Q+A: Winston Peters on the Government’s “disastrous” budget

Although New Zealand First voted to support the budget on Thursday night leader Winston Peters described the government’s budget as “disastrous”.

Jessica Mutch: I want to start off by asking you – the budget that was delivered this week, what would you have done differently?

Winston Peters: A whole lot of things. I’d have faced up to the fact that New Zealanders need to hear the truth about our lack of productivity, our low wage structure, things like research and development are woeful. There’s no export strategy. In fact, there is a decline against GDP. There are probably, you know, 30 things. But to focus on things that really matter, tell them the truth of what mass immigration has cost. And the huge tension on infrastructure and all public expenditure, rather than saying stupidly, ‘It’s all good for you’ and somehow believe that if you repeat it enough times, it will all be regardless true. This was a breathtaking budget, really – breathtaking in its lack of reality and in rhetoric. But as for the substance, he ended up saying today what Muldoon said in 1972, ‘You can’t get anything off them’ – that’s the opposition parties – ‘cos I’ve spent it all.’ That’s how modern he is.

Did he have his campaigner’s hat on? Was that the problem? And hasn’t he delivered a budget that will be easy to campaign on for his MPs?

I’m glad you said that. The last time he was out on the campaign was in Northland, where he made countless infrastructural claims, none of which have been fulfilled – not the superhighway, not the cell-tower coverage, not one of the bridges, not one of anything’s been built, and he’s now doing it again. So with greatest respect to all of you, he is not going to be a successful campaign manager in 2017.

Is this a sugar-hit budget, as Labour and the Greens called it, and will people be able to see through that, do you think?

Well, look, why don’t we look at what’s wrong here? First of all, if you’re looking about the size of our economy as we should have with our resources, with research and development and smart tax policies to add value and compete with Australia, which is taking its corporate tax down to 25, we’re staying around static with no idea what they’re going to go now, it was a seriously bad budget. I’m not moaning about all the inducements and the lollies and things like that; their recognition of economic failure, that people aren’t earning enough.

We’re subsidising wages and rent, effectively, aren’t we?

That’s right. But, you know, people forget that was- When Rogernomics came in 1984, as it started to fail, that’s when support for families started going through the roof and dragging people into high debt, the consequences. But if they want decent wages; if things were affordable; if we didn’t have, for example, a housing crisis which extends to students at university today, you’re going to pay three times as much as your parents did for a house. It’s all these things that are disguised. Now, I do agree with the last two people on your programme, with respect to one thing – I see a lot of New Zealanders gravely concerned with what I call wealthy and middle class and comfortable, and they begin to see the ramifications for their children and grandchildren and are deeply disquietened. And then out in provincial regional New Zealand, they know one thing with this budget – there’s nothing for them at all.

So, if you were to become finance minister, what would be your first priority? Would it be around immigration and where you balance that?

The first thing is that you cannot- Which country in the world is going ahead with mass immigration on a level that we’ve got and mass immigration of low-skilled people? I’m not knocking these people; I can understand why they want to come to New Zealand. Half the world’s a hell hole. But most of them are economic refugees, and when you have that sort of structure where you’ve not got productivity as a consequence, cos you haven’t got the–

The government has made changes around that, though.

Let me finish. Look, Switzerland, Norway, these countries take top quality immigrants, and that’s what’s critical. We’re taking the wrong end of far too many, all of whom need a house. And guess what their solution is now to that crisis? ‘We’ll bring in some more to build houses.’ Now, frankly the National Party’s statement on housing was appalling. They are not going to the do the job; they’ve got no idea, unless they intend to claim to take half the parks in Auckland like Pt England and start building on that. So, all in all, I’m using my experience now, and I think it’s a disastrous budget for National, and there’s overtones of racism and–

In what way racism?

Well, they’ve got a special programme for Maori. The last outing and last two budgets for Maori housing, with all those millions, guess how many houses they built. 11 – at $2.8 million a year for each house. And not in Paritai Drive or Remuera; no, just somewhere around New Zealand. It’s this gross waste of what I call the Maori brown table in the name of Maori who are suffering all over this country.

The government has made changes to immigration, though. Obviously, it doesn’t go far enough, as far as you’re concerned. Do you think that that would change things dramatically?

I can’t believe you’re asking Winston Peters of New Zealand First that question.

Why not?

After all these years, the mornings that we have given to you, have come to fruition, and you’ve asked me that question? They’ve made countless changes. They made changes last October. They’ve made tweaks and changes every year for the last eight, nine years, and none of them were designed to have the effect of cutting back mass immigration, because this government’s economic policy – and sadly the last one as well, because Helen Clarke was bringing in 50,000 net, when the Australians were taking 80,000 net.

Now it’s 70,000.

Now 72,000 net, and no chance of turning that back with all these tweaks. Their whole economic premise is predicated on mass immigration. This is a drug they can’t get off. For the umpteenth time, for TV 1’s sake and this campaign that’s coming, just tell the people the truth.

What’s your number one message to people looking at this budget? What would you like to remind them of if they’re watching this morning?

I’d like to remind them of the countless pages and the rhetoric that’s behind something that you don’t get until 10 months’ time. In short, he’s standing there, saying, ‘You only get this if we win the election.’ And I think hundreds of thousands of people are going to be changing their vote on this for a whole lot of reasons. The big issues in this campaign that is coming are not in this budget.

Thank you very much for your time this morning. We really appreciate it.

Thank you.

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