17 Oct 2022

PM Jacinda Ardern responds to Winston Peters' attacks on Labour government

9:59 am on 17 October 2022
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Winston Peters' comments criticising the Labour government over the weekend were merely "politicking" and it is up to voters to decide what any future government will look like.

Peters used his closing address at the New Zealand First annual conference in Christchurch yesterday to deliver a withering attack on the government.

He said the Labour Party was pursuing "woke, virtue signalling madness", and a "separatist agenda", and that the government was scattering the "seeds of apartheid" through New Zealand's laws and institutions.

Ardern told Morning Report Peters' comments were part of a "cycle" that could be observed in the lead-up to elections and she wouldn't entertain them.

"We had similar statements, or quite a lot of hyperbole, the last election," she said.

"What Winston Peters is trying to do is to get headlines by making grandiose statements; I'm not here to fulfil his wish."

Peters played Queen-maker in 2017, signing a coalition agreement with the Labour Party and forming a government.

Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters signing the coalition agreement.

Winston Peters and Jacinda Ardern signing the coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First in October 2017. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Ardern would not rule out working with New Zealand First again in future but said that was ultimately in the hands of voters.

"That only becomes an issue if New Zealand voters put [Peters] in the position where any major political party needs to consider that. We're not at that stage yet."

"I've demonstrated the ability to work well with others, regardless of what voters have presented to us," she said.

"We've demonstrated that we've been able to work with the Greens, we've demonstrated we've been able to work with New Zealand First - obviously New Zealand First are clearly in a very different place than us right now."

Ardern said voters could see "from history" which other parties were the most likely coalition partners for the major political parties.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters told Morning Report he decided to once again run for government shortly after the 2020 General Election results when he noticed "things starting to go dramatically wrong".

"When you look and see the kind of thing that's going on at the moment, dividing up water based on race, having 22 councils in the South Island getting six votes and Ngāi Tahu getting the other six with a 75 percent majority decision making requirement... New Zealanders are getting sick and tired of it," Peters said.

He said the Labour government's agenda was driven by "malignant paternalism" and "inverse racism".

When asked by Morning Report if there was something he wanted to achieve by running in next years' elections, he made comments criticising the three waters reform.

Peters said he was not lining up any particular ministerial role in the case that he had the chance to form a coalition government at next year's General Election.

"You can't go ahead trying to aspire for an office or a job that's the reason why so many people go into negotiations and they never do any good like the Greens or the Act Party or others because they're bought off before they start.

"If you go into coalition discussions or any discussions prepared to give up power then you're in a far stronger position so we never go in saying 'we want to be this, we want to be that' that will work itself out in time," he said.