Greg Boyed interviews Winston Peters
Earlier this morning, I asked Winston Peters whether keeping super at 65 was a bottom line for him.
WINSTON PETERS - NZ First Leader
Well, of course it is. The fact is that nobody has made out a case for changing the age at this point in time. What youve got is a number of people who are seeking to panic the public with misinformation, and their design is to take over the superannuation industry and, in the end, have it privatised to their advantage. And so theyre putting all sorts of forecasts out there which are not accurate, and the reality is that any sound economy - and even with the sick economy weve got - at 4.7% of the GDP, we can afford what weve got now: a universal scheme at 66% of the net average wage.
GREG You say at this point in time. Is there a time limit on that 65 age, or is it an indefinite thing as far as youre concerned?
WINSTON Well, no one can tell you the demographics of society 35, 50 years from now. They claim to, but thats not correct. Theres a whole lot of things that could change all that, and if we want to have that debate, we could. But the fact is as far as we know and as far as all the calculations that I used for the super referendum of 97 or the Cullen fund used for their Cullen fund predications, nothing has changed.
GREG So well get a bottom line on this: while youre the leader of NZ First, 65 is the bottom line, end of story.
WINSTON No, look, Im not going to enter this stupid debate where people are trying to start at shadows and then think its substantial behaviour or substantive behaviour to respond to it.
GREG Its a simple question, though. Your stock and trade is& Is it going to stay at 65 while youre the leader of NZ First or not? Yes or no?
WINSTON Its not a simple question at all. The plain fact is Im putting it to you as to why are you asking this question? And youre asking it because a number of people in the financial sector have decided they will get the political system to, as they have done in the past, switch the promises of universality and fairness at 65 to a private scheme, and therell be all sorts of changes coming with that as well - means test, a surtax - all of which Labour and National have done in the past. So when you think its a simple question, Im telling you its not. Its a question that is complex because it seeks to get political parties to go back on their word, which is the history of this fund since 1984 and as we all well know. One party stands out from all that. That partys NZ First, and what you have today is because we have preserved it, and were going to go on preserving it. And, yes, 65 is a date or time from which were not going to move until we see some fundamental facts as to why we should.
GREG So by that we can say that 65 is something that is going to prevent you ever having a coalition with Labour.
WINSTON Well, look, were not going to engage in these trite ideas of having negotiations two and a half years before an election. Thats what Mr Keys trying to do. Thats what, with respect to yourself, youre trying to do. Well, were not going to fall for that. Were going to be going into the 2014 election or whenever they fly a white flag earlier with a clear promise to a whole lot of people, including the elderly, to deliver as we have always done. Were not going to compromise that.
GREG Labour says 67.
WINSTON No, they dont. Labour says 67 sometime after 2021. Well, there are three elections before that. I cant see how this is an issue unless, of course, someone gets sucked in to making it an issue, and we are not going to be doing that in NZ First.
GREG So there is a possibility, then, with Labour.
WINSTON Well, see, why are you asking this?
GREG Well, Im asking this, Winston, because its your stock and trade-
WINSTON Let me ask you- Its not my stock and trade.
GREG This is what NZ First has built its reputation on, its hung its hat on, and now you dont want to.
WINSTON This is not my stock and trade for me. My stock and trade is to say were going to do something and do it. And the superannuitants in this country know full well that what theyve got now without the surtax and at 66% of the net average wage is what NZ First has delivered. The rest have had to comply with it. Now, my stock and trade is not also to go and have negotiations on a coalition deal if the next election is two and a half years away. Why would that be an intelligent response?
GREG Lets get away from the age, then.
WINSTON Thank heavens for that.
GREG Lets talk about the contribution. 66% to 68%. Is that a bottom line for you?
WINSTON Oh, look, it is a bottom line, and thats why we had the law changed to 66, because you can recall National took it down to 60%. When they had the super accord of September 1993, all these political parties, with one exception, agreed the ceiling would be 72% and the floor 65. NZ First refused to go into that arrangement because we knew what was going to happen. The moment the arrangement was over, they all went straight to 65 and even as low as 60. The older people of this country and those soon to retire should remember these facts and this performance.
GREG In 2005, you went into government with Labour, but only on the condition that Greens were not included. Do you still rule working with the Greens out?
WINSTON Well, again, you know, if these discussions are important, the facts are important as well. We didnt go into government with the Labour Party. We had a confidence and supply agreement with the Labour Party. At the time, we could not see how we could reconcile our policies with the Green Partys policies, and thats what we said. As for the future, well, well see how things develop.
GREG You said in Parliament this week on the subject of asset sales that this is the point where National lost the next election. Do you stand by that?
WINSTON Yeah, I do. I believe this is the issue. There are sort of issues that break a governments back. I believe that with respect to the anti-smack legislation for the Labour Government of 2005, 2008. I thought they made a fatal mistake. I think these people have made a fatal mistake as well in so arrogantly dismissing the concerns of the people of this country as to who should own what and where in New Zealand.
GREG Well, despite you saying before how loathe you are to look forward to the next election, youve pretty much just ruled National out from winning the next election, so I guess any coalition with National is not even an issue. Theyre not going to be there, according to you. (WINSTON LAUGHS)
WINSTON Well, can I just remind you that since 1990, no political party has even won an election. Im asking you and your commentator reporter colleagues to stop using old-fashioned, out of date vocabulary. It does not exist or pertain or is relevant anymore. No party has won since 1990, even though the first MMP election was in 1996. You recall 1993 - a hung Parliament. Jim Bolger had to get a Labour MP to be a speaker. In short, to cross the house.
GREG Whatever you want to call it, though, can you rule out any NZ First-National coalition, supply, whatever you want to call it? Can you rule out any agreement with National come 2014?
WINSTON We have never ruled agreements in or out before the public has had a chance to vote. And if I could just make this request: please do not ask Winston Peters or NZ First to start answering questions about forming coalitions two and a half years out from an election or one year out or six months out, because we have never fallen for that, and in that respect, we have been the only party who has never done that.
GREG John Key has said hes not going to rule out working with you. Is that not just a little bit insulting?
WINSTON Well, I dont really respond to what John Key says and does. He has all sorts of pretentious statements about things and values. This is someone who worked for one of the most corrupt business in the world, namely Merrill Lynch.
GREG Given his horror week and with ACC and with asset sales and with even going back to education, what advice would you give to John Key?
WINSTON Look, this government has no vision. It has no A plan. It has no B plan. If you look at ACC, Crafar farms, the asset sales and the teacher class sizes and the fiasco after fiasco on the Nick Smith and other things, this government is showing that its incompetent. Its long since run out of any intellectual ideas, and all youre getting now is a tawdry rerun of tired, old Treasury orthodoxy.
GREG All right, NZ First Leader Winston Peters, we will have to leave it there. Thank you.