21 Jul 2020

'Gloves are off' for NZ First and Greens leaders in unofficial election campaign

5:51 pm on 21 July 2020

Analysis - It appears New Zealand First and the Greens have given up trying to hide their true feelings.

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Green Party co-leader James Shaw and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Photo: Pool / Stuff

The unofficial campaign has well and truly kicked off with the party leaders taking the gloves off and going at each other at Parliament today.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw has described New Zealand First as a force of chaos, while Winston Peters has warned any future Labour-Greens government would be a nightmare.

And there's still eight weeks to go until the election.

It was Peters who started the war of words at a breakfast speech in Wellington this morning.

"If you want to take out some insurance in this campaign to ensure you don't get the nightmare government I know you're going to get, then I suggest you party vote New Zealand First," he said.

"It's a secret ballot - you don't have to tell your wife."

Shaw was happy to respond.

"Well, I think that the nightmare that he's got is that he's not going to be back in Parliament.''

Shaw is known to be quite measured when New Zealand First pulls the pin on policies or puts a spanner in the works, but with the campaign unofficially under way he's ramping up his own rhetoric.

"My experience of working with New Zealand First as a party in government is that rather than a force of moderation, they're a force of chaos,'' he said.

In the last year or so alone, New Zealand First has put the brakes or the kaibosh on a number of Green Party policies.

The light rail Auckland project has ground to a halt and in that case Shaw said New Zealand First should have been upfront from the start that they were not interested, instead of dragging out talks for years only to say no at the 11th hour.

New Zealand First has also been obstructive when it comes to cameras on fishing boats and outright blocked the capital gains tax.

Despite all that, Shaw said it was not New Zealand First's leader he had an issue with, but its wider organisation.

He said things had "always been polite and it's always been professional," between the two, but not so much with the wider party and staff.

Asked if Peters' staff deliberately interfered after a deal has been done between the leaders, Shaw was very clear.

"There's definitely interference, yes that's right, and it's not always clear where it's coming from."

Peters used his speech this morning to not only boast about the policies his party had stopped, but also to warn about the so-called "stupid ideas" the Greens and Labour still have.

"If you think a red-green government is safe for you then you're in cloud cuckoo land. They know everything about how to spend your money, and not one idea about how to make some.

"They say they want to get close to you, they're right, so they can put their hand down the side of your body and into your wallet."

He said the last three years had been a headache due to the ministers sitting at the Cabinet table alongside him.

"I've never had three years so difficult, trying to manage circumstances when you're surrounded by plain inexperience."

Peters was happy to repeat the comments on his way into Question Time today, saying he stood by everything he said to the business audience.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, however, was staying out of it.

"Look, I put it down to an election period. You can also find many comments from the deputy prime minister talking about what we've managed to achieve as a government, which I've got the sense he's been proud of," she said.

Peters crowed at his party's campaign launch in Auckland at the weekend about the coalition lasting for the full three years - something he said commentators claimed would never happen.

The sooner Parliament adjourns the better, as the public now struggles to decipher between what governing partners are saying as ministers and what is just campaign leader-talk.

It will be a long three weeks in the House as they all try to remember exactly which hat they are wearing.

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