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