4 Jun 2020

Deputy PM Winston Peters gives update on Covid-19 response

2:29 pm on 4 June 2020

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is giving a briefing on the government's response to Covid-19.

Watch the media conference here:

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Having just come from the Foreign Affairs select committee estimates, Peters said Covid-19 had "seriously impacted on how we conduct our foreign affairs and trade policy".

Peters said that since the country went into lockdown, nearly 80,000 New Zealanders had returned to the country.

In the same time, nearly 57,000 foreigners were assisted to return to their own country.

He said Foreign Affairs had achieved that, and was looking ahead at reshaping New Zealand's relationships and trade policies, even in the face of a global recession and increased protectionism.

"The work of the ministry [MFAT] would be even more important than ever in a post-Covid world and we will need to look to our partners and neighbours to champion the values of our nation for the security of all New Zealanders," he said.

Asked if NZ First felt it was being absorbed by the Labour Party, Peters said people could see the need for a party like NZ First.

"In the last few weeks you've seen again the importance of NZ First which we emphasized from the day that this coalition was first formed," he said.

He said the idea of a trial for travel between Wellington and Canberra proposed by some Australian businesses was too early as it had not been agreed to by either government.

He said New Zealand was largely waiting on Australia's federal government to provide assurances that would allow safe travel.

"It'll be over to the Australians more than us because they've got the federal system and they're still not flying interstate."

"Writing the protocols and getting everything ready, the safety measures are critical.

"I'd like to say it [trans Tasman travel] should've happened yesterday ... given their enormous record of performance in Queensland which has been superb, Northern Territories and dare I say Tasmania, but we're dependent on Australia."

This morning the government gave a lifeline to small businesses that can't meet the rent on commercial premises, following two months of negotiations between Labour and New Zealand First.

Under a temporary change to the Property Act, if tenants and landlords can't reach agreement on a fair rent reduction they will have to enter compulsory arbitration.

As a result of negotiations, the dispute process is for businesses with 20 or fewer employees, rather than the original proposal which had no cap on employee numbers.

Peters this morning said New Zealand First would not back a law change that could have changed contract law for all existing lease arrangements.

This afternoon he said spending taxpayers money must be wise and targeted, and it must have a chance of reaching the sought outcome: the survival of these businesses.

He said people who did not have a good knowledge of contract law should not be in Parliament.

Meanwhile, business leaders on both sides of the Tasman have issued a proposal to start flights between Wellington and Canberra in less than a month.

Peters has said he wants trans-Tasman travel to resume now though Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described September as a realistic date.

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