12 Dec 2023

'Bigoted lefty shill': Winston Peters fires up as Acting PM

3:44 pm on 12 December 2023
Winston Peters during the first debate of the 54th Parliament.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Winston Peters - in the role of Acting Prime Minister - has responded with insults and accusations after opposition MPs attempted to use his previous statements against him.

With Christopher Luxon in Australia to attend his daughter's graduation Peters was asked by Green co-leader Marama Davidson a common question in the House, of whether he - speaking for Luxon - stood by his government's statements and policies.

He came out firing.

"With regard to evidence and information at the time of those statements, yes. But of course when new information or evidence emerges we acknowledge that don't just carry on like a bigoted, lefty shill," he said.

Davidson questioned whether he agreed with Peters' own quote from 2018 defending the ban on exploration for oil and gas that it "makes sense, and introducing the ban was a change that New Zealanders wanted".

Peters said the new government "has its settings on the future".

"Examine the time and the place when that statement was made. There was a ban on at the time - does that member not forge- (sic) not remember that?"

Davidson questioned whether the government's position to reverse the ban was not a contradiction to the Climate Change Minister's call at the COP28 global climate conference to phase out fossil fuels. Peters said "right now they are wrestling with that very issue".

Next up Labour's leader Chris Hipkins took a crack, asking if the acting prime minister stood by the National-ACT coalition agreement's commitment to amend the Overseas Investment Act to limit ministerial decision-making to national security concerns, and whether he was confident all coalition parties would be supporting that.

Peters said if that was not the case, they would not have signed up to it - and when Labour's Grant Robertson interjected Peters said "words matter Mr Robertson, not this gobbledegook".

Hipkins put Peters' quote from 2017 promising to stop land and house sales to foreigners who were not coming to live in New Zealand.

Chris Hipkins first debate as Leader of the Opposition.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

"Can I just say," said Peters, "having heard that quote from one of the brightest guys that have ever come to this Parliament ... we were looking to ensure that any offshore investment in this country had the national interest and economic benefit of New Zealand ... first in mind."

Asked why the government was then repealing that test, Peters said "like everything the Labour Party put its hands on they didn't interpret it properly".

Hipkins also raised a quote from NZ First's Shane Jones, who said the Reserve Bank's secondary mandate - which the new government has promised to repeal - was far sighted and reflected international best practice.

Peters praised the opposition for sharing so many "wise words", before saying they needed to move on - because the government was wrestling with inflation caused by "squanderous expenditure".

Hipkins also asked Peters if he agreed with ACT leader David Seymour that "you can't trust Winston Peters and a lot of things would be much much harder than they otherwise would' and that Winston peters is, 'just a muppet, the problem is he can't work with anyone, the good news is he's going down in flames, he's yesterday's man'" - and if not, why not.

Peters turned to the Bible.

"Because, even politically, as the good book says, nobody's beyond redemption."

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer asked about the government's plan to use urgency for legislation she said would lead to less secure working conditions and reduce wages while people were in a cost of living crisis.

Peters said that was not true and if those opposite had paid more attention to the economy rather than "their woke, idiotic, left ideals, the workers of this country would have done far better".

Ngarewa-Packer challenged the use of "woke" in Parliament, saying it did not belong in the House, but Speaker Gerry Brownlee said the flow of debate was being allowed to flow considering he could have disallowed her supplementary question.

"There's an awful lot of things happen in this House that don't really belong here, so I think we might just let that one slide," Brownlee said.

After Peters defended the government's approach to the minimum wage, Robertson challenged him to say how much the minimum wage was.

"Two-thirty-three, twenty-two seventy," Peters said, with an upwards inflection. "Am I right? No, I didn't ask him, no, I was telling him, I said $22.70, knowing I'd have an affirmation on my right from the Minister Finance and the Leader of the House. Over here we consult before we open our mouth."