Peters to open up on many of his allegations. It is shock jock journalism, and it is a very weak journalist who employs those tactics.

Winnie at his question dodging finest! Talks plenty. Says nothing.

As Attenborough would comment about the political beast Winnie... "He's the Slipperiest, most cunning eel in the pond that one..."

All this says is that Peters won't join a coalition, as neither party will commit to that stipulation. Why the silly old bugger can't ever say what he means in a straight sentence...

Winston twice insisted the interviewer should use a term other than 'you' to indicate it wasn't just Winnie. I'm sure Winston knows the English language well enough to know 'you' is both singular and plural. Seems he's at pains, for the first time ever, to acknowledge his other MPs. That says to me he wants the party to live on after he retires, which can't be far off. Won't happen of course. Winston first will die with Winston Peters.

I noticed exactly the same thing. I think you are right. Winston's now working on NZ First becoming his legacy. .

Indeed. He was just unwrapping his new drum. Get your earplugs ready, because I think he'll torment us all by beating it every chance he gets.

Mr Winston 'Owen Glenn' Peters who tried to BS his way through with the 'NO' sign gaining new supporters to offset the many who found his hypocrisy repugnant.

The oldie greedies now joined by the xenophobic greedies who want things handed to them on a plate.

I bought shares in one of the Power companies and I am a 5th generation Kiwi. (I also buy power from the same utility). My shares are not for sale. Winston will not be in any Coalition and nor the Greens, in which case power company shares will rise! They only thing that is for sale round here are Winston's words, cheap as chips.

This Peter's bloke!!! he is the same Peters who as part of the Govt!! SOLD off Contact Energy and Air NZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
when is he going to BUY those two back??? now you can see why this Bloke Peters!!! has absolutely zero CREDABILTY!!!! and yet some of you!! out there will vote for this 2 faced HYPERCRYTE!!!

Peters had left the Shipley coalition by the time Contact was sold.

Also, Air New Zealand was sold by Labour in 1988 (the process of the sale triggered Prebble's walkout from the government).