NZ First leader Winston Peters is emphatic he was approached earlier this year about the possibility of entering into post-election negotiations with Judith Collins instead of John Key.
“How would you make up this story?” he says.
Mr Peters says he’s not aware of the intermediary having a direct connection to Ms Collins but “they came with the instructions from a sitting MP who I know is a serious associate of Judith Collins.”
Ms Collins has denied Mr Peter’s claim.
“I’m not surprised by her denial,” says Mr Peters. “To use the famous words of Marilyn Rice-Davies about the Profumo affair, ‘She would say that, wouldn’t she?’”
Mr Peters bridles at the reference by an otherwise conciiatory Mr Key to the “shopping list” the NZ First leader would bring to post-election negotiations.
“How would he know that? The reality is we’re campaigning with 22 days to go and we’re focused on winning,” Mr Peters says. “You owe the public the next 22 days to evaluate what new and changed circumstances and policies emerge. That’s what the campaign’s about.”
Mr Peters rejects the suggestion he is now positioned as the post-election "kingmaker."
“I’m not,” he says. “No one goes into these negotiations on their own. The party works democratically and will act in a responsible manner, with the national interest of New Zealand and the need for stable government mind.
“It will be a decision we make together because no party lasts that does not keep the people in the party with it.”
Mr Peters says NZ First will enter post-election negotiations with “an open mind."
That said, there are two bottomlines that must be met for the party to enter into a governing or confidence and supply arrangement: a programme for buying back state assets and stopping the sale of land to foreign interests.
Of the latter, Mr Peters says that “the Lochinver deal cannot possibly stack up for the Overseas Investment Office if it’s doing its job properly” and queries the role of Landcorp in “facilitating and advising and consulting in this OIO application – something that’s against the wishes of the New Zealand people as expressed strongly in a referendum.”
“We’re going to stop that sort of behaviour,” Mr Peters says, promising to have a “serious look” at the agency.
“The last time they had a serious look was when I was a minister and I knocked back a stack of transactions and made them do their job properly. In the seven years before, they’d rubber stamped every single deal,” he says. “Now they’re back doing it – every three days in the past three years they’ve rubberstamped another transaction.”
Asked about Conservative Party leader Colin Craig’s constant taunts about Mr Peters avoiding debating him, the NZ First leader snorts: “I’ve done six debates with him and wiped the floor with him.”
Mr Peters says he’s not interested in a one-on-one debate with Mr Craig because “I’m not going to have a duel of wits with an unarmed man.”
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